As part of the Thomas Nelson blogger book review program, I received a copy of the Word of Promise Next Generation New Testament MP3 set. It bills itself as “the perfect way for young multi-taskers to absorb Scripture. This ambitious recording makes the Word accessible to more kids than ever before.”
I assumed from the description that they were targeting older teens, but it’s actually for the eight-to-fifteen range. I also was expecting something like the Passion readings on Palm Sunday and Good Friday, where the narrator reads the text and others read the dialogue. Instead it’s often paraphrased, with many “he said”s removed.
There is no information as to which translation is the basis of the script. The vocabulary is often downgraded to the level a child would understand, always accessible but with a few painful results. Fasting becomes “giving up eating,” and persecution becomes “causing problems.” Mary isn’t told a sword will pierce her soul, but rather than she “will be sad too.” And the beatitudes in Matthew are painful to listen to. My Patient Husband and I both agree that this in no way impacts the message, only the aesthetics. Moreover, playing all the stories one after the next after the next with no chapter/verse breaks gives a breathless sense of just how much is packed into the New Testament.
My biggest argument is with the introductions to the books, provided by Max and Jenna Lucado. They give dates for each book far earlier than anything I’ve ever heard from any other sources. The introduction to Galatians verges on anti-Catholic, and the authors of both James and Jude are said to be “Jesus’s little brother” when in fact the author of James is not known for certain (beside the point is the fact that one billion Catholics and Orthodox — and all Christians for 1800 years — understand “James The Brother Of the Lord” to be other than Jesus’s little brother) and likewise with Jude. The Biblical text should be allowed to speak for itself, and if the target audience grows up to find the material in the introductions was slanted , they’ll mistrust the entire Bible.
Sometimes the background music overwhelms the reading, and at other times the sound effects are laughable. The voice acting left me puzzled at times; Jesus is overly breathy and eeeeeeeemotive, and the first time Pilate spoke I laughed and exclaimed, “DUDE!” Other voices, such as Peter’s, seemed just right.
There are a couple of technical glitches, such as chapter 5 of 1Thessalonians where Paul’s voice begins getting clipped (as if each sentence were recorded separately and laid down over the next, rather than organically) and then some sentences are read in a different voice…and then it switches to a different voice actor all together! (Oh the irony: I liked the other voice actor better and was disappointed when it reverted.) This happens one other time.
Quotes from other scriptures are often rendered in the other speaker’s voice, but not consistently, so Paul will make five scripture citations, but the sixth is in Moses’ voice. That’s very distracting.
Now, does it work? I was going to say no, except that my eleven year old and my eight year old both asked to keep hearing more of the Gospels. Color me stunned. They loved it.
So I recommend it with caution. If you give this to your children, strip off the zero-th chapter (the introduction) of every book and let the Bible stand for itself. And listen to it yourself too so you can answer any questions your kids may have afterward.