28 March 2007

The Best Book in the Bible (Revisted)

In my last post, I tried to find the best book in the Bible by summing up the number of good things (that I could find) in each book. When goodness is measured in that way, Proverbs is the winner, with 56 good passages.

But Proverbs is, as Bible books go, a fairly big book. So I repeated the analysis using as the measure of goodness the number of good things per 100 verses. With this metric, Ecclesiastes (17.12) is by far the best book in the Bible. (The next best, James, has less than half as many, 8.33.)

There's still a problem, though (as Jason Macker pointed out), with this measure of goodness. A book might have a few good things to say, but have twice as many cruel and intolerant ideas. How can the amount of bad stuff be accounted for in the goodness metric?

Well, here's the way I did it. As before, I totalled the number of good things in each book, but I subtracted the number of bad things. That way, I come up the book's "net goodness." (I totalled cruelty, injustice, intolerance, family values, women, and homosexuality to get the number of bad things, since the verses marked with these categories are all morally objectionable.)

Here's how it looks with this metric.

Book Net Goodness (good - bad)
Ecclesiastes 36
Proverbs 7
Jonah 0
James 0
3 John 0
Philippians -1
Philemon -1
Galatians -2
Song of Solomon -3
1 Thessalonians -3
Colossians -4
2 John -4
Nehemiah -5
Haggai -5
1 John -5
Jude -5
Joel -6
Ruth -7
Ezra -7
Habakkuk -7
Titus -7
1 Peter -7
Daniel -8
Ephesians -8
Obadiah -9
2 Thessalonians -11
2 Timothy -12
Nahum -13
2 Peter -13
Malachi -14
2 Corinthians -14
1 Timothy -14
Hebrews -14
Esther -20
Romans -25
Job -26
Lamentations -26
Zephaniah -28
Mark -28
1 Chronicles -29
Micah -31
John -31
1 Corinthians -32
Zechariah -37
Acts -42
Amos -50
Luke -50
2 Chronicles -52
Hosea -54
Joshua -69
1 Kings -75
2 Kings -82
2 Samuel -84
Matthew -86
Isaiah -90
Revelation -90
Judges -104
1 Samuel -104
Numbers -109
Leviticus -116
Exodus -144
Psalms -145
Ezekiel -145
Genesis -164
Deuteronomy -222
Jeremiah -247

So using this metric, Ecclessiates is the best book, with a net goodness of 36. The next best is Proverbs with 7.

What is surprising (to me anyway) is that these are the only two good books in the Bible. The other 64 are either neutral, with a net goodness of zero (Jonah, James, and 3 John), or bad (net goodness < 0).

But, as before, these values do not take into account the size of the book. To account for size, I found the net number of good verses per 100 verses. Here is the result, ranked from best to worst.

Book Net good per 100 verses
Ecclesiastes 16.22
Proverbs 0.77
Jonah 0.00
James 0.00
3 John 0.00
Philippians -0.96
Nehemiah -1.23
Galatians -1.34
Daniel -2.24
Job -2.43
Ezra -2.50
Song of Solomon -2.56
1 Chronicles -3.08
1 Thessalonians -3.37
John -3.53
Philemon -4.00
Mark -4.13
Acts -4.17
Colossians -4.21
Luke -4.34
Hebrews -4.62
1 John -4.76
Ephesians -5.16
2 Corinthians -5.45
Romans -5.77
Psalms -5.89
2 Chronicles -6.33
1 Peter -6.67
Isaiah -6.97
1 Corinthians -7.32
Matthew -8.03
Joel -8.22
Ruth -8.24
Numbers -8.46
1 Kings -9.19
Joshua -10.49
Genesis -10.70
Ezekiel -11.39
2 Kings -11.40
Exodus -11.87
Esther -11.98
2 Samuel -12.09
1 Timothy -12.39
Habakkuk -12.50
1 Samuel -12.84
Haggai -13.16
Leviticus -13.50
2 Timothy -14.46
Titus -15.22
Judges -16.83
Lamentations -16.88
Zechariah -17.54
Jeremiah -18.11
Jude -20.00
2 Peter -21.31
Revelation -22.28
Deuteronomy -23.15
2 Thessalonians -23.40
Malachi -25.45
Hosea -27.41
Nahum -27.66
Micah -29.52
2 John -30.77
Amos -34.25
Obadiah -42.86
Zephaniah -52.83

Once again, Ecclesiastes is the best, with over 16 net good things per 100 verses. The only other good book, as judged by this metric, is Proverbs, with less than one net good thing per 100 verses. All the other books in the Bible (including all the New Testament) are either no good or just plain bad.

