Stylos is the blog of Jeff Riddle, a Reformed Baptist Pastor in North Garden, Virginia. The title "Stylos" is the Greek word for pillar. In 1 Timothy 3:15 Paul urges his readers to consider "how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar (stylos) and ground of the truth."
Image (left side): Decorative urn with title for the book of Acts in Codex Alexandrinus.
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
The Voice: The newest new and improved English translation of the Bible
On the sermonaudio.com newsfeed I ran across this USA Today article about The Voice, the latest
English Bible translation, released this month by Thomas Nelson.
The Voice is unique in that it is formatted “like
a screenplay or a novel.”The
translation title apparently comes from its rendering of John 1:1 which
unconventionally translates the Greek word logos
not as “word” but as “voice.”This is an
interesting choice, given that there is a Greek word (phone) for “voice” (cf. Matt 3:3 where John the Baptist is
described as a “voice” [phone] crying
in the wilderness).The new translation makes
some other interesting choices.Angel (angelos) is rendered as “messenger”;
apostle (apostolos) as “emissary”;
and, most significantly, "Christ" (Christos)
is removed completely in favor of “the Annointed One” or “the liberating king.”
The website for The Voice explains its translation philosophy:
is a dynamic equivalent translation that reads like a story with all of the
truth and wisdom of God's Word. Through compelling narratives, poetry, and
teaching it invites readers to enter into the whole story of God with their
heart, soul, and mind. This bold new translation engages readers like no other
The problem with this approach
is, of course, its tendency to devalue the plenary, verbal authority of
Scripture by its failure to take each and every word as valuable.Even what the editors consider transitional
words and phrases (“he said,” etc.), omitted to achieve the “screenplay”
flavor, are inspired words that should not be omitted.
The translation team listed on The Voice website is an eclectic group including broad “evangelical” Darrell Bock of Dallas Seminary, "literary" Bible expert Tremper Longman III, and moderate Baptist academic Alan
Culpepper.It also noticeably includes
an egalitarian flavor with several women scholars (Beverly Burrow, Sheri Klouda,
Nancy deClaisse Walford).The “writing/creative”
team is even broader with a long list of pastors, poets, songwriters, and
humorists.It is also notably heavy on “emerging
church” leaders like Brian McClaren, Chris Seay, and Leonard Sweet.
Though I could not
find a discussion of the text on the website, they do have a search engine that
allows you to read the NT of The Voice online.I searched for a few key passages and found
that it (predictably) follows the modern critical text (e.g., “He” rather than “God”
in 1 Tim 3:16; bracketing the Lord’s Prayer doxology of Matt 6:14 and the pericope adulterae of John 7:53-8:11; omitting the comma johanneum of 1 John 5:7-8; etc.). Perhaps most striking is what The Voice does with
Mark’s ending.The traditional ending (Mark 16:9-20)
appears in brackets, but The Voice also includes the so-called “shorter ending” (also
in brackets) after Mark 16:20:“[And the women did
everything they had been told to do, speaking to Peter and the other disciples.
Later Jesus Himself commissioned the disciples to take this sacred and eternal
message of salvation far to the East and the West.].”There is an increasing tendency to include this
spurious reading in the New Testament text (see the NRSV which places it in the body of the text and even the “evangelical” ESV
which includes it marginally).
The Voice obviously wants to present itself as hip,
colloquial, artsy, non-doctrinal, and relevant.The website notes:
Today's translations often
present the Bible as a reference book filled with facts. The Voice expresses Scripture as a
narrative with engaging conversations, passionate poetry, and beautiful
literature. The Voice brings literary art to
the Bible. This Bible lends itself to dramatic readings; first, because of the
beauty of the language, and second, because of the unique acting-script format.
It is the Good Book that reads like a good book.
My question: What’s wrong with seeing the Bible as “filled with
facts”?Yes, it has some narrative, but
a lot of it (like Paul’s letters) is doctrinal and didactic.Also, at the risk of again being charged with
being a KJV-Only-ist, do we really think that The Voice is significantly going
to contribute to the “literary art of the Bible”?Do we not already have an English translation
that has had an immense linguistic, cultural, and artistic impact on the
Western world (and beyond) over a long period of time?
The website also includes this video clip that introduces some vignettes
from The Voice acted out.Watch and listen in particular to the presentation
of Jesus’ encounter with the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus from Luke 24. Not only do we have a second commandment issue
with Jesus being played by a short, hip, non-Semite, but I find the “screenplay”
dialogue to be almost unbearable to (over)hear:
In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I don’t think I’m going to
be a big fan of The Voice.
Here is a summary of some of the problems with The Voice as I see it:
1.Its text and translation philosophy reflects a
low view of plenary-verbal inspiration.
2.It wrongly assumes that
the reason folk don’t read the Bible is because it has not been relevantly packaged
to meet their needs, rather than concluding that men most often neglect
Scripture because they are not spiritually hungry to read God’s Word.
3.It introduces yet another
English Bible from Pandora’s Box into an already over-crowded market.It is, in fact, market-driven, rather than
ecclesiologically driven.In the long
run, the proliferation of such translations cheapens, rather than enhances, the
perceived value and authority of the Bible.