The Bible Project

The Bible Project

The Bible Project is a non-profit that is creating short, animated videos for each book of the Bible, as well as its central themes, free to the viewer. Founded by adjunct faculty member Tim Mackie (along with storyteller Jon Collins), these videos provide an approachable way to become familiar with the narrative of Scripture.

What prompted you to start The Bible Project?

TM: My own experience with the Bible really started when I was 20 years old, reading it as a new Christian. While the stories about Jesus were compelling, the rest of it remained fairly impenetrable, strange, and occasionally disturbing. I think that many people experience the Bible in that way. They resign themselves to not really reading or understanding it very well, and for some the Bible actually becomes an obstacle to growing in their faith. And this, I think, is tragic. The Scriptures have become such a powerful source of transformation for me personally, I wanted to help correct misunderstandings of the Bible and help others grasp just how profound and beautiful they really are. My partner Jon Collins has a similar story, and he’s been honing his skills as a storyteller through the medium of short, animated videos. Our dream was to create short videos that were engaging and beautiful, that allow the Bible to tell its own story to our culture, using a medium that everyone is tuned into right now, YouTube.

I am sure you have been overwhelmed with the amount of content you could include in the videos. What is your process for simplifying content from the Bible to create the videos?

TM: One of my goals as a Bible teacher has been to help condense each book of the Bible down to its basic structure and isolate its main themes. So I’ve done some of that work beforehand, but the medium of 5-6min animated videos brings another set of factors that force us to boil things down even more. It’s a huge challenge, and the medium doesn’t allow us to include anything extraneous. We always end up cutting our scenes or content that is good, but not essential. Often we’ll start writing the script for a video and realize that we’re actually trying to cram three different videos into one. And our process for simplification? Jon Collin’s brain. He has amazing intuition about storytelling and when we’re trying to do too much.

Regarding the books/themes of the Bible, what is something new you have learned about them because of this project?

TM: We try to make each video with an ‘aha!’ moment, where things click for the viewer, and so we’re having those all the time. In the Heaven and Earth video, using the two circles to tell the story of the Bible took on a life of its own, showing how it helped explain ideas about heaven, the temple, sacrifice, and Jesus’ announcement of the kingdom. The visual medium forces us to keep thinking through biblical stories that we thought we understood, only to discover they’re more profound than we realized.

What advice would you give to someone who is trying to read the Bible? What advice would you give to a pastor who is trying to encourage their congregation to read the Bible as one larger story with an overarching narrative?

TM: My biggest encouragement to individuals is to not read the Bible alone, to use resources to help you along the way, and to start with the stories about Jesus. To be a Christian is to make Jesus the starting point for a new understanding of the whole world, the Bible included. No matter what other goals a person has in reading the rest of the Bible, immersing oneself in the four Gospels is the linchpin for everything else. I do think developing the habit of personal Bible reading is vitally important, but simply starting at page one without anyone else or any help is a recipe for frustration, for most people at least. For pastors, I really do encourage creating something like a year-long teaching series coordinated to a Bible reading plan. You can coordinate Sunday teachings with the plan, but the key is to offer classes or online resources that can help people keep the thirty-thousand foot view and to help explain the many difficult parts of the Bible. There are lots of great books (for example, Craig Bartholomew’s Drama of Scripture) or accessible commentaries (the For Everyone series by John Goldingay and N.T. Wright) that can guide people through the main plotline of the whole story even as they work through book-by-book.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

TM: The Bible Project is a non-profit venture, and a big value for us is making all this video content available for free to the public. Helping spread the word through your own social-media channels and encouraging people to donate is the key to helping us make more. So any and all support is appreciated!

Take five minutes to watch one of their incredible videos, most recently Exodus Pt. 2.


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