(The overall average for the Bible is 9.02 net bad things / 100 verses.
See here for more "good stuff" analysis.)

28 comments:

John P said...

Admittedly, a subjective approach, but hey, you gotta start somewhere.

Thanks

tiny tim said...

It's funny, most of the so-called "bad" books are those which contain prophecies and warnings about the repercussions of the wicked behaviour of the Israelites (Jeremiah, Zephaniah, Obadiah, Amos, Micah, Nahum, Hosea, Malachi, Jeremiah, etc.).

If you read a book warning about the consequences of breaking the law and going to jail, would you consider the book to be "bad"?

So I'd like to know how you counted verses which contain warnings - are they "good" or "bad"? 2 John is a good example, a book which has been relegated to the bottom five of the badest of the bad. There are only 13 verses in this book, the first 6 and last 2 are undoubtably "good", which gives us a 61% goodness factor. We're now left with five verses in question. These verses contain warnings about deceivers entering the world and the repercussions of transgressing. Since when are warnings "bad"?

Similarly, the book of Zephaniah is a prophecy concerning the sinful nation of Israel. Obadiah is a vision concerning Israel's foes. Amos was a book written when the land of Israel was in a state of upheaval and wickedness - the writings of this book reflect this. In Micah's time, the nation of Israel was failing miserably - this writings of this book reflect this as well.

So my point is, if a book is written to address an evil or warn about an impending punishment, the book itself can't be considered "bad" since it was written specifically to address the problems of the time.

Andrew said...

I am unsure why all messages about women and family values are considered bad what about verses containing both women and famly values such as

Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. Col 3:19

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her Eph 5:28

However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. Eph 5:33

Etc. Etc. etc.

Were those counted amoung negatives because boy that sounds positive to me!

Steve Wells said...

Andrew,

No the verses that you mention (Colossians 3:19, Ephesians 5:28, and 5:33) are all included in the "good stuff". (Although Ephesians 5:28 was unmarked until your post. I have since added it to the "good stuff". Thanks.)

quentin george said...

Shouldn't you divide the net good by the combined good + bad verses rather than the entire work?

Otherwise aren't ponderous things like "He lodged in Bethany" and endless genealogies skewing the "net good per 100 verses"?

Elmer Gantry said...

I do not believe this suggestion is mere sophistry, but I believe that you study should replace "good" or "bad" with "positive" or"negative".

tina said...

Re: Anonymous said...

You sure do spend a lot of time quoting scripture from the OLD TESTAMENT. Perhaps in your studies you will find that Christians are no longer under the Law of the Old Testament. Please move on with your life and get a job.

I don't know the bible that well, but could you tell me if anyone goes by the old testament anymore at all?
Also, I don't remember reading in this bloggers post that he needed a job...?
The old testament maybe paved the way for the new testament....?

Jason said...

Bingo.

The OT paved the for the NT.
No one goes by the OT because it's null and void.

Anonymous said...

"The OT paved the for the NT.
No one goes by the OT because it's null and void."

--Jason

Typical Christian Sophistry

Of course, fundies who espouse such nonsense have probably never cracked Matthew 5.

To wit:

5:18 [Jesus said], Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

5:19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Might help to have your shit straight before you go around telling people things that just aren't true. Of course, if that were the case, I'm sure Steve's website would be redundant.

--Bynoceros

Jason said...

Matthew 5:18 has been cracked and touched on numerous times on this site already. In summary: Christ fulfilled the old law (see vs. 17).

Although since you have your stuff straight, I'd love to hear where you read that animal sacrifices as a means of forgiveness was still valid and required after Christ's death. I'd also like to understand how you think Christ was a "high priest" when the old law stated priests could only come from the tribe of Levi.

Then there's the whole issue of Galatians 3:24, among others: "Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster."

But I obviously don't have this straight.

Over to you.

Anonymous said...

now do the same with the quran

Anonymous said...

Where did I say Christ was a high priest? Reading is fun-da-men-tal.

Second, yes, animal sacrifice was still practiced during the time of Christ and continued after his death. It only stopped with the destruction of the Temple.

And, since Paul is preaching to a non-Jewish audience, of course he's going to say that Jewish law doesn't apply to gentiles. Talk about a bridge too far. Read the book of Acts sometime to see what Jesus' disciples thought of that idea, btw.

Finally, and this is what is most important, the fact that I can find verses supporting the idea that OT law was and is still in force to this day and you can find verses saying the opposite is a contradiction. Christ contradicts himself in nearly the same breath in Luke.

The reality is, Jesus was a devout Jew whose only quarrel with Jewish law was its emphasis of words over deeds. Almost exclusively, it was a hagiographer of his who op-eded his way along in attempting to convince 'pagan' audiences of the man's divinity.

