05 April 2011

The Best Book in the Bible

(Re-post after revising Genesis - Ecclesiastes. I'll do it again when I get through Revelation.)

What is the best book in the Bible?

Well, that, of course, depends on how you define "best".

One way to try to determine it, though, would be to identify all the passages in the Bible that contain ideas that you consider good, and then compare the number of good passages found in each book of the Bible.

That's easy for me to do, since I have already marked as "good stuff" everything I can honestly call good in the Bible. Here are the Bible's books ranked according to the number of good passages.

So Proverbs, at 187, has the most good stuff.

But Proverbs is a fairly large book, with 31 chapters and 915 verses. How would it look if we adjusted the good stuff rankings to acount for the size of the book?

Here's the list when adjusted for size (number of good passages per 100 verses).

When we adjust for size, then, Ecclesiastes is by far the best book in the Bible (36.0 good passages / 100 verses).

(The overall average for the Bible is 1.5 good passages / 100 verses.)

35 comments:

Anthony Rasmussen said...

This is one of the more amazing things I've ever seen on the internet. Did you have criteria set for picking passages as "good"?

Roopster said...

Steve,

Thanks for putting this together. I've been focusing on a "bad" passage a day in my blog.

When I first started, I didn't think I'd make it through January then I discovered SAB and it's a great resource. Now I don't believe 1 year will be sufficient.

I'm beginning to think if I start a blog for the good stuff I may not make it through a month :)

Paul

Roopster said...

BTW, the blog I mentioned can be found at http://literalbible.blogspot.com.

AgnosticAtheist said...

I've recently acknowledged being an atheist (after years of struggling with it) and one of the primary reasons was losing faith in this book that I once viewed as the Word of God. To think that there's such a low percentage that can be considered "good."

What amazes me is all the years I read this and conveniently ignored all the other verses and just focused on this very small percentage of the Bible. How is that even possible? I consider myself an intelligent person.

aA

Anonymous said...

this is a very silly exercise! If you take a dim view of life, a view held by many ujp in yhears, the Ecclesiastes is Good; if you are in nice mood, the Sermon on the Mount is Good. Your picks, finally, reflect what you bring to the bible and not what you take from it.

space said...

Anon makes a good point. "Good" and "bad" are extemely subjective and solely dependent on a huge number of personal factors.

You've listed as "bad" most of the books outlining the history and establishment of the Jews/Israel. Why? Song of Solomon is bad??? 2 Corinthians is on the blacklist as well???? lol Why??

Is this an example of your unbiased view?

Jason Macker said...

space, have you read Song of Solomon? It is more explicit than many of the porn novels Christians attempt to ban.

In any case, I think it would be interesting to find the best book of the Bible, weighted in terms of the "bad" stuff as well. If a verse says be nice, and the next verse says stone people to death, that's not exactly going to be considered a "good" thing. So I would very much like it if we can find the book in the Bible with the highest Good:Bad ratio.

Thorne said...

LOL
I don't care that "good" and "bad" are subjective. I love this little excercise in opposites.
Have you heard about:



BLOG Against Theocracy April 6-8

Much fun for all, athiest, agnostic and spiritual alike. Check it out!

Steve Wells said...

Anthony Rasmussen said...

This is one of the more amazing things I've ever seen on the internet. Did you have criteria set for picking passages as "good"?

No, not really. Things that seemed good and reasonable to me, I called "good". For example, Leviticus 19:18 says, "Love thy neighbour as thyself." That seems good to me (Jesus liked it, too. -- see Luke 10:27), so I included it in the good stuff.

Killing witches, on the other hand, seems cruel and intolerant to me, so I put Exodus 22:18 in the cruel and intolerant category.

Those who think killing witches is good and loving neighbors is bad will probably disagree with the way I have classified the various verses. That's fine with me; I encourage them to make their own annotated Bible that reflects their own values.

Steve Wells said...

space said...

