A few weeks ago a pastor asked whether The Voice is a “conservative” translation? Frank Couch did his best to answer the question, but frankly I didn’t understand the question.
Translations are not “conservative” or “liberal;” translations are either faithful in rendering the original languages in readable, accessible English or they are not. In translation theory there is no category for “conservative” or “liberal.”
Perhaps what he wanted to know was whether the people who worked on the translation were “conservative” or “liberal.” Again, I’m not sure what that means. We didn't ask people their party affiliation or who they voted for in the last election. We weren't concerned with that. Our concerns were these: (a) are the writers and scholars capable of translating the Scriptures from the original languages? (b) do they have the time to invest? (c) do they understand the mission of this translation? I imagine that our translation team was a cross-section of America and western culture. We probably had some Democrats, some Republicans, and some Independents. But again, we didn’t ask that question.
Perhaps the pastor wanted to know whether the scholars and writers who worked on the project were “conservative” or “liberal” theologically. These are slippery categories. I remember reading a book from a well known conservative a few years ago claiming that the leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention was far too liberal. People who know that denomination might find it laughable, but every conservative is somebody’s liberal. Again, we didn’t ask that question. Our concerns were these: (a) do the writers and scholars have a high regard for Scripture? (b) do they realize the Church is in great transition today and are they committed to her?
You see, people do not spend their lives learning to read Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic if they think it is OK to play fast and loose with the Bible. The only reason to pour your life into the Scriptures is if you believe that in these inspired books God is speaking. People don’t invest their time and resources in studying, preaching, and teaching the Scripture to the Church if they believe the divine assembly is no different than the bridge club.
Our translation and editorial teams were a cross-section of American and western Protestant life. Among our scholars and writers we had Baptists, Episcopalians, Plymouth Brethren, Lutheran, Methodist, non-denominational types, Vineyard types, and many others. To be honest, we never asked what denomination people belonged to.
Thomas Nelson, Inc. started in Edinburgh Scotland in the late 1700s and has a long track record in the publishing business. In that time the company has created and released two new Bible translations. The first was the New King James Version which previewed about 30 years ago. The second is The Voice. From the beginning, the leadership and staff of Thomas Nelson have exercised great care that we get it right.
Our country is deeply divided over partisan issues. We have red states and blue states. Tea-partiers and Occupiers. Conservatives and Liberals. Unfortunately, these labels speak only half-truths into complicated matters.
What do you think the pastor meant when he asked, "Is THE VOICE a conservative translation?"