WRIGHT WAY: A screenplay Bible translation?
by WILLIAM WRIGHT
Jun 28, 2013 | 4161 views | 0 0 comments | 218 218 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A new Bible translation has turned the ancient Hebrew and Greek texts into an American English screenplay. It is called The Voice. Yes, there is now a version of the holy Bible in screenplay format. It is said to be “ faithful to the original text,” but is it?

The Associated Press provided a quote from this latest Bible in which God confronts Adam and Eve after eating the forbidden fruit:

“Adam (pointing at the woman): It was she! The woman You gave me as a companion put the fruit in my hands, and I ate it.

“God (to the woman): What have you done?

“Eve: It was the serpent! He tricked me, and I ate.”

Later, Eve bears her first son, Cain.

“Eve (excited): Look, I have created a new human, a male child, with the help of the Eternal.”

The article stated, “Even people who have never read the Bible could probably guess that other translations don’t say Adam pointed his finger at Eve when he blamed her for his disobedience. Neither do other Bibles describe Eve as ‘excited’ about her newborn son. That’s pure Hollywood, but the team behind ‘The Voice’ says it isn’t a gimmick. They hope this new version will help readers understand the meaning behind the sometimes archaic language of the Bible and enjoy the story enough to stick with it.”

According to the AP, the idea — inspired by a Houston pastor’s success with church members role-playing while reading verses aloud — “struck a nerve with Frank Couch, the vice president of translation development for Nashville-based religious publisher Thomas Nelson, who had performed Bible-inspired sketches on the streets of Berkeley, Calif., in his youth. The result of their efforts, as well as a team of translators who worked alongside poets, writers and musicians, is ‘The Voice,’ released in its full version earlier this year (2012).”

While Couch expressed hope that this radically new version of the Bible will help people “fall in love with the story of the Bible,” reformatting the Bible as a screenplay with inserted words and phrases may cause a problem for serious students of the Bible — not the least of which is taking liberties with a book whose Author warned in Deuteronomy 4:2 and Revelation 22:18-19, not to add or take away from its contents.

The Voice translation also removes the word “Christ,” and replaces it with “Anointed One” — a more literal translation of the Greek word for Christ — but then it rendered YHWH, representing the Hebrew name for God, as “the Eternal” or “the Eternal One,” according to the AP.

While most translations render YHWH as “LORD” or “GOD” in capitol letters, Bible scholars are aware that “Yahweh” is a literal translation of the Hebrew letters YHWH, and “Jehovah” is the most widely accepted English translation of YHWH (JHVH in Latin).

Translating the Divine Name "Jehovah" as “the Eternal” or “the Eternal One” is simply using more titles, like “God” and “Lord,” in place of the personal name which God gave to Himself. Could such a mistranslation be described as "faithful to the original text?" How does removing the personal name of the Bible's Author aid anyone to draw closer to their God and Father as James 4:8 says?

Linguist Joel M. Hoffman, author of “And God Said — How Translations Conceal the Bible’s Original Meaning,” was quoted in the AP article as saying, “All Bible translators have to confront the problem of words that don’t convey the same meaning to a modern audience as they did to an ancient one.”

This being true, why not be more particular about the translation one chooses that will best convey what the ancient Bible writers actually wrote? Jason David BeDuhn, an associate professor of religious studies at Northern Arizona University, wrote about a startling discovery in his book, “Truth in Translation — Accuracy and Bias in English Translations of the New Testament.”

By comparing eight of the most popular Bible translations — the New International Version, the New Revised King James Version, Today’s English Version, New World Translation, New American Standard Bible, The Living Bible, The Amplified New Testament and The New American Bible — BeDuhn discovered one modern translation “more accurate and less biased” than all the others.

He said on page 163, “While it is difficult to quantify this sort of analysis, it can be said that the NW (New World Translation) emerges as the most accurate of the translations compared.”

BeDuhn, who holds a B.A. in Religious Studies from the University of Illinois and an M.T.S. in New Testament and Christian Origins from Harvard Divinity School, called the New World Translation, “one of the most accurate English translations of the New Testament currently available.”

Would reading a more accurate Bible translation make a greater impact than reading a more entertaining, embellished version? You decide. Would Jesus water down the Word of God for entertainment value?

According to Romans 15:4, all the things written in the Bible were written for our instruction or learning — not for entertainment. As such, it requires effort to understand but the effort is worth it.

While the motive behind “The Voice” may be sincere, its screenplay format — like most scripts based on best-selling books — cannot possibly measure up to the best-selling book of all time. Entertaining as it may be, don’t be surprised if people tell you, “Read the inspired book in its entirety. The book is better!”

After having received a free copy of The Voice from the publicist working on the project and browsing its contents for myself I must say I agree with professor BeDuhn. All translations are not created equal.

May you discover for yourself the best Bible translation that gives the clearest voice of God to its readers and follow that "Voice" to the path of endless life.