New Bible translation has screenplay format

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 7 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

It does, however, take out the word "Christ," which many people have come to think of as Jesus' last name, rather than a title bestowed upon him by the Gospel writers to show that they believed he was God's "Anointed One" — the chosen translation in "The Voice."

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, said linguist Joel M. Hoffman, author of "And God Said — How Translations Conceal the Bible's Original Meaning."

"For example, 'John the Baptist' was really like 'John the Dunker,'" Hoffman said.

John was doing something new by submerging people in water to cleanse them of their sins, but that is lost on people 2,000 years later, Hoffman said. Today, people hearing John's title might think it refers to a Baptist denomination rather than his then-strange behavior.

In the Old Testament, translators of "The Voice" have rendered YHWH (commonly written as Yahweh), the Hebrew name for God, as "the Eternal" or "the Eternal One." One of the Bible's most famous passages, Psalm 23, reads, "The Eternal is my shepherd ..."

Most other translations render YHWH as "Lord," a word that was rich with meaning in a time when people lived in subjection to absolute monarchs but not so much for contemporary Americans living in a democracy, Couch said.

Hoffman said he would buy the argument against using "Lord" if the translators didn't go on to sometimes to call Jesus "the Liberating King," another reference to royalty that has lost its grip on the modern American imagination.

"When I think of a king, I think of a powerless figurehead," Hoffman said.

But Hoffman said the goal of making the Bible accessible to a contemporary audience is laudable, even if he doesn't always agree with the translations in "The Voice."

And for the average reader, unaware of the sometimes contentious debates over translation, "The Voice" seems to have struck a chord.

Steve Taylor, who directed the recent Christian movie "Blue Like Jazz" and also was one of the screenwriters, said the screenplay format makes the Bible stories feel more immediate to him.

"It was like it was happening now, as opposed to reading something that happened 2,000 years ago," he said. "When Jesus turns the water into wine in John 2, I felt more like I was at the wedding. I felt the awkwardness of the situation."

Getting readers to feel engaged in the story is exactly what the creators of "The Voice" had in mind, Couch said.

"We had an 82-year-old woman who told us that she had never understood the Bible before."

Online: www.hearthevoice.com

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