God’s Word or God’s Voice?
So, there’s a new translation of the Bible out, and it’s got a lot of people all hot and bothered. Most of the upset comes from the fact that the translators opted not to use many familiar words including “angel”, “apostle”, and “Christ.” While this is certainly gold for the headline writers, it actually bothers me less than I would have expected.
One of the things I love about English is its variety. Because so many other languages have contributed to the development of English, we speak a language that can call the same piece of meat “cow” when it’s in the field but “beef” when it turns up on a plate (incidentally, the first word comes from Old English, the second from Old French). Thus, replacing “Christ” with “the Anointed One” leaves me rather nonplussed. That’s part of the joy of using English. Of course, this has opened the door for people to write headlines like “New English Translation of Bible Omits ‘Jesus Christ,’ ‘Angel'” (from the Christian Post). Make no mistake, this is done to intentionally mislead people and entice them into reading the article. That’s an abuse of language and shoddy journalism. I also find it more than a little appalling that Christian-focused websites seem to be leading the way with such things. But, I digress.
As for the translation itself, I say bring it on. There are tons of guests at the “English Bibles” party, so what’s one more? From what I’ve been reading, people are taking umbrage at both the language and the format, which looks something like a movie script. While that doesn’t sound like my cup of tea, I see no harm in it. My son’s Bible rhymes, for Pete’s sake. If, in the long run, an oversimplified version written in verse brings him to a relationship with Jesus Christ, then the book has served its purpose. You can say the same for “The Voice.”
The translators are clear about their target audience. They are writing for people who have never read God’s word. So, if this new book gets people to start thinking about, reading about, and talking to God, then where is the conflict? No one’s claiming that this is the end all, be all of Bible translation, merely another way for human beings to understand the nature of God. In that respect, it’s no different from translating the Bible into Hindi or Swahili or any of a hundred other languages. And, lest we forget, Jesus didn’t speak English. Nevertheless, He is working through this ragamuffin language and doing it with more than just the King James version too.
As Paul said in Roman 8: 28,
“ونحن نعلم ان كل الاشياء تعمل معا للخير للذين يحبون الله الذين هم مدعوون حسب قصده. ” (Arabic)
“En ons weet dat God alles ten goede laat saamwerk vir hulle wat Hom liefhet, hulle wat geroep is volgens sy doel vir hulle lewe.” (Afrikaans)
” Sabemos que Dios obra en toda situación para el bien de los que lo aman, los que han sido llamados por Dios de acuerdo a su propósito.” (Spanish)
“Мы знаем, что Бог во всём проявляет Себя на благо тем, кто любит Его, тем, кто был призван согласно Его воле.” (Russian)
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”