It’s a fair question. People may think of them as being “like” or “similar.” In some ways they are. Both The Voice and The Message are translations of the Christian Scriptures. I don’t accept the characterization that The Message is a paraphrase because Eugene Peterson worked from and with the original languages. When you do that, you are doing a translation. Both The Voice and The Message render the translation in contemporary language and idiom. Both The Voice and The Message have, in some ways at least, a similar mission: to put the Scriptures in the hands of a new audience, an audience that would not likely pick up and read the more formal translations.
So, in some ways, The Voice and The Message are alike.
But in other ways—important and fundamental ways—The Voice is different from The Message.
First, The Voice is not the work of a single, great mind. It represents the collaboration of writers, scholars, poets, and musicians. This collaboration took place in a variety of ways—in person, over the phone, over Skype, over email—but it always represented a back-and-forth movement between the creative team, the scholars, and the editors at Thomas Nelson.
Second, The Voice is formatted in ways to connect with our audience. How the text sits on the page matters when trying to engage a contemporary reader. Take a look at textbooks published over the last 20 years and you will notice how every page is formatted differently with text, text boxes, and other creative, visual helps to aid the student. The Voice had a great design team who worked hard to ensure that every page invited the reader to keep reading. In particular, the dialogue is formatted in a way which is easy to follow. You know immediately who is speaking to whom. We’ve described this feature as a screen-play format.
Third, The Voice provides introductions to each book, commentary, and reading plans to help people read through the Bible during the church year. Although The Voice is not a “study Bible,” in the technical sense, the notes and commentary provide a variety of helps so people can read the Bible with greater clarity. Some of those notes explain key words and concepts. Others provide background and important cultural connections. Still others are designed simply to offer readers a chance to reflect on the text they are reading.
Fourth, those of us who worked on The Voice wanted to avoid trendy language which would become obsolete within a decade or two. Instead we wanted to translate these sacred texts in contemporary language which would not only carry the weight of the Greek’s and Hebrew’s meaning but also connect with our audiences for years to come.
Fifth, The Voice is a translation which focuses on the story. Though the Bible consists of 66 different books written and edited by hundreds of people over more than 1000 years, we believe that each writer, each book, each episode bears witness to a single great story of love and redemption. This meta-narrative—as scholars call it—tells an amazing story of how the world has gone terribly wrong and how God the Creator has stepped into history to reclaim and restore it. Each book contributes in one way or another to that greater narrative. While many translations seek to get the words right, we went further. Not only did we seek to get the words right, but we thought it was important to get the story right and to invite people to step into that story as it continues to unfold. The formatting, the supplied words, the commentary, and the translation itself are all in service to that greater story of redemption.
The Scriptures tell of a glorious future of new creation; God is “reconciling” all things through Jesus. We can enter into that now through God’s gift of grace. When we do, we will find our place among God’s people and our mission as those called out (“the Church”) to be agents of reconciliation.
That is how I see it. How do you see it? How do you think The Voice and The Message are similar or different?