Infographic Of The Day: What Are The Darkest Parts Of The Bible?

Openbible.info charts the Bible according to positive and negative sentiment—with some surprising results.

We generally avoid featuring infographics about literature because they obfuscate the text rather than illuminate it. One exception is the Bible, which is so big and woolly, it occasionally benefits from a text-based visual analysis (or just pisses off a lot of people).

The latest Bible visualization won’t start an e-Holy War, but it certainly shrinks some complex ideas down to size. Openbible.info used algorithms to label events in the Bible according to positive or negative sentiment ("Think of it as Kurt Vonnegut’s story shapes backed by quantitative data," the designer writes), then mapped the narrative peaks and canyons around the wheel you see below. Black is positive, red negative.



[Click image for larger view]

What you end up with is a snapshot of the relative cheeriness—or gloom—of different sections in the Bible. As the designer tells it:

Things start off well with creation, turn negative with Job and the patriarchs, improve again with Moses, dip with the period of the judges, recover with David, and have a mixed record (especially negative when Samaria is around) during the monarchy. The exilic period isn’t as negative as you might expect, nor the return period as positive. In the New Testament, things start off fine with Jesus, then quickly turn negative as opposition to his message grows. The story of the early church, especially in the epistles, is largely positive.

In short, it gives you a bird’s-eye view of the tone of each book, something that’s easy to miss in a line-by-line reading. You could also use it as a guide of sorts to the darkest, juiciest parts of the Bible.

It’s worth noting that at the microscopic level, the analysis doesn’t hold up terribly well. As a commenter on Openbible points out, it mis-characterizes both positive and negative events in the Book of Nahum—and who knows where else. The designer concedes that the calculations here are far from perfect: "I largely agree that on individual verses, the results are hit-or-miss, and the data are certainly at the mercy of an opaque algorithm. In the aggregate, as you note, the trends largely fit with my basic expectations, so it may be the case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts."

Guess there’s something refreshing in that. I mean, if an algorithm can figure out the Bible, then what the hell have we been fighting over all these years?

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