Book Review: The Voice of Psalms

The short version: this book is well worth your time and money.

The long version: Since I first became aware of the Voice Bible translation, I have been excited to see what they can do with the Biblical texts.  And since I’ve been recently drawn more and more to the Psalms, I jumped at the opportunity to review this book.  And it’s fantastic.  In addition to the Voice translation of all 150 psalms, the introduction includes reading guides to take us through Advent, Lent and other seasons of the Church calendar.  It’s a great way to begin or end your day; my wife and I are currently using the Lenten reading guide and are finding it a great way to spend time in the scriptures together.

If you’re not familiar with the Voice Project, it’s a gathering of scholars and artists to create a translation of the Bible that embodies the diversity and art of the original texts.  So dialogues look like dialogues, letters look like letters and poems…

…well they look and read like poems.  One of the more controversial aspects of the Voice translation is their inclusion of italicized notes directly in the text.  These extra words and phrases are meant to embody the original intentions of the authors in contemporary language.  Allow me to illustrate with texts from the NRSV and the Voice of the 23rd psalm:

1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; 3 he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff– they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD my whole life long.

1 The Eternal One is my shepherd, He cares for me always. 2 He provides me rest in rich, green fields beside streams of refreshing water. He soothes my fears; 3 He makes me whole again, steering me off worn, hard paths to roads where truth and righteousness echo His name. 4 Even in the unending shadows of death’s darkness, I am not overcome by fear.  Because You  are with me in those dark moments,  near with Your protection and guidance, I am comforted. 5 You spread out a table before me, provisions in the midst of attack from my enemies; You care for all my needs, anointing my head with soothing, fragrant oil, filling my cup again and again with Your grace. 6 Certainly Your faithful protection and loving provision will pursue me where I go, always, everywhere. I will always be with the Eternal One, in Your house forever.

 

The Voice is as good a translation of the Psalms as any I’ve seen, and I enjoy the fresh take on several of the Psalms.  I checked through several of my personal favorites (Psalm 1, 8, 77 and 88 if you’re curious) and was pleased with how they handled some of the more challenging interpretive issues (Leviathan is still in there, as is much of the non-Genesis creation language.  They didn’t do a great job with chesed (‘covenantal faithfulness’, translated above as ‘loving provision’), but I’ve yet to meet the English translation that does).

If you’re looking for a fresh take on a great book in our Scriptures, check out The Voice of Psalms.  You could do much worse for yourself.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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