What features would you add to a Bible translation to make it more accessible and understandable?
Christians believe that the pure, unadorned text of Scripture is sufficient in itself to communicate God’s message for us. However, we also recognize the usefulness of study notes, different translation styles, and other tools in explaining the meaning of what we read.
Different Bible translators and publishers have approached this in a variety of ways, usually by incorporating a specific feature that aims to overcome a particular barrier to Bible study. The Message, for example, uses very modern language with the goal of making the ancient text more accessible to readers today. The Reformation Study Bible incorporates an impressive amount of commentary and study notes to make deep Bible study easier. The Expanded Bible includes variant translations of key phrases to highlight the textual nuances that are often lost in translation.The newest addition to our library of online Bibles uses not one, but several different methods to make it easier to understand Scripture, and the result is an impressive translation that just might have you looking at familiar Bible passages from a fresh perspective. It’s called The Voice. You can read all about it at The Voice page on Bible Gateway, but it’s easier to show you what it’s like than to just describe it, so let’s take a look at what new elements The Voice brings to the table.
The first thing you’re likely to notice as you read The Voice is that dialogue is handled differently than in most other Bible translations. Here’s an example of a conversation from 1 Samuel 1 as found in The Voice (click to enlarge the image):
As you can see, The Voice uses a screenplay format for dialogue and conversations. One advantage to this style is that it removes the need for lots of repetitive conjunctions and verbs (“he said,” “she replied,” etc.) that slow down reading. It also lets the translators use some clever and useful ways to convey key details: for example, in Matthew 8, note the use of stage directions to add detail and clearly identify the audience.
You may have noticed some text in italics in the example above; that’s another feature of The Voice. Words and phrases in italics represent words that aren’t found in the original text, but which are important for bringing out the original intended meaning of the passage. In the words of The Voice translators, this brings out “the nuance of the original, assist[s] in completing ideas, and often provide[s] readers with information that would have been obvious to the original audience. These additions are meant to help the modern reader better understand the text without having to stop and read footnotes or a study guide.” Here’s an example from Romans 6 (click to enlarge):
Another feature you’ll quickly encounter upon reading The Voice is its collection of explanatory material embedded in with the Bible text. These short paragraphs contain devotional material, study notes, background information, and other clarifying detail of the sort that you might typically find in a study Bible or commentary. These notes are placed near the passages they’re expounding on, and are clearly delineated from the text of Scripture as seen below in Romans 7 (click to enlarge):
And of course, beneath all of these features is a Bible translation that aims for both accuracy and readability. The purpose of these features is to recapture the “passion, grit, humor, and beauty that is often lost in the translation process.” It all comes together to form one of the most interesting Bibles in Bible Gateway’s library.
If you don’t have a favorite Bible translation already—or if you’ve tried reading the Bible in the past, but struggled to make it through—you’ll find The Voice to be a very approachable Bible that works hard to make what you’re reading clear and understandable. And even if you already have a favorite Bible translation, The Voice makes for a fascinating change of pace from most other translations, and its study notes are relevant to any Bible translation.
We’re grateful to Thomas Nelson for making The Voice available on Bible Gateway, and we hope you find it to be a useful and inspiring element of your own Bible reading! The Voice is now available on BibleGateway.com, and print copies are available for purchase at the Bible Gateway store.
Note: If you’d like to give The Voice a try during Lent, sign up for Readings for Lent and Easter from The Voice, a daily email devotional that leads you to Easter through a series of Bible readings—all using The Voice translation.