Lights, Camera, Worship: New Bible Translation Reads Like a Screenplay

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Priest holding a bible

The next director looking to turn the Bible into a blockbuster movie might have a head start with its latest translation, titled The Voice.

Released by publisher Thomas Nelson, The Voice has adapted the Bible into a screenplay format, adding to the standard dialogues with emotional descriptors, scene movement and props added in — all the trimmings of a blockbuster script — to help readers better envision the action of the world’s most-read book.

In the story of John the Baptist meeting Jesus in the Gospel of John, readers are presented with stage directions and expanded dialogue so that it plays out like a film:

“The morning after this conversation, John sees Jesus coming toward him. In eager astonishment, he shouts out:

“John the Baptist: Look! This man is more than He seems! He is the Lamb sent from God, the sacrifice to erase the sins of the world! He is the One I have been saying will come after me, who existed long before me and is much greater than I am.”

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Sure, the team that created The Voice had to add in some text and interpret some of the emotion behind the dialogue, but the group says it denotes those changes with italics, obviously calling them out and creating smooth transitions for readability in the process.

In Genesis, the story of Adam and Even includes Adam “pointing at the woman” and is sprinkled with emotional cues. And to update the culturally accepted meaning of the words, The Voice also changes some ancient words into more modern vernacular, bridging the cultural gap, the publisher says. It switched “Christ” to “Anointed One” in the New Testament (people were thinking Christ was Jesus’ last name, apparently) and “Yahweh” to “The Eternal” in the Old Testament.

To attempt to accurately convey both the translation and the emotion, the author team, led by Chris Seay, a Houston-area pastor, and Thomas Nelson’s vice president of translation development, Frank Couch, worked with Bible scholars and screenplay writers, musicians and poets. This method attempts to “highlight the original authors’ unique personality” while trying to connect the Bible to readers who wouldn’t otherwise open the book.

Also, by reading more like a play, the text can be read easier as a novel — a narrative, if you will — than traditional texts, Couch tells the Associated Press. “By expressing the inspired text in the unique voices of the original biblical authors,” the company writes in an advertisement, “The Voice begins to recapture how the first readers would have encountered the Scripture.”

As more scholars dissect The Voice, there will be debates over word choice and discussion of adding in the italicized words, but the creators say the goal was to introduce more people to the Bible, even if they are simply looking to act it out. Calling all those Hollywood heathens, perhaps?

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