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The Voice – Bible “translation” review

The VoiceI have meters of Bibles on my shelf. I do not think that is a good thing. I would be all in favour of a couple of formal-equivalent translations and a couple of dynamic equivalent versions and then helping people to use the originals.

But… there’s money to be made in Bible translations… And people to win over to your particular interpretation – and to confirm in your particular interpretation. People often don’t like the Bible that God has given us, and so a new “translation” is often a great way to make the Bible the way we would have preferred…

The latest version on the English language Bible shelf is ”The Voice”. Its promotion comes complete with flashy videos. Eg.

But seriously! this version doesn’t do it. Some people are getting heated because The Voice doesn’t use “angel”, ”apostle”, or “Christ”. I think that’s the least of its problems. If you want something that approaches the Bible a bit laterally, get The Message. The Voice cannot even be consistent about something as basic as tenses. In the example below, Luke 22 correctly translates into the past tense, Luke 24 incorrectly “translates” into the present tense (the original is just as past as in Luke 22!)

The Voice uses italic type added within the verses in the text – note: this is added. It’s not in the original text. It is interpretive material added in the text. Eg. “Son of Man, that firstfruit of a new generation of humanity“. What percentage of the users will read the introduction explaining that this isn’t in the original text?

Then cultural, historical, theological, or devotional thoughts are added within the text in a different colour. Again: how easily people will slip into not realising that this is not part of the original text… And that’s not even mentioning the commentary within the text, separated with a thin line and supposedly in a different font – well, yes, there is a slight difference for the very observant…

Those who produced The Voice claim it is good for reading aloud. Yeah right! Imagine it being read aloud in church. Does one person read it (see example below): “John sees Jesus coming toward him. In eager astonishment, he shouts out: John the Baptist: Look! This man is more than He seems!” It just doesn’t work! Maybe the idea is that it is read like a play – with different people reading different parts? So how do you work out who is who? Do they hang their name around their neck on a board? It just doesn’t work!

Luke 22

17 He took a cup of wine and gave thanks for it.
Jesus: Take this; share it among yourselves. 18Know this: I will not drink another sip of wine until the kingdom of God has arrived in fullness.
19 Then He took bread, gave thanks, broke it, and shared it with them.
Jesus: This is My body, My body given for you. Do this to remember Me.
20And similarly, after the meal had been eaten, He took the cup.
Jesus: This cup, which is poured out for you, is the new covenant, made in My blood. 21But even now, the hand of My betrayer is with Me on this table. 22As it has been determined, the Son of Man, that firstfruit of a new generation of humanity, must be betrayed, but how pitiful it will be for the person who betrays Him.

Luke 24

Other Disciples: The Lord has risen indeed! It’s true! He appeared to Simon!
35Then the two men report their own experience—their conversation along the road, their moment of realization and recognition as He broke the bread. 36At that very instant, as they’re still telling the story, Jesus is there, standing among them!
Jesus: May you have peace!
You might expect them to be
overjoyed, but they aren’t.
37 They’re startled and terrified; they think they’re seeing a ghost.

John 1:26-29

John the Baptist: 26 Baptizing with water is what I do; but the One whom I speak of, whom we all await, is standing among you; and you have no idea who He is. 27 Though He comes after me, I am not even worthy to unlace His sandals.*
The mystery of Jesus’ identity occupies His contemporaries and will continue to occupy generations of believers for centuries to come. As the twelve journey with Him, it gradually becomes clearer who this man is, where He comes from, and how His existence will profoundly affect the rest of human history. The question of “Who is this man?” cannot be answered overnight.
29 The morning after this conversation, John sees Jesus coming toward him. In eager astonishment, he shouts out:

John the Baptist: Look! This man is more than He seems! He is the Lamb sent from God, the sacrifice to erase the sins of the world!

You can download The Voice New Testament free from here.

My suggestion continues to be – use NRSV. Beyond that use the Bible resources I provide.

