Sometimes Christians wander through the Old Testament, confused and wide-eyed, like they’re trying to get out of a maze. A new book in the Refraction Collection, called “Transcending Mysteries: Who is God and What Does He Want From Us?,” hopes to address this confusion and build a meaningful bridge between Jesus and the Old Testament.
According to the book’s recent press release:
Thomas Nelson, a division of HarperCollins Christian Publishing, will release two new books in the Refraction Collection, March 10, 2015 — one of which is “Transcending Mysteries:Who is God and What Does He Want From Us?,” co-authored by Dove nominated singer/songwriter, Andrew Greer and Dove Award winning artist, Ginny Owens. The book tackles how we as Christians can reconcile the God of the Old Testament and Jesus of the New Testament.
Together, Greer and Owens answer the age old question that Christians have struggled with for years. “We fell in love with Jesus. Then we had to decide what to do with God.”
Both authors give personal insights into their own stories of struggle and surrender, while adding the vital stories of Scripture to understand the whole overview of our faith.
These new offerings in the Refraction Collection continue to cross theological boundaries in an open and honest way, with succinct and candid writing for a contemporary, millennial-minded reader.
Using the new Bible translation called The Voice, from Thomas Nelson, readers are taken through Old Testament stories that are accessible to even newer believers who have zero Old Testament experience. In fact, I think a non-Christian could easily take in this book if they were reading with an open mind.
There are some things I really enjoyed about this book, but before I cover those in more detail, there’s an important issue that needs to be addressed.
Some Thoughts On “The Voice” Translation
Because this book delves into Old Testament stories with passages of the Bible quoted heavily, it is crucial to understand what The Voice translation really is.
120 Biblical scholars, pastors, writers, musicians, poets, and artists — many from what is becoming the loosely termed “emergent church” — created what they call a “dynamic, equivalent” version of the Bible. In layman’s terms, they took the original Bible manuscripts and translated it into English thought-by-thought, rather than word-by-word as you would see in more widely used translations like the New International Version.
It is not without controversy, though, so if you are new to The Voice, I’d recommend looking at both sides of the issue. This article represents the view of those who are more critical of the translation. This article, from The Voice official website, explains the intent and reasoning behind its approach.
One thing to note in using The Voice translation is that the text is a mix of standard font, commentary, and italicized text in a screenplay format. (And I love the screenplay format, by the way, where it places the name of the speaker on the left margin whenever someone talks, much like reading a play or a movie script. It makes it easier to track who is talking throughout some of the more involved Old Testament stories.)
However, this is where it gets a little controversial: added words to amplify the meaning or help complete a thought flow right alongside the inspired Word of God in the verse with only italics to mark the difference. Because this technique is so different, I wish an introduction to The Voice had been included in the book — something along the lines of what Bible Gateway does. This would better explain to a new reader where those boundaries between the translated, inspired Word of God and the added words from the translators exist in the text. To be clear, I don’t have an issue with authors including information in the Bible’s text that would normally be found in a commentary or footnote, but I do have a problem when the reader is not told explicitly that this is happening.
The bottom-line: the book does not make it very obvious (other than the copyright page) that it is using a dynamic modern translation such as The Voice.
What I Especially Enjoyed About “Transcending Mysteries”
Most of the eight chapters in the book share common ingredients:
1. a generously-sized Old Testament passage
2. a conversation between the two co-authors, their struggles and triumphs
3. Q&As about music and song lyrics
4. questions for reflection.
Graphics with quotes pepper the pages. If you’re one of those people who likes to highlight great quotes, you’ll find at least one on each page.
What makes this book really work is how you feel like you’re in community with the authors as you read. It’s best described as Bible study meets coffee house meets dear diary. It’s personal and uncomfortable in some sections — I’ll admit to crying ugly tears in several sections — but the unmasked feel of the book comes across as a peace offering that says: “Yes, life is hard sometimes, but it is worth the trouble and trials when we have One who is trustworthy on our side.”
And as the book exposes the true character of God, we learn to find evidence of His faithfulness in our lives. Andrew Greer and Ginny Owens don’t have all the answers — and they’re not claiming to have them — but they act as guides into some easily accessible Old Testament stories, and they reveal the heart of God while also embracing the mystery that is the Eternal.