--Bynoceros

Jason said...

I didn't say you said Christ was a high priest. I'm asking you to show me how it was possible for Christ to be a high priest without coming from the line of Levi as the old law expressely states.

I'm not enquiring about the rituals of the Jews post-Jesus. My question was where does the Bible say that animal sacrifices were still valid and required after the death of Jesus. See, the whole concept of Christ offering himself as a 'sacrifice to end all sacrifices' was unnecessary if sacrifices were still required afterwards by God. Hence Mat 26:2 "For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." The shedding of Jesus' blood ushered in the new testament. It was only done once. Seems pretty straightforward.

Consider also that the new law didn't require mandatory circumcision, it didn't require animal sacrifices as a means to forgive sins, it brought in baptism (a completely foreign concept in the OT), it offered salvation to non-Jews, tithing was no longer required and the people didn't need to go through a human priest to approach God.

Anonymous said...

Jason, let me see if I understand this. Are you still maintaining as you stated earlier that the old testament is null and void? If so does that mean that the 10 commandments are null and void?

Or are you saying that parts are null and void and parts are still valid?

Jason said...

Christ repeated nine of the ten commandments in Matthew 5 and also added addendums. Because he was the one who ushered in the new law, I would suggest that in terms of the 'letter of the law', whichever laws Christ said still applied were/are therefore included in the new law.

So, the 'thou shalt not kill' law is still in effect in addition to the 'new' spirit of this law (Mat 5:21-22). Keeping the year of jubilee on the other hand, isn't (Lev. 25).

Ryan said...

Mat 5:3 - Blessed are the poor in spirit...

what the hell? Which repetition of the OT laws is this?

Plus, in the OT god tells the people "Thou shalt not kill", and then goes around flooding the world. What's up with that?

And this is just plain ridiculous:

Anyone who strikes a man and kills him shall surely be put to death. (Exodus 21:12)

It's like saying: Kill those who kill.

Jason said...

Matthew 5:3. Who said this was a repetition of an OT law?

The flood occured before the "thou shall not kill" commandment :) Regardless, God isn't bound by His own laws and we shouldn't require Him to be as such. Romans 9:20 "But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’".

Kill those who kill is the old "eye for an eye" law. Very common in the OT times. In the OT, it was sinner who was killed. In the NT, it's the sin that is killed.

(BTW, kill those who kill isn't an OT Bible-only principal :) )

Ryan said...

"Matthew 5:3. Who said this was a repetition of an OT law?"

- Didn't you say that 9 out of the 10 OT laws were repeated in Matthew 5?

"Regardless, God isn't bound by His own laws and we shouldn't require Him to be as such."

- Why not? Is it because he created the divine laws? If so, then why should men abide by their own man-made laws? If a police doesn't abide by the same rules, who's to say that the police is trustworthy? If god doesn't abide by his own rules, who's to say that god is just? :) Maybe god is communist, or maybe even fascist?


“Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’".

- That seems like a perfectly reasonable question to ask, considering that the creation has absolutely no understanding of both itself and its creator. We have neither seen god nor Jesus, and we don't even know if the Bible is true or not. It can't be true just because it says it's true. We need more evidence than THAT. How do we even know that we were created in his image?


"Kill those who kill is the old "eye for an eye" law. Very common in the OT times. In the OT, it was sinner who was killed. In the NT, it's the sin that is killed."

- That I can't disagree with.

Ryan said...

Another thing that I don't understand is the time gap in between various things.

I'm assuming that Christ had died 2007 years ago. And that the New Testament was giving birth sometime in between 45 AD to 140 AD. By theory, shouldn't every Christian know about the NT, since they were supposedly selected by god to pass on his words? Then what of the Puritans and various sects of Catholicism, who interprets the bible word by word, even going as far as mass murdering "sinners" in the name of their god, yet fails to abide by Jesus's words to "love thy neighbours" and forgive? Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't the 1600-1700s filled with Fire and Brimstone sermons that focused on King James' translation of the OT?

Not trying to be rhetorical here, but I really don't understand this.

It seems to me that god played a big joke on them with the time gap in between the OT and the NT. People went on crusades and witch trials, killed hundreds of thousands, all to defend their god, yet this all took place after god said: "you know what, love everyone and don't kill them." Is it because god forgot to give them NTs? Or is it because they interpreted the NT wrong? If so, isn't god being a little unfair to forsake them simply because they didn't interpret it correctly? (Of course I'm assuming that those who kill and don't repent will go to hell.) If god is just, shouldn't he have stopped the people who blindly follows the OT? If god is loving, shouldn't he have told his sons that what they did is bad? Even though they shouldn't have killed, but they thought it was really the will of god. They were being bad kids, but it really wasn't their fault, because after all, they did believe in him. You can't blame the unknowing.