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18 thoughts on “The Voice – Bible “translation” review”

  1. Greetings Fr. Peters,

    I have mixed feelings regarding the excellent points you make. In all areas of the Christian faith, we need to shine light on error and point out where a teaching — or translation — may miss the mark. Sadly, there are many examples of everything from blatant false teachings to subtle, aberrant teachings. To point these out is necessary and right.

    The other side of my thinking doesn’t get too upset about such things. At the age of 60, I’ve lived long enough to have seen the Holy Spirit work in the minds and hearts of people, drawing them to Christ, even though the road taking them to that place may be rife with error. I clearly saw examples of this during the year I lived in Afghanistan — Muslims being drawn to Christ directly through dreams and visions.

    These mixed feelings aren’t so much a cause of concern for me. Rather, they serve as a reminder that God is in control, able to break through falsehoods and other barriers. Who knows, someone may be listening even now to this new translation and the Spirit may speak through what they hear, drawing them to God…in spite of the errors within….



    1. Thanks, Michael. There is no doubt that God can use anything to draw us into the Divine Life. I do not think this prevents us from critiquing whether something is good or not. Blessings.

  2. I bought this translation and really enjoy it so far. Although I am partial to the NIV. I am a cradle Christian so to speak. I haven’t found anything in it that is contrary to my faith. Of course I haven’t finished reading it yet. One of the neat things was in the beginning of Matthew where it explains in gold font who the ancestors of Jesus were, making this usually boring part of the text interesting. I also liked at the end of Mark 10 where it explained the significance of Bartimaeus throwing away his cloak. It made that action much more significant when I realized how much he was really throwing away. I find it an interesting and easy to read translation. I do dislike that the digital version doesn’t make the same font color changes and line breaks that the physical copy does. It does make it harder to see where text ends and interesting facts begin. Another really interesting version is the NIV Archeological Study Bible.

  3. I accidentally slipped on my former marketing guy hat during the video because the music made me wonder what was the combined city/highway mpg. I had a weird Toyoya P(r)ius deja vu.

    My writer side made me wonder how a “more comfortable translation” could then use nonwords (sic) like “firstfruit.” And the acting out of the dialogue seemed awkward, uncomfortable, and not the way (WASP) people speak in real dialogue. I’ve heard more natural speech patterns in Vacation Bible School morality plays.

    I agree on the strangeness of acting out the lectionary, and would go so far as to replace saying “A reading from,” to “Imagine for a moment the Abbas presented here are not claypuppets”(sic-2)

    Still, I’ll add this one to my ponderous shelf of translations, somewhere East of the NLT and west of The Hip Hop Prayerbook.

    1. Thanks, John. Like you I noticed the reversion to King James type language in some places. I did not comment on it but do wonder what it means – are these areas of the Bible that are too important to the authors’ theology to allow them to tinker with them? Like you, I am reluctant, but this will sit on my increasing shelf of Bibles. I had not heard of The Hip Hop Prayer Book… but… Blessings.

  4. Thanks for this review. I’d seen the translation (?) in the bookstores, but will more than likely end up passing. The screenplay format alone seems really “gimmicky” – let alone not being a true representation of how the text is. I followed links from this review to your review of the CEB, and found your comment about accuracy trumping liking or disliking a very helpful reminder of how to evaluate new versions.

    I found the video a mixed bag, though. I can’t imagine someone really saying, “You two seem deeply engrossed in conversation” (unless the speaker is, perhaps, Star Trek’s Mr. Spock). But I thought the Woman Wisdom bits were actually fairly compelling (issues about the accuracy of the text aside – I’d have to research it more). I could envision a very effective dramatic presentation of large swaths of Proverbs in this way, with accurate text and talented actors.

    1. Thanks, Mike. Yes, I think your point helpful – The Voice could be a good starting point for ideas for a dramatic presentation of some biblical material (I’d be keeping a good eye on the NRSV in preparation, just in case). Blessings.

