We're not only trying to think outside the box; we are not starting within one, says the team behind a new Scripture translation project for the postmodern culture.
"The Voice" project will release its third book - The Voice of Matthew - this month. Coming from the translation of a Jewish believer, Lauren Winner has incorporated her own conversational writing style to tell the story of Matthew in a fashion that reads like a novel.
An excerpt from The Voice of Matthew reads:
Jesus: It is written, "Man does not live by bread alone. Rather, he lives on every word that comes from the mouth of God." (Matthew 4:4)
(commentary)The point, of course, is not that Jesus couldn't have turned these stones to bread. As you will see a little later in our story, He can make food appear when He needs to. But Jesus doesn't work miracles out of the blue, for no reason, for show or proof or spectacle.
"Her take on what Matthew was saying, this gospel [having been] written specifically to Jews, is really helpful - the insight she lends to the story," said Chris Seay, a leader in the emerging church discussion and whose vision spearheaded the milestone voice project.
Numerous translations of the Bible already exist and it's the best-selling book of all time. But Christian leaders in the postmodern culture are not a fan of the current translated word. They are not interested in just presenting Biblical facts and truths in their preaching. They want to tell the entire story of the Bible just as Jesus did. Jesus taught through parables and metaphors. Today's translations consist of irrefutable fact statements, according to The Voice website (www.hearthevoice.com).
"What we miss too often [in Scripture] is the narrative and the poetry and the beauty," Seay told The Christian Post as he described his vision birthed 15 years ago. "What would it be like if we have scholars that worked with poets and storytellers and fiction writers in the translation process so that we not only get the translation of the words right but we really nail the beauty and the poetry of the story?"
Current translations tend to homogenize the books of the Bible, Seay said, when the Scriptures are actually very diverse in terms of literary style.
The Voice project comes at the point of impact where the modern church, with its tradition and stability, collides with the developing church of the future, according to project's website. "This is our effort to help work through these changes and to focus attention on God's word to us."
Seay is now recapturing what was lost - the passion, grit, humor and beauty of Biblical stories - in the first-of-its-kind retelling of the Bible for the emerging church.
The Voice project was launched just after Easter of 2006 with The Last Eyewitness and The Dust Off Their Feet, which is a translation of the second half of the gospel of John. The text includes illustrations and commentary.
Best-selling author and intellectual leader on the emerging church Brian McLaren translated the book of Acts and is now working on Luke, just as Luke wrote both Luke and Acts.
Seay wants to preserve the unique voices throughout the translations, hence the project name. "Most translations were translated [written] word, but this is a more active and speaking word," noted Seay.
So far, translated texts from The Voice project have been well received by churches. But Seay predicts some critique may come since the translations, paraphrases, and cultural context can be easily misunderstood by some church leaders.
The emerging church in general, however, is often misunderstood.
The most common misunderstanding, according to Seay, is that the emerging church is on the far extreme left or right. But one cannot think of the emerging church in the typical liberal/conservative world, he said. Another common misconception is that the emerging church is only about "hip and cool."
"The truth is, we're engaged in people's lives," explained Seay who said the movement emphasizes social justice.
And believers in the 21st century movement do not embrace the term "emerging," he noted. "We talk about ourselves as 'missional.'"
Seay, a third-generation Baptist who pastors Ecclesia church in Houston, Texas, believes church communities will pop up all over the country that have a keen focus on the needs of the local community, AIDS, Sudan, famine and other such issues.
"They're going to think outside the box and be ready to act."
Meanwhile, "missional" Christians can watch for The Voice's entire Bible translation and musical CDs over the next few years through 2009.