The use of citations in the watchtower (1950-2004)

by bohm 12 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • bohm

    A while back i promised to print some numbers on the watchtowers use of bible quotations -- but being a lazy bastard (and having a thesis to write) i have promised and put it on hold a number of times (having a virus infect the computer with the database in did not help either).

    Anyway, these numbers try to address "selective quoting" of the bible in the watchtower. The dataset is composed of all watchtowers from the CD printed between 1950 and 2004, but just now i realized there is a (slight) problem in that when citing books with only one chapter, usually only the verse number is shown (eg. Jude 3 rather than Jude 1:3) which kind of messed with the script -- oops -- anyway i do not expect this to skew the results very much since the majority of verses in the bible are found in books with more than one chapter.

    The first graph display the fraction of least-cited scriptures (x-axis) and what fraction of the total citations they compromise. For instance 20% of the bible are only cited 0.5% of the time, 50% of the bible are only cited 6.4% of the time and 90% of the bible are only cited 43% of the time.

    Or said alternatively, for any random scripture in the WT, there is a 50% chance it will be amongst the 8% most often quoted scriptures. Slightly surpricing from a complex physics POW, the citations does not follow a power-law.

    Notice that due to the single-chapter registration problem, the lowest fraction may be slightly skewed downward.

    The next graph describe the (average) number of citations for any random verse in each of the books in the bible:

    Apparently Matthew is more popular than Mark :-).

    I dont really know how usefull this is, but at least i wont feel bad for not doing what i have promised to do anymore ;-).

  • Band on the Run
  • Band on the Run
    Band on the Run

    Sorry. I don't fully understand. Are you proving that they skew results by favoring Matthew over the other gospels. I forgot to check the Pauline letters, authentic and otherwise. I think you need to treat me as an elementary school student. The design and its implications are not clear to me at all. Yet it seems fascinating. What a bunch of work.

    Good luck on your thesis.

  • Simon

    Do you factor in the length of each book too? That would affect how much they were quoted (to compare against an even distribution)

  • jwfacts

    Great work.

    In similar statistics, Matthew 24 is by far the most quoted chapter of the Bible. Matthew is used most often, due to it containing the signs of the last days (great for a doomsday cult) and the Faithful and Discreet Slave (required to enforce allegiance in a high control religion.)

    It is surprising to see Revelation in the top five. Imagine, a cryptic book of dreams being fundamental to a religions core doctrine, but not surprising since it too is used for apocalyptic purposes.

  • Anony Mous
    Anony Mous

    Funny that in mainstream theology, Mark is considered the first, most neutral and most accurate narrative of the historical Jesus. Matthew is considered an expansion upon the Gospel of Mark with basically a collection of word-of-mouth stories some which are not authentic.

    Likewise Acts is chosen over the other letters because it includes a lot of the 'organizational' structure of the first century congregations even though the apostles that took the lead in the congregations and the governing body in Jerusalem never interfered with appointments within or the affairs of local congregations or even self-appointed men such as Paul.

  • bohm

    Band on the run: Yes, if you take the lower graph, you can see that any random scripture in mark is about twice as likely to be used in the watchtower as any random scripture in luke, and that for instance the amongst the prophets Isiah seems to be a favorite.

    Simon: Yes. What might be interesting was to see if some books was more evenly quoted than others, and make a historical study, eg. has the use of the bible changed when eg. the periode 1950-1970 is compared to 1980-2000. When i get around to it, I am also going to make plots of how many times 1914/1918/607/587/539 is mentioned per year (decade) from 1950-2004 to settle that issue once and for all.

    JWfacts: I compiled a list of the 50 most-often used scriptures a while back, ofcourse the "core" doctrinal scriptures made a strong showing, but the result was heavily influenced by "filler" scriptures which was rather vague, eg. something like this order is passing away. I believe many of the quotes in revelation should be understood in exactly that context.

    Anony: Yah, poor Mark, his editor should definately have told him to make more vague references to the FDS :-).

  • educatingMyself


    I agree with jwfacts, you definitely need to divide the citations by chapters (or something like that) to truely show which books they are favouring, otherwise it doesn't really show much and can be very misleading.




  • bohm

    educatingmyself: Its just kind of hard to visualize given the large number of chapters in the bible...

  • Found Sheep
    Found Sheep

    wow how do you do all this? Are you a computer programer?

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