Review: The Red Letters Project, the Gospel of Matthew (NLT)

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For over a hundred years now, most American bibles have been printed with the words of Christ in red. Lately, this has given rise to ‘Red Letter Christians’ either as a self-description or a pejorative by others. But, regardless if the words are in red or black or any other color, the words of Christ stand out in the Gospels and have helped Christians across the centuries, giving them direction, comfort, and acting in many ways as the Psalms does for both Jews and Christians. Now, The Red Letters Project takes the words in red as found in the NLT’s Gospel of Matthew, setting them to music, and in the process, creating a radical way to hear and to spread those blood-red words.

From the website,

The Red Letters Project is a musical experience like no other.  The red letters of Jesus from the Book of Matthew (NLT) take on new life as they are set to rock music.  Word for word, songs are formed without concern of rhyme or adding any definition.   The result is a new way of hearing and experiencing the Gospel.  This is The Red Letters Project.

Ranging in styles from ballads to pop rock to more of the heavy side of the genre, the Project takes the NLT’s translation of the Gospel of Matthew and sets it to contemporary rock music. It reminds me, for the most part, more of the alternative scale, but doesn’t focus on music. Instead, the words come across, powerfully, reminding us of the precious words of Christ. Each ‘red word’ is featured in the project which covers the entire Gospel according to Matthew. Simply, these powerful songs appeal in style to a younger generation, and indeed, those of an older generation who might like something harder than choral music in the morning. While for me, I prefer something more with twang, I couldn’t find too many of the songs that I had to skip through. Perhaps this is due to the subject matter, but I enjoyed the range of styles – some more than others – and the way that the arrangements didn’t take away from the preaching, er, singing of the Word of God.

This is not only a testament to the beauty of the blood-red words, but so to the translation style of the New Living Translation. The Red Letters Project shows that unlike other translation styles, the NLT can not only be read clearly, but transformed into a conversational song. There are few,if any, clips, stops, and sudden starts in transferring the words to song. If anything, hearing the words of Christ translated in the NLT and sung in a generational voice heightens the intensity of the NLT’s translation.

For those seeking to share the Gospel of Matthew with those who listen to nothing but what comes out of  iPods, this is a great witnessing tool. For those who mind that modern ‘Christian’ music is lacking a certain message – there is nothing more powerful than hearing the words of Christ sung.

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