Sunday, January 14, 2018

Weighing the Alternative Gospels: Non-Gnostic Gospels

Resuming a long-term project here, this post continues a presentation of objective, computerized statistical analysis of all the various documents that are called gospels, both those that are in the Bible and those that are not.

In the previous post, we'd looked at several documents that are often classified as Gnostic gospels, and another that is sometimes nominated for the category of Gnostic gospel. In this post, we continue with another collection of that are popularly referred to as gospels, though not as Gnostic ones.

Again, the first task is to take the expectations that come with the word "gospel" and see if those expectations actually apply to these other documents. We're starting with a simple orientation to the relative size of the documents, and using English as a "rough analysis" basis for word-counts in a common language. As a point of comparison, the Biblical gospels run in length from the shortest as the Gospel of Mark at around 13840 words, to the longest as the Gospel of Luke at around 24180 words.

The relative lengths of the non-canonical documents here, in round numbers are:
  • Gospel of the Savior - 1420 words
  • Infancy Gospel of Thomas - 3210 words
  • Proto-Evangelium of James - 5310 words
  • Gospel of Peter - 1590 words
The four of these together are shorter than the Gospel of Mark alone. The longest of these, the Proto-Evangelium of James, is less than 40% of the length of the shortest Biblical gospel; it is mainly concerned with the events in the lives of Jesus' grandparents and parents leading up to his birth.

In the next installment I plan to look at another introductory question, the relative focus on Jesus, in both the Biblical and non-Biblical gospels. This will put us in a better position to have an overview of the documents in general.

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