Monday, June 23, 2008

Word Clouds of the Bible: introduction and index

If you haven't seen them yet, there are a collection of "word cloud" posts below for the four gospels.

In the last few years, "word clouds" have become popular. They are an effective way of graphing the frequency of word use in a text. They are often seen on blogs and websites as a quick indication of an author's main interests or main points.

I had a simple question: What happens when you generate a word cloud for the Bible? I wondered what insights might come to light. So far I have done five word clouds (see posts immediately below): one word cloud for each of the four gospels, and a fifth word cloud for all the gospels combined. I was interested to look them over, see connections, see things highlighted, ponder the questions raised.

Word clouds are definitely a limited tool. There is much you cannot tell, a risk of seeing a large count of trees but never actually seeing the word "forest". Still it provides an interesting snapshot of the themes and motifs running through the gospels.

As time permits, I'll continue with other parts of the Bible. (Updates have been made since the original posting. Last update 07/08/2008.)

By the way, my goal as a blogger has been to have my own topic frequency mirror the priorities of the Bible; this will give me a quick way to check myself. It might give us an easy index as to whether a given book has the same priorities as the Bible. I'd be tempted to analyze systematic theologies in that way to make an initial assessment of whether they had their priorities straight. Ah, the possibilities ...

Links to Bible word clouds:
Combined gospels
1 Corinthians
2 Corinthians
1 Thessalonians
2 Thessalonians
1 Timothy
2 Timothy
1 Peter
2 Peter
1 John
2 John
3 John


Student of statistics said...

This is particularly fun! Where did you get the software to test the word clouds?
Actually, I was thinking about doing a statistical test on the bible and googled "word frequency bible", which led me to your blog.
I'd like to talk to you more about these ideas!

Matt and Matt said...

Hey ... I like your clouds. Check out my clouds of three different religious texts from different traditions: