When I was at The Justice Conference several weeks ago I received a free copy of ‘The Voice’ translation of the New Testament. I haven’t given it much attention, though I did think it was kind of neat that they tried to set it like a novel. For instance, when there is dialogue it will read like this (e.g. from John 21.15-17):
15They finished eating breakfast.
Jesus: Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these other things?
Simon Peter: Yes, Lord. You know that I love You.
Jesus: Take care of My lambs.
16Jesus asked him a second time . . .
Jesus: Simon, son of John, do you love Me?
Simon Peter: Yes, Lord. You must surely know that I love You.
Jesus: Shepherd My sheep.17(for the third time) Simon, son of John, do you love Me?
Peter was hurt because He asked him the same question a third time, “Do you love Me?”
Simon Peter: Lord, You know everything! You know that I love You.
Jesus: Look after My sheep.
As with any translation that slides more to the side of “paraphrase” (like The Message) this translation has already drawn some attention from the conspiracy theorist who think every new translation is trying to ruin their Holy Bible (Google “The Voice” translation). One pastor wrote on Twitter that The Voice “leaves out” the words “Christ,” “angel,” and “apostle.” This intrigued me so I decided to see what words it uses. Well, it says “the Anointed,” “messengers,” and “emissary.”
Personally, I don’t mind “the Anointed” since it captures χριστος just fine. Messenger is a legitimate translation in place of angel, but I do think the authors of Scripture intended for ἄγγελος to convey the idea of an agent of God and not any messenger, so I would stick with “angel.” I think “emissary” is a very good translation of ἀπόστολος since an “apostle” is a one sent often in the role of an emissary. I think it is fair to say that the apostles were emissaries of King Jesus.
Whether or not one prefers this translation or even likes it is a completely different issue than the one this pastor sought to raise by saying that this translation has “left out” these words. The translation committee did not leave them out. They chose different English words that do a fine job conveying the meaning of the Greek words. And before someone goes all conspiracy theorist take a look at the list of those involved (see “The Team”). Many of those involved hold a very high view of Scripture (to different degrees) and they have nothing to gain by messing with how people read Scripture. Let’s take their claim at face value that they seek to create a 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.”
Update #1: Even CNN has a story on this. Oh my!
Update #2: Larry Hurtado has some things to say about this subject as well.
Update #3: Daniel Kirk has added his voice to the critique of the media’s sensationalizing of the The Voice.