And lastly, I can't seem to find the bible verse that says "thou shalt not kill". I would appreciate it if someone can tell me what verse it is. Thanks.

Jason said...

I did say 9 out of the 10 commandments were repeated in Matthew 5. Still not sure what your hangup is with verse 3...?

God isn't bound by the laws He enacts because God isn't mortal, a sinner or in need of salvation. Pretty straightforward, no?

Christ didn't die 2007 years ago. That's around the time he was born. Close enough though.

I'm not sure what you're saying about Puritans, etc...? It seems as though you're confusing man's actions with God-directed actions. There is no excuse for a Christian to kill non-Christians and if/when they do so, it's the individual who is at fault, not God. A basic understanding of the NT clearly shows the practice of non-resistance and non-violence. If a Christians does decided to defend his God by killing people, why is the finger pointed at God? Man has complete freewill and he pays the consequences for his actions.

(There's that "going to hell" bit again)

"Thou shalt not kill" is Exodus 20:13.

Ryan said...

"I'm not sure what you're saying about Puritans, etc...?"

- Thanks for the information regarding other questions. I'm trying to say that even though men chose out of their own will to resort to violence, they are doing it out of a GOOD will, and in this case it's for god. Yet I can't understand why a loving father would watch his child follow him in the right direction but in the wrong way. He should at least, you know, tell them: "hey don't do that, that's not the right way to do it." You know what I'm saying?

Jason Macker said...

Wow, I'm flattered that you used my comment.

As a utlitarian, I find it natural to weigh the "good" vs the "bad". But again, as a utilitarian, I find the difficulty in evaluation good and bad to be ever increasing. In the current analysis, you counted every good and bad verse as one "unit". Is that a fair premise? Is saying "Kill every firstborn Egyptian" just as bad as "He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power"? Or on the other side, is Leviticus 19:17 just as good as 1 Peter 3:15? I think that you are the first person to ever analyze the Bible (and the Quran) like this, and I applaud you for blazing such a path.

Sincerely,
Jason Macker

Jason said...

Ryan,

I would say that God has already told people/Puritans/Christians Who Kill that what they're doing isn't the right way to do things. For example, in the NT, the concept of separating oneself from the world in the sense of not getting caught up in all of its drama is taught over and over again. The idea of non-agression is also preached, many times in fact. So it would seem, at least to me, that the rules have already been laid out. God has already said, "What you're doing is wrong" but if man decides to ignore God's rules and do what HE thinks is right, then he isn't even really going in the right direction.

It's kind of like this: Rom 1:21-22,25 "Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools...Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator..."

geetha said...

chanced on ur website thro autstinatheist.blogspot.
amazing work.
but how did u have the patience to go thro pages after pages of literature u don't particularly subscribe to.
me from india.
wish i had the time and patience to point such contradictions / negative thoughts in the religious literature of india.
anyway carry on the good work
geetha

Andrew said...

The original post was genius! But you should explain to us how a physics professor justifies creation when this (humble) physics teacher can prove that the universe is really old with the speed of light and a little trigonometry.

VoxMoose said...

Fun analysis!

Another good measure would be to simply report the gross numbers of individual good and bad tags as well as the percent of individual good and bad tags (normalized to "the number of things to say" rather than the size of the book).

For example, you might have a long boring book with 10000 verses but with only 7 total things to say but they are all good (based on your tags). This would receive a +7 on your net goodness scale and a +0.07 on your normalized per 100 verses scale. But perhaps it is useful knowing that of all the things it actually had to say (regardless of total book length) all of them were good.

In contrast, perhaps there is a small book 100 verses long but is, for some crazy reason, packed with 1000 good things and 1002 bad things (not likely, but possible I suppose). It would receive a -2 on your net goodness scale and a -0.02 on your normalized scale; but it sill had a lot to say either way. This could be useful to ponder.

The current analysis you posted (which is still quite interesting) hides this kind of information.

Jamal said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve Wells said...

Jamal,

Here is the verse that I considered "bad" in my analysis:

"I find not: one man among a thousand have I found; but a woman among all those have I not found." Ecclesiastes 7:28

The Preacher could find a few good men (maybe one in a thousand or so), but not a single good woman.

The meaning of this verse is a bit clearer in other translations. Here, for example, is 7:28 in the NIV: "Though I have searched repeatedly, I have not found what I was looking for. Only one out of a thousand men is virtuous, but not one woman!"