Anon makes a good point. "Good" and "bad" are extremely subjective and solely dependent on a huge number of personal factors.

I agree. "Good" and "bad" are subjective. I read the verse and decide what to make of it. How do you do it, space?

What do you make of Jeremiah 19:9? Is it a good thing to force parents to eat their children? I don't think so, so I didn't include that verse in the good stuff. I called it cruel. Do you disagree?

You've listed as "bad" most of the books outlining the history and establishment of the Jews/Israel.

Because they don't have anything good in them. Which verses do you think I should have called good, space? Let me know, and if I agree, I'll add them to the good stuff.

Song of Solomon is bad??? Why?

The Song of Solomon is an erotic poem. It's a nice poem, but there's nothing I can point to that is particularly good -- at least as far as moral advice goes. But maybe I missed something. Let me know and I'll add them.

I think verses 8:8-10 are funny, but I wouldn't call them good. Would you, space?

2 Corinthians is on the blacklist as well???? lol Why??

Because I can't find anything good in it. Can you?

Steve Wells said...

Jason Macker said...

I think it would be interesting to find the best book of the Bible, weighted in terms of the "bad" stuff as well. If a verse says be nice, and the next verse says stone people to death, that's not exactly going to be considered a "good" thing. So I would very much like it if we can find the book in the Bible with the highest Good:Bad ratio.

That is an excellent idea, Jason. I'll give that a try and post the results at the blog.

space said...

There are no good verses in 2 Corinthians... This is precisely why it's impossible to take your study seriously and have a conversation about those 50/50 verses (e.g. Jeremiah, S of S, etc.). Your bias completely overwhelms the issue.

Which part of these verses do you find "bad":

2 Cr 1:2-3 "Grace be to you and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;"

Add to that verses 8-10 and 14-17 and these are only the most obvious examples in the first chapter alone.

If you're going to put this much work into a study of this nature, the least you could do is be impartial.

Steve Wells said...

space said:

There are no good verses in 2 Corinthians...

What are you trying to say here, space? Is there something that you think is good in 2 Corinthians? I can't find anything, can you?

This is precisely why it's impossible to take your study seriously and have a conversation about those 50/50 verses (e.g. Jeremiah, S of S, etc.). Your bias completely overwhelms the issue.

Once again, I don't understand what you're trying to say. Is there something I've marked as cruel, intolerant, etc. in Jeremiah, or sexual in S of S that you think should be marked otherwise?

For example, how should I mark this verse, space?

"And I will cause them to eat the flesh of their sons and the flesh of their daughters, and they shall eat every one the flesh of his friend." Jeremiah 19:9

Which part of these verses do you find "bad":

2 Cr 1:2-3 "Grace be to you and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;"


I didn't call 2 Corinthians 1:2-3 bad. I didn't count it as bad and it isn't marked that way in the SAB. So what is your point here?

I don't think it is good either. It's just silly. And I don't have a silly category.

It does contradict a large part of the Bible that shows that the God of the Bible is anything but "the Father of mercies." Would "the Father of mercies" say these words, for example: "I will not pity, nor spare, nor have mercy, but destroy." (Jeremiah 13:14)

Add to that verses 8-10 and 14-17 and these are only the most obvious examples in the first chapter alone.

You think these verses are good? Why? You'll have to do more than just list them, space. What do you think is good about them?

If you're going to put this much work into a study of this nature, the least you could do is be impartial.

I'm trying, space. Are you? So far you haven't given any reason why anything marked in the SAB should be marked otherwise.

And as for being impartial -- well, at least I'm trying, space. I identify both the good and the bad in the Bible. Do you acknowledge the existence of anything bad in the good book? If not, how are you impartial?

space said...

I'm confused. First you say there's "nothing good in 2 Corinthians" and then you say you didn't call it bad. If it's not good and it's not bad, what is it? Oh, it's silly. So it's not good or bad, it's "silly". According to your list then, silly must = evil. Otherwise, your numbers don't make sense.

