The Voice: New Testament Part 2 – The Gospels

Posted: November 3, 2008 in books, church, reading, words

Now that we’ve reviewed the look of The Voice: New Testament we turn to examining how The Voice handles the gospels.

Let’s begin with what I like about the way the gospels were handled. First, Chris’ choice regarding who would best retell each gospel was genius. Lauren Winner penned Matthew, which is fitting given that she is Jewish. Greg Garret retells Mark, Brian McLaren retells Luke, and later Acts, of course, and Chris Seay takes on John’s gospel. It should be said at the outset that the gospels, neither in older versions of the Bible or this one, was written by one person. And having people retell gospels that somewhat reflect their authors biography and interest adds significantly to the depth of the project.

As you read through The Voice you will notice words in both italics and in boxes. These words are explanatory. For instance, as Lauren retells Matthew 5, she highlights that Jesus is referencing material found in Deuteronomy. I love the fact that this note is not tucked away in a bottom footnote. Rather she has incorporated it into the text. This is not “Bible Reading For Dummies,” rather the writers take seriously the addition of material that the originally audience would have known that 21st Century readers don’t.

Second, the gospel narratives are told in screenplay (or play) form. As a high school student, I loved reading plays because it seemed like I could more easily enter the written world, and it seemed like the reading went faster. As I read through the gospels I noticed that I had not sat down and read through the gospels in that manner in years. Though I knew the story, it was coming alive again for me. What’s more, in the screenplay format, staging directions are given, like (everyone talking at once) or (overhearing them). I truly felt like I was watching something unfold. It wasn’t unlike watching one of your favorite movies; you know the story and what’s coming, but you’re just drawn into the story because it’s told so well.

Unfortunately, the screenplay format makes it difficult to use The Voice with an audience if there is no Keynote or PowerPoint available. As you read the gospels to people, you have to come up with a way to explain who is talking, because the text doesn’t do that. There’s no, “Then Jesus said…” It can be used with an audience, I do it every week, but you have to be created. If you teach a weekly Bible study, I suggest you just buy one for everyone in attendance.

Before you call me a corporate shell for The Voice, I want to highlight one BIG thing I do not like about it. Here it is: Baptism is called “Ritual Cleansing.” Here I show my church of Christ heritage and Restoration Movement bias. In the footnotes, ritual cleansing is referred to as baptism, but I think that baptism is such a meaningful and beautiful image that it should have been retained.

As a contributor to the project, I know that there are some things that are “decided” in terms of language. I suspect that is what happened here because the term is used consistently throughout the gospels. For instance, in Old Testament references to God, we were asked to use “The Eternal One.” These changes are made for many different reasons, and to coddle Sean Palmer’s sentimental regard for the word “baptism” certainly wasn’t one of them. However, the term “ritual cleansing” makes baptism sound more pedestrian and effectual that I believe it is.

In total, the gospels are wonderful, particularly Matthew. And while much of the advertising around The Voice is about emerging generations and new Christians as a young man, but old Christian I found that the gospels inspired in me a desire to re-enter this timeless story.

P.S. If you would like to order a copy of The Voice e-mail me and I will add you to my bulk order. You’ll pay a seriously reduced price plus whatever it cost me to mail it to you wherever you are.


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