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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22 Comments

  • Jlm

    The redeeming of ruth is usually considered a good positive event? Y was it classified as a negative chapter?

  • Smoov

    " if an algorithm can figure out the Bible, then what the hell have we been fighting over all these years?"

    I remember saying things almost as stupid as that when I was your age. Don't worry, you'll become intellectually mature in time.

  • stan

    What about the patronising tone?  Does that fade with time or does it become worse?

  • Hoopstar10134

    Nice graphic design. Who are you to judge this persons interpretation? it's good that you have one.

  • Purenickel

    This is a very personal view of the each chapter. How do we judge what is positive or negative? I don't think info-graphic helps in understanding the bible...what is the point the designer is trying to make?

  • Daniel Christopher

    Curious that the story David's life is all in red. His is one of my favorite parts of the old testament. Interesting experiment though.

  • Bubbledave

    I think Francesco Franchi has done some pretty incredible visualizations of classic literature..not saying they are anything more than just really beautiful design (those of you who can translate the Italian for me could tell me how well they work as information graphics) but I really love what he does here:
    http://www.francescofranchi.co...

  • Cynthia

    I think this is a testimonial to the trap of technology. Without knowing these parts of the Bible, one might think that the answer that informed the infographic is literally black and white. On the contrary, the most important input into this  design is the evaluation, and bias of the designer who created it. How is Negative, and Positive defined? That is the question. Job has a very positive message at the outcome of the book, yet it is listed as negative. Although infographics are fun to look at, we must remember that they are eye-candy, limiting the depth of our intellectual thinking. This infographic really demonstrates that point.

  • Keaven99

    Imagine complaining about sonshine blinding your way and violins causing your depression, can you see and hear what I'm saying ? Transcendant Truth marks Time Today expressed from each and every heart. Sin struggles in us all pointing us to an emptiness ONLY JESUS can fill, here and now....forevermore. Ask Him,seek Him and read Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth(bible)

  • Servilla

    Healing a paralytic in Mark2 is listed as negative.  Those cripples must have deserved to be crippled.

    "if an algorithm can figure out the Bible,"
    I think the point of this graphic is that an algorithm cannot "figure out" the bible.

    This is another example of the shallowness of the "design" field and of liberalism; glossy pretty pictures with no substance or truth.

  • Charlie Seto

    I posted a response to this  on the FB. Matthew 14 actually has three sub-events, but is rated negative due to the beheading of John the Baptist, ignoring Jesus feeds the five thousand and Jesus walks on water; unless those are negative too.

    More likely it was coded to favor negative events, that is if any event is negative, it will immediately flag the whole entry as negative. Got to love decision trees.

  • Charlie Seto

    I also commented on the Facebook post that these entries are scored by chapters. However, some chapters have "good" and "bad", such as Matt 14 in the 8 o' clock position. Breaking things down even further into events instead of just chapters may prove more accurate.

  • Marcelo

    Sergio, your read of the bible is very tight, He's Love and Justice at the same time and for every sin, there's a judgement, not because he's vindictive, but because there's a law.

  • Marcelo

    Sorry Aloisio - Kardec made his own version and clearly didn't read the parts that is a sin to consult the dead - as considered witchery - on old and new testament.