Celebrity-dramatized audio Bible brings renewed vitality to Gospel story

A new audio version of the New Testament dramatized by numerous celebrities is being heralded as a “significant” contribution to modern evangelizing and for sparking a renewed interest in the gripping narrative of Scripture.

The audio series – which has the support of a Vatican imprimatur – features over 70 actors such as John Rhys-Davies, Neil McDonough, Julia Ormand and Kristen Bell. The Truth & Life Dramatized Audio Bible New Testament was released Nov. 1 of last year and is comprised of 18 CDs, or 22 hours of audio.

New York Times bestselling author and broadcast journalist for EWTN Raymond Arroyo, who helped produce the audio Bible, explained that the actors aren't simply “reading” the text but “sharing” the Gospel story by means of oral tradition.

British actor John Rhys-Davies – perhaps known best for his role as the dwarf Gimli in the blockbuster Lord of the Rings trilogy – served as narrator of the series.

In a phone interview from his home in New Zealand, he praised the audio Bible for being “extremely well done.”

He said that the release of the series comes at a pivotal time for Christians in modern history, given the rise of extremist factions of Islam and the growing influence of secularism. Davies, a member of the Church of England, said that the vibrancy of the Christian narrative takes on new life in the series and will serve to renew interest among the faithful as well as effect those outside Christianity.

“This is a great project and really, very important,” he said, adding that high caliber audio versions of Scripture are among “the most significant contributions to evangelizing in the 21st century.”

Raymond Arroyo explained that he and fellow producer Carl Amari felt strongly that “the Catholic market needed a credible, artistically sound audio Bible.”

He mentioned that before he started on the project a couple years ago, he had listened to “a good number” of audio Bibles which he said were ideal “to wreck your car to.”

“They're so boring,” he said, adding that “the Gospel shouldn't be that way.”

Arroyo went on to explain that the four Gospel books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John “were originally proclaimed orally.”

“It was part of an oral tradition – it was a lively art,” he said. “I think in the ensuing centuries we've sort of forgotten that. And the Bible has consequently lost it's edge – lost it's vitality.”

Arroyo said he was heavily involved in choosing a “lyrical and orthodox” Bible translation for the series, which ended up being the Catholic Revised Standard Version.

He also helped in the “scripting of the project – it's not only the Scripture itself, it's all the audio cues, when do you bring music in, etc.,” he said.

Arroyo was also involved in the casting and said the series has “some of the great actors of stage, screen and film” who were “all so excited about working on it and so enthused about it.”

“It was important to have world-class talent because this is a world-class text,” he added. “It's worthy or this sort of treatment so, no expense was spared and we spent literally a couple of years in this project together to make sure everything was right.”

He explained rather than there being a set at one location, recording was done in actors' cities throughout the world such as New York, Paris or Los Angeles.

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“By and large, they recorded in isolation and then it all comes together in post production with sound effects and music, cross-fading and various techniques,” he said. “It demands a certain unity of understanding when you go into a project like this, as very rarely is anyone in the same room.”

Arroyo called the finished outcome of the audio Bible “complete and credible” yet having a “dramatic dimension that we've never seen before.”

He noted that the audio series, while intrinsically Catholic, is intended for everybody. “The Gospels are not confined to the Catholic Church, they're for the whole world.”

For more information about the Truth and Life Audio Bible, visit: http://shop.truthandlifestore.com/index.aspx?dc=TL_CN_20111011

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