Denzel Washington, one of the voices in
The Bible Experience
The 2007 Audie (the Oscar for audiobooks) for “audiobook of the year” was awarded to The Bible Experience, a new 19-CD recording of The New International Version of the New Testament. Produced by Inspired by… Media Group, The Bible Experience features a full cast of A and B list African American performers from Denziel Washington and Angela Bassett to MC Lyte and Eric Benet (nee Mr. Halle Berry). Combining the The New International Version of the New Testament‘s contemporary sensibility, lush musical accompaniment, and effusive individual efforts, it is, as the title insists, not just a recitation of the Bible, but a full-blown “experience”.
Since its release in November, 2006, The Bible Experience has become something of a juggernaut, even among other versions of the Bible. The good book was featured on Oprah, was the subject of a story on NPR, and received coverage in almost every major newspaper in America. All told, The Bible Experience has sold over 800,000 units in eight months, and it has quickly become Zondervan publishers’ (one of the leading Christian publishing houses in the United States) best selling title.
To become a best-selling title as a version of the best selling-book of all time is itself, no small feat, and I think the popularity of this version suggests something new is afoot in the world of faith, text, media and message. In effect, it is a revision of the old question about style and substance, but in this case, the stakes seem higher. And, with all due respect to Mr. Jackson’s powerful Pulp Fiction riff on Ezekiel 25:17, substance generally trumps style in questions of faith.