"You'll have to do more then just list them..." lol Okay, I'll explain why my verses are good and then you can go through each verse in the books you provided and explain why you think the opposite. Fair's fair, right? :) So, let's pick one at random, shall we? Verse 10 "And he did deliver us from mortal danger. And we are confident that he will continue to deliver us." Being impartial here, is this good or bad? I'll start: It's good.

Jer. 19:9 "I will see to it that your enemies lay siege to the city until all the food is gone. Then those trapped inside will have to eat their own sons and daughters and friends. They will be driven to utter despair." What's the bad part? The Israelites were worshipping idols and burning their children in sacrifces to Baal. They were going to be punished. Who's fault is this: God or man's? This verse isn't bad and this verse isn't good. It just is.

The Father of Mercies. What's your version of mercy? Someone who refuses to punish? Someone who allows rules to be broken without consequence? That's not mercy, that's ignorance. Micah 7:18 "Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy."

Steve Wells said...

space said:

I'm confused. First you say there's "nothing good in 2 Corinthians" and then you say you didn't call it bad.

It's pretty simple, space. I can't find anything good in 2 Corinthians, so it has nothing that I can call good.

I didn't call the verses that you mentioned (2 Cor.1:2-3, 8-9, and 14-17) bad. They aren't marked that way in the SAB and I didn't count them as being bad when I calcualted the good - bad and the net good / 100 verse metrics.

I do consider some verses in 2 Corinthians bad, though. Eight verses are unjust and 6 are intolerant, or so it seems to me. And since (as we all know) there is nothing good in 2 Corinthians, that means the good - bad = -14. You follow me here, space?

The net good / 100 verses is -5.45, since there is a net good - bad of -14 out of a total of 257 verses.

If it's not good and it's not bad, what is it?

Well, it could be lots of things. It could be boring, contradictory, absurd, interesting, or silly. But it might not be any of these things. Most verses in the Bible are unmarked in the SAB, because they don't seem to fit into any of the SAB's categories. At least not yet.

Oh, it's silly. So it's not good or bad, it's "silly". According to your list then, silly must = evil. Otherwise, your numbers don't make sense.

Now you're just being silly, space. I've already explained how I calculated the good - bad and net good / 100 verses. If you still don't understand, let me know and I'll try to explain it again.

Steve Wells said...

I'll explain why my verses are good and then you can go through each verse in the books you provided and explain why you think the opposite. Fair's fair, right? :) So, let's pick one at random, shall we? Verse 10 "And he did deliver us from mortal danger. And we are confident that he will continue to deliver us." Being impartial here, is this good or bad? I'll start: It's good.

What was the "mortal danger" that Jesus saved us from? Was it from being tormented forever in hell by God? That's not very nice, space.

And it is also absurd. How would Jesus' death save anyone from being tortured forever in hell? God is really pissed off at us for something someone (who never existed) else supposedly did, so he is determined to torment us all forever in hell. But then Jesus comes along and God kills him instead. And that satisfies God's sadistic need to punish us. Does that really make any sense to you?

Jer. 19:9 "I will see to it that your enemies lay siege to the city until all the food is gone. Then those trapped inside will have to eat their own sons and daughters and friends. They will be driven to utter despair." What's the bad part? The Israelites were worshipping idols and burning their children in sacrifices to Baal. They were going to be punished. Who's fault is this: God or man's? This verse isn't bad and this verse isn't good. It just is.

Oh, so it's okay for God to force parents to eat their children -- at least if the parents worshipped the wrong god or something. I see what you're thinking here, space. How could I have thought that verse to be cruel, unjust, or intolerant? Silly me!

The Father of Mercies. What's your version of mercy? Someone who refuses to punish? Someone who allows rules to be broken without consequence? That's not mercy, that's ignorance. Micah 7:18 "Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy."

A merciful person is kind and forgiving. The Father of mercies wouldn't brag about forcing parents to eat their children because the parents worshipped another god.

space said...

