A visual introduction to the Bible’s career as a book

Q.  Thank you for your wonderful blog. I keep coming back to it, as it inspires me in my writing and research. I know it’s a tough job to keep a blog going and I truly appreciate it.  I wanted to touch base with you because I recently helped create what I think is an interesting research graphic called “The Most Popular Book of All Time,” which I think would be of value to your readers. (I say that because as one of your readers, it’s a topic that interests me.)  If you agree, I would be excited to see you post it to your site and share with your other regular visitors. Thanks and regards.

Thank you very much for your kind words about my blog.  They’re very encouraging and I appreciate them.

I’m happy to refer my readers to your research graphic, which can be viewed by clicking on the link above.  Let me post a detail from it here to give them some idea of what it includes.  This is the first section, which compares the number of copies of the Bible distributed so far with the numbers of other widely circulated books:

How It Stacks UpIt is interesting and helpful to have this kind of visual presentation of information relating to the Bible.  Other sections compare the size of the Bible with other long works (it’s almost 50% longer than Atlas Shrugged, for example); list the longest and shortest books, chapters, and verses in the Bible; chart the progress of Bible translation into the world’s languages; place leading modern translations on a continuum from word-for-word to thought-for-thought to paraphrase; and trace the progress of the Bible’s translation into vernacular languages along a historical timeline.

One fact I would like to clarify is that the chapters we know today are those that were developed by Stephen Langton in Paris around AD 1200, not the different scheme that was introduced by Cardinal Hugo de Sancto Caro in 1238.

You are clearly gifted at researching information and presenting it clearly in visual form, so let me offer you a challenge.  I’d like to encourage you to develop an additional research graphic about the Bible.  “The Most Popular Book of All Time” provides invaluable information about the Bible’s history as a book, but this is still the view from “outside the covers,” as it were.  There’s such a pressing need for biblical literacy in our day that I hope you will follow up with the view from “inside the covers.” How about introducing people to the characters and events of the Bible in a visual way that will allow them to become familiar with them and recognize their place in the overall biblical story?

In Brian McLaren’s novel The Story We Find Ourselves In, the character named Kerry admits, “I heard all kinds of Bible stories as a kid, but I have no idea how they fit together–which comes first, that sort of thing.  To me, they’re just isolated episodes in a larger story I never really understood.”  Many people today could make the same admission.  Someone needs to put together a really good research graphic that would help people see how it all fits together.

I think maybe you’re the person to do that.  And if you do, I’ll be glad to feature that graphic here as well.  But thanks already, very much, for this one!

Author: Christopher R Smith

The Rev. Dr. Christopher R. Smith is an an ordained minister, a writer, and a biblical scholar. He was active in parish and student ministry for twenty-five years. He was a consulting editor to the International Bible Society (now Biblica) for The Books of the Bible, an edition of the New International Version (NIV) that presents the biblical books according to their natural literary outlines, without chapters and verses. His Understanding the Books of the Bible study guide series is keyed to this format. He was also a consultant to Tyndale House for the Immerse Bible, an edition of the New Living Translation (NLT) that similarly presents the Scriptures in their natural literary forms, without chapters and verses or section headings. He has a B.A. from Harvard in English and American Literature and Language, a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Gordon-Conwell, and a Ph.D. in the History of Christian Life and Thought, with a minor concentration in Bible, from Boston College, in the joint program with Andover Newton Theological School.

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