Book Review – The Word of Promise

It seems that lately there are more and more audio Bibles available.  When I was growing up, perhaps the best or at least the best-known version was the one read by Alexander Scourby.  His deep voice and precise pronunciation in reading the King James Version still resonates in my head.

In The Word of Promise: New Testament (NKJV) , Thomas Nelson’s addition to the audio Bible offerings is unique and well done.  Instead of relying on a sole narrator, the Bible is read by a cast of members, giving the listener a sense of hearing actual conversations.  But it isn’t simply a straight reading, but more a dramatization of the New Testament.  In many of the characters, you can hear at least some of the emotion experienced.  You can hear the fear in the voices of the disciples as their boat was rocked in a late night storm or the sorrow of the father whose child is dying but begs Jesus to heal her.  Additionally, whether it’s the sounds of a marketplace, the winds of a storm, or the scratching of a pen (quill?) against paper, the background noises contribute a great deal to making the Bible come alive.

There are a few things worth mentioning specifically that stuck out to me while listening.  The part of Jesus was read by Jim Caviezel, the same actor who also portrayed Jesus in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. However, it felt like his dramatization lacked the proper emotion in many passages.  In some passages, he sounded flat, monotone and quite bored while in other passages, he sounded like he was trying too hard to convey “meek and gentle.”  This is disappointing considering the centrality of Jesus to all of Scripture.

The most disappointing readings were the Book of Acts and Hebrews performed by Michael York.  I was surprised when the Book of Acts started that it was not read by Chris McDonald, who also did the voice of Luke.  But then, in some parts of the book, he did read, only to have the narration switch back to York.  It was confusing since the entire book was written by Luke, but McDonald only read those parts that can be explicitly linked to Luke.  Although this change in narration for Acts can be excusable, York’s reading of Hebrews, however, was simply horrible.  York sounds very much like a parent reading a bedtime story to children and does not convey the seriousness and wonder that is the book of Hebrews.

The highlight of the recording was most definitely the reading done by Stacy Keach as the voice of Paul the Apostle.  From the first word of Romans to the last of Philemon, Keach has an incredible command of the tone of Paul’s letter.  He is compassionate, rebuking, authoritative and kind – in a word, pastoral.  While there are other great readers (Lou Gossett Jr. reads the Apostle John quite well), it is Keach’s performance as Paul that carries much of the work.

For anyone looking to purchase an audio version of the New Testament (NKJV), you simply can’t do better than The Word of Promise.  I would highly recommend it.

(Thanks to Thomas Nelson’s Book Sneeze program for providing a review copy of this product.)

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