Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Voice: New Testament (A Thomas Nelson Project)

As a church planter/pastor, working in the Greater New Orleans area, I am aware of the spiritual condition, i.e., the worship of false things, lack of biblical understanding, and apathy toward the things of God, of both some church attendees/members, as well as of those not so inclined. I realize that sometimes confusion over the meaning of the biblical text is at the heart of the problem. Therefore, I am open to the concept of using fresh means of presenting the unchangeable truth of God’s word, to the people of our inclusive, and yet, continually fragmenting culture, in order to help them to better understand and apply the gospel to their lives. I further realize that this is such a rarity (rebellion against God as a result of not understanding the meaning of the text), it hardly warrants a mention, much less, a new version of the Bible. However, I was very interested to learn of a new translation that used the screenplay format for dialogue, as well as boxed commentary on the page, in order to make the text a little easier for people, new to the Bible, to follow and understand. I decided to get a copy of “The Voice” and check it out.

Bold New Translation

The first problem is that “The Voice” is not a “Bold, new translation” as Thomas Nelson Publishing claims, but is instead, an impotent paraphrase. The people at Thomas Nelson, as well as Zondervan before, surely know the difference between the two approaches to the text, so it is quite disturbing to see them deceptive on this point. This, however, is not a hill on which to die, but publishers of the Bible should be honest about their products. They should hold the Bible in high regard. Regarding this review, there are already many reviewers exposing the many textual problems with this version of the NT, so I will not focus on those particulars. Instead, I will think aloud, so to speak, and question, what is “The Voice,” whom are they trying to reach, and who is responsible for this misuse of the New Testament?

Theology and the Nature of Scripture

Once you open the cover, the publishers are a little more revealing regarding the true nature of the book, but you must discern the implications of what they are saying. The first tagline, “The liberating king and his church,” exposes their Christology, and introduces the reader to the overall guiding theology behind this work. Since the person and work of Jesus Christ is the point of Scripture, a biblically sound Christology is the single most critical factor in understanding Scripture. In short: if you get Jesus wrong, you get the whole Bible wrong. The second tagline, found preceding the preface, reads, “A Scripture project to rediscover the story of the Bible.” This statement serves as an explanation to their view of the nature of Scripture. That being said, why would they use the word “Liberator” instead of “Christ?”

Does “Liberating King” communicate the gospel to the culture?

Throughout this rendering of the NT, the title words for Jesus, viz., Christ and Messiah, are replaced with the words, “Liberator” and “Liberating King.” Do the folks at Thomas Nelson Publishers really believe that the word “Liberator” speaks the truth of the person and work of Jesus, more effectively than the words Christ and Messiah? Just google the word “Liberator,” and see how long it takes to get to a reference to Jesus. If you ask people what they think of when they hear the word “Liberator,” depending on their age and socio-economic background, they will give you a variety of answers, from Malcolm X to president George W. Bush, but none having to do with the person and work of Jesus. It must be concluded that the decision to use the word “Liberator,” instead of the word “Christ,” has to do with the Christology of those involved in the decision, and not the attempt to better communicate the gospel to this culture. “The Voice” reduces the person and work of Jesus Christ to that of a socio-political zealot, offering to lead people to freedom. Consider recent history, and the likes of Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Barak Obama. All have been considered, and called, “Liberators” by groups of people. This label could be applied to anyone trying to improve the state of another. The words “Christ” and “Messiah” can only apply to One, viz., the prophesied incarnation of God the Son, the Savior, the Redeemer, Jesus.

“A Scripture project to rediscover the story of the Bible”

It seems that for the folks involved in the direction of “The Voice,” viz., the editors and publisher, Scripture is insufficient as it stands in it’s current modern English form, it’s meaning incomprehensible, and it’s “Story” (the gospel) hidden or lost, needing rediscovery. This implies a light view of Scripture on the part of the editorial team and Thomas Nelson. As a “Scripture Project,” Thomas Nelson, the editors, and all the contributors, have collectively produced a book that is something much less than Scripture.