A Review of The Voice Bible Translation

After an entire summer of studying Greek, my husband said something surprising to me. He said that the more he studied Greek, the greater appreciation he had for the variety of bible translations available. He had always been a proponent of the literal (word for word) translations – such as the NASB and ESV – over the dynamic (thought for thought) translations – such as the NIV. The more he studied Greek, however, he realized that there is a dynamic element in all translation efforts.

It was in this context that we agreed to review a new Bible translation called The Voice. Here is what Thomas Nelson’s Marketing folks have to say about it:

The VoiceTM  Bible translation is a faithful dynamic translation of the Scriptures done as a collage of compelling narratives, poetry, song, truth, and wisdom. The Voice calls the reader to step into the whole story of Scripture and experience the joy and wonder of God’s revelation. Created for and by a church in great transition, The Voice uniquely represents collaboration among scholars, pastors, writers, musicians, poets, and other artists, giving great attention to the beauty of the narrative. The heart of The Voice is retelling the story of the Bible in a form as fluid as modern literary works yet remaining painstakingly true to the original manuscripts. This translation promotes the public reading of longer sections of Scripture-followed by thoughtful engagement with the biblical narrative in its richness and fullness and dramatic flow.

So since February, periodically when Jonathan read the Bible for family worship, I followed along in my digital review version of The Voice. When we reached variations of note Jonathan would pull out his Greek New Testament and we’d evaluate the text. After some time to really live with it, here are our conclusions:

First, from a purely technical perspective, the digital version I was given to review was terrible.  It didn’t have any way to navigate from book to book apart from paging through. It also contained randomly blank pages and premature new chapter numbering. Even if the rest of the work was flawless, the digital presentation (at least in the review copy) was bad enough to make me never use it again after writing this review. That, however, may only be because I was given a copy for review. I don’t have any idea what a purchased digital version would look, or navigate, like.

As far as faithfulness to the original text, Jonathan found the gospels to be very faithful. In the Pauline Epistles, however, there were some significant differences not indicated in the Greek.

For instance Romans 8:28 is a pretty familiar passage for most:

(NIV) And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, whohave been called according to his purpose.

(ESV) And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

(The Voice:) We are confident that God is able to orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful when we love Him and accept His invitation to live according to His plan.

Here 2 Timothy 3:16:

(NIV)  All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,

(ESV) All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,

(The Voice) All of scripture is God-breathed: in its inspired voice, we hear useful teaching, rebuke, correction, instruction and training for a life that is right,

Another significant concern with the Voice as a whole is the way they have included commentary into the body of the text. The publishers call it delineated material and identify it with a different color and type face, but in the end it presents two issues.

First, for a translation that purports to “read like a story” and draw people into the narrative of scripture, these delineated portions can be jarring breaks in the flow of the text. In fact, there are places where the delineated text interrupt the middle of sentences. Some of that may be explained by my having a review digital edition, but not all of it.

The second, and more concerning, effect of the inclusion of midstream commentary is the blurring of the line between inspired word and human opinion. While the text is identified, when it is surrounded by the breathed out words of God, it would be easy for a reader – especially someone for whom the Bible is a new thing – to begin to take the commentary with the same weight as the text. Where do the words of God end and the words of man begin? My fear in our postmodern world is not that a new reader would take the commentary as the very word of God, but that he would read the words of God with the casual ease of another form of commentary.

In the end, we can’t recommend The Voice as a Bible Translation.

I received no compensation for this post. I was provided a digital New Testament edition for the purpose of review. I was obviously not required to provide a positive one. I keep a disclosure statement here.

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About Coralie

After 11 years of infertility, I am now a mother to three, a wife of a Presbyterian (ARP) preacher and a struggling homemaker. Welcome to my little corner of the net. Kick off your shoes, put your feet up and join the conversation. View all posts by Coralie

16 responses to “A Review of The Voice Bible Translation

  • Sarah W.

    Yeah, that Romans 8:28 “translation” makes me twitch for several reasons. Yikes. Thanks for doing this review.

  • melissa

    Wow. I just linked over to their website from your post. Apart from the gross breaking of the second commandment, it amazes me how modern man can tear the Bible out of historical context in order to engage in its “richness and fulness”. We need to examine the why and how of biblical revelation and means of grace a little more before we begin delving into such a loose dealing with the holy Word of an eternal God.

  • TheLamma

    I just got an email that gave me a link to download a free book of my choice from this translation. I took one look at it, and knew it couldn’t be trust worthy, and so I Googled it and came to your blog. Thank you for posting this review, it means I don’t have to waste my time on a ruined translation, and can warn others about it. TNIV anyone?

  • cjmartel

    Granted, this translation may not be the most accurate, but it is an easy read. Being an easy read I encourage my non biblically based friends to read it, in my opinion it beats the message hands down. An amazing thing happens when people begin to enjoy reading the bible, they want to learn more, then we steer them toward the more conventional translations, but first, we’ve got to get them reading the bible.
    After perusing approx. 12 different translations I find the Voice to be like candy for the soul, easy to read, easy to digest, and little heartburn, it is the version I read when I want to relax with the word. Remember, ANY version which leads people to Jesus is the best version at the time!

