Posted by: alisonwalley | 21 June 2009

Listening to the word

Audio Bibles have been around for quite a while. Taped versions of the Bible have been succeeded by CDs and now digital, downloadable media. Of course many Bible recordings have been made for people whose sight is impaired for one reason or another. But, listening to God’s word, well read, is a good way to learn more of it.

These days, Bible readings in church may well be quite short, though sometimes you do hear a whole chapter read. It takes stamina from a reader! And one trouble is that reading aloud is something that a lot of people can do, but not everyone can do well in a way that helps others to follow. Congregations are often encouraged to follow the reading of a passage in their own or a church Bible. Some churches (like ours) project the passage being read onto a screen.

I often like to listen to reading in church without using my eyes. I may have an open Bible in front of me, but that doesn’t mean I’m following it, just listening. (I have been in churches where if you weren’t seen to be following a reading in your Bible, someone kindly – annoyingly – lent you one.)

Listening to something being read is quite a different activity from actually reading. Perhaps for me particularly this is because I am a fast reader. When I read fiction my eye tends to skim over a page, although I still take things in. But that’s not so good when reading the Bible. Since I have had an iPod I have listened to quite a number of audio books. Because you have to take it at the reader’s pace and can’t just keep flipping pages, you have more time to take everything in. I often feel that a book is richer for being read to you.

Well, that’s the positive part. The negative part is that if you get a reader whose voice you don’t like, it really spoils it. I downloaded a P G Wodehouse book of short stories I really like – but it was ruined for me by the reader’s voice. And music can be really irritating – inappropriate or intrusive.

All this applies to listening to the Bible. Hearing whole chapters, even whole books read, is really really good. You can get a better idea of the sweep of a story for example, or think how one of Paul’s letters must have sounded to its first reader. BUT be careful before you buy. Listen to the reader if you can. Could you live with that voice for the whole Bible? Is there music with it? In a home group I attended once we used to listen to the passage on tape. This version always had background music going on at the same time. I find this very irritating! (I did, however, think it was a good idea to hear the passage very well read.)

If you search on Amazon (UK) under “audio Bible” you get four pages (although this does include an ‘8-minute Bible’, The Holy Bible by the Manic  Street Preachers and a couple of other oddities). If on the other hand you went for the NIV Dramatized Bible (£24.34), you’d get 76 hours worth of the whole Bible with different readers for different characters. Fantastic listening for commuting, jogging or whenever you have time to listen.

More on this next week.

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