The End is Near: a book review

revelationJohn of Patmos’s Revelation is esoteric and strange. It has inspired hope and dread, beautiful art and Christian kitsch, good poetry and bad fiction. Michael Straus, a retired lawyer with a graduate degree from Cambridge in Ancient Greek, has produced a new ‘literary’ translation of Revelation. Beyond the woodenly literal translations of  most New Testament translation (e.g. NRSV, ESV, NASB), Straus weaves together Handel’s Messiah, with English, Spanish (Spanglish?), French, Italian and Greek words and phrases. The effect is that certain words and phrases catch readers familiar with Revelation off guard and allow for a fresh hearing. Also, the global intercultural aspect of revelation is emphasized. For the most part, however, Straus follows closely the Greek text in his translation with some added whimsical flourishes. Headings, chapters and versification has been removed, so that readers can read the text in a less atomized way. 

Pairing Straus’s translation, are illustrations from Jennifer May Reiland, a New York City based artist who has been awarded residencies at the Sharpe-Walentas Studio Program, the Foundation des Etats-Unis as a Hale Woolley Scholar and the Drawing Center’s Open Sessions program. Her artwork adds another interpretative lens to Revelation. Her illustrations combine the apocalyptic debauchery of Hieronymus Bosch with the cartoonish busyness of a Where’s Waldo (if Waldo worked in the porn industry). She combines the grotesque and strange imagery of beasts, dragons and horsemen with explicit images of sex, violence and sexual violence. The result is a dramatic depiction of the war between evil and good. 

Reiland’s illustrations are not appropriate for a children’s Bible and I didn’t let my own kids (4-11) read this take of John’s revelation, but I didn’t think the imagery was gratuitous either. The words and images depict a world in chaos awaiting it’s renewal and coming judgment

However, the closing chapters of Revelation also image a new heaven and new earth, a new Jerusalem come down and a new state of affairs where there is no more crying or pain or suffering. There are no images that depict this (only judgment). I wish that Reiland applied her skill to imaging this aspect of the eschaton (Straus, of course translated it). 

On the whole, I found this a pretty interesting take (not kid friendly, but then neither is a lot of Revelation anyway). I give this four stars. 

Note: I got a copy of this book via SpeakEasy and have provided
my honest review.

The Voice Bible Book Review

This month The Voice unveils their Bible version for the whole Bible, Old and New Testament. Recently Thomas Nelson sent me the New Testament and I ‘m impressed by it (I used it on my blog for my ‘Seven Words of Jesus on the Cross’ series). The Voice is the brainchild of Chris Seay and the Ecclesia Bible Society. I have followed the project and even have some of the earlier volumes on my shelf ( The Voice of Matthew, The Voice of Acts, The Last Eye Witness: The Final Week). It is nice to see the whole project finally come together.

Why Another Translation?

Seriously, why another translation? With the NIV perpetually updating itself, the Reformed crowd all reading the ESV and other translations popping up, seemingly every few months, do we need a Bible like this? I would say that this project is sufficiently unique and I have found that it does a good job of illuminating the Biblical text for a contemporary context.

There are two main approaches that translators take when approaching the Bible. One translation theory is Formal Equivalence which are very literal translations like the NASB or KJV. These translate Hebrew and Greek Idiom, essentially as is (there are mistakes and the KJV wasn’t working with earlier manuscripts but the translators worked on a very literal rendering). On the other side you have translations which aim at Functional Equivalence (NIV is a major example of this). The Voice is closer to the functional equivalence side and dynamic in its approach. The translators and writers producing a text that is at times literal and at other times explicated and amplified. The Ecclesia Bible Society brought together Bible and language scholars with authors, songwriters, poets and pastors in order to produce a text that is beautiful in its expression but accurate in translation.

I think it succeeds rather well. Some of the things I like include:

  • Dialogue is written like a screenplay. This gives the interactions a dynamic and immediate feel. It is very effective.
  • In italics are words and phrases, which are not from the original text but explicate its meaning.
  • Peppered through the Bible are notes that either explain the original meaning or its contemporary implications. What I like about this is that the notes are often meatier than your typical devotional Bible, but leaner than a lot of Study Bibles which (in my opinion) over inform.
  • The Translation itself is highly readable, and accessible. This would be a good Bible to share with Non-Christians, Youth and Seekers. My wife is using it as she prepares children’s curriculum for church. If this translation helps people get the story a little more, I’m in favor.
  • If I could quibble with the marketing of this Bible, the back cover promotional blurbs are from Donald Miller and Darrell Bock. Darrell Bock is a good New Testament scholar and Donald Miller is a justly popular author. Both guys are not impartial because they worked on The Voice. This is like an author saying, “Buy my book I really like it.”

    But I liked it too and recommend it if you are shopping for a dynamic rendering of the Bible or looking for a good Bible to share with friends.

    I received this Bible from the Thomas Nelson Blog Bunch with the understanding that I would share my thoughts on it on my Blog. If you are interested in exploring this translation further, go to HeartheVoice{dot}com.