The Bible Project
About three years ago I was scrolling through my YouTube recommendations feed, looking for new and interesting videos. Since I regularly view biblical and theological content, my feed often contains helpful resources (along with videos on college football or live music). As I scrolled, one particular video thumbnail caught my attention. The thumbnail contained an aesthetically pleasing animated image of Job. I clicked on the video and had my first exposure to The Bible Project.
Given the prevalence of cheesy animated Bible content in the world, I was very pleasantly surprised by the artistic integrity of The Bible Project video on Job. The animation featured a distinct hand-drawn visual style with a thoughtful color pallete and excellent editing. Even more, the narrator’s commentary offered insightful theological perspectives and well-researched engagement with the biblical text. Since that moment in time, The Bible Project has become an invaluable resource for me both as a college instructor and house church pastor.
Using The Bible Project In The Classroom
Since my exposure to the Job video, I have subsequently spent countless hours engaging with content from The Bible Project–animated videos, podcasts, and print articles. Even though their team of writers and animators operate within a clear faith-based, Christocentric framework, they produce content that is academically rigorous and free from sectarian bias. I am consistently impressed with their ability to create space for diverse Christian viewpoints, a value also shared by Conciliar Post. Furthermore, their Christian approach to the Hebrew scriptures shows a respectful engagement with Jewish history and scholarship. Because of this, I am comfortable using their videos in public college classrooms.
For example, their excellent series on Luke-Acts is a key resource for my classes. While I ask my Bible and Culture students to read the biblical text as a part of their regular coursework, I know that many students benefit from a visual engagement with biblical stories. Typically I show one or two videos a day from the series over the course of several days. By the time we complete the series, my students have a general understanding of the Gospel story of Jesus and know about the roots and early history of the Christian church. While they can get this same information from a written text, The Bible Project videos make that information come to life.
Beyond using their videos as a part of class lecture and discussion, I include resources from The Bible Project on the course website. Even though The Bible Project began as an animation studio, they have since branched out into the world of podcasts. They offer a regular podcast that is essentially a behind-the-scenes look into the conversations that eventually develop into their next video series. In the podcast episodes, co-founders Tim and Jon have a casual conversation on a biblical topic or text that delves into the research Tim is conducting for future videos. While most of their videos are around 5-6 minutes, the podcast episodes are about an hour in length and explore the topics in greater detail. Additionally, co-founder and scholar Tim Mackie has a personal podcast that includes his archive of sermons and lectures.
Using The Bible Project In The Church
From what I have gathered, The Bible Project began with the initial goal of making one video for each book of the Bible. These early videos have a whiteboard style where texts and animations are written out while a narrator explains. This style was inspired by Tim Mackie’s hand-drawn diagrams for sermons and lectures. These videos, on both the Old and New Testaments, are an excellent resource for small-group Bible studies or personal devotions. Recently, I used the video on I Thessalonians to begin an excellent spiritual conversation in a weeknight Bible study group.
Beyond use in small groups, The Bible Project videos are a great asset for both children’s ministry and youth ministry. The animated style certainly appeals to young people. My own children will sometimes ask me to play videos from The Bible Project, and they can sit through multiple videos in a row. However, it would be a mistake to think that their videos are only for the young. The theological content is certainly deep enough to hold the interest of more mature believers. In fact, since The Bible Project is faithful to the biblical text, a text that includes stories of violence, sex, and injustice, much of the animated content includes topics that may be difficult to discuss with very young children. Some level of discernment may actually be needed before using a video in a Sunday School classroom.
Lastly, The Bible Project offers helpful tools and resources to pastors and preachers. While not being able to entirely replace the value of a commentary, The Bible Project videos provide helpful ways to summarize biblical content in succinct and understandable ways. Furthermore, for pastors the podcast series, with its more in-depth content, offers perspectives and insights that can complement and supplement other forms of sermon research and preparation.
Featured image from Flickr user Shay Tal. Used under creative commons license.