Several years ago I sat in the audience for a presentation of a one person play at the Mystic Union Baptist Church. For two and a half hours the actor shared the story of Jesus. It was an incredible performance that covered his birth up until his crucifixion. The actor had us sitting on the edge of our seats. The characters came to life and you could see the Pharisees as they spat venom at Jesus. You could hear the murmur of the crowd as Jesus walked among them on his way through town. You would never have known that this entire script was simply a presentation of the Gospel of Mark.
The actor read the story verse by verse. It came to life when he added dramatic emphasis in just the right places. He changed the tenor of his voice to bring out the various characters. He added sound and depth by banging and stomping and moving across the stage. The Bible has been called stuffy and hard to read by some outside the church but that night it became a living, dynamic testimony to the love and grace of God.
I was reminded of this a few weeks ago when I picked up a newly published version of the New Testament called "The Voice." As I opened the book of Matthew I immediately noticed that the pages were laid out and set apart as if I had picked up a screenplay script. I hadn't seen anything like this since I picked up a red letter edition of the Bible as a teenager. "The Voice" takes it a step further and allows the whole dialogue to stand out and come alive. Forget the words of Jesus. This Bible brings out the chatter between actors, the conversations between Jesus and his disciples and the call of the crowds as they seek Jesus' attention. I loved it. I've dreamed about using dramatic sketches from scripture to illustrate a sermon message. I just didn't know how to frame them. This Bible does it for you.
I also noticed that there were outlined boxes on nearly every page, As I read what was inside them I realized that these comments amplified what was said in the text and highlighted significant points. The comments added depth and meaning to the what I was reading. Sometimes they lifted up customs and traditions which the original reader would have known. In other places they explored what was being said and helped draw some logical conclusions. I liked this because these comments were not buried in the footnotes. They were right there in the text.
We live in a different day and age. The Bible has lost some of its reverence for the younger generation. Why? Because they don't understand it. I think that may change once "The Voice" begins to get a wider circulation. This is a gift for the twenty somethings in our congregations. Yet the truth is that it is a gift for all of us.
And before you write it off as just another translation, believe me, it is so much more than that. "The Voice" does what the Bible was meant to do. It recreates the narrative that was part of the early church experience. It engages the reader and invites him or her into the discussion. It is a true living Bible for the next generation.
If you want a gift for someone who is just beginning their Christian walk this Christmas, give them "The Voice." If you want a gift for someone who really loves to read the Bible, give them "the Voice." If you want to surprise someone in your Bible study with a gift they will thank you for, give them "the Voice."
I love it and and so will you.
"The Voice" New Testament is offered by Thomas Nelson Publishing House