Thursday, July 10, 2008

Highlights: New Testament Word Frequency Studies by Book

I hope I haven't tried peoples' patience too badly with the word clouds. I've now completed the New Testament word clouds by individual book. I find them interesting because they allow such a quick and easy check on an author's main point. As I was doing them, I spotted a few interesting things about individual books:
  • All four of the gospels have "Jesus" as the most frequent word.
  • In the book of Acts, the most frequently used word (not counting background words) is "Paul". The book names "Paul" more often than "Jesus"; also more than "God". Hmm.
  • The Book of Revelation actually has "dragon" among the frequently-used words. As Dorothy once said, "Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore."
  • The Book of Romans' top 10 words, sorted by frequency, almost reads like a diagram of its basic message: God, law, sin, Christ, Lord, man, faith, Jesus, spirit, righteousness.
  • Every book in the New Testament has either "Jesus" or "Christ" (or both) in its common words list except two books: James and 3 John, both of which have remarkably little to say about Jesus. Those two, interestingly, were slow to gain acceptance in Christian circles.

6 comments:

BruceA said...

I've enjoyed this series. It's been interesting looking at the New Testament from this perspective. Thank you for taking the time to put together these word clouds!

Weekend Fisher said...

Hi Bruce

I'm glad to know that someone besides me finds this interesting. I checked your profile: yep, sure enough, another tekkie. Why am I not surprised? ;)

Do you know what else is cool? I've seen some things in some preliminary analysis that I haven't published yet -- comparing the canonical works to the "lost scriptures", seeing which works score the strongest on, say, being about Jesus, on having a Jewish context (or on assuming a Gnostic framework), some preliminary word frequency comparisons to get an objective statistical rating of how compatible are the main topics of different writings (say, the synoptics and the Gospel of John, or the undisputed Pauline letters and the disputed ones) ... Ooh I've been having fun with this. Much more to come, though it will definitely take awhile for me to get the analysis solidified and the presentation in decent shape.

I can tell I'm going to end up writing some special-purpose programs by the end of it.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

Tom Lafferty said...

Hmmm - I just did an Excel based analysis of the book of Acts, and my count of importat words is as follows:
God/Jesus/Lord,349, 50.87%
Paul, 149, 21.72%
Jew(s) 76, 11.08%
Peter 59, 8.60%
Gentile(s) 29, 4.23%
Law 24, 3.5%

Interestingly enough, the references to God and Jesus are nearly equivalent: 174, and 175 respectively.

I would be happy to send you the workbook - just drop an email to thomas_e_lafferty@yahoo.com

Weekend Fisher said...

Hm, just found your comment tonight.

Here are the counts I have:
Paul: 179
God: 166
Lord: 106
Jesus: 75
Saul: 31

No doubt if you add all the God-related words, you do get a higher total than if you add Paul and Saul.

Still, that "Paul" shows up more than "Jesus" is ... an interesting insight on the emphasis of the book. In the gospels and major epistles, you hardly have to add together the God-related words to get them to come out first.

Or like F.F. Bruce said, an ancient writer who described Acts' contents as "the acts of all the apostles" was exaggerating about the subject matter covered.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

Steve said...

Hi Anne, I'm trying to use the New Testament - the Gospels in particular - to teach foreign languages. I believe it will assist in learning a language AND learning the world of God. To do so, I would like to see if you have the word frequency list that I could use to efficiently translate the most effective manner. My email address is steven.g.ryan@gmail.com. Thank you!

Steve said...

Hi Anne, I'm trying to use the New Testament - the Gospels in particular - to teach foreign languages. I believe it will assist in learning a language AND learning the world of God. To do so, I would like to see if you have the word frequency list that I could use to efficiently translate the most effective manner. My email address is steven.g.ryan@gmail.com. Thank you!