In our most recent gathering, I shared the remarkable data visualization above. What you’re looking at represents one of the most remarkable graphic presentations I’ve ever seen.
You’re looking at a visual representation of the Bible—each of its 260 chapters represented as a white or gray vertical line at the bottom. The longer the chapter, the longer the line. Thus the conspicuously long line right in the middle is Psalm 119, by far the longest chapter in the Bible. The white or gray groupings of lines are the Bible’s 66 books.
Most people who read the Bible know that many scriptures contain references to other scriptures. What many don’t know is that almost every word out of Jesus’ mouth was either a direct or indirect reference to something in the Old Testament.
Paul constantly referenced Old Testament concepts and verses. The book of Hebrews is pretty much just one big reference to the books of Moses.
Just how often do Bible verses reference other verses? The arcs in the graphic above give us the answer—63,779 times. Yep. Every arc connects a verse to another verse it is either quoting or referencing. The arcs are color coded by the distance between the linked verses. For example, passages toward the end of the Bible that reference verses at the beginning are yellow.
The book of Revelation is filled with references that link to verses in Daniel and Ezekiel. A thick arc of yellow leaps out of Hebrews and lands all the way back in Exodus and Leviticus. Multiple blue arcs link verses in Acts to the books of the major and minor prophets, as the very first gospel preachers began making the case to the Jews of that generation that Jesus was fulfillment of all the Messianic prophecies.
This remarkable acheivement is the work of data visualization specialist Chris Harrison. You’ll find his explanation of the work here. In fact, at that link you can download an enormous 21MB image file of the graphic that allows you to zoom way in and discern a lot of detail.
I’ve been geeking out on this thing all week. It represents a vivid illustration of something I talk about all the time. Namely that the Jesus and the New Covenant He instituted are a complete fulfillment of the Old. And that both Jesus and Paul were constantly referring to Old to make that point.
It also reveals the foundation of another point I’m always making. Namely, that we have to let scripture interepret scripture.
In other words, if we’re wondering what the prophet Joel was referring to in his “Day of Lord” prophecy in Joel Chapter 2 . . . an apocoplyptic passage foreseeing blood and fire and columns of smoke . . . we don’t have to speculate about nuclear missiles. Acts Chapter 2 interprets it for us as Peter, freshly baptized in the Holy Spirit, quotes it and declares it’s fulfillment in that moment.
Beginning in verse 15: “For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day; but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel . . .”
Peter goes on to quote a large section of Joel’s “Day of the Lord” passage. We don’t have to try to speculate about interpretation of Joel 2. Peter has done it for us. And in the context of the very first Holy Spirit-anointed sermon ever preached by someone other than Jesus!
Likewise, we don’t have to speculate about what Jeremiah meant when he prophesied of a day in which God would make a “new covenant with the house of Israel.” (Jeremiah 31:31) The writer of Hebrews makes the meaning unmissable (See: Hebrews 8:8; Hebrews 10:16 and the surrounding contexts.)
Let scripture interpret the Scriptures. More specifically, let the New Testament reveal the meaning of the Old.
What an extraordinary book the Bible is.