  5. I was not thrilled with the Voice. It seems to be a very poor translation. Very subjective to its meaning. 1 cor 6:9 is a terrible translation of the text

  6. I have been thinking about getting the Voice just to better understand the story and what is going on and use my Study Bible to really dig into the meaning and not use the Vocie for a real translation.

  7. NRSV is what you recommend, and The Message is lateral to the original?

    Seems to me if one were seeking after a literal translation, one would seek a NASB. If one were seeking a lateral translation, one would seek a Key Word interlinear, or perhaps a Parallel.

    Why are you partial to NRSV?

  8. Michael Doleski

    I have read what others have wrote about (The Voice Bible). I am 62 years old so much have changed over the years. But you must remember when the Bible was written even the lives words everything was different. What I am saying The Voice speaks to us in our language that we can understand and maybe the ones who don’t like we would were taught from the KJV. I believe if someone who never reads the Bible picks this up and gets saved then would you not think that is think then God can still save the lost with this Bible. In 2013 SIN IS SIN can God still says death if you sin Romans 6:23. Thank you so much.

  9. Everytime i use a Voice Version God reveals some revelations onto me,.. Im am now sure that if you want to have a good communication with God, use a version you understand better, just like me i use Voice Version

  10. I have to admit I am with you on this one. I bought the Voice because of it’s treatment of the last supper narrative. It made it more exciting to read. So I purchased it. Since then,(it’s been nearly 3yrs now) I can count of my fingers how many times I have referred to it. In the few times I consulted the translation I was disappointed. The epistles suffer greatly from this translation. So much of what was being communicated is missing from the text or there is some foreign insertion into the verse that it seems more like an embellishment than a dynamic equivalent. I compared the version to the NASB, ESV, NKJV, and the NLT for Hebrews 1:3. The Voice’s version was abysmally rendered. Several important thoughts were diffused…And this is not the only example I can offer. I have the NSRV, HCSB, NKJV, NIV and the ESV for a more of a formal equivalence. I prefer ESV first, NIV second, and NSRV third. I have also NLT, NCV and the Message. NCV is very helpful, but I love the NLT. As for the Message…I don’t see what people see in it. I consider is right there with the Voice. Both ‘translation’ take unjustified liberties with the text. If you use the Voice, be sure to compare it with the more reliable versions mentioned above. Knowing what you are dealing with, a free paraphrase, will show you how to use it.

  11. When I was writing a Scripturally-based book in 2012, I found an error in the amplified version that actually changed a word from the original Greek in Revelation 1:5. This was alarming in light of the warning in Revelation 22:18-19. This led me on a quest regarding which Bible version is most accurate. My first course of action was to ask Lord Jesus which one was closest to His true Word. Since He IS the Word of God (Revlation 19:13) the answer is of paramount importance, as any version of the Bible that is not accurate would possibly denote a false “Christ” (2 Cor 11:4). He is faithful as always to answer our cries, but only if we ask and not reason independently and try to deduce it with our own finite thinking (I am preaching to myself here). He answered me the KJV. I have noticed the most powerful men and women of God feed off this Holy Bible as have the most fervent revivals of the past. My only recommendation is that all whom He allows to read this post ask GOD our Saviour the same question. In fervent Love to you all.

    1. Thanks, Janiel. Yes, the KJV is very good for its time – and still useful for those who are agile in 17th-Century English usage and understand that the OT is highly dependent on the Vulgate and Septuagint. For most people now, I suggest starting from the NRSV. Blessings.

  12. I find this interesting I have the Voice Bible as well as the King James the Message and other translations. I don’t see the issues you do in semantics between the translations. I do know that my daughter and wife understand the Voice easier than King James or ESV which I also have. So for me I believe it comes down to who your audience is and what they understand as well as teaching them what research means . Thanks

    1. Thanks, Michael. The big issue with “translations” of the Bible that are “easy to understand” is that so often what is “understood” is maybe not what the original says at all! Blessings.

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