Johnny Cash gave me the first Bible I had ever had in my life. He taught me about the Bible, and he led me to Christ. John is a Bible scholar, a great Bible teacher, a great man of God.
To go back in time…
One night as I was watching a television re-run featuring Johnny Cash I had the thought within me, “I want to talk to that man.” I knew it wasn¹t as a fan that I wanted to talk to him, because I wasn¹t really a fan, I didn’t even own one Johnny Cash record. But I had read about the very special person he was, and something in what I read had touched me. And the only way I knew to get to talk with him was to create a television special for him. I know now that God, too, wanted me to talk with John, because a year later I was on the road producing “Johnny Cash Ridin’ The Rails, The Great American Train Story,” the television special that
I had created in my mind that evening.
On location I watched how people were drawn to John while we were filming, and how he took the time to talk with them, not as a star, but as a friend. I watched while he sat in a boxcar with real hobos, and as we lit the scene, he talked with them, and they with him, as if he were one of them. And, as I watched I kept seeing something special in John. One day when there was the moment I asked him, “What is it that draws so many people to you, what is it that I keep seeing in you that is so special?” He answered simply, but profoundly, . . . “Jesus Christ.”
When John found out I didn¹t have a Bible, he gave me the first Bible I had ever had in my life. I didn¹t know where to begin reading the Bible. Over time I would save up all my questions on the Bible, and he would sit for an hour, or two hours, and answer all of my questions. John was a great Bible teacher. In college I had been searching, going to services with friends of different faiths, asking questions, but never finding, because I’d never found anyone before John who could answer my questions. I didn¹t know at the time that John was an ordained minister and a Bible scholar, but his answers to my questions about the Bible reached me in a deep and profound way. And John directly led me to Christ. One day I will be in heaven because Johnny Cash cared to take the time to teach me the Bible and introduce me to Jesus.
Years later when I was at the House of Cash working with June on a screenplay she had written, I said to John, “There’s a recording I’ve always wished I had by you.” He asked what that was. I told him, “a recording of you reading the Bible.” He shared with me that his mother 20 years earlier had said she hoped one day he would record the Bible.
John, in his modesty, though, wasn’t sure if he would be capable of recording the Bible as he would want to. Over the next months John went through 27 different translations of the Bible he had in his extensive Bible reference library, chose the New King James Version to record, and went in the studio to record the Gospel of John. I sat in awe at that first recording session to hear the words of the Bible read by John.
I felt that everyone in the world should hear what I was hearing. If John were to record the version of the Bible he had chosen he would need permission of the copyright holder, Thomas Nelson Publishers. He asked me to go talk with them. Apparently God wanted John to record His Word, too. Not only did Thomas Nelson Publishers grant permission for John to record the New King James Version of the Bible, but after listening to the tape he had recorded of the Gospel of John, they wanted to publish his recording of the entire New Testament Bible.
Over the course of the next year John spent 18 three-hour sessions in the studio recording the Bible. But, John did not just read the words of the Bible, he would study in depth each passage of the Bible he would record before every session. And John knew the words of the Bible so well, that even though he would be looking at the words of the New King James Version in the Bible, he often would say the words of the original King James Version he had grown up with, and need to record again the words of the New King James version. From these recording sessions came ³The Johnny Cash Spoken Word New Testament² an extraordinary 19 hour recording.
In John’s trademark song “Man In Black” he wrote the lyrics, “I wear the black for those who¹ve never read or listened to the words that Jesus said.” Now through John’s recording of the Bible, everyone could listen to the words that Jesus said read by the Man in Black, a man filled with the Love and the Spirit of God, a great Bible scholar, a great Bible teacher, a great man of God.
Read Johnny’s liner notes at:Johnny Cash on the New Testament