The Voice

Bob Smietana, a fine writer for The Tennessean, sketches a story about The Voice:

The name Jesus Christ doesn’t appear in The Voice, a new translation of the Bible from a Nashville publisher.

Nor do religious words like “angel” or “apostle.”

Instead, “angel” is rendered as “messenger,” and “apostle” as “emissary.” Jesus Christ is Jesus the Anointed One or “the liberating king.”

That’s a more accurate translation for modern American readers, said David Capes, lead scholar for The Voice, published by Thomas Nelson. Capes said that many people, even those who’ve gone to church for years, don’t realize that the word “Christ” is a title.

“They think that Jesus is his first name and Christ is his last name,” said Capes, who teaches New Testament at Houston Baptist College in Texas.

Seven years in the making, The Voice is the latest entry into the crowded field of English Bible translations. It’s aimed at people who haven’t read the Bible much before and aren’t familiar with church jargon.

Unlike the updated New International Version and the Common English Bible — both released last year — much of The Voice is formatted like a screenplay or novel. Translators cut out the “he said” and “they said” and focused on the dialogue.


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  • Rick

    What about Blake Shelton and Adam Levine? ;^)

  • Jeremy

    I was fortunate enough to be able to observe this thing being made as I know one of the translators/scholars. The goal was to make a paraphrase like “The Message” with fewer translation problems that came from having a single translator. It was pretty staggering how much effort was going into getting this thing just right, with long phone conferences about very small pieces of text and what theology was driving a particular translation. They definitely were trying to find a new way to say things while remaining true to the original text and our knowledge of the culture within which it was situated.

    I’ve only read small portions of the NT, but I really like it. It didn’t give me the “huh?” moments I had reading The Message. I’m a bit biased though.

  • Joe Canner

    Rick, that was my first thought, as well. I wonder how long till there is a trademark fight…

  • Bill

    The concept is great – I get tired of explaining that Christ is not Jesus’ last name, angels are not dead people and apostle is a description of an activity and not an ecclesiastical title.

  • RJS

    I like the idea of avoiding misunderstood terms, like Christ, angel, etc. Translating logos as voice seems a bit more of a stretch (although both word and voice require something to be understood in today’s culture when translating logos).

    I am not as comfortable with the idea of translating the bible as a screen play. This isn’t really translation – more like transformation or revision. It has a place, but it also seems as though it needs to be approached with a level of caution with respect to how it is used.

  • Randy Gabrielse

    We just discussed this this morning as we looked at the story of Thomas’ doubts regarding Jesus’ resurrection. Most people seemed to know that “Messiah” and “Christ” are roughly equivalent titles. But I appreciate translations etc. that give us pause and make us think in terms of Jesus as Messiah. As I like to put it “Jesus had to be Messiah before he could be Christ.”

  • Jeremy

    RJS – As I understand it, this was never intended to replace a direct translation. The guys that worked on this are extremely dedicated and respected biblical scholars that wanted to provide what they felt would be a better paraphrase than what’s been available till now. The expectation is that you’ll “graduate” to a proper translation for actual study and use this like most people use the Message.

    And I think “Voice” is better than “Word” for logos…Too many get confused when we talk about the “word” as scripture and then want to mean something completely different when we talk about Logos. Also, voice implies action, power, and command…something I think the term “word” lacks. There are no good English equivilants for Logos, but I think voice may get closer.

  • Jerry

    Ok, I get it. As a preacher I too have to explain Jesus’ “last name.” But why not just teach people the “language of Zion?”

  • I think this new work sounds fantastic! I’m guessing “baptism” will still be transliterated to keep the sales up in both the sprinkling and immersing crowds but even changing some of these other terms to get people to come back to the Text with fresh ears for a fresh voice – sorry – is brilliant! I will be ordering my copy tomorrow!

  • “Ok, I get it. As a preacher I too have to explain Jesus’ “last name.” But why not just teach people the “language of Zion?””

