For it is by grace you have been saved...

Monday, December 22, 2008

Review: Word of Promise Next Generation - New Testament

After reviewing one fiction and one non-fiction book for Thomas Nelson, and criticizing both for not being more “Christian” in nature, I thought I could avoid that problem by looking at this audio Bible. I mean, you can’t say that the Bible is not Christian enough, right? And for the most part, I made the right decision.

The Word of Promise Next Generation - New Testament MP3 set is a “dramatized” audio Bible, which simply means that instead of one person reading the text, you have a variety of actors reading different parts, complete with musical accompaniment in the background. This particular project is meant as a children’s version of the previously released Word of Promise New Testament aimed at the adult crowd.

Since younger folks are the target, I had three of our children listen to portions as well. They are huge fans of radio dramas and dramatized readings, including Adventures in Odyssey and the dramatized versions of the Narnia books and Pilgrim’s Progress. I figured their input would be helpful.

In all, our evaluations were pretty much the same. The translation itself (I think the International Children’s Bible?) is a little over-simplified in places. I think people assume it’s easier to give a less than precise rendering of a word like “repentance” than to ask parents to sit and talk with their children about what those words truly mean. Anyway, that’s hardly the fault of this production team, so we overlooked that.

The quality of the production itself was very good. Most of the “teen idol” crowd picked to do the dramatization did a commendable job; and according the accompanying DVD interviews, most of them took the project very seriously. For children I’m sure that the various voices and music/limited sound effects would make this more “entertaining” to listen to. And after all, there are worse things that finding a way to have your children sit in their rooms listening to God’s Word.

The format might be a drawback for some. In an effort to make it less bulky and more affordable, there are three MP3 cd’s here (instead of the 20 or so regular cd’s it would have taken). This does reduce size and cost, but anyone with only a regular cd player (like our kids) would have to load them on the ol’ PC and then burn the aforementioned 20 or so cd’s. Not a big problem, though.

My biggest problem was the young man who recorded the part of Jesus. I know nothing of his acting resume, and it appears he was making his best effort to play this part with reverence. But like so many, he seems to think that to make Jesus come across as loving and kind, we have to make him sappy. He almost whispers most lines, even during confrontations with Pharisees and during His trial and crucifixion. Again, I’m sure his motive was to portray Christ with respect and honor, but meekness doesn’t mean mealy-mouthed. One can be loving and strong at the same time (which God is, and is in Christ as well).

The only other note I would make is that I would have preferred a little more “drama” in some of the dramatization as far as music and sound effects. What was there was great, but some places could have used more. Paul’s shipwreck in Acts, for example, had some wind and such in the background, but more could have been done with those kinds of things.

All in all, though, this is a good resource for younger children (if you don’t mind the translation weaknesses), and it’s obvious that all those involved were truly seeking to honor God with this project. In an age where kids are being dealt a heavy dose of garbage earlier and earlier, this certainly makes a fresh and beneficial alternative.


Applied Christianity said...

I am going to finish Revelation today of this MP3 set. So I will have to come back and actually read this post after I have written mine.

Applied Christianity said...

Your reviews are always so much more thorough than mine. I didn't realize that this was meant for kids. I thought it was for teens with iPods or Zunes. My son did enjoy listening to chapters of this with me (which I didn't even think to mention in my review). Oh well.

Scott said...

I'm not really sure who the target audience is. I just assumed based on the very childlike translation and the "teen idol" cast that the target was children and younger teens at best. I could be wrong. Being mostly techno-ignorant, I don't even know what a "Zune" is, so I appreciated your review/insights on that.