Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Review: Word of Promise New Testament

The Word of Promise New Testament Audio NKJV Bible (Thomas Nelson)
Total Listening time: 21 hours.

Reviewing a Bible is really hard, for while cringing because of some of the production decisions I can not help but be moved by the words. So, because the words are God's and beyond my power to to criticize - God forgive me for even thinking it! - I am confining this review to the readers/actors, music, and the sound effects.

Orthodox auditors, used to hearing the Holy Scriptures chanted will be distracted at first by the dramatic reading style. But that distraction goes away by the 2nd or 3rd chapter of Matthew. The distraction that remains is the music. For example, while Stacey Keach reads 1st Corinthians there is an orchestra backing him up. And that might be fine if we didn't also hear cricket's chirping and St. Paul's pen writing on an animal hide, too. This resulted in me imagining two different things: Was I listening to St. Paul reading aloud while writing God's words? Or, was I listening to a tuxedoed Mr. Keach standing a stage in a concert haul with a symphony orchestra in the pit? The music and sound effects are a problem on all the recordings.

There is more about that pen sound effect. The pen can be heard in the recordings of all the Epistles. It is truly annoying. I was listening to the Epistle of St. James but kept seeing Stacey Keach, who played St. Paul, scribbling on parchment. And it seems to fade in and out without explanation. The pen and the orchestra: They detract much from the experience.

There is one book however where the music and sound effects really work: Revelation/Apocalypse. The trumpets, the dragon growling, the war in heaven: It mostly works, though at a couple of places (i.e. the last few verses of chapter 12) it seems the conductor went overboard, it works more often than it doesn't.

I would not have chosen Louis Gosset, Jr. to play St. John. He sounds too young, too strong for St. John's ninety-plus years but I can live with it. Another casting mistake is Jim Caviezel as Jesus. Coming out his mouth the words sound like someone else's. It is as though he is in awe of the words he is reading, which is understandable, but I want to hear Jesus not Mr. Caviezal. This is not to say his performance is entirely lacking. Though I think his vocal interpretation in the Gospel of Matthew is not very good, it is better in the other Gospels, and in Revelation 22 it is stunning. The hopefulness of Mr. Caviezel's voice, contrasted with Mr. Gossett's voice has a very good affect on this hearer. The urgency of St. John to communicate the yearning of Jesus for his people and that of his people for their Savior, as revealed in the actors' voices, is thrilling.

Oh, there is one more thing I want to mention. I really like Michal York introducing each book. There is a certain quality about him that reminds me of James Mason, and really, who doesn't think James Mason was one of the coolest actors ever?

Is this 20 CD set (there is also a bonus DVD about the recording process) worth the money? Yes. Is this for serious Bible students? No way. Is it a replacement for a printed New Testament? No. But how many people are serious Bible students? This set is ideal for the 90% of people who want to be more familiar with the New Testament but, for whatever reason, don't want to actually read it. It would make a good gift for high school graduates, I think. Grade: B-

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