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Famous actors bring the New Testament to dramatic life in this audio Bible

By Thomas V. Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Sep 01, 2015

Hearing Scripture read aloud is, in some ways, more enriching than reading it on the page. It can be less of an “intellectual” experience—one has to give up the control that comes from being able to stop and think, go back, or skim. It is simply the Word of God coming at you in the moment.

It is also, of course, a more dynamic and potentially dramatic experience. That’s why I’ve been enjoying listening to the Truth & Life Dramatized Audio Bible New Testament, which came out a few years ago. It is a production in the spirit of an old radio drama, complete with music and sound effects (both of which strike just the right balance of stimulating the imagination without overpowering the Word).

Produced by Carl Amari, Raymond Arroyo and Michael Stark, Truth & Life was an unambiguously Catholic project, with a foreword written by Pope Benedict and endorsements from Cardinal Burke, Cardinal George and Archbishop Chaput. It comprises the entirety of the New Testament, using the Catholic edition of the Revised Standard Version.

Perhaps the biggest appeal is the cast, full of big names like John Rhys-Davies (narrator), Neal McDonough (Jesus), Stacy Keach (John), Blair Underwood (Mark), Michael York (Luke), and Sean Astin (Matthew). In general, these do an excellent job and really make the Gospel narrative come alive—though I have to say that McDonough’s performance of Jesus is a little over-passionate, his voice trembling with emotion far more often than is warranted.

But my favorite by far is the portrayal of St. Paul by a lesser-known actor, Tony Mockus, Sr., whose distinctive voice conveys a manly, almost rugged eloquence. Bear in mind that Mockus does not just play St. Paul in the Acts of the Apostles, but also reads all of the Pauline epistles! Really, “reads” isn’t the right word—he performs them just as much as if they were lines of dialogue.

Mockus’s achievement is twofold: first, that even in the parts of Paul’s letters which have the character of a theological treatise, the warmth of Paul’s love and heartfelt concern for the people he is writing to are evident. Second is the theology itself and the actual meaning of Paul’s words, which Mockus’s reading makes remarkably lucid. I can’t imagine how many hours of study and scholarly consultation went into getting the sense of the text right, but clearly the commitment was there.

Truth & Life is available as an 18-disc set or in digital form. I myself got it as my free audiobook for signing up for Audible. There’s also an app which connects the audio Bible with the Ignatius Study Bible, though I haven’t tried it myself. You can listen to some sample clips here, or watch the video below for a brief taste.

(Note that Truth & Life is different from the Word of Promise, another production that involved some of the same people. The Word of Promise is a dramatized recording of the entire KJV—in other words, not a Catholic Bible, though it too is a quality production and has the novelty value of featuring George Costanza as Joseph, son of Jacob.)

Thomas V. Mirus is an administrative assistant and writer at CatholicCulture.org. A jazz pianist with a music degree, he often takes the lead in our commentary on the arts. See full bio.

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