“Engaging, thought-provoking, dynamic.”
“It brings Bible reading to life.”
“Captivating! It puts new life into readings I’ve heard my whole life.”
Such comments are typical of those who listened to the audio recording of the Bible book of Matthew, which is available in English on jw.org.
Jehovah’s Witnesses began producing their first audio version of the Bible in 1978. In time, audio recordings of that version of the Bible, in whole or in part, were published in 20 languages.
The release of the revised edition of the New World Translation in 2013 created a need to update the recordings. But unlike the previous audio version, which had three readers, the new recordings feature a different voice for each of the more than 1,000 Bible characters.
Having a variety of readers helps listeners to picture the events recorded in the Bible accounts. Though the recordings are not dramatic Bible readings, which have sound effects and music, they do convey a high level of realism.
A project involving so many readers requires careful planning. Initially, researchers had to identify who is speaking in each passage, the meaning of the passage, and the emotion to be conveyed. For example, if an apostle is quoted but not specifically identified in the Bible account, whose voice should be used? A comment conveying doubt might be assigned to Thomas, while one conveying impetuousness might be assigned to Peter.
Thought was also given to the age of a person quoted. For the apostle John as a youth, a younger man’s voice was needed; for the elderly apostle John, an older man’s voice was used.
Additionally, good readers had to be found. Most are chosen from those serving at the branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the United States. Auditions are conducted in which potential readers are asked to prepare and read a selected paragraph from the Awake! magazine. They also read lines of dialogue from the Bible that convey emotions such as anger, sadness, joy, or discouragement. These auditions make it possible to evaluate the ability of the readers and to decide the type of reading for which they would be best suited.
Once assignments are made, readers come to one of the recording studios at Brooklyn or Patterson, where the lines they read are recorded. A coach makes sure that the reader conveys the proper tone, or voice quality. Both the coach and the reader use a specially prepared script that gives guidelines as to the pausing and emphasis in each passage. The coach also uses the recordings of the previous edition of the New World Translation as a guide.
Some editing is done in the studio at the time of recording. To get an optimal rendering, the editors at times need to piece together words or sentences from several takes.
It is not known how long it will take to complete the recording of the entire 2013 revision of the New World Translation. However, as each Bible book is completed, it will be uploaded to jw.org, and an audio icon will display next to the name of the Bible book on the page entitled “Books of the Bible.”