Theologians OK With Bible Translation Replacing 'Jesus Christ,' 'Angel'

Some theologians say the new Bible translation The Voice that replaces words like "Christ" with "Anointed One" and "angel" with "messenger" is acceptable.

Dr. Darrell Bock, professor of New Testament studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, worked on the Luke-Acts portion of the translation. Bock told The Christian Post that although the word "Christ" does not appear in the text, the meaning of the word is still present in the form of the term "Anointed One," which was frequently used in its place.

"The term was simply not transliterated Christ but explained as anointed one throughout, so there was no change here and Christ is there throughout rendered in the meaning of the term," said Bock.

Plans for The Voice translation first came about in January 2004, when Thomas Nelson Publishing met with the Ecclesia Bible Society, whose leadership includes Chris Seay, pastor of the Ecclesia Church of Houston, Texas. The project came in portions, with The Voice New Testament being released in 2009 and the entire Bible version being released last month.

"I do think there can be value in laying out Scripture in a fresh way so people hear it afresh, provided it does not take liberties with the text," said Bock.

"Every effort was made to be careful about how this was done. This is not an effort to conform to American audiences, but is simply rendering the text in a way to makes its meaning clear."

Bock, who has consulted on other English translations of the Bible, compared The Voice to other translation projects, including the original Living Bible.

"The difference here was that there were translators who knew Greek and Hebrew who worked with the other translators who rendered for English style," he said.

Dr. Erik Thoennes, professor of biblical and theological studies at Biola University, told CP that the process of translation "is as much of an art as a science."

"Languages are constantly evolving so it is helpful to provide translations that reflect those changes that time invariably brings," said Thoennes.

"Translations should never merely conform to modern audiences or transform the meaning to fit contemporary thinking, but they do need to help modern readers understand the intended meaning of the original authors."

Thoennes, whose preferred translation is the English Standard Version and who has not formed "an overall opinion" of The Voice, felt that the translators were seeking to go deeper into the meaning of words.

"It's not so much that they removed the words as that they made the intended meaning more explicit," said Thoennes.

"This does not seem to me like a desire to avoid words but rather to get beyond the words and explain the definitions of them."

Thoennes also told CP he felt that given the art of translation, different versions of the Bible can fulfill different needs.

"If reading for the big ideas and general flow of the stories and dialogues, a less literal approach could be helpful. This sounds like what The Voice is trying to accomplish," said Thoennes.

"For closer detailed study, a more literal translation is better. That is why I use the ESV because it is a more literal translation."

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