Visualization Of Biblical Cross References And Supposed Contradictions

Chris Harris created some pretty graphics showing Biblical cross references and other such things. Below is the main result:

The bar graph that runs along the bottom represents all of the chapters in the Bible. Books alternate in color between white and light gray. The length of each bar denotes the number of verses in the chapter. Each of the 63,779 cross references found in the Bible is depicted by a single arc – the color corresponds to the distance between the two chapters, creating a rainbow-like effect.

One thing leads to another

The graph at his place is interactive. Hovering over one of lines lights it up; clicking on it brings you to the verses in question. Clever invention which will be useful in lots of applications.

End of story except that another group thought it would be fun to appropriate the same technique and use the lines to connect Biblical “contradictions.” Hemant Mehta, a.k.a. The Friendly Atheist (unlike in the mafia, today’s aliases are self-applied), wrote glowingly of the effort of Andy Marlow, who did the work for “Sam Harris’ Reason Project”, and Daniel G. Taylor, who did it for fun (we guess).

Taylor’s website is BibViz (Bible Visualization), which links the graph’s lines to the Skeptics Annotated Bible.

So, for fun, I went and clicked on one of the lines. Here is the very first one, which led to the page “Did Jesus perform many signs and wonders?” One column says Yes, He did. Another says, No, He did not.

Yes example (of four): (Mark 16:20) “And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following.”

No example (of three): (Matthew 12:39, 16:4) “An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas.”

All seven examples are tepid in that same sense, meaning they are poor exemplars of the question at hand. None of the “Yes” verses show Jesus working any miracles. Such as helping folks bypass the morgue, even removing the toe-tags of some; walking on water; feeding thousands from nearly empty baskets; and raising Himself from Death. And the “No” verses aren’t non-miracles, but Jesus’s chiding unbelievers for their lack of faith.

These and the other “contradictions” I checked (I of course did not read all of them) reveal more about the author of the supposed contradictions than it does about Christianity. They are just silly and more of a stretch than Nan…ah, skip it.

Don’t just take my word for it. Go play. Here’s another under the heading “Must everyone die?” Some people will never die: (John 11:26) “And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” Everyone will die: (Hebrews 9:27) “And as it is appointed unto men once to die.” Sigh. Atheists and protesting Christians can be so literal.

Okay, just one more (these are like candy for fallacy finders like Yours Truly): “Is it OK to call someone a fool?” It’s OK to call someone a fool. (Proverbs 28;26) “He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool.” It’s not OK to call someone a fool. (Matthew 5:22; the sole exemplar) “Whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.” So is it OK if I call this entry foolish?

Plenty more examples of people finding only that evidence they hope to find and not seeing what is plain.

Well, the “contradictions” weren’t enough. Also included are bar graphs of instances of things like “Misogyny, Violence & Discrimination Against Women.” I clicked the last and was lead to this page. Eight quotes from Revelation. Like 17:6, “And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs.” I’m not sure whether that’s violence or discrimination. Your idea?

Another category was “Discrimination Against Homosexuals.” I clicked the last again but it led to a link which must be an error (more Revelation):

“Dogs [homosexuals?], sorcerers, whoremongers, idolaters” and along with anyone who ever told a lie will not enter the heavenly city. “[T]he term ‘dogs’ in Rev 22:15 primarily has in view emasculated male cult prostitutes, without excluding a wider reference to any who engage in homosexual practice.” Robert Gagnon (The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics) 22:15.

Yeesh. A much better example of discrimination—a word which has neither positive nor negative connotations until it is linked to a subject—is the line that led to 2 Peter (2:6-9): “God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for living ungodly, filthy conversation, and unlawful deeds.”


Thanks to Nate Winchester for sending these sites in.


  1. Ken

    RE: “Atheists and protesting Christians can be so literal”

    Why pick on them — so many Christians & Christian pastors selectively pick clauses & apply them in the “same way” … the “same way” being whatever way suits their interest, literally & creatively by any of variety of fashions, as they apply it.

    Consider the following amazing contradiction, for example:

    Matthew 5:43-48 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

    That there’s a precept one has no difficulty at all in finding Christians not only violating en-masse, they find rationales elsewhere from the very same author for doing so.

    The contradictions in the Reference Document aren’t the primary problem…it’s the practitioners using that Reference to justify whatever they want.

  2. Ken

    The contradictions in the [Holy] Reference Document aren’t the primary problem…it’s the practitioners using that Reference to justify whatever they want.

