Friday, December 5, 2008

Further Thoughts on 'The Voice'

If there is one thing that I came away from the free PDF of the Gospel of John on The Voice website with, it was a feeling that this so-called translation is nothing of the kind. And the Preface of the Voice confirm this. Here is how it describes the process by which The Voice was produced:
"First, accomplished writers create an English rendering; then, respected Bible scholars adjust the rendering to align the manuscript with the original texts."

This is completely the opposite of a good translation methodology. In a good Bible translation (such as the ESV) what happens first is that a team of linguistic scholars will produce a faithful rendering of the original text, and then a team of English stylists will make sure that it is good English as well as a good translation. This is important because some scholars are not very good at writing clear English, as the New English Bible demonstrates (hence the Revised English Bible). In effect, what the Voice is is actually a paraphrase of an existing English translation (which is the only way that those who do not know the original languages could produce a 'rendering' of a Bible passage) that has been checked against the original. So once again, it fails the test of a translation completely.

The Voice also uses some non-traditional words. The rationale is explained in the preface:
"Words that are borrowed from another language or words that are not common outside of the theological community (such as “baptism,” “repentance,” and “salvation”) are translated into more common terminology."
This sounds good, but there are two objections to it. Firstly, that it is impossible to actually follow this methodology. Read this:
"The Immerser knew his place in God’s redemptive plan. John the Immerser was a man sent from God, but Jesus is the Voice of God. John rejected any messianic claim outright. Jesus, though, accepted it with a smile, but only from a few of us—at least at first. Don’t get me wrong, John was important, but he wasn’t the Liberating King. He preached repentance."
This is obviously The Voice, but look at all those theological words, including one that the preface specifically mentioned, 'Repentance'! Why? This brings us to the second objection, which is that these are technical terms. Every part of life has its technical terms, and every science. Theology is not immune, and nor is religion. Listen to Dr. Lloyd-Jones:
"Take the argument about the terms that the modern man does not understand, 'Justification', 'sanctification', and so on. I want to ask a question: When did the ordinary man ever understand those terms?... This is a very specious argument, but it does not hold water." (Knowing the Times [Edinburgh, Banner of Truth, 1989] P. 111)

The Voice is also downright misleading in some translations. Take just the title. It is derived from the translation given by The Voice to the Greek word 'Logos', translated 'the Word' in other versions. But why is this? Simply because that is the usual meaning of the word 'Logos'. Greek has a perfectly good word for 'voice', namely 'Phone', which is usually rendered as 'voice' in English. The same is true of its rendering of 'Christ' as 'The Liberating King'. This is interpretation pretending to be translation.

What about defenders of the Voice? One of the worst I have seen (and the inspiration for the illustration on this one) was a commenter on Extreme Theology. The fact that Emergent advocates of the Voice also call the critics 'the Elders' (I resent that, I'm 28) had some input into the illustration too! I have read the Voice version of John's Gospel, and the idea of anyone using this as their Bible Version is just too horrible to contemplate. But like The Message, it is being marketed as a Bible version, not as a paraphrastic interpretation.

The biggest failing of The Voice is its extreme expansion of passages. This is intrusive, and it puts man's interpretations on the level of the Word of God. It also actually detracts from the poetry of the Bible itself. If "writers, musicians, poets, and other artists" were involved in this, they must have been very egocentric!

This idea that we need a 'translation' that is nothing of the kind to reach Postmoderns betrays a lack of confidence in what God actually breathed out. Apparently for the Bible to reach people today it has to be added to, paraphrased and chopped around! No, it just needs to be properly translated and sent out into all the World.

This is God's world, whatever 'Emergent man' might say!

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