Friday, February 06, 2009

THE VOICE New Testament

I was sent a copy of this new translation for review, and it's quite interesting. I don't think I'd enjoy using it personally, but I think it could be a great introduction to the Bible for someone who has never read it before, or for kids or others who haven't studied the Scriptures.

It has many helpful features, such as information boxes that give context to the story that is being told. Here is an example, from John 5, written from John's point of view:

Jesus took our little group of disciples into one of the most miserable places I have ever seen. It was a series of pools where the crippled and diseased would gather hoping to be healed. The stench was unbearable, and no sane person would willingly march into an area littered with such wretched and diseased bodies. We knew what could happen, what they had could have easily rubbed off on us. That kind of impurity was frightening, but we followed Him as He approached a crippled man on his mat.

There is no assumption that the reader understands any religious terminology, and so words like "baptize" and "Christ" are replaced by "ritually cleansed" and "Liberating King."

To make it perfectly clear who is speaking, all dialogue is in screenplay format:

Jesus: Remove the stone.
Martha: Lord, he has been dead four days: the stench will be unbearable.
Jesus: Remember, I told you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God.

And there are helpful additions to some verses, italicized so that one can tell they are not part of the original:

Judas Iscariot: How could she pour out this vast amount of fine oil? Why didn't she sell it? It is worth nearly a year's wages; the money could have been given to the poor.

All of these helps would make these retelling a fine choice for a new or a young believer, but for me personally, the "helps" were distracting and chopped up the sense of the text. The phrases "ritually cleansed" and "Liberating King" used repeatedly, came to feel quite wordy, I found myself wishing they would just say "baptized" and "Christ" already!

The informational boxes were sometimes interesting, but often added no crucial information and sometimes used trendy, even PC, language in an effort to make the passage more accessible. For example, "Jesus cared for the poor, the sick, the marginalized...." And this was a little too helpful: "You can't even begin to imagine this man's excitement. His entire life had been defined by his illness. Now he was free from it. Free from the pain and weakness. Free from the depression that gripped his soul. Free, too, from the shame he had always known...." I guess I have a bias for leaving a little more to the reader's imagination.

I really didn't care for the screenplay format--it only added to the choppy feeling. And I'm sorry, but it kept reminding me of a joke book! I am sure this is a result of having read too many joke books in my youth. But really, at the wedding of Cana--




As I say, just a little too distracting for devotional reading, in my opinion--but a potentially great choice for someone less familiar with the Scriptures.

Thank you, Thomas Nelson, for the review copy!! (The Voice is now widely available; check your local Christian bookstore or click the link at top for more info.)

For more book reviews, see Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books.


Amy @ Experience Imagination said...

Haven't heard of this version, but this, "The phrases 'ritually cleansed' and 'Liberating King' used repeatedly, came to feel quite wordy, I found myself wishing they would just say 'baptized' and 'Christ' already!" is my one complaint about The Message (which I love). Periodically, especially in Psalms, he just uses these really awkward phrases over and over again.

Is The Voice already available or not yet released? I'd like to check it out at our local bookstore.

At A Hen's Pace said...


Thanks for asking about its availability--I went back and inserted that info at the end of the review.