Who among us hasn’t looked up from reading Numbers or 1 Chronicles and thought, “If only the Old Testament came with pictures!” Well, now it does. Sort of.

The Infographic Guide to the Bible: The Old Testament, the latest volume (2017) in the “Infographic Guide” series from Simon & Schuster imprint Adams Media, manages to break down the Old Testament’s main themes into concise, visually appealing graphics. Teachers of Sunday school and confirmation classes take note: your deliverance from another slog through Jacob’s lineage is at hand!

This clever little book, authored by Hillary Thompson and Edward F. Duffy (a Presbyterian minister) with designer Erin Dawson, is most successful when the information presented lends itself naturally to graphic form. Maps, family trees and short blurbs all work well. This means that sections on the genealogy of Adam and Eve, the authorship of Psalms, and the “6 Little-Known Women of the Old Testament” are fantastic: visually captivating in bold and bright graphics, but also with interesting text, set free from the constraints of ancient biblical language. Other sections are less successful. I puzzled over a chart that was meant to explain the “7 Sacred Feasts of Israel” for some time before giving up.

It’s also true that some of the sections are so dense with text that calling them “infographics” may be stretching the truth. “7 Takeaways from Sodom and Gomorrah” falls into this category. When you compare it with the beautifully designed section on Abraham, you’re able to see the strengths and weaknesses of this kind of exercise. The first confuses, the latter illuminates.

The Infographic Guide’s introduction suggests that the book might be a good supplement for Bible study, and I agree. It’s fantastic at distilling the central ideas and concerns of the Old Testament. I would hesitate to offer it to a young person as a stand-alone book, however, because it doesn’t explore nuance. The story of Adam and Eve, for example, is presented as straightforward history, an idea that many may be uncomfortable passing on to younger generations, and one that misses the intricacies of our relationship as creations to Creator.

But combining this book with discussion and selected Old Testament passages is a great idea, making use of its inherent charms. It’s approachable, scholarly and fun—a combination we don’t see every day.

Shannon Reed
Shannon Reed is a professor and freelance writer. The daughter and granddaughter of ELCA clergy, she is a member of Zion Lutheran Church in Pittsburgh.

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