The thing with epiphanies is that they tend to happen at the most unlikely moments, and places. For me, however, the bus is proving to be a favorite hot-spot. I was commuting home from work the other day when I decided to listen to my audio-bible and block out the explicit lyrics blaring through the bus speakers. I was listening to the dramatized NIV bible, The Bible Experience, featuring a cast of popular African American actors. The narration was word for word, not edited. I was on the book of Matthew.
First, it was the angel speaking to Jospeh. It was a young woman’s voice; spoken in a low, silvery, solemn voice: “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”
Then it was King Herod, speaking to the wise men passing through Jerusalem. He spoke in a cheeky, sarcastic tone: “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
Third it was John the Baptist’s cutting words to the Pharisees and Sadducees: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?” You could almost see his piercing eyes and the bared teeth hissing out the wrathful sentence.
I had to stop listening. For some strange reason, I could not take it anymore. I pressed the stop button, closed the playlist and opened the Bible App to continue my reading. This has never happened before. I have listened to countless verses on the same Audio Bible and never seemed to have any problems. On the contrary, I actually found it more entertaining, more dramatic. Realer. But not today. This time I found myself craving the raw, written word of God. I found the voice inflections, background sounds and instrumentals distracting.
I have realized that listening to a word for word narration of scripture is not as innocent as it appears. We can actually add or remove to the Word of God when we voice it in a certain way, emphasize certain points and shout or hiss certain passages. Our narration is highly informed and influenced by our cultural and theological biases. Those who consider preaching to be a somber activity will tend to read out the sermon passages in a bland, preachy tone. On the other hand, those who assume Jesus was a kind and polite man will tend to read his quotations with related biases.
This is why I will still prefer reading to listening to the Bible. There are less, if not zero, interference in the written word. The narrated word is filtered through the interpretive biases of the narrator. An audio Bible is not raw. It is not the actual Word. It is highly edited, albeit subliminally.
A lot more can be said about this, but I think this is enough to leave you thinking about listening to the Bible as an alternative to actually reading it.
I, however, would rather “read” than “listen” to my Bible. I tend to hear God’s voice clearer that way.
Come to think of it, no wonder He chose to give us His Word in written form rather than an oral narrative.
For the fame of His name,