I just read this now: "Ecclesiastes is by far the best book in the Bible..." Now that's a laugh! How many good vs. evil verses did you find in the first half of the book alone? Do you know what this book is about?

I don’t understand your math & logic for 2 Corinthians. 8 verses are unjust and 6 are intolerant. Fine. 257 total verses minus 14 “bad” verses leaves us with 243 verses of no determined label. First of all, why not mention how good it is that bad things only make up 5.5% of the book? I also find it interesting that you’ve chosen to withhold judgment on the remaining 94.6% of the book. I suppose that’s what happens when all those “bad” verses don’t jump out like they do elsewhere.

A few questions:

2Cr 6:18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.

Why isn’t this a good verse?

2Cr 7:6 Nevertheless God, that comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus;

Or this?

2Cr 7:13 Therefore we were comforted in your comfort: yea, and exceedingly the more joyed we for the joy of Titus, because his spirit was refreshed by you all.

Or this?

2Cr 7:16 I rejoice therefore that I have confidence in you in all things.

Or this?

2Cr 8:1 MOREOVER, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia:

This?

2 Cr 8:7 But as you abound in everything--in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us--see that you abound in this grace also.

Your evaluation methods are unique to say the least!! Not only are you all over the map, boring or absurd or interesting are simply personal opinion; they’re not determining factors whether a verse is good or evil. For example, here’s a boring good verse “And it came to pass after the death of Abraham, that God blessed his son Isaac;”

So I think it’d be a great exercise if you went through every verse in the Bible and labeled it properly: “good” or “evil”. Impartially, of course. Which would mean no “boring” or “interesting” adjectives thrown in to sway the masses.

“And he did deliver us from mortal danger. And we are confident that he will continue to deliver us.” You say “What was the "mortal danger" that Jesus saved us from? Was it from being tormented forever in hell by God? That's not very nice, space.” Oh Steve, you’re such the kidder. Firstly, where are you getting tormenting in hell from…? Please Steve, by all means, enlighten us. As you’ve obviously researched this topic beforehand, I’m interested in knowing how you came to your conclusion based on the context. Secondly, “He did deliver us…” That means Steve, that Jesus delivered them from mortal danger. And that’s a good thing. See how that works? Deliver = good.

Geesh, I’d hate to see you being rescued from a burning building. “Evil firefighters, EVIL!!! STAY AWAY!!! Rescuing is BAD!!”

Jer 19:9. You sure are silly, Steve!! But I’m glad we’ve cleared this verse up!

A merciful person is kind and forgiving. The Father of mercies wouldn't brag about forcing parents to eat their children because the parents worshipped another god. Well that’s a relief because God IS kind and forgiving!! Phew! This must mean God is the Father of Mercies after all. But this thing about bragging…hmmmm…where are you getting this from? I must be missing the verse that says God brags. Would you kindly point it out to me, Steve?

jake3988 said...

Jason Macker said...
space, have you read Song of Solomon? It is more explicit than many of the porn novels Christians attempt to ban.

Its erotic (and if you take the King James version) border-line pornographic.


And second of all... just because something isn't 'bad' does NOT make it 'good'. Things can be neither, they are called 'Space'.



Oh. And another thing. How many times have Christians tried to ban movies from the shelves because they have nudity or violence?

Let's say a movie, that could probably be rated pg-13 at best hits the stores. No real major language, no major violence.
Except that the main character and his wife have passionate explicit sweaty sex for 2 minutes right in the middle of the film.

Christians would want this banned because of the sex scene right? However, using your logic of the bible that 'most of it is good [Its not, but let's go with it]' would make that a perfectly acceptable movie, no?


/Note: I've always wanted to post that.

tiny tim said...

Song of Solomon is a song. It's not a movie, it's not a porn flick, it's not a sexual instruction book. It's a song. No one here has made even a half-hearted attempt at figuring out what the song is all about which only highlights the popular bias. Partiality trumps intellect. What a shame.

