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  • A Review of “The Bible Project”

    Brett Vaden

    I cannot get over The Bible Project.

    These animated videos tell the story of every Old and New Testament book. As you watch, the narrator talks you through the biblical book’s (e.g., Joshua) outline and themes.

    The videos focus on the book’s flow and outline, but they aren’t overly technical. A big strength of the tool is that shows and tells.

    Here are a few of the reasons I’m sold on it:

    Exegetically Sound

    I’m usually skeptical of any Bible resource that appears flashy, i.e., has good graphics, animation, or feels cool and techy. My cynical side says, “Looks cool, but I bet they skimped on other things.”

    Not so with The Bible Project. The work these folks put into the video production (which was very good) is equalled by their serious and thoughtful biblical interpretation.

    For example, take their video on Matthew. One of the beauties of the Matthean Gospel is that it’s highly crafted, with five of Jesus’s discourses providing the unifying structure. Not only did the videos catch that insight, but they went further in showing how, thematically, these five discourses fit in with many other elements to show how Jesus fulfilled Old Testament expectations and prophecies, e.g., Jesus’s five discourses parallel Moses’s five books of the Law.

    Broad Strokes and Details

    You’d expect a resource like this to give you a broad overview, and, indeed, The Bible Project succeeds. The bird’s eye view really helps put the nitty-gritty parts of the books in context, so you see the main points.

    But, surprisingly, the videos also give you a taste of interesting close-ups.

    For example, in Acts Part 1, you get a clear presentation of the flow and outline: as the sequel to Luke, Acts continues to tell the story of “what Jesus did and taught,” as he sends the Spirit to empower the apostles and Church to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth.

    That would be enough to give anyone a great head-start as they dive into Acts, chapters and verses. But then The Bible Project folks go a step further by drawing out an easily overlooked but hugely important point: that what’s happening in Acts isn’t simply a report of how the church grew and expanded out, but how the ascended King of the World is fulfilling the OT hope of people from every nation coming to God’s Temple (the Church), which, filled with God’s Spirit (sent at Pentecost) is a place of salvation.

    Another example that really impressed me was in Joshua. I’m was listening to the narrator walk me through crossing the Jordan, circling Jericho, attacking Ai, etc., and thinking, “Yeah, this is right, but is he going to say anything about how violent things get?”

    On cue, the narrator announced something like, “Now, we need to step back a minute here and deal with a big question you should be asking, ‘Was God telling the Israelites to commit genocide?’”

    Wow! No juking there. And not only was the question answered, but with compelling reasons.

    Accessible and Challenging

    These videos are not too long, usually around 8-10 minutes. Books that deserve more time are divided into parts (e.g., Romans).

    They are also animated and lively paced. No lagging or time to get bored.

    Yet, they’re rich and full of insight, worth watching many times over. I’ve personally felt excited about the challenge of putting them into my long-term memory.

    Bonus: the narrator reads clearly and with the right pathos, matching his tone to appropriately fit the content (see Judges for a good example).

    Website and “Reading Scripture” App

    The website has all the videos of each Bible book, but there are also series of videos that look at certain themes, as well as videos that dive deeper into sections of each book.

    I’m very taken with the Reading Scripture App. Its main purpose is to help you read through the whole Bible in a year (there’s settings for a reminder, what pace you want to read at, and tracking your progress through the year).

    As you start a new book, you first watch the corresponding Bible Project video, and then read the text chapter by chapter.

    A bonus I love is the little pulsating circle at the start of each reading that reminds you to “Take a deep breath as you being to spend time with God.”

    Applications

    So, how might you use The Bible Project well? Here’s just a few ideas.

    First, I’d recommend them as personal devotional aids. Before starting a new book, play the video for that book. It will set you up for success by giving you the context and big ideas.

    Second, they are a great resource for church Bible study groups, both participants and teachers.

    Third, Bible colleges and seminaries can use these. As I’ve said, they hold their own when it comes to careful exegesis.

    Lastly, I know many Christians who get discouraged reading the Bible because it just feels foreign and difficult to understand. These videos won’t wholly solve that feeling, but they can go a long way.

    If you’ve made it through this article without watching one, here’s your chance. Why not try Philippians? Or Ruth? Or how about Revelation?