Power Law Redux

In response to last week’s Power Law post, Jim Darlack commented:

Interesting idea. Now, apply it to citations of the Old Testament found in a book of the New Testament. This would allow someone to judge the density of quotes from a particular part of the Old Testament. This could be helpful for judging where allusions or even echoes may be found in the New Testament text.

Jim is suggesting that the same Power Law relationship that exists between a corpus of “biblical studies literature” and Bible passages could also be observed between the New Testament and the Old Testament.

In response to Jim’s response (don’t you love the blogosphere?), the folks over at the ESV Bible Blog crunched the data to explore this in detail.

They found that, “in absolute terms, the New Testament writers cited Psalms and Isaiah most often.” When controlling for book length (since longer books tend to get cited more often than short books), Malachi and Habakkuk get the prize for being most often cited by NT writers.

Head over to the ESV Bible Blog and check out their charts showing citation density and a table showing how many times each NT book cites each OT book.

Two quick thoughts…

First, the next step might be to plot density in a more granular fashion. Which chapters or pericopes in the OT are most often cited? And which chapters or pericopes in the NT do the most citing?
This could make for a cool report in Logos Bible Software, plotting parallel passages data (OT quotes in the NT) against chapter or pericope data from a version of choice.

Second, I don’t know what data the ESV team is using to generate their chart, but I would guess data produced by an editor. In other words, a really smart person (or team of smart people) analyzed the New Testament and figured out all the places the NT author was quoting the OT.

Another way to get at that information—a way that is better for some purposes, less suited for others—would be for the software to analyze and plot out similarities between the OT and NT, based on vocabulary plus syntax. This would put the Bible software user in the editor’s seat, or at least provide a way to view the data and perhaps discover additional textual similarities (in this case, between the Septuagint and Greek NT). We’re not there yet in terms of the data, but it never hurts to dream!

All this talk makes me eager to tell the world about all the new, useful ways we’re already combining and displaying data in Logos Bible Software 3 (now in Release Candidate 1). We’ve been spilling the beans about Logos 3 here on the blog; if you’re a new reader, here’s a place to start.

It’s also exciting to realize that the new reports and tools in Logos 3 are just the tip of the iceberg. With all the new data we now have, and are still producing, there’s plenty more to dream and plenty more to realize.

Update: 3/20/2006 – 3:00pm PST

Today’s post on the ESV Bible Blog provides additional charts that go beyond OT-in-NT quotations to show Power Law patterns based on some 80,000 cross references spread across the Bible. One chart plots cross references between books; another plots them between chapters. The raw data is also provided in an Excel spreadsheet so you can produce your own charts. Cool!

See also: Jim Darlack’s blog post proposing a way to chart quotation density information along 2 or 3 axes.

Comments

  1. I’ve been thinking about another way of representing similar data graphically. What if instead of a bar graph, there was an x/y axis with each verse of the OT (or a particular OT book) assigned to the x-axis and each verse of the NT (or NT book) assigned to the y-axis. When a NT writer quotes from a particular verse of the OT there would be a point plotted at the intersection of the two. Thus a “cluster” of quotes could be seen. Perhaps a z-axis could be added that would cover verbal affinities (e.g. if it is a quotation, how many words are quoted verbatim; if it is an allusion how many similar words or roots; if its an echo, how loud?).
    See my post: http://jamesthejust.oldinthenew.org/2006/03/ot-in-nt.html