In the first lecture in his series on the Bible, clinical psychologist and cultural phenom Dr. Jordan Peterson calls the Bible “the first hyperlinked book!” He references the beautiful and profound graphic above created by Christoph Römhild and Chris Harrison. The image captures 66,379 cross references found in scripture. (Go here for the high res version.) It reflects the incredible breadth and depth of scripture. We can never exhaust the scriptures, even learning new insights from scripture texts we have studied over the years.
The Bible is the foundational document of western civilization
Chris Harrison, one of the developers of the Bible Visualization Graph, describes how the image was developed and what the viewer is seeing.
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. … 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 … 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. … 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.
Peterson not only stands in amazement of the significance of the Scriptures, he also acknowledges the vital role the Bible plays in the foundation of Western Civilization.
The Bible is, for better or worse, the foundational document of western civilization … Its careful, respectful study can reveal things to us about what we believe and how we do and should act that can be discovered in almost no other manner.
The Bible made America
Renowned sociologist Dr. Rodney Stark draws a similar conclusion in his book The Victory of Reason.
Christianity created Western Civilization … Without a theology committed to reason, progress, and moral equality, today the entire world would be about where non-European societies were in say, 1800: A world with many astrologers and alchemists but no scientists. A world of despots ….
Our good friend Vishal Mangalwadi from India has written a powerful and defining book on this subject: The Book That Made Your World.
While this may be a new insight for those brought up in the world of modernism that denies the Bible, or of postmodernism that denies the Bible as well as reality and reason, it is not a new insight for others. Not only has the Bible shaped Western Civilization in general, it is the book that made the United States of America.
Kenneth L. Woodward and David Gates, writing the cover story for Newsweek Magazine, “How the Bible Made America,” stated ,
For centuries [the Bible] has exerted an unrivaled influence on American culture, politics, and social life. Now historians are discovering that the Bible, perhaps even more than the Constitution, is our founding document: the source of the powerful myth of the United States as a special, sacred nation, a people called by God to establish a model society, a beacon to the world. [emphasis added]
In fact, it can be said that the Bible is at the foundation of the charter documents of the United States. At least 50 of the 55 constitutional framers were orthodox Christians. Some 15,000 documents were written by America’s founding fathers, and 34 percent of the quotes in those documents were from Scripture. (What’s more, 60 percent of the human authors they quoted referenced the Bible in those quotes.)
The colonists came to the New World carrying the Bible
A majority of the biblical quotes were from the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy. That makes sense given that in Deuteronomy God is transforming His people from a slave mentality (after 430 years in Egypt) into a free and prosperous nation.
Donald S. Lutz, professor of Political Science, University of Houston, concludes:
The Constitution is the product of a constitution-making tradition that can be traced to colonial charter and is modeled on the biblical idea of covenant – a solemn agreement between God and man…. [The colonists] didn’t come over with John Locke in hand, …. They came over with the Bible in hand.
Let us stand in amazement at what God has given us in the depth and breadth of biblical revelation. It is the source of freedom and the foundation for the building of nations that are free, just, compassionate and flourishing.
– Darrow Miller