The Bible – in surround sound
A number of audiobooks bring cinematic effects to readings of the Scriptures.
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The style of the new audio Bibles may come as a shock to listeners accustomed to recorded Bibles read by stentorian narrators. The dramatic Bibles are sophisticated cinematic productions, complete with elaborate sound tracks and a variety of vivid sound effects.Skip to next paragraph
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In "The Word of Promise" audiobook, for example, the spectral voices of demons in the Book of Matthew sound as though they belong in a Stephen King movie, while the letters of Paul are accompanied by sounds of a quill dipping into an inkwell, the sipping of tea, and a fireplace. Biblical scenes of chaos, such as those in Revelation, are especially intense.
The performers themselves often act with gusto, no surprise considering that many – but not all – are devoutly religious. According to "Word of Promise" producer Carl Amari, actors Stacy Keach and Richard Dreyfuss, who played Paul and Moses, respectively, were thrilled because they had long studied and admired their characters. And Jim Caviezel, who played Jesus in "The Passion of the Christ," returned to the role in "Word of Promise."
Academy award-winning actor Louis Gossett Jr. says playing the apostle John in "Word of Promise" reaffirmed and deepened his own faith. The acting he's used to doing is "deep, spiritually," he says. "But this is deep with a capital D."
In "The Bible Experience," says senior director Hurd, African-American performers were drawn to the chance to play biblical roles that had long been denied to them. "Our perspective – not being asked to play those roles in movies, ever – gave it a lot of heart," she says. "People came in saying, 'I can play King Herod, I can play Bathsheba?' "
The producers of dramatized Bibles hired theologians to help interpret the material. They faced a few other challenges, too, from getting through all the "begats" to fine-tuning the interplay among performers. "Whenever there was an actor who was a bit over the top, it would stick out," says Mr. Amari. "We'd have to refine it and refine it."
Reading the Bible aloud can actually be quite a challenge, says Stephen Cook, professor of Old Testament at Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria. "A lot of people are under the mistaken impression that the Bible is this authoritative voice on high, that should be read in a serious manner," says Mr. Cook. "A lot of it is extremely humorous, and there are a lot of very funny parts."