You're all making mountains out of molehills, which is rather ironic because this is usually the criticism atheists direct at Christians.

jake3988 said...

Um, Tiny Tim... you have no idea what you're talking about.

Song of Solomon is an erotic love poem. I guess, if you stretch REALLY hard, you could just call it a love poem that uses very explicit language.

Again, something christians would frown upon. Yet for their own bible? No so much. As usual.

jake3988 said...

What was the "mortal danger" that Jesus saved us from? Was it from being tormented forever in hell by God? That's not very nice, space.

And it is also absurd. How would Jesus' death save anyone from being tortured forever in hell? God is really pissed off at us for something someone (who never existed) else supposedly did, so he is determined to torment us all forever in hell. But then Jesus comes along and God kills him instead. And that satisfies God's sadistic need to punish us. Does that really make any sense to you?

===============




Its surely never made any sense to me! God saving us... from HIMSELF. And as we all know from the old testament, he already likes the smell of burning animal carcass... seeing himself (Jesus is God afterall) being beaten to a pulp supposedly makes him want to forgive us.

Right. Makes sense. NOT. Why the hell the guy couldn't just go 'Hey, you know, I've been a real prick for the last couple thousand years... and I'm getting really lonely... so uh... yeah... you can get into heaven now.'

tiny tim said...

1. An "erotic love poem" isn't porn. It's a poem. Do poems scare you...? Does the language in SofS frighten you?

2. Tormenting in hell. Here we go again. Jake, please explain where "tormenting in hell" is found in the context of 2 Cor 1:10. I'm really interested in seeing what you come up with. Unless you'd rather wait for someone else to give an answer first and then just copy theirs.

jake3988 said...

2. Tormenting in hell. Here we go again. Jake, please explain where "tormenting in hell" is found in the context of 2 Cor 1:10. I'm really interested in seeing what you come up with. Unless you'd rather wait for someone else to give an answer first and then just copy theirs.
========


Not surprising that I never once mentioned Corinthians nor torment in hell.

I was responding to Steve's excellent post on it, by responding with the absurbity of the Jesus story.

tiny tim said...

"It surely never made any sense to me..." Your words, right? The section you quoted has to do with being tormented in hell. Do you believe God torments people in hell or not?

BaP1803691 said...

I can't really believe this blog. Weighing the good against the bad in the Bible is pointless. The Bible is a holy book. There are two ways to look at it. Either, one, you are a Christian and you believe every inch of it as good, as the word of God. Or , you are one who is not a Christian, and does not believe in the Bible, as the divine word of God. The world is filled with people who will simply criticize. There are just people on this planet who can't be pleased. Who cannot find something solid and fulfilling to believe in, so they must bash and lower the beliefs of others. My suggestion is to let this poor man be. He has the right to hold such opinions. We must simply continue to do the Lords work.

Let us just hope that on the Day of Judgment, God shows him mercy.

Reading these comments back and forth was like watching two kids bicker. Both sides think they are right, both sides will not really consider the others opinion. There is no such thing as un-biased. Everyone should just go do something productive with their time. Perhaps think about bettering this world, bringing it together, rather then pulling it apart.

The Bible is there as a guide. It's the only connection between the sinful world around us and the glory that awaits us.

It is not a book to be criticized like its some movie or some paperback novel. Its the word of God. Plain and simple.

Annon. said...

i was shocked when i stumbled on this blog, playing games with God's word is a serious thing. It doesn't make you look smart the number of good or bad verses you can come up with or the witty arguments you have with people, at the end of your life none of this matters. When you are face to face with God almighty himself you will not be so bold to say all this to him that I am certain of.

It made me laugh all of the petty arguments between different bloggers and their silly remarks by those of you who have obviously not read the bible completely. I wonder if you would care to know that God considers you his child, knows the number of hairs on your head, your deepest fears, and calls you by name. God is a god of love not contradiction.

