When I was an undergrad in Religious Studies, my eyes just about popped out of my head when under the Christmas tree, I beheld, A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture that my parents had tracked down from a Cloistered library which was permanently closing its doors. At the time, to get background, perspective and themes on Scripture, seemed like mini miracles. I hung on priest’s words and was over joyed when they actually revealed biblical depth. I took notes at Protestant churches. I read paperback commentaries over and over again and sent away for biblical lectures on tape. In fact, I even paid thousands of dollars to go to grad school – I was so eager to access this kind of knowledge.
But now I go to Youtube.
As a high school theology teacher – and a mom – I am always on the lookout for resources that explain the faith in deep, engaging, clear and entertaining ways. And boy did I land on a good one this year! As soon as my Scripture team and I discovered the Bibleproject, we leaned on them every unit. I think you and your family will too once you watch one of their videos.
What is the Bible Project?
The bible project is a series of videos available on youtube and bibleproject.com which aims to “help people experience the bible as a unified experience leading to Jesus.” The videos are usually about 5 to 9 minutes long and they sketch out:
- bible book overviews,
- word studies in Scripture
- and thematic elements of the bible.
The videos always feature an audio conversation of two guys thinking about the bible. The format is a cartoon – entertaining for kids but meant for adults.
What I love about the Bible project
- Quickly and easily understand a book of the bible.
- Takes a historical-critical approach to scripture while keeping a faithful Christ-centered journey as paramount.
- It makes the crazy patchwork of a scriptural book appear beautiful and intentional.
- The creators keeps the broad perspective on God’s plan and refer to themes across salvation history in each video
- They take into account the culture from which the biblical author wrote and allow us modern readers to understand the gist.
- The drawings fascinate me. I love to watch people draw (the book videos are all made up of an artist’s quick sketch).
- Draws out the literary devices and nuances that are easily missed by a layman. (me)
A few drawbacks from my perspective as a Catholic
- Since it is done from a Protestant viewpoint, it does not include some of the sacramental, philosophical, allegorical or liturgical understandings that a Catholic may use to look at Scripture.
- They are missing some significant books. When the Greeks dominated culture and politics, much of the Hebrew Bible was translated into Greek. God’s story and the story of his people continued to unfold. More Scriptural books were written in Greek. Additions were made in Greek to the Hebrew scripture in books like Daniel and Esther. These Scriptural books (like the Macabees) give a very good bridge to the cultural and theological background into which Jesus was born. Some time after the development of the early Church, Jews began to move away from the Septuagint (Greek translation of the bible) and accepted only those Scriptures which were written in Hebrew. Later, in the 1700’s the Protestants followed suit. Catholics still look to these books (called Deuterocanonical books) as the Word of God.
- Some of the themed videos might boarder just a tiny bit on hinting at some political themes. This does not bother me – it typically seems a legitimate application of the text – but I think some of my friends might raise an eyebrow every once in a while. Maybe you will too or maybe you’ll love it.
- The summary is so good, compelling and tidy that it seems complete and authoritative. This can hardly be counted against #bibleproject but it is good to keep in mind that there are many other ways that Scripture is to be interpreted. Keep learning. Keep praying.
- It does too much work for you. The word of God is meant to be a lived conversation. We can’t just rely on youtube videos to allow God’s word to dwell in us richly. That would be like only reading your spouse’s facebook feed in order to grow closer together. Real loving interaction has to take place in the heart to heart meeting of you and God’s word. (Again, this is not really a problem with the videos but more about how we use them.)
Back to the Good
Let me just say again how much I cherish these. I wish I could give a kiss to the guys who made them (Tim Mackie and Jon Collins). Or a hug. This project has helped my sophomore bible class so much and helped me as well. I love having an attractive, faith-filled and very intellectual way of introducing and explaining parts of scripture.
Today’s Christian Living did a good job unpacking their vision.
Ideas for Using #BibleProject
In a high school curriculum, it is easy- I have a course which marches through the story-line of the bible and each unit there are one or two videos I show as part of our study. Our team uses edPuzzle to stop the video and ask a quick question to keep students’ engaged and re-enforce what is being said in the videos. At home, whether personally or for a family, it is not so easy. How are the videos best used?
So far, I have used them sparingly at home. Here and there I’ve mentioned that I need to watch it for such and such and ask if anyone wants to watch it with me. The problem with this is that their growth in knowledge is piecemeal. Maybe that is fine. This approach works pretty well with the topics and word studies.
or, Load it on Chronologically
So far it is always well received but I’m not sure if they will lose their charm if I lay it on with frequency. Maybe I’ll circle back and let you know because I’d love to go through the whole story-line with my family – of the Old Testament and the New Testament – beginning with Genesis and ending with Revelation. It could take a few years if we dive into the readings as well.
As a resource
The other way is to look up a book or theme if you are personally studying it on your own or with friends. This does not have to be done systematically; it can be a resource for whenever you need it.
Use it, Watch it, Pass it On
The point is, #bibleproject is great. I hope it can help you to get into God’s Word. What are you studying this week?