I did receive a copy of Picture the New Testament: A Photo Commentary for free in exchange for my unbiased review.
Last week I saw that Accordance had released a new, exclusive, visual commentary in their library — Picture the New Testament: A Photo Commentary. As I like to use many images when I’m preaching or teaching, the product held some interest for me. When I was offered a review copy I jumped at the chance 1.
Each of the images in the module is able to be copied, as with all Accordance modules, for use in personal projects — including teaching slides. Any other use, including posting on the internet or republishing in a book 2 needs to be approved by the individual copyright holder. Thankfully, Accordance provides contact information for each photographer in the introduction to the module 3.
The introductory material of Picture the NT suggests the best way of using the module is to set it up as a secondary pane, synced to a biblical text. I can confirm this is, indeed, the best way to use Picture the NT — but with one caveat. Many verses will have more than one image attached to them, so be prepared to scroll both panes in order to see all the content.
Picture the NT is functional on both the Desktop and iPad versions of Accordance, but I found it really shines on the tablet — the reduced chrome of Accordance’s iOS version lends itself to image viewing. Image descriptions are also able to be expanded when viewing images in full-screen on the iPad, which is something I couldn’t do on my Mac 4. The desktop version, however, allows users to utilize Accordance’s instant details pane to highlight information or read linked scripture passages — which is something that is more difficult on the iPad 5.
Having now explored this new module I’m able to give my first thoughts, which may be summed up with one sentence.
Picture the NT does something I thought impossible, it makes spending time on biblical genealogies interesting.
I recognize the importance of Genealogies in the biblical text, but when I’m reading devotionally I confess I tend to skim them. As I began my exploration of Picture the NT I defaulted into my, “Well there can’t be much that’s interesting in here” mode of thinking as I skimmed through the genealogy in Matthew. At which point I was astounded to see the number of images scrolling by. Intrigued, I scrolled back up to Matthew 1:1 and began making my way through Matthew’s genealogy. What I found was background, glorious background 6. Images for a number of the figures highlighted in the genealogy are included, with commentary as to their significance for the corresponding biblical verse 7. I spent about thirty minutes pouring through the images and commentary, fascinated by the amount of color Picture the NT was giving Matthew 1 beyond my own memory of the Old Testament narrative.
That, right there, is the genius of Picture the NT. People, especially in Protestant Evangelical circles, will often speak of the “plain meaning of the text.” In many cases this is fine, as there is enough context in the text itself to lend itself to an accurate reading of a Biblical passage. Much of the Bible, and specifically for this review the New Testament, relies on readers sharing assumptions in both culture and experience 8. Picture the NT offers the opportunity to fill in some of the gaps in these shared cultural assumptions and experiences with visual imagery.
And it bears repeating, “Picture the NT does something I thought impossible, it makes spending time on biblical genealogies interesting.”
At present Picture the NT covers the four Gospels, Acts, and 1 &2 Peter. As one might expect, there is a significant overlap of images in the Gospels. But there is enough variation that it’s worth having Picture the NT open any time the Gospel text is being explored. Acts is also a wonderful source of imagery for the missionary journeys. More books will be made available in the future, for free. Best of all the module is on sale through the end of November 12 for $69.90. That’s thirty dollars off the list price!
So who is Picture the NT’s target audience? It may appeal primarily to pastors and teachers who are looking for pictorial illustrations of the biblical text, and that certainly applies to me. At the same time, I can see Picture the NT as a valuable tool for lay people in their personal study of the text. The images and descriptions provide a cornucopia of background material 9 and insight into the world of the New Testament and should appeal to anyone who really wants to understand the New Testament.
And it made genealogies interesting.
It’s well worth the list price, especially given the promise of free updates. At $69.90 this is a steal.
- I’m going to shorten the name to “Picture the NT” for the rest of this review. ↩
- I’m claiming fair use exception for my screenshots because I’m writing a review. Just in case you were wondering. ↩
- As a personal aside, please don’t write demanding use of the images for free. It’s rude. ↩
- The description gets clipped in full-screen, but is still readable when the images are not expanded. ↩
- The lack of a dedicated pointing device means there is no “hover” functionality, on which instant details depends. It would be nice if that could be simulated with the Apple Pencil, but to my knowledge the API’s don’t yet exist. ↩
- I am a history nerd, so I get excited by background information. I am perplexed by people who find background boring, they’re weird. ↩
- My favorite is from Matthew 1:3, which depicts what may have been meant by Judah’s “seal and cord” in Genesis 38. I’m not showing it here, buy a copy of this module. ↩
- This is why many non-rural people tend to miss the deeper point of agricultural references, food comes from the super-market. ↩
- See what I did there? Yes I know you’re not supposed to point things like that out, but I impressed myself. ↩