    If you mean what I think you do, I would simply say “good luck with that.” There is a definite place for education about church terms. Part of the problem, as I understand it, is that many of us steeped in church culture don’t always recognize that some of the terms we use (and understand) all the time are not so readily understood by outsiders. They hear it as “church language,” but if they have any sense of what the terms mean at all, it is limited at best.

    A paraphrase (not a translation in the conventional sense) like this is simply one more tool to reach folks that aren’t already being reached by other means. It won’t remove the need for education, but it may well help us recognize things we need to be teaching that we may have taken for granted.

  • I love The Message, though I understand the inherent danger in having only one translator (although Peterson’s was checked by language experts, yes, it’s still not the same as having an entire team). I do think it’s noteworthy that Peterson himself recommends in his introduction that anyone wanting to study the Bible deeper should get a another translation to work from. I think translations like The Voice have a place. Years ago many non-Christians could pick up a Bible and still have some basic knowledge about who Jesus was. Not so, anymore. The Voice could be a good entry point for someone and hopefully they’d become disciples who want to learn “the language of Zion.”

  • I got a copy of The Voice about a week ago. I appreciate the way it reads, the way it elaborates on ideas.

    As for “The Voice” in place of “The Word,” when we think of “word,” we think of the written word. In biblical times, the word was primarily received as a voice. I like the images associated with this word change and the way this term invokes the concept of Jesus as the voice of God, come to earth.

    I look forward to reading more.

  • Billyv

    I found Jesus the Liberating King to be a bit bulky at times. I like how they tried to frame some of the dialogue like a script.

  • I was privileged to be part of this project (as were a number of faculty at the institutions where I am now associated, Houston Baptist University and Houston Graduate School of Theology, especially the former). While those from Thomas Nelson will say that The Voice is not intended to replace other translations, I would never say that. The Voice is not The Message in that it is a team project. And it will undergo ongoing revision. For me the importance is that when I teach NT survey I do say “Anointed King” instead of “Christ” and “official delegate” instead of “apostle” and the like. We have a number of these terms that are transliterated rather than translated. We can try to teach their meaning, but that raises the barrier to understanding. You need to have a class before you can read the scripture or before you can understand the meaning. And even then you would be surprised at what people would tell you the terms mean. So our hope is that one reads The Voice and “gets it.” I think that that is possible for my students (who are university students, but whom I do not think can understand the ESV or even, to some extent, the NIV). That is my observation from hearing them try to read text.

    Of course USA Today posted quite a sensational headline, although the article itself was not too bad. Unfortunately, a number of blogs have picked up on it and blown the whole issue up from a translational – transliteration issue to “leaving our Christ”. How ridiculous. And how ironic, for the main scholar behind this translation, David Capes, did his PhD work in arguing for early high Christology. He definitely wants the Christology in there, but in there so that it is understood.

  • Mark Z.

    Wait, so they’re translating logos as “Voice” and then also titling the book “The Voice”? Doesn’t that just create further confusion?

  • Joshua

    Most scholars, contra Wright, Novnson, Willitts, etc., believe that Christ, though originally a title, evolved in its use, so that by the time much of the NT was written (esp. Paul’s epistles), “Christos” was used as a proper name, not a title.

  • Joshua

    However, even Wright translated “Christos” according to its OT equivalent, “Messiah” (both mean “anointed one”). Thus, Jesus Mesisah, or Messiah Jesus (in those instances where “Christos” precedes Jesus.

  • Love this! I got the Gospel of John first as a download, then Psalms, then the New Testament. They are way easier for reading with my kids — long-term Jesus Creeders may remember my many stories about the challenges of reading the Bible to my boys.

    I stand by it as appropriate for those without the background for reading scripture. Reminds me of the discussions had with those who were shocked that, as a pastor, I recommended new readers to start with the Reader’s Digest bible.

    So, if the Old Testament is now available, I will have to get it!