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The voice of the Bible

March 22, 2003

Suzie Harrison

Making the Bible accessible to everyone has been Stephen Johnston's

goal for some time, and through his creative projects, he's making it

happen.

Johnston, a Newport Beach resident since 1956, has narrated more

than 15 Bibles on cassette and CD and is producing the first DVD

Bible.

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"In the army, I learned to dramatize radio programs," Johnston

said. "I created the first dramatized version with the founding

actors for the South Coast Repertory."

He had never done a voice-over for audio before.

"I had to make my own sound effects, like I did in the old radio

ways," Johnston said. "There's 10 popular versions of the audio

Bible. I've done every version and have sold over 100 million CDs and

cassettes."

The concept of an audio Bible is new to most people. Johnston said

technology has made it possible, allowing him to do all technical

aspects himself.

"I can go to chapter and verse easily," Johnston said. "I add

dramatic elements, sound effects and music. It's like producing 72

hours of one-hour radio programs."

That he can put the entire Bible on one DVD astounds him. Johnston

is able to fit a lot of layers on it, including scripture and words

that people can read to follow what he is saying, as well as 60

pictures of the Holy Land.

"The exciting thing about this to me is that I wanted to bring the

cost of the Bible down so everyone could afford it," Johnston said.

"In 1989, 72 hours of the Bible on CD would sell for $250 to $280 --

now it sells for $69, and putting it on one DVD has allowed us to

come down to $29."

Johnston has other related endeavors in the works, one of which is

a PBS special. He said that he is going to talk about the origins of

the Bible as an oral work, meant to be heard.

"It's a new era, and not a lot of people know about the Bible

being available through audio," Johnston said. "People can drive to

work and listen to the Bible, and in three or four months they can

hear it in its entirety."

Another use he suggests is that the family listen while on a

vacation traveling by car. Because they are dramatized, it holds the

audience captive, he says.

"Everyone thinks it's a good idea," Johnston said. "Whether you're

Christian or not."

He did a Korean version in English and sold four times as many as

he had in previous years. His business has increased five-fold in the

last four years, Johnston said. He said that he has more than 30

different Bible products that are sold at popular bookstores and on

the Web.

"It's taken me since 1982 to do all these narrations," Johnston

said. "People seem to enjoy listening to me for some reason."

After the army he and a friend from Harbor High opened up an

advertising agency from 1971 to 1991, where he honed his skills doing

voice-overs. He won an Emmy for a public TV show called "The New

Testament," which was very successful, he said.

Johnston, who likes to keep busy, is working on myriad of

projects, including a new worldwide satellite radio program and a

documentary. He works out of his studio on Newport Center Drive. His

products can be purchased on www.biblesondvd.com, ourbiblestore.com

or christianbook.com.

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