Friday, December 28, 2012

Comparing Mark and John with Mathematical Models

Thank you for your patience with these document comparisons. We're getting close to my being able to show you some more interesting things you can see with the comparisons, but wanted to at least get all the Biblical gospels into the mix before we started going beyond them. So for the fourth gospel, here are results from comparing Mark with John.

The short version of the results

I did have a chance to work through the problems with the calculation and to make them more sound, where two shared words will now never have a negative impact on the comparison. I'm now simply using the smaller of the two numbers for any word pair, which works out to 0 when the word isn't on both lists. I'll also be updating the previous documents with the corrected calculations.

Shared Word Estimate (22/48) = 46%
Shared Emphasis Estimate 54%

There is less similarity between Mark and John than we previously saw between Mark and Matthew or Luke. In the notes on the Shared Emphasis Estimate, I'll include some notes on where the differences are found.

Notes on the Shared Word Estimate

Again, Mark is the shorter document. It has 48 words included in the high-frequency word list, which is limited to words that would make at least a 1% difference in the total as discussed previously. Of those 48 words, only 22 are also in John's high-frequency words list calculated in the same way, which is the lowest match rate we have seen yet among the gospels. So 22/48 = 46%, rounded to the nearest whole number. Again, since the percentages involved are already effectively rounded when we leave out low-frequency words, it does not seem warranted to use a lot of decimals in the percentage.

Notes on the Shared Emphasis Estimate

With Mark and John, , the highest-frequency word in both documents is "Jesus". But the differences start as early as the second word on the list, where "man" is second in Mark's but "father" is second in John's. For the first time in our comparisons, even though John is the longer document, its high-emphasis words list is actually shorter at 44 words. This is an objective, verifiable measure of what people have long perceived about the fourth gospel: John's perceptions are more distilled or filtered, more focused -- possibly more edited, or more selective.

When we look at where the differences occur, there are some points of interest. Again, the comparisons is done from the perspective of Mark's gospel; other differences would come to light when using John as the baseline. When comparing Mark's top words to John's, there are 26 that are not on John's top words list; they are listed in the order of their importance in Mark's word list: crowd, teachers, around, anyone, began,  took, house, law, against, kingdom, mother, boat, hands, eat, days, lord, children, heaven, others, sitting, twelve, chief, evil, hear, James, looked. When we follow the leads that are given here, we might find fewer crowd scenes and fewer action scenes in John than in Mark.

Then there are the words on both lists that are emphasized noticeably less in John than in Mark: people and man. Again, this adds weight to the possibility that we'll find measurably fewer crowd scenes and action scenes in John.

The histories passed down about the Gospel of John mention that it was written to supplement the previously-written gospels. One way this may be seen is Mark's relatively greater emphasis on Jesus' public life, and John's relatively greater emphasis on private moments.

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