It’s seriously unbelievable! I’ve never seen anything like it. It just may be the way of the future. It’s called “The Bible Project.” And it’s completely free. To be honest, I got instantly depressed when I watched my first Bible Project video. I clicked on the 7 minute survey of Leviticus and I was like, “Okay, so I never want to teach Leviticus again.” (Keep in mind that part of my Ph.D. dissertation was on Leviticus.) See it for yourself:
If you’re looking for a super clear, in-depth yet concise, engaging but not goofy, aesthetically pleasing but not artistically annoying overview of the Bible, then look no further. Go to jointhebibleproject.com. See it for yourself:
Dr. Tim Mackie, a pastor with a Ph.D. in Old Testament, is one of the founders and creators of The Bible Project. Tim was kind enough to let me interview him for my blog to give us some more insight about this amazing resource.
PS: Tim, thanks so much for chatting with us on my blog! Why don’t you start by telling us how you came up with the idea for The Bible Project? (Assuming you came up with it.)
TM: The whole thing started at a backyard barbecue! I was finishing up graduate school, teaching classes at Western Seminary, and I had created a series of short (low-budget!) videos called “The Bible in Five” to help people who were reading through the Bible. The barbecue was hosted by a friend from college, Jon Collins. He had gone on since college to start two creative marketing companies, Epipheo and Sincerely Truman, where he had honed his skills at telling stories and creating short, animated explainer videos. We dreamed about combining our passions for biblical theology and creative communication to make something that, as far as we knew, didn’t exist: a library of beautifully crafted videos exploring each biblical book and showing how they fit together into a unified story. We started looking around and couldn't find anything like it, and there you have it. We saw a need, and started making them!
PS:What I love most about the videos are that you come at the topics through the lens of Biblical Theology. Can you briefly explain the heart of this approach and why you believe it’s the best way to engage God’s word?
TM: Basically it’s a difference between coming to the Bible and making it answer all of my questions, or humbly learning how to read the Bible on its own terms. Most people are introduced to read Bible as a theological encyclopedia or a collection or moralistic tales. This usually involves whitewashing biblical stories to make them more palatable, or taking stories and sentences out of context to support this or that idea, all the while overlooking what those texts mean in the context of the entire book.
We’re trying to present the Bible in a way that honors the integrity of each biblical book, while showing how they all fit together into a unified storyline the points to Jesus. So we’re making videos about every biblical book, exploring its unique literary design and core ideas the author is trying to communicate in context. We also make videos about core biblical themes that unify the story, tracing them from their first appearance and showing how they lead up to Jesus and the arrival of God’s kingdom.
Basically we’re trying to introduce people to the Bible as it presents itself, and let its language, story, and images shape how we think about things, instead of vice-versa.
PS: I’m curious: about how much time and money does it take to produce a single video? I mean, the graphics alone have got to take a ton of time.
TM: I remember being totally blown away at how much time it took to make the first videos! It all depends on the level of animation and art. The “Read Scripture” videos we’re doing on each biblical book take about 200 hours to write, illustrate, and animate (about $5,000 average). The more elaborate videos using color and full-scale animation require anywhere from three to four times that amount of time and money. I’ll come into the office and watch an animator spend an entire day animating or drawing one scene. It’s really amazing.
PS: So, why in the world don’t you charge for these videos?! You could probably make a killing off these. Are you a Jesus-follower or something?
TM: Jon and I really believe in the beauty and power of the Scriptures when people see how they point to Jesus. We wanted to make something that was compelling and available to anyone without any obstacles, including money. It just seemed wrong to make money off the Bible. It’s not my story!
We also wanted them to fit into the existing media-world we all inhabit: YouTube and Facebook. That’s when we realized we could create a crowd-funding community around the project. If someone finds the videos valuable, they’re likely to share them with others and help us make more. We had a hunch that if the Church around the world found a use for the videos, the resources would become available. And that’s totally what’s happened!
PS: What’s your vision for this project? Will you stop once all the 66 books and relevant theological themes covered?
TM: My big dream is to make the equivalent of an entire seminary education available for free on our YouTube channel. We’re about to wrap up the Torah series, and a year from now we’ll be done with the Read Scriptures series on every book of the Bible. We have at least a dozen more theme videos we’d like to make. On the docket for next Summer is a whole series on how to read and study the Bible. After that we want to make a series exploring the origins and making of the Bible (Dead Sea scrolls, the formation of the Canon, stuff like that!). A dream project we’re tinkering with is a holy-land virtual-tour series, exploring lots of ancient biblical sites and their history and significance. Another huge priority is translation into other languages. Imagine pastors in remote areas being able to take classes based on video resources in their own language!
PS: So how can we help you in this project? I see that you are trying to raise money to fund these videos. Are you looking for new supporters?
Yes! The easiest way to go watch the videos for yourself, and then share your favorites with others through social media or use them in your church community. We’re always raising money for the next video, so at any time you can give a one-time gift or sign up to become a monthly donor at www.jointhebibleproject.com (monthly donors get special perks, NPR style!).
Thanks so much for hanging out on my blog! And most of all, thanks for your selfless work for the kingdom.