The Gospel of Jesus by Daniel L. Johnson (editor); Garrison Keillor (narrator)

Trolling the local library looking for audio books for my daily commute, I stumble on The Gospel of Jesus:

The Gospel of JesusGarrison Keillor and Dan Johnson both grew up in the bosom of fundamentalism. Their shared love of the Bible and its stories led to this collaboration, which blends details from all the gospels into a single book-length story. Keillor narrates the biography of this amazing man, Jesus, from the slum of Nazareth in the province of Galilee, who confounded dignitaries, healed the sick, and taught those who would listen. He claimed to be God, and that through his death God would graciously forgive the offenses of all who accept this. His story is the foundation from which Christianity has developed, stumbled, and evolved. Centuries ago, early Christians listened as the Bible was read to them. This new recording continues that tradition with a conversational translation performed by America’s favorite storyteller.

I was intrigued by both Keillor as narrator and by Johnson’s harmonization.  And I have to say I really enjoyed listening to this on my daily commute. Not surprisingly given its oral background, the Gospels really come to life in this audio format.  Also not surprisingly depending on your tastes, Garrison Keillor’s famous voice also works well.

In the audio you get the sense both of the narrative arc and the itinerant nature of Jesus’ life and message. You can see the story’s threads as they form, come together, and intertwine but also the necessary and normal repetition involved in teaching to crowds while crisscrossing the country.

The parables, his clash with the religious rulers, his calling of, and teaching of, the disciples, and his explanation of what is happening as the story comes to a climax will be familiar if you have grown up reading the Bible. But they also can sound fresh and be better heard within their context in the way Daniel Johnson has structured this harmonized version.

One could quibble with the translation (Tyndale House’s New Living Translation) but it didn’t detract from my enjoyment in any serious way.

Publisher’s Weekly captures it well:

Keillor’s instantly recognizable baritone glides its way through the familiar life of Jesus, from humble beginnings in Bethlehem to an exultantly rendered resurrection in Jerusalem. Johnson’s “harmonization” creates a single narrative from all four Gospel strands, blending Mark’s immediacy, Matthew’s concerns for law and tradition, Luke’s passion for the poor, and John’s mysticism into a coherent story that is rich in pathos and meaning.

An enjoyable way to either hear the Gospels for the first time or to reacquaint yourself with their power. Highly recommended.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).

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