Do you view the Bible as dated, obsolete, and irrelevant to your daily life? Or are you intimidated by the Bible and find it difficult to read? Or do you have difficulty seeing how different parts of the Bible fit together?
Bible Gateway interviewed Tim Challies (@challies) and Josh Byers (@joshbyers), authors of the book A Visual Theology Guide to the Bible (Zondervan, 2019) (website and @visualtheology), a feast for the eyes stuffed with colorful infographics that explain facts and teachings of the Bible.
For someone who may not be familiar with it, please explain what the Bible is and why you like it so much.
Tim Challies: Quite simply, the Bible is God’s Word; his communication to the world. We believe it is inerrant (without error) and infallible (perfect in all it decrees and commands); the perfect revelation of this perfect God and his perfect works and ways.
Describe how your book is organized and designed.
Josh Byers: The book is organized around several questions:
We started by answering those questions as the basic outline of the book. We spend the first two main sections of the book answering the first three questions. In the last part of the book, we go through the entire Bible starting in Genesis and show the reader how it all fits together and that ultimately the entire Bible is the story of Jesus.
The main goal of the design of the book was to be as simple and clear as possible. Every single page was art directed—in that the graphics and text work together to answer each question and present the information. To best achieve this I used a typical grid format normally reserved for magazines. This allowed us to design the spaces where the graphics and text could interact and work together but also keep a good amount of white space to let all the content breathe.
What was the most challenging infographic to create for the book?
Josh Byers: The most challenging graphics typically involve either abstract concepts or a large amount of data to parse. Probably the most difficult one in this book was the graphic that laid out the timeline of the kings and prophets of Israel in the Old Testament.
What is one of your favorite infographics in the book and why?
Josh Byers: It’s hard to answer which one is your favorite—kind of like asking which one of my kids I like the most—but if I have to choose probably the infographic that shows the life of Christ woven all through the Scriptures. One of our main goals in the book was to show that Jesus is not only the big idea of the Bible but that he’s also the hero. This graphic shows you that at a single glance. It also works well because you can then dive in further and discover more.
Describe how you devised and designed the infographic regarding the Ten Commandments.
Josh Byers: The Ten Commandments are at once simple in their commands but nuanced in their overall purpose. In the graphic that I titled “Ten Rules,” I wanted to illustrate primarily that the law was a mirror to show Israel they were sinful and could not stand before a holy God. In keeping with the main goals of the book I also wanted to show Jesus as the fulfillment of the law and being able to keep it perfectly.
So there are a number of things going on in the graphic. First, the title explains what the purpose of the Ten Commandments was: to show Israel what it would take to have a relationship with God. Second I wanted to show their failures in doing so. Next, I wanted to show the success that Jesus had in keeping the law. Lastly—and this is a bit abstract—I wanted to show that the law was intended as a mirror to show Israel their true place before God so I reversed the text of the commandments given to them.
How will this book be helpful in understanding the Bible better?
Josh Byers: One of our goals was to give people confidence that they can trust what the Bible says. When you read with trust, you’re more open to listening and if you’re more open to listening, you’ll understand more. I also think if you can grasp that the Bible is organized around the story of Jesus, it makes everything else in it come into focus.
Is there a danger in approaching the Bible’s message with simplistic and colorful infographics?
Josh Byers: We obviously don’t think so 🙂 But anytime you’re trying to explain a message in any format the danger is misrepresenting the message or manipulating it to say what you want. So in that regard, we do need to be careful how we portray the data we collect and make sure that we’re being faithful to what God intended his readers to see.
God himself has been using simple visual illustrations from the very beginning to get his message across. He allowed Adam and Eve to not eat from a tree to show that they trusted him. He killed an animal to show them the consequence of their sin. He placed a curtain in a tent to portray that sinful man is separate from a holy God.
I believe as long as we’re faithful and truthful, we should strive to make the message of the Bible as understandable and accessible as possible.
How should a person read your book to get the most out of it?
Tim Challies: A Visual Theology Guide to the Bible is ideal for reading alone or reading with others and we think there will be great value in either use. We find ourselves particularly encouraged, though, when we hear of people reading it as families or small groups and then discussing it together. Any book-reading experience can be improved by sharing it with others.
What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?
Tim Challies: That’s a difficult question to answer, and it varies day by day. But recently I’ve been working through Psalm 19 with my wife and considering how it so wonderfully calls us to learn about God through both his natural revelation (the things he has made) and his special revelation (the Bible).
What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App and Bible Audio App?
Tim Challies: I’m so thankful for companies and ministries that have chosen to take advantage of these new digital technologies. Bible Gateway has been a leader in making the Bible accessible to the world and I know I’m only one of the millions of people who have benefited from its tools and resources.
A Visual Theology Guide to the Bible is published by HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc., the parent company of Bible Gateway.
Bio: A pastor, noted speaker, and author of numerous articles, Tim Challies is a pioneer in the Christian blogosphere. Over 20,000 people visit Challies.com each day, making it one of the most widely read and recognized Christian blogs in the world. Tim is also the editor of DiscerningReader.com, a site dedicated to offering thoughtful reviews of books that are of interest to Christians. Tim is the author of The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment and Sexual Detox: A Guide for Guys Who Are Sick of Porn. He and his family reside near Toronto, Ontario.
Josh Byers is a pastor, speaker, author and noted artist. His work has been featured in a wide variety of places from The Gospel Coalition to The Tonight Show. His biblical Infographics and art have been translated into multiple languages and downloaded thousands of times over. A normal day includes playing Nintendo with his family, the Denver Broncos, photography, too much coffee, Arsenal, designing fun and beautiful things, and purchasing just about anything that Apple makes. Josh, his wife, and four children reside in Carlisle, Iowa. You can find more at joshbyers.com
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