More on The Voice

I haven’t had time to read enough of The Voice to draw final conclusions, just to make observations. I do intend to continue reading and try to come up with some more precise and well-supported conclusions. The problem is that I find The Voice the most difficult mix of good and bad ideas I’ve ever encountered in a Bible translation. It doesn’t classify easily.

Chad Whitley commented on my previous post and linked to a review on his site. Well, he doesn’t call it a review, but an “amalgamation of thoughts” which would be  a fair description of what I’ve done thus far as well. I think his amalgamation is well worth reading.

I would add a few notes:

1) I’m less concerned than Chad is with the translation team. When I have the text in front of me, I’m much more concerned with seeing the product and comparing it to the source languages. For someone who does not read the source languages, however, the team is an important consideration, and I use it in my selection tool. (Note that The Voice is not listed there as I have not completed the relevant stats.)

There are some stellar names on the translation team, but as I work my way through the product, I’m getting less and less happy. It doesn’t seem to be consistent. Consistency would allow me to read it with profit even if I disagreed with the translation choices. As it is, when I see italics, I’m not really certain what’s going on until I compare it to the source texts. I found myself thinking a few times, “I don’t think _____ would do it this way.” That leads me to wonder about the team process, which has so much to do with the consistent feel of a translation effort.

2) Taking up from point #1, the methodology is problematic based on the results. When I had just read the preface, I was willing to defend The Voice, even though I was pretty certain the translators (or the publisher) had fallen victim to “translation preface inflation.” If we were talking TV shows, we’d say that the entire genre of translation prefaces had jumped the shark years ago.

The problem is that prefaces tend less to explain how a translation was accomplished than they do to market the translation. Instead of seeking clarity of expression they seek motivation. It’s advertising copy. I have always recommended that Bible students read the preface to their Bible translation, but that is becoming less useful.

3) I find the text very readable, but I also find the italics distracting. Since they don’t seem to be consistent, I can’t really work them into my mental state while reading. I’m not sure that there is any good methodology which would allow for the use of italics–or any other form of distinction within the text–and be perfectly consistent.

Finally, on the matter of the word “logos” in Greek, I have seen and even used other terms to translate it into English. If we are not going to use “word” I often prefer “message.” Then we have the sense that God’s message took on human form. I think that works reasonably well if we compare Hebrews 1:1-3. But in the latter passage we have “spoken.” God spoke through the prophets of old and now he has spoken to us through his Son. So “voice” might work. I’m working through mentally how that might change which passages the texts in question might evoke, which is an important part of understanding.

In any case, I think Chad’s nicely nuanced comments in turn surrounded by caveats (his nuances and caveats, not mine!) will be very helpful if you’re trying to evaluate this version for use in any particular setting.

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  1. Thanks so much for your kind words! I share your concern about consistency, and I wonder if the apparent lack thereof in The Voice is due (on some level) to the translators’ expressed desire to “preserve the unique voices of the original biblical authors” (per http://www.hearthevoice.com/about-the-translation). I will say, though, that even if some inconsistency could be explained this way, not all of it could; there should still be consistent guidelines for the translators with regard to what material (if any) is italicized.

    I wish I was as well-versed in the biblical languages as you are; I have some background in Greek and Hebrew, but I am still a novice. I suppose that’s why I look so carefully at the translation team, though I won’t typically write off a translation completely based solely on that information (except in extreme circumstances). Most translation teams have sufficient checks, balances, and levels of review to ensure an accurate English translation of the text. My issue with The Voice is that the team extends beyond biblical scholarship, and incorporates musicians, poets, novelists, etc. In theory, the results of such collaboration could be promising; I just don’t know enough about how the process was conducted fully to trust the final result.

    Again, thanks so much for your kind words, and your diligent efforts. I enjoy reading your thoughts, and look forward to your final conclusion! Blessings!

    1. I think you make an excellent point about following the style of the particular writer. That might explain some inconsistency. It seems unlikely that this will explain inconsistencies in the use of italics, but it may explain some stylistic inconsistency.

      I will need to read a great deal more to be certain.

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