Sixty-three thousand, seven hundred and seventy-nine

According to Lutheran pastor Christoph Romhild, that’s the number of cross-references in the Bible, linking the various books and chapters to one another.

Not content with just the raw number, Romhild contacted Chris Harrison, a doctoral student at Carnegie Mellon University, about finding a way to graphically display this incredible interconnectedness. They came up with a simple, beautiful solution:

On the base line, every chapter in the bible is represented by a single line. The length of each line is determined by the number of verses in the corresponding chapter. Then, each of the cross-references is depicted by a single arc, from the point of the first use to it’s corresponding reference. [So, from the giving of the great commandment in Deuteronomy 6, to the law expert’s quotation of it in Luke 10, equals a single arc.] The color of each arc is determined by it’s length. All in all, it’s a rather elegant representation of the data, and it gives visual demonstration of an essential truth.

A little while back, a friend wondered aloud why we can’t just take Jesus’ words, and center on them – and only them. Why not focus on Jesus, and what he said, and not worry so much about all that other stuff in the bible? There are many responses you can give to this, from the way Jesus’ own self-understanding and mission was fundamentally shaped by the theology and categories of the Hebrew bible, to the simple fact of Jesus’ own identity as a pious Jew, who grew up in a community that worshiped the God revealed by what we now call the “Old” Testament, to the bible’s own explicit claims that the whole thing clings together and comes from the same God.

The picture above makes this same point rather more colorfully. When looking at the bible, we are looking at a single interconnected book. To rip any part of it – even the central character of Jesus – out in isolation, is to do violence to the very nature of the whole.

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