06 April 2011

The Best Book in the Bible (revisited again)

(Updated to include the recent Genesis - Ecclesiastes SAB revision.)

In my last post I tried to find a way to measure the goodness of the books in the "Good Book", but I wasn't completely satisfied with the results. So here's one more try. Let me know if you have any suggestions.

In the SAB, I identify the Bible's verses that contain good advice about how we should live our lives, whatever our religious views might be. For example, I think it's a good idea to try, at least as much as possible, to treat others kindly. So I include Leviticus 19:18 ("Love thy neighbor as thyself") in the "Good Stuff". Of course, not all the verses that I've marked good are as good as this verse, but I marked them good because they seemed (at least somewhat) good to me.

So take a look at the SAB's good stuff to see if you agree, at least most of the time, that the verses that I've marked good are, in fact, good. If so, then the following analysis should be reasonable for you as well.

I began my analysis by plotting the number of good things in each book of the Bible. (Of the 66 books in the Bible, there were 30 in which I could find nothing good.)

When size is taken into account, Ecclesiastes is the best (36.0 good passages/ 100 verses), with Proverbs second at 20.4. So Ecclesiastes has more good stuff (per 100 verses) than any other book in the Bible.

But what about all the bad stuff in the Bible? Shouldn't we try to find a way to rate the goodness of a book by weighing both the book's good and bad?

The simplest solution, I think, is to count up the good things in each book and subtract the bad. The result is the net good. (I totaled cruelty, injustice, intolerance, bad family values, insults to women and homosexuals to get the number of bad things, since the verses marked with these categories are all morally objectionable.)

When I did that, I found that there are only three good books in the Bible: Ecclesiastes (of course), Proverbs, and James. Three others have a zero net goodness. The other 60 books are all more bad than good.

Other goodness metrics that might be useful are the percentage of marked passages that are good and the net good number of passages per 100 verses. Since there are only three books with a positive net goodness, we can limit our analysis to these three.

Here is a table that summarizes the data.

Ecclesiastes Proverbs James
Good 80 187 13
Bad 1 75 9
Net good 79 112 4
verses 222 915 108
net good/100 verses 35.6 12.2 3.7
Percent good of (good and bad) highlighted verses 98.8 71.4 59.1
good/bad 80 2.5 1.4

So no matter how you look at it, Ecclesiastes is by far the best (and pretty much the only good) book in the the Bible.


MaDDoG said...

"they seemed (at least somewhat) good to me."

Soo if it didn't seem good to you, a person who completely misses the point of the Bible, then it missed the cut. So probably every story with a moral in is was left out.

Terence said...

it kills me that ppl like MaDDog, get their high horse, completely miss the sheer contradiction of the 'loving' god is closer to a psychopathic killer. Sure, lots of good ideas in the bible, love your neighbor, SAB points them all out. But the research shows, the more evidence you provide the "believers" (soon to be classified as a Mental Disorder under the DSM-IV) they just cling to their guns and bibles.

RaptorJesus said...

@ MaDDog
“Soo if it didn't seem good to you, a person who completely misses the point of the Bible, then it missed the cut. So probably every story with a moral in is was left out.”

I disagree I think Mr. Wells is a person who has sane moral reasoning skills and is capable of determining good from bad, just like any other sane person. Plus the man gets intensely scrutinized for everything he put on his blog dealing with morality of the bible, so I’ll bet he checks his work twice before posting. I have read quite a bit of Mr. Wells’ website concerning the bible (I have not finished reading all of it)and I agree with his reasoning most all of the time, most all of my disagreements with his reasoning is in his interpretations of a few scriptures, but there are not very many.

He has done posts before on morality in the bible. If the bible was as clean, moral, and perfect as christians say it is then there would be nothing for Mr. Wells to post against the bible and people would find this blog to be the ramblings of a mad(crazy) man. Mr. Wells is obviously not mad (crazy) because there are immoral versus all over the place in the bible and he pointed those versus out. I think it’s safe to say he knows what he’s doing and with that said I don’t think it would be reasonable to say he has no idea what is moral.

Also I think that any person with sane moral reasoning skills could determine what would be considered good or bad in the bible. Mr. Wells said he used cruelty, injustice, intolerance, bad family values, insults to women and homosexuals to find his results. I agree and I think these are all bad things and they are found in many books in the bible. How any person who considers themselves to be "good" can find anything under these criteria that can be considered decent and moral, is very challenging and way beyond me.

Dan said...

In reading Ecclesiastes I noticed that the concept of hell was missing. Have you done any blogging about where that idea came from? Is there any proof to the rumor that the Catholic church came up with hell to keep the sheep in line?

skanksta said...

awesome again !
I love the statistical posts..