Donald Whitney
Professor of Biblical Spirituality
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

The Listener’s Bible. Narrated by Max McLean. (This review first appeared in the Midwestern Journal of Theology, Spring 2004 and has been edited for length)

Paul instructs Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:13, “Give attention to the public reading of scripture.” Sadly, however, many evangelical churches—including those renowned for defending the inerrancy of Scripture—ignore this command about publicly reading the Scripture…

One of the possible factors contributing to the decline of public Scripture reading is the fact that when the bible is read in worship, it is read with the same enthusiasm as reading the phonebook aloud. In other words, the way in which the Bible is read often conveys the impression that neither reading the Scripture publicly nor listening to it is very important. One of the benefits of hearing Max McLean read the bible is the recovery of the vision of how meaningful and worshipful public Scripture reading can be. McLean reads the bible like it is the Word of God. When he reads it, you want to listen to it…

McLean has a deep and pleasant voice…but what sets McLean’s efforts above all others I have heard is his interpretive skill. McLean doesn’t sound as though he is reading anything. Rather he sounds as you might expect the writers of the text to sound if they were speaking instead of writing. For instance, hearing McLean read Acts 2 almost has you believing that you’re listening to a recording of Peter preaching (in English, of course) at Pentecost. His ability to pause and add inflection to the words spoken by different characters in a dialogue makes you more aware of the give-and-take of conversation in a passage. His enunciation is crisp without sounding contrived. His manner of precisely articulating with lips and teeth, such as the way he bites off words in the imprecator Psalms, adds to the realism and believability of McLean’s work.

… I devote one of the days in my Worship Leadership class to the subject of reading the Scripture well in public. At the end of the class, I let the students hear McLean read a psalm, a chapter of narrative passage, and a chapter from an epistle. Once they hear classroom theory become reality, their view of the power of the public reading of Scripture is never the same. Whether it’s just for your own edification or for what McLean can do to transform the public reading of Scripture for yourself and your church, I recommend The Listener’s Bible.

— Donald Whitney
Professor of Biblical Spirituality, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary