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Review: the voice of psalms

on June 29, 2010

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their 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.”

The voice of psalms is a paperback retelling of the Biblical book of Psalms by the Ecclesia Bible Society, published by Thomas Nelson. It’s part of a larger project called “the voice”. Like many Bibles, it includes some commentary and some daily reading plans but that is pretty much where the similarities end.

The first thing that struck me was that here is a very beautiful book. The text is laid out like poetry, with a single column per page, and the pages themselves have a lovely background design giving a feeling of sacred art that the plain-white, onion-skin pages of a standard Bible never really conveyed to me.

Additions to the text have been inserted in italics rather than footnotes, and I found myself in two minds about this. The translator in me understands the need to expand on a phrase because the English equivalent doesn’t convey the subtler nuances of the original. At the same time I find the voice in the back of my head going “aha, italics: an optional extra” very distracting! However, having finished reading a whole passage I could then look back and see what the italics had really added, for instance in the 23rd Psalm a sense of present danger, which isn’t so tangible in the more traditional versions, with or without footnotes. Of course, I’m not a Hebrew scholar, so I can’t really tell how accurate that sense is either!

I did appreciate that the translators didn’t feel the need to modernise the language all the way into slang, which was something I found very off-putting with the Message version of the Psalms even though I was in my early twenties then.

All in all I like the book, but I wonder if the format – especially the italics – will be too hard to get used to, so I won’t ditch my NIV just yet. I wouldn’t buy it as a first Bible for a new believer, but it’s good as a fresh look at a too-familiar text, as long as you’re looking for a narrative rather than a constitution-type document to be taken literally.

Just two more things (which I didn’t put in my amazon review): some of you may remember I was looking for a program of advent readings last autumn. Well the voice of psalms has one with readings from Psalms and other books! And also a Lent program! Pretty cool huh.

And secondly, they also do various other books, but the one that attracted me most is called the voice from on high, which contains excerpts from 19 Bible books referring to Jesus as the Liberating King. That one sounds really cool and I think would work well in this format, not to mention that Brian McLaren, one of my favourite authors, is involved, so I’ll get it and keep you posted. 🙂


One response to “Review: the voice of psalms

  1. I am intrigued by the idea of having the “extra” in italics. I like the idea of an actual Hebrew scholar narrowing down the nuances of a word – because those nuances can make a huge difference, like leader/mentor. I agree that the italics can be distracting, though, kind of like a stoplight on a highway. It signals, “whoa…pay attention – there's something incredible here.” A lot of those numbs the reader to the incredibleness.

    I am so glad you are back! I've missed visiting you!

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