Bible Cross-References

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.

Medium Resolution JPG
2000×1200, 1.4MB
High Resolution PNG
12000×7200, 109MB

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
2000×2000, 1.4MB
High Resolution PNG
4400×4400, 4.7M

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 Names Less Frequent Names Only More Frequent Names Only
© Chris Harrison
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