  • cjmartel

    I recently purchased the voice and I really enjoy it. I have suggested to my non biblically based friends to read this version because it is easy to read and understand and there aren’t a lot of confusing notes and commentary. I look at it as a beginning for people who don’t normally read the bible, if they take to it then they will want more, reading the bible is similar to eating Chinese food, you can never get enough!! But I digress, back to the main point, if people do enjoy reading the Voice, then they will want to move up into other versions. This is kind of like learning to read, you don’t start out with War and Peace, you start with Dick and Jane and work your way up. As I said in opening, I enjoy reading the Voice, and remember, the version that gets people to read the bible more is the best version.

    • Coralie

      Thanks for taking a moment to voice your opinion. I must respectfully disagree with your premise, however. The version that is most faithful to the original, inspired words of God is the best version. War and Peace is not living and active, nor is it empowered by the Holy Spirit. The Bible is, and the more we try to “Dick and Jane” it, the more we grieve the God who inspired it.

      • Guy

        Then we’d best all get to learning the Greek, since as your husband pointed out there is no way to do it without some dynamic equivalence. Now that we’ve got that settled let’s talk about which textual tradition we should use, Nestle Aland anyone? There are problems with all the translations out there, and this one seems to offer some correction to some of the perpetual ones–like not translating “Christ.” I think I need to learn more about it.

        • Coralie

          While the Voice does correct some of the transliteration issues, the non-orthodox approach to many others certainly outweigh that one benefit. I disagree with your premise that there are problems with the other translations. There are dynamic differences, but not theological twisting of a translation in order to make it say what the translators want it to say. The Voice cross the line into manipulating the intent of the words and compound that by intermingling the inspired text with uninspired commentary. Both of those issues make this a non-starter for us.

          I would, however, encourage all believers to at least own and use both a Greek and Hebrew lexicon. There is great value in using the tools available to us to be the best Bereans possible.

          • cjmartel

            Coralie,
            Have you had the chance to read The Voice yet? I will agree with you that it is a paraphrase bible, however as Guy has pointed out, every version has issues, for example in Matthew 5:32 in the NAB Jesus addresses the subject of divorce, …”whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful)…” while in just about every other version, the reason is for adultery, I’m still trying to figure out what an “unlawful Marriage” is. The point I am making is that we should be reading as many different translations as we can, only then can we seperate the wheat from the chaff.
            Thank you for an engaging debate, it is really making me think and learn!

            • Coralie

              As I indicated in my review, my husband and I took several months of reading the Voice and comparing it to the Greek (as I was only given a New Testament) in order to form our opinion.

              • cjmartel

                Thank you for the input, I will continue to do research on this and other biblical issues. I have enjoyed our conversations, you really make me think, I would bet you were on a debating team at some point!! Thanks again.

  • Brother Stephan

    I agree, I can’t recommend it as well. Here’s what really bothers me about how the Voice is written.

    1. Removal of Jesus Christ
    * The Bible teaches us that even the demons tremble at the name Jesus Christ. Every knee will bow and every tongue confess… Why would we as Christians play into the Devil’s hand remove the name above all names?

    2. Young people become confused over what Christ means. Really?
    * I was 18 when I met Christ and gave my heart to Him. Being Jewish all I knew to do was ask God to help me understand His Word. I didn’t have anyone to go to. God helped me and has been giving me understanding since 1975. All the Voice had to do is put an asterisk next to Christ and at the footnote area list Christ means: Messiah, Savoir, Anointed One, Redeemer.

    3. I don’t like whenever there is a reference about God or Jesus they do not capitalize the “H” in “He.” The “H” in “He” has always told us this is talking about God or the God Head.

    I wrote a scathing report on this you may want to look at. Web site provided below.

    Thanks for listening…

    Bro Stef

    http://brostef.org

  • BTGilford

    People seek to find a clearer understanding of the bible without the Holy Spirit who is suppose to teach us, and reveal all things to use concerning the Word of God. Thats why we have so many translation today including “The Voice” because people are lacking God’s Holy Spirit. The want an easy quick fix understanding of truth and it just doesn’t happen that way. If you truly love Jesus then you will not be bored with the bible. Jesus puts the desire in us to want to read and seek out His word.

    • Coralie

      It is absolutely true that we cannot understand the word of God without the illumination of the Holy Spirit, there is value in having a good translation of scripture that is faithful to the original texts. I am not opposed to the varied translations on the market, as long as they remain true and faithful to the word they claim to translate.

  • Deanna Lawson

    When you remove the name of Jesus from the Bible, you
    have just de-classified it as a Bible. And as being
    easy to read being a reason to read “The Voice”, if
    what you are reading is not the truth, how have you
    been helped???? Truth is truth and lies are lies.
    Why do you want to read lies????

    • Coralie

      Deanna: To clarify, they did not remove the name of Jesus, they removed the title “Christ” and replaced it with the title Anointed One or God’s Anointed One. They chose to translate the title instead of transliterate it. That particular choice was not an issue for us. It is a valid translation technique.

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