It’s no news or secret that some churches will not acknowledge that it’s the 21st century. From their subjugation of women in various ways to their attitudes toward people of different faiths (or no faith) or lifestyles to their refusal to use current technologies for meetings or for convenience and communication, one would think these congregations and denominational bodies were stuck in some earlier time.

A case in point is the controversy in some circles over contemporary Bible translations.  There seems to a flood of these lately. There’s the Common English Bible, the updated New International Version, and one I read about only today, The Voice (Thomas Nelson/Ecclesia Bible Society). The last named is apparently raising the ire of some of the “King James only” folks out there with its translation (not transliteration) of the Greek term “Christos” (“Anointed One”), so that the words “Jesus Christ” do not appear in The Voice. The translators make the point that “Christ” is a title, not Jesus’ last name, and so to avoid confusion, they have translated the term and at times expanded it to add “the Liberating King” in explanation, depending on the context. “Angel” is translated “messenger” and “apostle” appears as “emissary,” both completely accurate renderings, by the way. Explanatory notes appear in the body of the text, clearly marked, rather than in footnotes or in the margins.

Another feature of The Voice is the use of screenplay format to present dialogue, as in Matthew 15:  

Disciple: "It’s a ghost!"

Another Disciple: "A ghost? What will we do?"

Jesus: "Be still. It is I; you have nothing to fear."

The stated goal of the translation is to reach a new generation with a contextual equivalent translation, somewhere between word-for-word and a paraphrase. It recognizes that contemporary readers/hearers process ideas and information through complex observations involving emotions, thought, “tactile experiences, and spiritual awareness” (from the Preface to The Voice New Testament: Revised and Updated, Kindle edition http://www.amazon.com/The-Voice-New-Testament-Revised/dp/1418550760/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1335532470&sr=1-1).

The Voice is clearly still an evangelical translation (apparent right away from its insistence on capitalizing any pronoun referring to Jesus or God, a practice which is not found in the Greek text, an alphabet certainly equipped with capital letters). It’s trying to make the Bible accessible and readable for folks who are not steeped in traditional biblical and theological language, as is increasingly the case in our culture. Yet some in the fundamentalist world still cling to their KJV as if it were sent down on high from God, whether people can understand it or not. (See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/18/the-voice-new-bible-translation_n_1435998.html?ref=religion and  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/christian-piatt/taking-jesus-christ-out-of-the-bible_b_1452275.html for more.)

The Voice, from what little I’ve read in a sample on Amazon, is not for me.  I don’t even like the Common English Bible, which strikes me as too chatty. Sometimes I don’t care for my go-to text, the NRSV. But just because it’s not for me, and I won’t use in it in the pulpit, doesn’t mean The Voice or some other newer translation is bad or to be rejected. Bible translations/editions today are targeted at different demographics and intended for a variety of uses. Something ideally suited for personal devotional reading (such as The Voice or The Common English Bible or the Contemporary English Version) may not be appropriate for the more formal setting of worship in a liturgical church like mine. But any approach, any translation that gets people reading the Bible and helps them understand and take its message to heart is a good thing.

© 2012 Tom Cheatham. All rights reserved.

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