How to Absorb the Bible in 5 minutes with Good Data Visualization

People have been lamenting the general religious illiteracy of Americans for some time now. I am sympathetic. It seems common in debates about God for neither the atheist nor Christian to have a good idea of what’s actually in any of the 66 books that make up the standard old and new testaments. For a while I have been on the lookout for a good crash courses in the hope of finding an introduction to the bible for the attention-deficit afflicted members of of my generation. I have had some favorites (the History Channel’s sexed up The Bible mini-series isn’t one of them.).

However, recently I came across a video that might represent the non plus ultra of Biblical summarization. The Bible in 66 Word Clouds uses one of the oldest data-representing schemes to illustrate each of the bible’s 66 books in a single still frame. I never thought word-clouds were good at illustrating datasets; but, oddly enough, each of the 66 frames used in the presentation captures the general mood of the corresponding book. Given that the books of the Bible are each fundamentally about the intersection of relationships and values; looking at the word-clouds one can immediately understand the primary relationship and value being described in the narrative.

I am convinced that a complete bible neophyte could watch this video and develop an above-average comprehension of the bible with little time investment. In my first 5 minutes I came to the following associations just from superficially tracking the large word bubbles and adding common sense.

  • Genesis concerns Abraham and Jacob’s relationship with God. Exodus concerns God and Mosses. Leviticus, Deuteronomy, and Numbers concern how the Lord should receive offerings
  • The Book of Ruth is about the relationship of Ruth and Naomi in Boaz
  • The Books of Samuel concern the reign of David as King of Israel, the next three books concern his descendants
  • The Song of Songs is about Love. The Books of Psalms is about battle. The Book of Proverbs is about wisdom.
  • Mark, Mathew, Luke, and John are about the life of Jesus

Which is more or less the take away I had after reading these books in length. To think, a general understanding of biblical texts might have been easily achieved without the 4-years of Catholic school and the independent study. All that was needed was a really good use of data visualization.

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