An Impressive Audio Bible for Teens

If I ever get a bad product from Thomas Nelson in my capacity as a review-blogger, you can be sure that I will tell you so. Just thought I'd clarify that.

The Word of Promise New Testament Audio Bible for Adults won the 2008 Christian Book of the Year Award.

The product I'm reviewing today, however, is the next version of the Word of Promise project, the Next Generation New Testament. As its name implies, this audio Bible targets teens with its youthful cast members from popular shows and films ("High School Musical," "Hannah Montana," "Lord of the Rings," "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," etc.)

I'm not the target audience for this dramatized radio theater-style Bible, and neither are you, most likely. But your children may be. Overall, I think the project succeeds brilliantly in its aim, which is to present the entire New Testament in a way that makes it appealing to teens.

I listened to the Mp3 version, which comes with a Behind the Scenes DVD. I found the DVD quite interesting: it includes commentary from producer, director, cast, a description of the purpose of the project from various cast members, and an explanation of how they did sound effects and music. The director, John Kirby, is the same man who worked with Jim Caviezel on the adult version. I appreciated his perspective on working with the cast. He and 2nd Unit Director Jeff Lupetin were grateful for the chance to share the Bible with a significant number of people who had never heard the stories they were acting out.

The cast is absolutely huge. I counted approximately 90 supporting actors listed in the credits, in addition to the fifteen “headliners” like Jordin Sparks, Corbin Bleu, and Emily Osment. Casting so many actors was an excellent decision, as their unique voices make the recording very easy to follow.

Some of the actors are Christians, including Cody Linley, who plays Jesus. I found his presentation of Jesus to be appropriate for teenagers, though not for an adult audience. There’s something to be said for a young actor who delivers the words of Jesus in the way that a teenager might imagine them being said, rather than with the more mature delivery of someone like Jim Caviezel. Cody Linley is very, very sincere and idealistic, wth less humor and dryness than I imagine in the real Jesus. But I can imagine that his interpretation might go over well with young people, who probably empathize most with Jesus’ passion and with his revolutionary desire to change and to heal people. It's us old folks who like his more ordinary moments and his simple humanity.

The best vocal performer on the project was not a surprise to me. Sean Astin amply proved his acting ability in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. He's an excellent narrator, his voice varied and mellow, easy to understand without becoming soporific.

A subtle musical soundtrack underscores the vocal tracks, making the listening experience more pleasant and adding atmosphere. The music also builds tension when the Passion begins, with simple percussion and eastern-sounding low pipes. Sound effects like walking and door noises enhance realism for the listener.

This project is so admirably suited to its goals that I think my next task is to convince Thomas Nelson to let me review the adult version with Jim Caviezel. :-) That's the one I'd like to add to my collection!