{Book Review} The Compass Bible

{Book Review} The Compass Bible

The introduction to Compass: The Study Bible for Navigating Your Life makes a good point: The English language has altered dramatically in the last four centuries, but have our Bible translations kept pace?

The Voice translation {used in this Bible} — a collaboration among pastors, scholars, writers, musicians, poets, and other artists —  focuses on meaning and experience. It’s meant to engage the modern reader and move them through the narrative of the Bible more seamlessly.

The heart of the project is retelling the story of the Bible in a form as fluid as modern literary works, while remaining painstakingly true to the original Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic texts,” says the preface.

Here are a few features of this unconventional study bible:

  • Italic type in this Bible indicates words not directly tied to the translation of the original language, but words that highlight the nuances of the original, help complete ideas, and provide readerswith information that would have been obvious to the original audience. {These additional words are meant to help modern readers better understand the text without having to stop and read footnotes. I like this! Certainly helps with continuity.}
  • Delineated material expands on themes in the text. It’s set apart stylistically in a different or larger font, and, while not taken directly from the original language, it includes cultural, historical, theological, or devotional observations.
  • Screenplay format identifies dialogue and avoids the repetition of conjunctions, articles, and certain verbs. It helps greatly in immediate comprehension and intensifies dramatic presence during public reading of Scripture.

Here’s a side-by-side comparison of The Voice, the NIV, and KJV, using Matthew 5:14-16:

The Voice (VOICE)

14 And you, beloved, are the light of the world. A city built on a hilltop cannot be hidden. 15 Similarly it would be silly to light a lamp and then hide it under a bowl. When someone lights a lamp, she puts it on a table or a desk or a chair, and the light illumines the entire house. 16 You are like that illuminating light. Let your light shine everywhere you go, that you may illumine creation, so men and women everywhere may see your good actions, may see creation at its fullest, may see your devotion to Me, and may turn and praise your Father in heaven because of it.

New International Version (NIV)

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others,that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

King James Version (KJV)

14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. 15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

While Compass calls itself a study bible, it doesn’t  have the heft, weight, background, or resources that I think of in a study bible. {I use the NIV Life Application Study Bible.} It does include some simple resources that I really like, though.

They include:

  • A 365-day reading plan through the whole Bible
  • A 40-day retreat with Jesus (provides daily New Testament passages and a simple 7-step format for your devotional time)
  • The Road Map to God’s Promises {I love this! Twelve pages of scripture references for topics ranging from “What The Bible Has To Say About God’s Faithfulness” to “What To Do When You Feel Discouraged.”}
  • A user-friendly topical guide

Perhaps this piques your interest, and you’re looking for a fresh approach to get into God’s word? This Bible may be an excellent fit for you. {I’m thinking my husband will enjoy reading this translation and the clean, masculine look of the gray, embossed, faux-leather cover makes this Bible something he’d be happy to carry with him.}

Maybe, you have a solid study or devotional Bible in a traditional translation, and you’d like a more modern approach to supplement your reading? Again, I think this Bible would be a nice addition to your collection, though you may not be comfortable with this as your only Bible, or main Bible. {This is where I fall on the spectrum.}

Or, perhaps, you’re a traditionalist and you struggle with any translation other than King James Version. Then, this probably will feel very foreign to you. {Ahem, mom, this is for you!}

So, what’s the bottom line?

Would I buy a copy of this book? Maybe. I like that I have it, and will refer to it, but it would be a supplemental Bible for me, not my “main” Bible.

Would I borrow it? Definitely!

Would I recommend it to a friend? Depends on the friend. For someone struggling to get into the Bible or feeling like the Bible is relevant to them, yes. For a friend who’s a more mature Christian and who has a “pet” translation, no.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes from Thomas Nelson. This post also contains affiliate links, which means if you click through and make a purchase, I will receive a small percentage, which helps keep this site up and running… so, thank you!

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  1. The Compass Bible is so different that I get lost, not thinking I am even reading a bible. If you want a story book, this is acceptable. If you want a bible, this is not it. Any book that wants to change the writings as dramatically as this is probably far from accurate as to the message God wants us to hear. I do not hear the Spirit of the Lord speaking to my heart when reading this book. I am never sure what I am reading, Who is the Eternal One? Those that wrote the translation were probably accurate with language but never with the Spirit of God. And, those that are listed as writers are far from reaching the level of those pastors and leaders I know. Stay away as your main bible.

    • Randy: I appreciate your perspective. I absolutely think you must feel the Spirit when you read the Bible, so if that doesn’t happen, this is definitely not the translation for you. I am sticking with my NIV study Bible for my daily reading and my studies. Having the Compass as an option or additional resource is nice, but I do know it will never be my “main” bible.

  2. I appreciate what you have said and with that in mind I am certainly not opposed to using this book as I would one of my commentaries. The book was purchased and given to me as a gift from one of my sons. They really like the modern languages found in NIV and others. If a person is accustomed to reading Bibles other than King James of 1611 they would benefit with The Voice as a translation or commentary but probably not as the main Bible.

  3. I bought this Bible recently!
    Wasnt too excited about the use of The Eternal One!
    I read about ‘why’ they used this term at the front of this book!
    Not sure i agree with that either!
    I read WHO were involved with ‘translating’,
    And my eyes locked onto one name that concerned me:
    Brian McLaren!
    I ran across his name on line as i am reading an article on
    roma Downey and her involvement in the New Spirituality
    camp(New Age).
    With names like this…. I dont think I shall not use this book!

    And WHY DISTORT words of Christ!
    And WHY are Jesus’ words not in Red?

  4. Having read and studied with numerous translations, study bibles etc, I can’t help but agree with the preface of this book because of the problems with all of them. It seems like each version or translation wants to be unique, top dog or the best in order to hear the ka-ching-ka ching! As has been pointed out in the preface of this translation, words do things and change meaning. Some translators will take a Greek word which has different shades or again depending on the “CONTEXT” and if they can will use another word which bears the same meaning just to be different.

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