Review of The Word of Promise New Testament (Audiobook)

If you’re anything like me, you’ve made resolutions over the past years (or decades) to read the entire Bible all the way through. On January 1 you read Genesis 1-3 right on track. But within a few weeks, usually around Leviticus, you start slipping. “I’ll catch up tomorrow”. And then a few months pass and you realize you haven’t even made it through the Pentateuch.

I’ve tried everything, buying “Read Your Bible Through in A Year” Bibles, using Bible Reading plans in every Bible app imaginable, blocking out an hour of my day. Nothing ever seems to stick, though. And in our increasing society of short attention spans, where it’s hard for people to read past one page of a blog post, much less the entire Bible, it’s happening more and more.

Ironically, through most of human history in the last 2000 years men struggled and even died for the privilege of reading just one page of the Bible, much less the whole thing. And I’m not talking just about the 1500 years before Gutenberg; there are still many countries around the world today that heavily regulate or even ban the ownership of the Bible.

The irony, of course, is that in the Western world, most of us have Bible sitting on shelves collecting dust. Some view the Bible as just a quaint historical document; some just view it as something their grandparents read. But we often forget that it’s the Living Word. So ironically, while it’s never been more ubiquitous than it is today, there’s no longer a need for the guy downstairs to compel kings and governments to ban it, as humans are banning it themselves.

Which leads me to this latest review. It’s an audiobook of the New Testament called The Word of Promise. And if you’ve been stuck trying to read the Bible through, you can try the next best thing, which is to listen to someone read it to you.

Over the years, there have been a couple great “Bibles on Tape”. Alexander Scourby originally recorded the King James Bible on LP records in the 1950s, and those were the gold standard for years. More recently, Max McLean released The Listener’s Bible, which continued the deep, resonant voice of Scourby, just with a slightly more pronounced accent and a continuous music track in the background.

The Word of Promise, released by Thomas Nelson, comes in both a New Testament Audio Bible and a Complete Audio Bible version. It’s unlike the Scourby and McLean audit Bibles in that there’s not just a single narrator, but a whole cast of them. And not just anyone. Jim Caviezel, best known for this portrayal of Christ in The Passion of the Christ, takes on narration of Jesus’ words. And other “parts” are narrated by other stars whose names you’ll recognize; Marisa Tomei, Michael York, Richard Dreyfuss, Stacy Keach, Lou Gossett, Jr, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Terence Stamp, and many, many more.

The Bible is presented in “Dramatic Audio Theater”, which more or less hearkens back to the days of old radio drama, complete with the background music track and subtle sound effects. The actors keep it subtle as well–none of them ham it up or play their roles overly dramatically, but keep it somewhere between a dramatic reading and regular narration. The acting doesn’t distract from the message itself, it only augments it. I remember when I used to teach Sunday school I’d have the kids “act out” the parts of the Bible in a similar way, and it really helps put you in the stories themselves and even helps you understand them more, rather than feel like you’re just reading a dry college textbook. Something else that drives me nuts is when people read the Bible in a group and start it with “verse 1”, “verse 2”, “verse 3”, which totally breaks up the flow of reading. Obviously that’s not something to worry about on this audio Bible.

The delivery mechanism of using audio CDs is feeling a bit antiquated at this point. As other reviewers have noted, the plastic case for the 2015 New Testament version isn’t exactly the easiest to open or to figure out how to get CDs in or out. And unless you’re in the car, chances are you hardly use a CD player anymore, so you’re more likely to copy the files into iTunes or something (which is what I did, one CD at a time). Granted, I’m one of those people who likes to have a physical copy myself rather than relying keeping everything online, but in this case I would have preferred distribution on a flash drive or something.

Overall, I highly recommend this–it feels like a natural progression from the Scourby LPs to the McLean cassettes to an audio Bible for this generation.