Hear The Voice

The Voice – a product of Thomas Nelson Publishers and Ecclesia Bible Society – is a new scriptural translation project as put together by Pastor Chris Seay who, over the past 15 years or so, has sought to capture and celebrate the Bible as narrative; rather than looking at the Bible as a collection of “irrefutable truth statements“, Seay believes scripture is to be read as the story of God present and at work in the world in which He has created.

To that end, Seay gathered together a group of writers, poets, scholars, pastors, and storytellers to work together “to bring the Scriptures to life in a way that celebrates both beauty and truth.The Voice, then, is an attempt to present the Bible as descriptive as opposed to prescriptive – in other words, the text is presented as an account of God’s self-revealing work in creation, words written by real people that must be interpreted in their proper contexts within the scope of a larger narrative that demands active participation from the reader.

There are several distinctive features of this translation that must be acknowledged. First, the text includes a number of italicized words which are not directly tied to “a dynamic translation of the original language.” They are described as the provision of information that would have been obvious to the original readers and are meant to help the reader today to more fully understand what the author was really trying to say. Throughout the text, there are also several boxes of information which serve as a sort of built-in commentary. And finally, all speech is offered in more of a screenplay format so as to enable easier public reading of the text.

For the purpose of this review, I did not read through the entire New Testament; instead, I read through the introduction, the first chapter of John and the letter to the Ephesians.

I suppose that one’s reaction to this new translation would depend on whether or not you share the perspective of those who have put it together, namely that the Bible is meant to be read as a narrative instead of a series of irrefutable truths. This goes along with much longer discussions on inspiration, inerrancy, and infallibility.

From my perspective, however, I would have to say that this is not a Bible that you would want to bring with you on the first day of any college / postgraduate Biblical studies or theology class, nor would you want to quote the information boxes in an exegetical paper. For serious biblical study, you’d be better off sticking with the NRSV or NASB and a trusted commentary.

Having said that, I am a big proponent of the need for a more communal and narrative reading of scripture. I believe that we are to approach the Bible as an all-embracing story of the past and present dealings of the triune God with his creation and his people. Through this mode of reading, there will be a renewed sense of our place within the text – how it is to be read and lived out within the context of our specific communities moving forward – believing that He who has spoken through the Word continues to speak to His people today.

A key question to ask when approaching the text is this: do we simply recite pre-conceived answers and generally accepted interpretations, or do we wrestle with the text to uncover something fresh in relation to how the text shapes and transform not only our lives, but our communities and the world as a whole? The Voice encourages the church to be engaged in an ongoing process of communal reading and interpretation with a view not only to uncovering the meaning of the text and how to apply it, but ultimately to come to know God (our Liberating King) and his redemptive work in, to and for the world as revealed in Scripture.

The Voice, therefore, is a good resource for churches and small groups looking to read the Word of God together with a view to understanding what God is calling us to today. As we read together and try to better understand the story of Jesus and his followers, and the grander story of God at work in and through creation, we learn how to live out our own stories with a view to embodying the redemptive work of God in the world around us. If we begin to understand that the Bible is a descriptive book as opposed to prescriptive, a book that is meant to be read and interpreted together as an account of God’s self-revealing work in and through his creation, then one cannot avoid seeing the Bible as a book that is meant to interrupt and even disrupt our lives.

This new translation reminds us that The Voice of God continues to call out a people who are ready and willing to follow him.

How will we respond?

* I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program.

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