It’s Scary What They’re Doing With Scourby!

April 13, 2008 by: KJVOnly

Sections

Introduction
Reading vs. Hearing
Alexander Scourby
Narrations
Recordings
Conclusion


Introduction

Recently I bought a set of CDs, containing MP3 files of Alexander Scourby reading the King James Bible. I already had a set of tapes, but wanted the CDs for several reasons.

  • The CDs could be played as-is in many modern car stereos.
  • The CDs are broken down by book and chapter. I can copy a specific book or specific chapters to my MP3 player.
  • The tapes will wear out eventually. The CDs will last MUCH longer!
  • Since the files are in MP3 format, they will play in many players. No fancy conversion (or a home stereo) needed.

After listening to it for awhile I realized it did not have the same beauty, the same music, the same effect on me that listening to the tapes did.

One thing I noticed was I had a "rushed" feeling, instead of being rejuvenated by God’s pure Word as only found in the King James Bible. (It’s not called living water for nothing!) I decided to try and find out why.

A few failed efforts later, I hit on the solution. I timed the beginning of the tape that starts with Acts Chapter 25. It takes 10 seconds for the sound to start and the chapter runs for 4 minutes and 4 seconds.

The CD set was only 3 minutes and 50 seconds! No wonder I felt rushed. An entire fourteen seconds was removed from the chapter!

Assuming that 14 seconds was removed from each chapter (over 1100 in the entire Bible), it becomes clear that OVER FOUR HOURS of material has been removed! Even if 10 seconds is the average, that’s still more than three hours removed.

Any company cannot say they’re accurately reproducing God’s Word if they remove four hours of material! They can’t even say they’re preserving Scourby’s recording when it’s so clear they have modified it. The recording even sounds different, like it’s been raised a pitch or two.

Reading vs. Hearing

It is quite clear that just reading the King James Bible is not sufficient to gain a full appreciation of what it truly is. When you read it out loud, the text leads you to pronouce certain words, take certain pauses, and flows precisely.

When you have heard the King James Bible for any certain period of time, all other translations sound "off". It’s a testament to God’s preservation that you can tell a translation is inferior because it doesn’t "sound right".

Just look at the following passage. Read it on the screen then read it aloud.

  1. I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.

Revelation 3:18 KJV

When you read it you can’t help but break the first part into its portions: "Counsel thee", "to buy", "of me" are natural groups. You wind up pausing on "gold". Also notice the three "that thou mayest" sections. The structure is such that it parallels.

When you see the wording occur the second and third times, you’re already thinking of what you’re about to read. You’re building the framework in your mind.

Breezing through the reading destroys the structure, the music and the life of the passage.

Alexander Scourby

I want to make sure people understand that it wasn’t solely because of Alexander Scourby that his recording has such an effect on people. Look at his words, quoted on many sites:

Although I have narrated more than 500 books, I consider the Bible my most important work. Why? Because it is the one book that has the power to inspire, encourage, comfort and change the life of the person who hears it.

There is also:

I am very honored that God chose me as an instrument to narrate his eternal Word. I am awed by the realization that after I transcend this earthly realm to the heavenly, this beautiful recording will still be here to comfort and encourage all who will listen.

Both this and the preceding quote emphasize that it’s the text itself that contains the power, and not Mr. Scourby. Even more, the second quote emphasizes that it’s Mr. Scourby’s sticking to the text as it was intended to be read that has placed his narration above all others.

Narrations

Other narrations fall because the narrators (or production teams) want to put their mark on the narration, instead of honoring God’s perfect design. Mr. Scourby’s stands because he realized that it was the text that was important, not himself. He owed it to the work to give it the best he could.

If the listeners did not have a Braille copy of the King James Version, his voice would be all they would have to convey God’s Holy Word to them. Not a task to take lightly!

To add to the point, look at this Amazon.com customer review of a tape set of Psalms and Proverbs:

I recently bought Zondervan’s complete bible NT+OT on CD. I realized how much I enjoy the Scourby tapes as I did not enjoy the Zondervan psalm readings nearly as much as my Scourby tapes. Scourby puts alot [sic] of inflection in his voice and reads with great meaning and conviction. He pauses for a length where approriate [sic] as well.

Here are two similar reviews, this time of a complete tape edition:

Scourby’s voice was made to read the scriptures! His ability to match the tone of each passage is astounding! Without having to rely on dramatization, he is able to transport you to ancient Babylon, where Daniel is about to be thrown into the lions’ den, or to Jerusalem, where 12 year-old Jesus discusses law with the priests and doctors.

Having this set on tape gives us opportunities that otherwise simply would not be there for getting the ’sense’ of what’s in the most-admired and least-read book in the world. I’d advise buying it if you’re in doubt.

The very reasons people enjoy Scourby are because of the inflection and the PAUSES. I understand our world gets faster and faster, but it cannot be overemphasized that the pauses are there for a reason!

Look at the very records the original recordings were on. They are recorded at 16 2/3 RPM, exactly one half of the customary 33 1/3 RPM for LP records.

Having previously dated a blind girl, I am well aware that recordings for the blind are being made at slower speeds so that more material can fit. However, this was also done to allow the recording to be properly made and the full material could be presented.

If faithfulness to the text wasn’t important, they might as well just have produced the records at 33 1/3 RPM and saved money on the production costs.

Recordings

I have been made aware that Scourby made at least two recordings, one in 1948 (released commercially in 1966) and one in 1972/1974. The one in 1972/1974 was not intended for commercial release. Indeed, the Scourby estate successfully sued the companies doing the duplicating (PDF link).Supposedly, that is the recording commercially available today. (I’m not sure how that works unless a commercial deal was struck. It seems unlikely for the Scourby estate to turn around and allow that company to license the recording.)

According to the website of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, the original Scourby recording was re-released in 1988. So, which recording is in use?

Conclusion

It is clear that you have to judge a Scourby recording before buying it. All Scourbys are NOT alike! There is even a reader who goes SLOWER than Scourby! It is just as wrong to slow things down as to speed them up.

Scourby succeeds because he puts the proper amounts of emphasis and pausing in the text. To speed up leaves one rushed and breathless in the hearing (not to mention losing the rich baritone by raising the pitch). To slow down puts one to sleep, waiting for the next word to come along.

I am truly sorry, but people cannot make the claim that they are presenting the same rich narration found on the original records and cassette tape sets. If the rendition of Acts 25 is 3 minutes and 51 seconds, it is still thirteen seconds faster than the original.

To change the recording in such a drastic fashion, is to show the same attitude present in people who feel the King James Version needs "modernizing". They feel they can do a better job than God Himself. Obviously, they are wrong.

I destroyed the CD set I had bought, rather than return it for a refund, to make sure my copy didn’t find its way into someone’s hands and lead them astray. It’s that important.

E-mail me with comments!

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