The Voice of Psalms
Ecclesia Bible Society
Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2009
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The Voice of Psalms (Thomas Nelson) is a special collection of the Psalms in the new Voice translation of the Bible. It contains four reading plans (one for Advent, Lent, Praise, and one for comfort and guidance). It has also has 75 “practical and insightful reflections” on various Psalms.
Most Bibles are translated with the assumptions of systematic theology undergirding them, acting as if what makes the Bible divine is that is has this particular combination of these particular words. The Voice, on the other hand takes seriously the assumptions of biblical theology, that the Bible is divine because of the true God and true story of redemption it testifies to. In translating The Voice, biblical scholars and theologians are teamed up with artists, writers, poets, novelists, memoirists, playwrights, lyricists, and other creative minds in order to make the translation both beautiful and unique for each book of the Bible.
In this book, they have succeeded tremendously with the Psalms. I can’t praise this book enough. First, aesthetics: this book is just beautiful to hold and read. Sure, it’s pretty much your standard paperback, but the cover art is gorgeous, the typeface clear, layout enjoyable, and the entire thing is printed on beautifully colored paper. It’s just pretty. Second, the reflections. Printed in “Study Bible” format, these extrabiblical meditations appear in a box of their own at the bottom of the page. But these aren’t your typical “Christian inspiration” lite fare that most other books of the same ilk would contain. They are “meaty” and deal with the very “real” issues that the Psalms inevitably speak to: isolation, depression, doubt, fear. These meditations continually bring the reader back to the story of Scripture and how Christ can be seen as the climx of every Psalm. Very, Very refreshing and helpful. Bravo.
Lastly, the translation itself. It takes getting used to, I’ll admit. Here are the opening lines of Psalm 23:
The Eternal One is my shepherd, He cares for me always.
He provides me rest in rich, green fields
beside streams of refreshing water.
He soothes my fears;
He makes me whole again,
steering me off warn, hard paths to roads where truth and
righteousness echo his name.
Different, huh? I assure you, though, after the reading of only a few of these, you will fall in love with it. I really can’t go back to my old ESV translations of these Psalms. And believe me, I care about translation! But the translators of The Voice do too. The italics (as in most older translations) represent English words that don’t have direct Hebrew that it is rendering, but rather are giving a greater clarity and sense to what the Hebrew is trying to convey. The acrostic Psalms are rendered the same way in English so that, along with the Hebrew, every line begins with the next successive letter in the alphabet. Footnotes concerning textual criticism (including some Greek variants in the Septuagint!) and the musical terms of the Psalms are also present.
In short, I love this book. I’m using the Lent reading guide in this season to aid in my meditations and prayers. And that’s what this book is best for — stirring your devotional heart for God. This Bible is not for proper systematic biblical study. The Voice will never be the primary text for citation in scholarly works, but that’s not it’s purpose. If you’ve never “prayed Scripture” or have a hard time trying to do so with the relatively wooden translations of most Bibles, this is the perfect book to begin. If you, like me, use some sort of Lectionary like the Book of Common Prayer to guide daily or seasonal readings that are heavy in the Psalms, let me encourage you to purchase this book to use in those readings. It could change the dynamism of those times.
I really can’t commend this book enough to all of you that want to start cultivating a deeper, richer, and more intimate relationship with the God of Christianity. For those tired sojourners in the desert of doctrine wars needing an oasis, reading and praying these Psalms — in such beautiful prose as this — can do nothing but benefit your soul in every way.