A stunning visualization of the Bible’s 63,779 cross-references
It’s weird – i could have sworn I’d posted this before as I’ve had it for ages – but clearly haven’t. So here goes…
Chris Harrison is a genius at creating novel ways to visualize data. A friend of his suggested taking the Bible as an interesting data set in itself, and this is what he came up with.
Here is his explanation:
This set of visualizations started as a collaboration between Christoph Römhild and myself. Christoph, a Lutheran Pastor, first emailed me in October of 2007. He described a data set he was putting together that defined textual cross references found in the Bible. He had already done considerable work visualizing the data before contacting me. Together, we struggled to find an elegant solution to render the data, more than 63,000 cross references in total. As work progressed, it became clear that an interactive visualization would be needed to properly explore the data, where users could zoom in and prune down the information to manageable levels. However, this was less interesting to us, as several Bible-exploration programs existed that offered similar functionality (and much more). Instead we set our sights on the other end of the spectrum –- something more beautiful than functional. At the same time, we wanted something that honored and revealed the complexity of the data at every level –- as one leans in, smaller details should become visible. This ultimately led us to the multi-colored arc diagram you see below.
The bar graph that runs along the bottom represents all of the chapters in the Bible. Books alternate in color between white and light gray. The length of each bar denotes the number of verses in the chapter. Each of the 63,779 cross references found in the Bible is depicted by a single arc – the color corresponds to the distance between the two chapters, creating a rainbow-like effect.
As well as being stunningly beautiful as an image (which is what they were aiming for), it wonderfully provides a sense of the bible’s internal integrity despite it’s palpable complexity. The 176 verses of Ps 119 stand at the centre point, as if it were a mirror creating a vast symmetry. What is especially striking is the number of lines that stretch all the way from Genesis to Revelation.
Look and wonder. I ordered the poster – it’s even more amazing close up…