Yet another new Bible version is now out on the market. This one, “The Voice,” by Thomas Nelson and the Ecclesia Bible Society, is written in a screenplay format, much like the script for a Hollywood movie. The language is contemporary, the imagery is more dramatic, and plenty of liberties have been taken with the interpretation of how Biblical characters said things, not to mention what they said.
The advantage is, younger generations may like the fact that they have a text they can relate to better, that uses the conventions and customs of today's media culture, and that doesn't contain archaic references to terms like Lords and shepherds, baptizers and denarius, among other things.
The downside: as with any “official” document, there is a tendency to assume that what we read is either the real, genuine, indisputable, “unvarnished” version of the Truth – or, an instantly “holy,” set apart, carved-in-stone message that is never allowed to change or evolve with the times. (Just like when we think that the only way we're ever allowed to say The Lord's Prayer is with all the “thys” and “thines” of the King James Version.)
Regular churchgoers in most liberal congregations may be aware that there are usually two or three mainstays of worship: the NRSV, RSV, and NIV Bibles (New Revised Standard Version, Revised Standard Version, and New International Version, respectively). These texts have generally passed the test of time, and owe their existence to a very meticulous, objective, thoughtful, and carefully researched process led by an entire team of translators, scholars, theologians, and reviewers. In other words, it's not just one solo author's craftsmanship or inspiration – it's the collective effort of a whole group of people, meant to represent or minister to the global Christian community.
As a side note, there are also congregations that still prefer the KJV – this is the “King James” version that was translated in the Old English of King James' day, which means all the pronouns are thees, thys, thous, and thines. One of the other problems with older translations like the KJV is the preponderant use of male pronouns and male imagery for God. Many in our modern generations, on the contrary, view God as “beyond gender,” so a male, patriarchal God figure doesn't really float their boat anymore. Nor does the blatant exclusion of feminine representation sit well with them, as in phrases like “blessed is HE who is merciful,” as if the only people who really count are male.
Other versions, too.
Of course, there are also a variety of other Bible versions being employed in churches, discussion groups, Sunday School classes, and individual studies. These include the Contemporary English Version, The Message (a solo effort by Eugene Peterson), the Living Translation, the Good News Bible, the Amplified Bible, the New American Standard Bible, and others. Some of these, while using modern phrases and wording, unfortunately feature more conservative theology (and often more of that male-dominated language that can be a serious turn-off for those working for gender equality).
Why all the fuss?
It's very tempting to treat the subject of Bible versions like a choice of fashion or food choices. What are you in the mood for, today? Actually, that's where all the trouble begins. There's no doubt that we can take this a little too seriously. But when it's reduced to a matter of trivia or personal tastes, with everyone having his or her own exclusive “designer Bible,” tailored to individual whims and desires, then our common faith disintegrates into a chaotic circus of different interpretations, different opinions, and different “religions” that may not necessarily be Christian in their totality. It becomes a modern-day Tower of Babel, with everybody in the crowd spouting gibberish at the top of their lungs. How will it ever be possible to understand each other, let alone come together in fellowship and love?
Perhaps instead of developing new, newer, and newest Bibles, we need to re-examine what our faith is really about. Instead of quibbling over differences, and arguing over whose translation is better, or whose words are a better reflection of today's culture, we all need to sit down at the global table and determine what is the true collective measure of Christianity. What is it that we all have in common? What is it that really draws us together, rather than divides us?
An old, old saying puts it this way: "In essentials unity; in non-essentials liberty; in all things charity." (17th-century Lutheran Rupertus Meldenius). What we need to do is decide what's important, and what's not.... and lift up what we have to celebrate.
Welcome to the community, "The Voice"-- with your addition to the variety of Bibles available, hopefully we can all continue working together for the common good.