I had previously posted word clouds as an overview of several alternative gospels that are (or some contend might be) classified as Gnostic. This type of introduction is important because the word "gospel" may cause certain expectations for those familiar with the four Biblical gospels. In the Biblical gospels, the focus on Jesus' life and teachings results in documents where the most commonly-used word is "Jesus" in each of the four. That expectation of the word "gospel" may not apply to all of the alternative gospels, which do not always share that same focus on Jesus. I've included the most commonly-used word here for each of the Gnostic gospels, with links to more complete word clouds for those interested.
- The Gospel of Truth: most commonly-used word is "father"
- The Gospel of Thomas (possibly Gnostic) most commonly-used word is "Jesus"
- The Gospel of Mary most commonly-used word is "Savior"
- The Gospel of Philip most commonly-used word is "man"
One important item lacking so far is any indication of their size. For instance, in the Biblical gospels, Luke is the longest (the NIV text that I used had around 24180 words) and Mark is the shortest (around 13840 words), by word count.
How much material is in the Gnostic gospels? This type of overview is important again as a perspective-check for people who are used to the word "gospel" referring to the canonical gospels, and so carry over some expectations to the alternative gospels, to find that those expectations may not apply.
- The Gospel of Truth 5220 words
- The Gospel of Thomas (possibly Gnostic) 1140 words
- The Gospel of Mary 5610 words
- The Gospel of Philip 9110 words
I hope to continue this series with other, non-Gnostic gospels in an upcoming post
Technical notes: This initial comparison has been done using English texts for the word counts. Since the various documents are in different original languages, if we want to compare word counts at all then the comparison has to be in a common language, otherwise the different meaning-density of the languages would skew the results. So English will work as a common-denominator language for an initial survey of relative lengths. For the sake of the word counts, I did not include things that were not part of the original document's text such as introductory remarks, concluding remarks, chapter headings, or parenthetical references to other documents. I also excluded thing that were not actual words such as verse numbers or the standalone punctuation mark " - ". I did keep any ellipsis marks ("...") as part of the text for word counts, on the hopes that the translators were accurate there and it did stand for one or more words in a damaged ancient manuscript.) The results are rounded to the nearest 10 words.