Chris
Harrison

Bible Cross-References

This set of visualizations started as a collaboration between Pastor Christoph Römhild and myself in October of 2007. He had put together a dataset of cross references found in the Bible (most often seen in study Bibles at the bottom or edges of the page, linking concepts, locations and people found in different parts of the text). Together, we struggled to find an elegant solution to render the data, more than 63,000 cross references in total. We set our sights on something more beautiful than functional. At the same time, we wanted a visualization 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. Jordan Peterson has used this graphic in his lecture series to talk about how the Bible can be thought of as "the first hyperlinked book".

The bar graph that runs along the bottom represents all of the chapters in the Bible (starting with Genesis 1 on the left). Books alternate in color between light and dark gray, with the first book of the Old and New Testaments in white. The length of each bar denotes the number of verses in that chapter (so for instance, the really long bar near the middle is the longest chapter in the Bible: Psalm 119). Each of the 63,779 cross references found in the Bible are depicted by a single arc - the color corresponds to the distance between the two chapters, creating a rainbow-like effect.

UPDATE 4/20/21: After a very long hiatus, art prints (36x22") of the Bible Cross References are now available for $25. You can pay via paypal or credit card (use the "checkout as guest" option) using the button to the right, or order through Etsy. I batch ship them weekly ($4.99 flat rate media mail) and it takes about two weeks to arrive. Email me if you want to ship somewhere other than the US, or order more than five prints (for a discount). If you previously placed an order on Society6, please forward your invoice (chrish@cmu.edu) so that I can send you a new higher-quality copy free of charge.
Medium Resolution PNG
2000x1200, 4.2MB
High Resolution PNG
12240x7200, 129MB
(try downloading if browser cannot view)



Biblical Social Network (People and Places)

Soon after finishing the cross-references arc visualization, I set out to create a new data set derived from the Bible’s text. This time I wanted to better capture the story, most notably the people and places, and the interactions between them. I did this by building a list of biblical names (2619 in total) and parsing a digital copy of the King James Bible. Each time two names occurred in the same verse, a connection was created between them. This produced essentially a social network of people and places. Because such relationships had no ordering or structure (unlike the cross references), I used a spatial clustering algorithm I developed for one of my other projects. This process causes related entities and highly connected groups to coalesce. I themed the output like an old piece of parchment.

Additional details: Entities with less than 40 connections are drawn at an angle. Those with 40 or more connected entities are rendered horizontally - size is linearly proportional to the number of connections. The graph contains over 10,000 connections, too many to be useful and thus made purposely faint as not to overwhelm the piece. The names On, So, and No were excluded since they are both names and words (and I wasn't doing anything clever like named entity recognition when parsing the text).

Medium Resolution JPG
2000x2000, 1.4MB
High Resolution PNG
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Distribution of Biblical People and Places

With the biblical names list already compiled and a copy of the King James Bible sitting on my desktop, another visualization was inevitable. I settled on a classic distribution visualization, which shows where various people and places occur in the text. Much of the Bible is chronological, so there is a strong temporal ordering.

Visually, this is the entire Bible printed on a single piece of paper (you'll need to look at the high-res version to see it). Floating above the text are the people and places that appear in the Bible - more than 2,600 names in total. These are positioned according to their average location in the text. Faded lines are rendered to show where they occur. Additionally, font size is proportional to the number of occurrences in the text - the larger the name, the more frequently it appears. The names On, So, and No were excluded.

I've provided the visualization in three color themes. Additionally, because the graph is so dense, I've included two extra versions for people who really want to study it up close. These are simply splitting the content - the "All Names" version is the two combined. You really need to download the high resolution versions to see all of the detail.

All NamesLess Frequent Names OnlyMore Frequent Names Only
© Chris Harrison