I’m a big fan of BibleGateway.com as a free and easy-to-use source for online Bible translations. The site includes over 200 versions and 70 languages! BibleGateway introduced me to The Voice, a translation which included the collaboration of musicians, poets, and other artists alongside scholars and pastors. When a friend recommended the New Century Version, I first looked for it on BibleGateway. I’m part of BibleGateway’s blogging network, so I have their badge in my sidebar and link all of the Scripture references on my site to one of their Bibles as a handy reference for readers.
So when BibleGateway invited me to try out their new Bible audio app, I jumped at the chance. I knew their regular site included audio resources, but had never explored them. I was used to Scripture readings in the context of worship, but had never listened to an audio Bible for any length of time. So I was curious to explore the Bible on audio, and I also wondered, would the new app even work on my old tablet?
Sure enough, when I went to download the Bible audio app, I got the message: “This app may not be optimized for your device.” That’s often code for “This app will not work at all on your seven-year-old tablet which is ancient in tech-years,” but I’m happy to say the download went just fine.
The free app includes two readings of the King James Version, one of the New International Readers Version, three of the New International Version, and two readings in Spanish. I sampled them all, but my favourite is the NIV Dramatized.
As in all of the other readings, the main narrator in the NIV Dramatized is a male voice, but the dramatized version also includes older and younger voices, voices of women, the sound of crowds in the background, a baby crying, music, depending on the context. It was refreshing to hear male and female voices in the Song of Songs, to hear Mary’s song for the birth of her son in a young Mary’s voice (Luke 1:46-55), and the voice of the boy Jesus in the temple (Luke 2:49).
I prefer listening at the normal speed, but there are settings for somewhat slower or up to twice as fast. The Bible verses appear on screen if you prefer to follow along as you listen, and there’s an option to repeat a verse or chapter which would be an aid in memorizing Scripture. The app includes a timer that can be set for 5 minutes or up to two hours, although be forewarned that when the time is up you might well be left hanging in the middle of a sentence.
Bible reading plans are included, or you can do as I did and choose your own book and chapter, then scroll to start wherever you prefer. Beyond the free version of the app, options to upgrade are available for additional Bible versions or other features like listening offline or going ad free.
For Bible study, I still prefer the printed text over the audio Bible, but I enjoyed listening to the NIV Dramatized for a change. It helped me hear Scripture in a fresh way. Plus as I listened, I realized that the audio Bible could serve as an aid for the public reading of Scripture; instead of wondering and struggling over how to pronounce unfamiliar biblical names, readers could turn to the audio Bible, hear the names, repeat them as many times as needed, and learn them that way.
I experienced just a few glitches when moving from one part of the Bible to another, where the audio changed but the Scripture text displayed didn’t. So while I was listening to the book of Ruth, the text still showed Revelation. It didn’t bother me, since I mainly prefer to listen without watching the text anyway, but I did notice the inconsistency. And since I stuck with the free app, my reading was also occasionally interrupted by an ad for the upgrade.
I’m glad that women’s voices were included in some portions of the NIV Dramatized, but I wished for even more. Instead of staying with the male narrator as the norm, why not tell the story of Ruth and the story of Esther with a female narrator throughout? Or one of the gospels, or the book of Hebrews, or any other book of the Bible? For listeners interested in an audio Bible voiced by women, check out her.Bible for the complete New Testament, plus selected books from the Old Testament which is still under production. The New Living Translation is also available as an audio Bible voiced by women, developed by Courage for Life as part of their prison ministry with women.
Still I appreciate the BibleGateway’s free Bible audio app, and am happy to recommend it for anyone interested in an easy-to-use app for listening to Scripture, available for iPad, iPhone, and Android devices.
Disclosure: For this review, I received a free copy of the Bible audio app from BibleGateway, and you can too. For more information, updates, and to download for your smartphone or tablet, check this out. As always, the choice to review and opinions expressed are my own.
Writing/Reflection Prompt: Do you listen to the Bible on audio? Why or why not, and which one do you prefer?
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