Listening to the Voice: Theological Words

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For some, words such as baptism, justification/justified, and even Christ are words which are sacrosanct to a biblical translation. Part of the criticism leveled at other translations, such as the NLT and God’s Word is that they remove these words. If you are needing these words, The Voice may not be the translation for you.

Note, that since the translation style of The Voice is different from others, I felt it unfair to compare it with others; however, you can use the hyperlinked Scripture references to do you own comparison.

Baptism:

First, I want to comment on The Voice’s translation of baptism. We meet John the Baptist for the first time in Matthew 3.1:

Around the same time, a man called John* began to travel, preach, and ritually wash people in the wilderness of Judea. John preached a stern but exciting message.

*3.1 Literally, John who immersed to show repentance.

In Mark 1.4, we read,

That messenger was John the Prophet*, who appeared in the desert near the Jordan River preaching that people should be ritually cleansed* with water as a sign of both their changed hearts* and God’s forgiveness of their sins.

*Literally, John who immersed to show repentance
*Literally, immersed to show repentance
*Literally, repentance

The Voice first not only translates ‘Baptist’ but interprets the name in a theological sense. Further, while I understand that this is not meant to be a literal translation, rather a word for word, but it is distracting and undermining to the goal of The Voice to have to constantly read the footnotes to the ‘literal sense.’

Further, they also make strictly interpretative translations which are foreign to the original text. For example, Matthew 28.18-20:

Jesus: I am here speaking with all the authority of God, who has commanded Me to give you this commission: Go out and make disciples in all nations. Wash them ceremonially* in the name of the triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then disciple them. Form them in the practices and postures that I have taught you, and show them how to follow the commands I have laid down for you. And I will be with you, day after day, to the end of the age.

*28.19 Literally, immerse, in a rite of initiation and purification

Acts 2.38:

Reconsider your lives; change your direction. Participate in the ceremonial washing* in the name of Jesus, the Liberating King. Then your sins will be forgiven, and the gift of the Holy Spirit will be yours.

*Acts 2.38, Literally, immersion, a right of initiation and purification.

Romans 6.1:

How should we respond to all of this? Is it good to persist in a life of sin so that grace multiplies even more? Absolutely not! How can we die to a life where sin ruled over us and then invite sin back into our lives?  Did someone forget to tell you that when we were initiated into Jesus, the Liberating Kin, through ceremonial washing,* we entered into His death? Therefore, we were buried with Him through this ritual* into death. So when God the Father, in all His glory, resurrected our Liberating King, we were also called out of the grave to walk confidently into a new life. To put it another way: if we have been united with Him to share in a death like His, don’t you understand that we will also share in His resurrection?

* 6.3, Literally, immersion, in a rite of initiation and purification
* 6.4, Literally, immersion, a rite of initiation and purification

1st Peter 3.21:

The water through which the ark safely passed symbolizes now the ceremonial washing that initiates you into salvation. You are saved not because it cleanses your body of filth but because of your appeal to God from a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus, the Liberating King.

While I may appreciate what is being said, I first find the constant referral to footnotes distracting. Further, the use of words such as rite, ritual, and ceremonial are off-putting, especially to those dyed in the wool to reject things that look to be ceremonial.

As I have briefly shown here, ‘Christ’ is foregone for the phrase ‘Liberating King.’ Much like The Voice translators did with John the Baptist, the title/name which carries with it, especially in this case, significant biblical weight in the New Testament’s thought and religious world, is dropped and replaced with an interpretative cue. The problem with ‘Liberating King’ is that it dismisses the history of ‘Christ’ adopted as not only a name but a title for the new group. Oddly enough, The Voice retains ‘Christian(s)’ in Acts 11.26; Acts 26.28; and 1st Peter 4.16.

Justified/Justification:

This is always a division, it seems, among English bible readers, more especially those of the Reformed mind. While I will not examine every instance of this, I will examine a few.

Romans 4.25 –

He was delivered over to death for our trespasses and raised so that we might be made right with God.

Romans 5.15 –

His free gift is nothing like the scourge of the first man’s sin. The judgment that fell because of one false step brought condemnation, but the free gift following countless offenses results in a favorable verdict – not guilty.

1st Corinthians 6.11 –

Some of you used to live in these ways, but you are different now: you have been washed clean, set apart, restored, and set on the right path in the name of the Lord Jesus, the Liberating King, by the Spirit of our living God.

James 2.24 –

Just like our father in the faith, we are made right with God through good works, not simply by what we believe or think

There is little difference here than other modern versions who no longer feel the need to use the historical English theological terminology for this word, but instead choose to explain the meaning. To be honest, I believe that Christ should not be dropped from any translation, but to explain concepts in a way relevant to the thoughts of the author and in a way which is understood is allowable.

Do these words matter to you? If so, why?

Post By Joel Watts (10,086 Posts)

Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

Website: → Unsettled Christianity

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5 thoughts on Listening to the Voice: Theological Words

  1. Are these words important? No. If we want to be legalists, then sure they would be important so we can feel proud of ourselves.

    As long as the translation is faithful to the text and story, I am find with it. I like the Voice. :)

    Keep up the good work, Joel.

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