Friday, March 28, 2008

The Bible Experience: a review

I've long been looking for a good audio Bible that met my criteria:

  1. It must be a modern translation (i.e., post Dead Sea Scrolls).
  2. It must be unabridged.
  3. It must be in a modern format.
  4. It must be well produced.
  5. And relatively inexpensive.

For a long time the search didn't go well. It seemed the market was split between well-produced, expensive recordings of the King James Bible and incomplete, free recordings of slightly newer translations. Looking around now I see things have changed somewhat, but I sort of gave up after a while.

Then I purchased an iPod shuffle. This little device has revolutionized my listening habits since I no longer need to a) carry around CDs or b) hope something on the radio is interesting. Instead, I load up the iPod each day at work and listen to what I scheduled in my car, on my bike, or while I wash dishes. In essence, I create my own radio station that can be paused at any time. For the last year, I've been raiding the library for every book on CD that looks interesting and I now have listening material to last quite a while. But almost all of it is secular and I have not been able to maintain discipline in meditating on God's word. When I saw The Bible Experience at Costco, it seemed like something I needed to add to my play list.

The best news is that The Bible Experience meets each of my criteria. The audio book is 1. the TNIV translation, 2. complete (including genealogies and other minutia, 3. available in CD or MP3 formats, 4. expertly produced, and 5. less than $100 at Costco or in MP3 format.

After years of using and listening to the NIV, I have become bored with the translation—especially familiar passages. Although Today's New International Version (TNIV) shares many commonalities with its predecessor, it sounds fresh and new to me. One reason is that the language seems to be tightened up and modernized. I think the other reason must be a result of the incredible voice talent employed by
The Bible Experience. The story of Ruth, for instance, seems more engaging and relevant because you can hear the emotion of the characters as they interact.

Most sections have some sort of background music or noise (sheep bleating, swords drawn, crowds mumbling and so on). Other sound effects accompany significant actions such as the cry of a man in the throws of death and the cries of a woman giving birth. Although some might be distracted by the extra sounds, I find the effect reinforces the text. Very long (and boring) sections such as genealogies and administrative lists are made bearable with the addition of background music. Some sections repeat on a loop, which has been a mild annoyance to me, but this does not seem common. The introduction and conclusion tracks on each disk seem unnecessary, but they are easily skipped.

I still intend to read my Bible the old-fashioned way, but listening to it has become the primary way for me to consume the word of God. In some ways, this is a throwback to the pre-Gutenberg world and is not all unwelcome. In others, it is a thoroughly modern experience taking full advantage of technological advance. In either case, I'm grateful I can hear God's message more often and more easily than ever.