Friday, 25 November 2011

Gospel Statistics

Some statistics for you. It's a count of some of the titles used in the gospels to refer to Jesus. Down the left is a group that identifies who used the title, along with the book that records it. Across the top are the four titles that I looked at. This is the NRSV translation. Probably should have done it in Greek, but I didn't. This is an approximation.

Who
Book
Christ
Lord
Messiah
Teacher
Total Count
Angels
Luke
1
1
2
Matthew
1
1
Criminals
Luke
1
1
Crowd
John
1
8
9

Luke

3

3
6

Mark



6
6

Matthew



1
1
Demons
Luke


1

1
Disciples
John

28
2
3
33

Luke

16
1
2
19

Mark


1
3
4

Matthew

9
1

10
Jesus
John
1
2

2
5

Luke

3
3
2
8

Mark
2
3
3
1
9

Matthew

7
6
4
17
Narrator
John
2
5
1

8

Luke

13
1

14

Mark
1
2


3

Matthew


6

6
Political authority
Luke



1
1

Matthew


2

2
Religious Authorities
John


2
2
4

Luke


3
6
9

Mark


2
3
5

Matthew


2
6
8
Sick
Luke

3


3

Mark

1


1

Matthew

11


11
Tax collectors
Luke



1
1

Matthew



1
1
Total Result

6
109
47
47
209

I know, I know. Statistics and the Bible are dangerous bedfellows. You can't really prove anything from them. Just look at things like the Green Bible. It doesn't take much tweaking to find common words in the Bible and think that they're a theme. All I wanted to see here was if there were any major differences in style and titular usage between the gospels and the people who used them.

It's no surprise that "Lord" gets used a lot, especially by disciples. Jesus can be a bit self-referential with it too. Although it's not shown in the table, it's also true that a lot of this usage is by people who want things. It seems that (especially in the synoptics) that if you want something, you call him Lord. It gets a bit whiny after a while.

Also no surprise is that the religious authorities don't say Lord. They ask about whether Jesus is Christ/Messiah, though, and appear to hold Jesus as a teacher.

The one that did catch me out a bit was how often Jesus refers to himself as Messiah. I'd expected it to be a feature of the narrator, or the crowd, or the disciples, but in the end it's mostly used by Jesus himself - about 25% of the references are by Jesus.

So, if these data are anything to go by, "Lord" is the winner, with more than half, and about 81% of those used by adorers and petitioners. But in terms of recorded self-identity, Jesus sees himself as Messiah more than anyone else does.

But hey, that's just statistics in historiographical texts.


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