In today’s technology driven age, it is not surprising to see an increase in Bible versions hitting the market. The Bible is by far the number one bestselling book of all time and publishers seem to be going to extremes to capitalize from it. In the latest push to generate sales, Christian publishers Thomas Nelson and Ecclesia Bible Society, have produced their latest Bible version called The Voice.
The Voice claims to be a translation, but it is not. It is a paraphrase or thought-for-thought Bible version and not a word-for-word translation. In other words, it reads more as a commentary of what the translators think the verse means to them and not necessarily what it actually says. And evidently, they don’t think as highly or reverently of God and Jesus as many others do.
Noted theologian and research professor at Gordon-Cornwell Theological Seminary, David Wells, described The Voice as,
“I can tell that the Ecclesia Bible Society/Thomas Nelson version is sense for sense. It is more of a paraphrase like the old J.B. Phillips.”
“That’s OK if you read it as a paraphrase. But if you read it as a translation, it is not OK because there is always commentary in the paraphrase. Commentary is OK if it is read as commentary, but it should not be read as the text itself.”
“This, actually, is an old debate. Do you translate Scripture word for word or sense for sense? The ESV is word for word (i.e. what we would call literal).”
One of the major problems with The Voice is that it seems to go out of its way to avoid saying ‘God’ or ‘Jesus’ as Wells and other theologians have been pointing out. In doing this, according to one theologian who wished to remain anonymous, is that this seems to be the trend found in modern evangelical circles where they try to claim that experiencing Scripture far outweighs knowing Scripture. Another theologian who also wanted to remain anonymous said,
“Christians are correct in being concerned that versions like The Voice slowly contribute to a lessening reverence for the holiness of God.”
Some examples given between what The Voice and the English Standard Version read are:
ESV – “And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
The Voice – “Jesus (quoting Scripture): “Love the Eternal One your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is nearly as important, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The rest of the law, and all the teachings of the prophets, are but variations on these themes.”
ESV – “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”
The Voice – “The Spirit of the Lord the Eternal One is on Me. Why? Because the Eternal designated Me to be His representative to the poor, to preach good news to them. He sent Me to tell those who are held captive that they can now be set free, and to tell the blind that they can now see. He sent Me to liberate those held down by oppression. In short, the Spirit is upon Me to proclaim now is the time; this is the jubilee of the Eternal One’s grace.”
ESV – “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.”
The Voice – “Your strength and prowess will not be enough to finish My temple, but My Spirit will be.”
In this last example, note how The Voice completely eliminates the phrase, “says the Lord of hosts.” This is an example where this Bible paraphrase removes the authority and honor of God. It undermines the significance of who said it, namely the Lord of hosts.
David Wells noted the impact this has on current evangelicalism when he added,
“The Christian faith of the evangelical kind is somewhat distant from where it started out, even in the immediate post-War period. The Bible doesn’t make as much sense today in the evangelical world as it once did – isn’t that an irony? So, to a new translation more attuned to the times.”
“Was it T.S. Eliot who said the less people read the Bible the more they translate it?”
Ted Baehr, publisher of Movieguide, a Christian based media guide believes The Voice will only weaken people’s understanding and relationship to God. Referring to The Voice, Baehr said,
“These translations are undermining the Truth of Jesus Christ and His Word written.”
“There is a lot of theology going on here as you well know. That said, even if the translation captures some of the meaning of the terms. It is dreadfully watered down. C. S. Lewis once said something like, ‘Watered down Christianity is nothing.’”
So why would noted Christian publishers like Thomas Nelson and Ecclesia Bible Society decide to publish this questionable Bible version? I think Wells summed it up the best when he said,
“Why did Nelson do this? My guess – pure guess – is the dollar signs.”
I’ve seen this too many times in Christendom of late where money and greed overtake the message of Scripture. I’ve seen it destroy ministers, churches and ministries and now it seems to be infecting publishers. They are succumbing to the ways of the world instead of the ways of God.