    Consider the Pilgrims…and so many, every day, thanking God for what science [however primitive] provides via individual hard work: By Spring, 1621, half the Pilgrims died and local Indians stepped in an helped out by teaching them out to fish & grow food. Who did the Pilgrims thank…God. Misplaced attribution of this sort, a type of inverse libel, thanking God for things people accomplished (often in spite of what God created) is endemic.

    ..The Pilgrims, by the way, considered marriage a civil, NOT religious, rite–and they explicitly linked their practices, beliefs & rituals to that actually found in the Bible–rejecting much of the sacraments the then dominant Catholic Church maintained because they were not actually found in the bible (food for thought re the earlier rationalizations about marriage here on this blog…). Think about that next time you celebrate Thanksgiving!

    Another deadly serious contradiction — religious persecution…specifically…Christian-ON-Christian persecution (e.g. the festivities in Northern Ireland between Protestants & Catholics only recently subsiding); noteworthy historical examples, including some estimated body counts, at:

    THAT — CHRISTIAN-on-CHRISTIAN AND RELIGIOUS-BASED PERSECTUION — has no historical counterpart in history associated with pagan religions (sure, they fought, but NOT because differing religious views brought on the conflict…that is unique to monotheism).

    And so it goes…

    The Pilgrims were Calvinists…other different versions of the faith — ALL asserting legitimacy by properly interpreting THE SAME HOLY, DIVINELY INSPIRED, book. And all coming to different conclusions…and routinely massacring each other for each other’s different beliefs AND justifying the killing based on what they saw in the very same holy book.

    Therein lie some pretty hefty contradictions…constantly splitting denominations of faith with mutually-contradictory doctrines, bloodshed, tombstones…all among the believers & practitioners….

    …If one truly subscribes to the viewpoint, ‘judge a tree by its fruit’* one invariably questions…like, why couldn’t an omnipotent creator (one of all seen & unseen) have inspired a reference document that wasn’t so readily malleable to so many varied interpretations…one that’s found at the center of so much dissention?**

    * Matt 7:16 (roughly 75 AD-ish) or Euripides (Greek Playwright, 480-406 BC), take your pick…

    ** Alan Dundes has some insights on this in his short work, “Holy Writ as Oral Lit” available everywhere; it’s a great read-along side-by-side with just one’s Bible.

  3. Briggs


    So you agree that protesting Christians (i.e. Protestants) can be too literal in their readings?

  4. Scotian


    Quote: “By Spring, 1621, half the Pilgrims died and local Indians stepped in an helped out by teaching them out to fish & grow food”.

    Don’t buy it. The following link gives a much more plausible history.

  5. VXXC

    ““God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for living ungodly, filthy conversation, and unlawful deeds.”

    Now Now. Civility, please.

  6. ad

    I suspect you’d get a similar result using other large bodies of fictional material, such as Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings.

  7. Gary

    Ken, really? Christians (along with pretenders) not living like Jesus did and not behaving as he exhorted them? That’s the big contradiction? Read Paul’s letters to the Corinthian church. Hardly a bunch of perfect angels there, yet called fellow-believers by the chief evangelist. How does failure of adherents invalidate the source of moral authority, especially when that authority not only documents such behavior but predicts it?

  8. VXXC

    Is Bernard Bailyn fictional too? Progs should like him. Actually they love him. He uses term race war from the beginning of Barbarous Years. Needless to say he got great reviews. However it’s very informative, and explodes the myth of the noble savage helping the Pilgrims out of out of kindness.

    Race war in the 17th century is a term that is gently described as anarchonistic.

    It wouldn’t have seemed that way to the antagonists. Then again race as we use it is a concept from the 1930s.

    Perhaps the Old Testament should be read as modern archeologists do: History.

  9. Eric Anderson

    That’s pretty embarrassing if that is indicative of the “contradictions” listed. A moment’s thought would be sufficient to realize that context is important, particularly in a work spanning hundreds of years and multiple authors. Agreed that it says more about the complainant’s thought process (and motives?) than it says about the Bible.

    Incidentally, I don’t doubt that in a large work such as the Bible (need I repeat: over hundreds of years and multiple authors, translated from other languages) there would crop up a few items that might be contradictory or that at least would require some careful explanation. But those appear to be rare, and the grasping at straws to find contradictions little more than a “let’s-perform-a-word-search” game.

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