Tuesday, November 18, 2008

WDJD (What Did Jesus Do?)


As someone has said:
It's not that we don't know enough about Jesus.

It's that we know too much!
If we had only one Gospel instead of four:
  • We'd know what Jesus did during the last week of His life, and the order in which He did those things.
  • We'd know what He said on the cross, how the thieves treated Him, and if He took the drink.
  • We'd know who was at the tomb.
  • We'd know if the Last Supper was a Passover meal.
  • We'd know when He gave the various parts that make up the Sermon on the Mount (or was it on the Plain?)
  • We'd know if He healed Malchus' ear.
  • We'd know the right version of the Lord's Prayer.
  • We'd know what the words of institution were (maybe; there's still 1 Corinthians).
  • We'd know what He said in His Olivet Discourse, and where He said it.
  • We'd know if He had a long conversation with Pilate.
  • We'd know how many blind men He healed.
  • We'd know His genealogy.
  • We'd know how many times He cleansed the Temple.
  • We'd know if the centurion actually spoke with Him or if He started going to the centurion's house.
  • We'd know the names of His twelve disciples.
  • We'd know how Judas died (unless that one Gospel was Matthew's).
  • We'd know who washed His feet with her hair, and whether she anointed His feet or His head, and whose house it happened in.
Or would we?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A New "Voice"

Thomas Nelson, Inc., has released The Voice New Testament, a new translation that has a unique style and format. Here is the promo info about the translation from the Voice blog:
Any literary project reflects the age in which it is written. The Voice is created for and by a church in great transition. Throughout the body of Christ, extensive discussions are ongoing about a variety of issues including style of worship, how we separate culture from our theology, and what is essential truth. At the center of this discussion is the role of Scripture. Instead of furthering the division over culture and theology, it is time to bring the body of Christ together again around the Bible. Thomas Nelson Publishers and Ecclesia Bible Society together are developing Scripture products that foster spiritual growth and theological exploration out of a heart for worship and mission. We have dedicated ourselves to hearing and proclaiming God’s voice through this project.

Previously most Bibles and biblical reference works were produced by professional scholars writing in academic settings. The Voice uniquely represents collaboration among scholars, pastors, writers, musicians, poets, and other artists. The goal is to create the finest Bible products to help believers experience the joy and wonder of God’s revelation. This is the first-ever complete New Testament in The Voice translation. Writers include Chris Seay, Lauren Winner, Brian McLaren, Greg Garrett, David B. Capes, and others.

Four key words describe the vision of this project:
Holistic: considers heart, soul, and mind
Beautiful: achieves literary and artistic excellence
Sensitive: respects cultural shifts and the need for accuracy
Balanced: includes theologically diverse writers and scholars

We have taken care that The Voice is faithful and that it avoids prejudice. As we partnered biblical scholars and theologians with our writers, we intentionally built teams that did not share any single theological tradition. Their diversity has helped each of them not to be trapped within his or her own individual preconceptions, resulting in a faithful and fresh rendering of the Bible.

Features include: bronze, highlighted text; screenplay-like format, ideal for public readings and group studies; devotional commentary; and book introductions.
I saw a copy at Borders Books Monday, November 10, and again at Barnes & Noble on Tuesday, November 11. For some reason, neither of the two chain Christian bookstores (Mardel and Lifeway) have it; maybe Thomas Nelson is marketing it to the non-Christian bookstores and markets first. I didn't see it at Wal-Mart, Target, Sam's Club or Costco, either.

I was prepared to be skeptical of it after first reading about it at the Better Bibles Blog, and it didn’t help when the footnote to John 3:3 said (in reference to "birth for a second time"):
* 3:3 Other manuscripts read "from above."
According to Nestle-Aland 27, there are no textual variants for ανωθεν (anôthen = "from above," "again," "anew"), so the footnote should instead have read something like:
* 3:3 The Greek can also mean "from above." or * 3:3 Or "from above."
Interestingly, the footnote for John 3:3 in the downloadable PDF file of The Voice: The Book of John does in fact read: * 3:3 Or "from above." I wondered why the proofs that went to the publisher incorrectly changed this, so I emailed Thomas Nelson on November 12. They responded the next day:
Thank you for your note. We have done some checking and you are right. It seems that late in one of our last proofing passes a freelance editor made a change, I believe to bring the wording in line with other footnotes, and it was not caught by those of us that are responsible for the content of the footnotes. It is an error and we are going to correct it in the next printing. I am sure the error was inadvertently introduced, but the end result is the same.... Actually your note is the first about an error. We had many extra proofings and feel that the text is in very good shape. There are always errors, because we are only human. My understanding is that a second printing is being order (sic) now.
As a side note, Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christians, who believe in Mary's perpetual virginity, aren’t going to be happy with the translation of Matthew 1:25a: "(though he did not consummate their marriage until after her son was born)." While I believe that this is probably what Matthew 1:25 means or suggests, in my opinion The Voice overinterprets the verse.

Another side note: Repeatedly reading "The Liberating King" for "Christ" gets as old and repetitious as hearing Henry Ian Cusick say, "I tell you the truth" (for "Truly, truly" - i.e., "Amen, amen") over and over again in the movie The Gospel of John. (And...The Voice also uses "I tell you the truth" to translate "Amen, amen.")

The Preface says:
The Voice is based on the earliest and best manuscripts from the original languages (Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic). When significant variations influence a reading, we follow the publishing standard by bracketing the passage and placing a note at the bottom of the page while maintaining the traditional chapter and verse divisions.
Examples include Mark 16:9-20 (they also include the addition to Mark 16:8) and John 7:53-8:11. The introduction identifies the authors and commentators for the Gospels and the other books that have previously been published (e.g., Acts and Hebrews). For the entirety of The Voice, though, there is simply a list at the front of all the contributors and scholars, but their names are not connected to the books they worked on.

Despite my skepticism, I found The Voice to be quite captivating during my quick perusal, and I will likely purchase a copy. (I was disappointed, though, to see that the pages in the "leather bound" edition - more accurately the "1/3 leather + 2/3 fabric bound" edition - are glued, not sewn, so it may not be worth the extra buck$$.) I tend to agree with these positive comments from this reviewer:
1) The Voice is the most thoroughly readable translation I've ever experienced, more readable, even, than The Message. I'm not even kidding; I sat down and read fifteen chapters of Matthew's Gospel in one sitting, without stopping or realizing that I had read and digested that much material. It reads like a story, and the authors/translators have done a masterful job in capturing the narrative quality of Scripture. Before I knew it, I had been reading Scripture for an hour straight, and I didn't want to stop. I can't remember the last time I had such a powerful experience with Bible reading.

(In the second part of his review, he lists what he dislikes about The Voice.)
You can download The Book of John as a PDF file here.

So...Will The Voice become the Bible of choice for Emerging/Emergent Christians?

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12-3-08: I ordered (and received) some leather bound copies of The Voice from Amazon.com, since the second printing is a few months off (per Thomas Nelson) and I wanted to read it, as well as give it at Christmas to some family members for whom the thought of reading the Bible (or even reading the Bible) might seem boring.