​The voice of God?

​Richard Coles is a priest, a broadcaster and was a pop star. Who better to explore the different ways that the way God speaks is depicted within literature, theatre, music and film, and within sacred texts?

In the 'Book of Kings' the prophet Elijah is wrung by earthquake, wind, fire and thunder, but God is in not in any of these. It is in the silence following that Elijah hears God in a 'still, small voice'. In Britain Quakers have been listening for God in silence since the 1650s. This hasn't been how artists usually imagine the Almighty communicating. In the theatre and cinema God tends more to the Brian Blessed - or Brian Glover, pronouncing from on high, in the earthy demotic of Yorkshire, atop a fork-lift truck in a famous production of 'The Mysteries' at the National Theatre. In the great religious choral works God speaks through the chorus, in Haydn's 'Creation'; a gentle tenor in 'Messiah'; and in Bach's 'Passion' not at all. But Is God's voice ever manifest in a woman?

As well as considering the different voices of God in the art of the past, Richard Coles seeks the experience of other faiths. Muslims believe Allah spoke to Mohammed in Arabic via the angel Gabriel. One of his earliest followers was convinced of the truth of Islam by the language - it was so beautiful it had to be true. At Pentecost the Holy Spirit spoke through the Christian disciples, yet every listener heard their own language. Jahweh spoke to certain Jews, but they could never utter his name.

Richard speaks to people of different beliefs, and to contemporary artists including comedy writers, for whom there are rich pickings in putting the words of God in the mouths of mere mortals - about their approach, how they recreate the voice of the creator.

Producer: Julian May.

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