The Story Of The Voice, by David B. Capes with Chris Seay and James F. Couch Jr.
[Note: This book was given to me for free by Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for an honest review.]
I happen to have a friend who loves Bible translations (he has even more of them than I do!) and he raved about The Voice translation having read its translation of the Gospel of John. Since I have not read the translation myself, I cannot speak authoritatively as to whether The Voice is a good translation or not, whose avowed aim is to reach young people and those who are unchurched by presenting them with a Bible that is engaging for those without a great deal of biblical knowledge or access to ministers or those who would be able to answer textual questions. It seeks to remove a certain sense of stodginess and mistaken familiarity from the Bible and to cast it in terms that are a mixture of old and new and that capture the genre and voice of the individual authors who were divinely inspired to preserve the message of God to a rebellious and broken world. Having read this book, I am not quite sure that I am part of the target audience of the translation that this book was promoting, although I am entirely sure that I was part of the target audience of the book I read, which is a rarity for me, I must admit.
In reading this book, I never lost sight for a moment that the intent of this book was to sell copies of The Voice translation. This book is transparently open in seeking to provide its readers with as many reasons as are necessary to drive web traffic to their website (www.hearthevoice.com) and to gain a sympathetic audience for yet another Bible translation. While this particular book did not drive me to go purchase a copy of the full translation of the Bible, it did manage to provoke at least a substantial degree of curiosity in finding out more about the book, and it did manage to ameliorate some of the concerns I had about this translation based upon what I have heard about it. While I cannot see using The Voice as a study Bible or as a source for serious theological posts on this blog, I can at least see it as being thought provoking and worthy of personal reading, and perhaps posts on the relationship between politics and theology, as there is no mistaking that The Voice translation comes with heavy political baggage.
To their credit, the authors of this book, who were heavily involved in the translation project they are writing about, do not shy away from an open and honest admission of their own political biases, which in many ways are shared by me, including the clear focus on liberation and wrestling with this world’s brokenness and seeking social justice. At least as far as it can be judged by this book, it is clear that the translators of this project had the aim of keeping the Bible from being used merely as a template for the modern-day statutes of Omri that pass for biblical instruction in some circles. Overall, this book is very brief (144 short pages of text), and its organization is unconventoinal and highly revealing. The Story Of The Voice begins with an account of how the translation project began in a frustration over a pastor not being able to find a translation that captured the right voice to him of what the Bible should sound like. Then there are biographical sketches of the main members of developers behind The Voice translation, designed to show their eclectic and somewhat hip nature, I suppose. After this comes an entire chapter on the title of the translation and why it was chosen, then another chapter on the translation philosophy of seeking to maximize contextual equivalence, while openly admitting paraphrase and seeking to justify its obvious subjectivity. Following this come many examples, mostly rather pleasant, of contextual equivalence in practice. Of particular interset to me, personally, was the way in which the genealogical portions of Matthew had embedded commentary to hint at the intriguing stories that Matthew merely alludes to when referring to the names of Jesus’ human ancestors, including women who were mostly outsiders. There is an entire chapter on the translation of the divine name, which comments on the way in which Jesus’ title and the divine name YHWH are translated (The translators used the same method I do, and generally translated it as ‘The Eternal.’ I supppose great minds think alike.) After this comes an honest description of the product line, where it was most obvious that this book is largely an oversized pamphlet with the aim of selling an expensive translation which happens to benefit social causes, being to new Bible translations what Burgerville is to overpriced cheeseburgers, I assume. At the end of the book the authors address the firestorm that came out when the conventional media and blogosphere misrepresented The Voice translation and include plenty of endorsements to appeal to those who, like myself, would be turned off by obviously wicked and irreverent translations of the Bible. Included among the text of this book are a great deal of blog entries that are shorter than mine usually are.
All in all, I cannot say at this time whether this book was successful in its implicit goal of selling more copies of The Voice translation. I can say that having read this book, I have a greater degree of interest in their translation than before, at least some understanding of some of the translation choices that they made, and an overall appreciation of their aim to reach those who Christianity is not reaching at the present time, as well as their hunger and thrist for justice and freedom from sin and oppression for this world’s inhabitants. I believe this book to be a sincere, if very brief, summary of the translation and its history and contents. Nonetheless, it probably is sufficient to be a worthwhile attempt to explain and at least engage in damage control with Christians who might have been offended at the initial portrayal of the translation, making them at least willing to consider it and possibly add it to their library, or even use it in personal devotions. Therefore, one can reasonably say that this book accomplished its mission, at least with me.