The only action I can take is to pray for the unbelievers of this blog. I hope one day you wil realize God's tremendous love for you and that you will look back at this blog and be ashamed. Until then though all I can do is pray that God will open your eyes and that someone in your life can show you the same kind of love and freedom I myself have been shown. Prayer will do far more than this silly blog will ever do anyway.

John 3:16
"For God so loved the world tht he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

This is how you begin to live believing that Jesus died to save you. I challenge you to think about it, to recognize God's love for you and I dare you to give him a chance. For those of you who are believers I cannot wait to see you in heaven.

Aquaria said...

John 3:16
"For God so loved the world tht he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

This is how you begin to live believing that Jesus died to save you. I challenge you to think about it, to recognize God's love for you and I dare you to give him a chance. For those of you who are believers I cannot wait to see you in heaven.


Sorry, but I'll challenge you that such a horrible tract is any proof of love.

1) You will perish. You have to do that to get to this supposed afterlife. That's why it's called afterlife. So the statement has a lie, right off the bat. Someone who loves you doesn't lie to you. Not about important stuff like that.

2) a )Eternal life would be horrific, simply because it would grow very tiresome, very quickly. You really haven't thought it through.

2) b) Eternal life, Christian-style, would be particularly vile. Forever praising some supposedly all-powerful deity for allowing me in his presence? Do you realize how insane that sounds? And to be doing it with a bunch of sanctimonious twits that you didn't like (and the feeling was mutual)? Please. If the Christian fantasy is true, rather than spending eternity with people like that, I'll take hell for $500, Alex, thanks. It couldn't be any less painful. Seriously.

3) Even worse, I'm supposed to be grateful to a deity who would knock up some chick with himself, be born, then he would kill the son/himself, as some kind of love offering to mere mortals.

Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. And it's sick.

I want no part of anything that insane and vicious. I don't want your heaven. I don't want your demented and twisted idea of love. You can keep it all for yourself. Seriously.

And I happen to agree that Ecclesiastes is the best book of the Hebrew Fairy Tale, since it is the least insane and therefore the most realistic.

Aeroslin said...

The author has made a great observation, I think. During my time of belief and sticking to the bible, I always gravitated towards Proverbs and Ecclesiastes as being the most helpful of the books of the whole collection. It's nice to see someone quantify the cause of my attraction to these two books.

Laura said...

Proverbs? It's like a really big box of fortune cookies. It's like the daily horoscope in the newspaper. Nothing surprising, nothing of any more than everyday commonplace experience. I'm not impressed.

Steve Wells said...

I agree, Laura. Most of the "good stuff" in Proverbs isn't all that good. "Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding" (Proverbs 3:13) is true enough, I guess, but also rather obvious. Most of the other verses that I've marked good are similar truisms. Still, they sound pretty cool: "He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind." (11:29)

Proverbs, insipid as it often is, is about as good as "The Good Book" gets (with the exception of Ecclesiastes).

Laura said...

Steve quotes, "Still, they sound pretty cool: "He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind." (11:29)"

Yup! There's nevertheless some nifty language in the bible. This juicy verse, as you no doubt know, was taken to be the title of the movie, "Inherit the Wind". Of course it was a story, and inaccurate, but an entertaining movie nevertheless. I have a book entitled "Center of the Storm", by John Scopes, in which he talks about the 1925 event and seriously debunks a lot of popular beliefs about the "Monkey Trial".

Jon Keene said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
hbfiebwg ehjbkewb said...

well objective morality only comes from God. so from a Christian standpoint, nearly, if not, all of the Bible is "good". objectively good for informing us of this. but even from a skeptics standpoint like yourself? well i'm not surprised you put an average of 8 good passage from the average Gospel, only 2 good passages from the 49 pages of Jeremiah, and well, the list goes on... do you skeptics have anything better to do than right reasons for why you think we shouldn't be religious? give it a break.

soma8 said...

I would have to name Proverbs the best in the OT. Best in the NT, for me, is John, which is also probably also the "best" overall.

Zeshan Ahmad said...

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