Saturday, March 3, 2012

Popularity of the Books of the Bible

I have a confession to make:  I love data, numbers, and charts.  Yes, I am a geek, and I'm OK with that.

One of the byproducts of blogging is that you get statistics; site visits, page views, etc.  One of the byproducts of my having posted chapter-by-chapter Bible book summaries of the Old Testament is that I now have a sense of how popular the individual books are.

Peruse this chart, and meet me below for a clarification and some observations.

First, a clarification:  This data is a skewed towards the earlier books in the Bible by time.  I posted the summaries roughly as I finished them, so Genesis through 2 Kings were posted almost three years prior to Jonah through Malachi, the latter of which were only published a little over half a year ago.  So keep that in mind.  This may become a yearly post to see how things change as that time factor wanes.

It's no surprise that Genesis is the most popular, right?  But I do find it surprising that it is more than five times more popular than Exodus, which contains the eponymous Exodus, and the Ten Commandments.  Even more surprising is that Leviticus, with its rules about sacrifice and its list of laws, is over twice as popular as Exodus.

Another surprise was the bias towards the books which focused on females; Ruth and Esther.  The small, fairly insignificant book of Ruth was more popular than Numbers, with its story of the staff with the bronze snakes being raised allegedly like Jesus.  Ruth was more popular than the books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles, which contain the promise of an eternal kingdom to David's lineage, among other things.  Ruth is more popular than any of the books of the prophets, except for Jeremiah, which it closely rivals.  The story of Ruth is sometimes used as an example of character for women to follow, so this probably accounts for some of that popularity.

However, Esther was even more popular, beating out Exodus, Deuteronomy, and even Job.  The book of Esther does contain a great story about a woman, Esther, who went from from being a harem girl to being a queen, and eventually helping to save her own Jewish race.  However, that is not why Esther was so popular.  Most of the hits came from a search for "beauty secrets in the book of Esther."  My guess is that some slightly Biblically-literate charlatan is hawking a book or skin care products which provoked this search thread.

I was happy to see that one of my favorite books, Ecclesiastes, was very popular.

However, I was disappointed to see a fairly paltry interest in the books of the prophets.  Those are the books which tell you what the Jewish prophesy was really about.  They are the very resources people should be consulting to see if this Jesus story really adds up.  Allegedly, Jesus, Himself, spent a bit of time pointing out these prophesies, such as regarding Elijah coming beforehand, which is found in Malachi.  Yet Malachi has barely a hint of interest.  It seems to suggest that the semi-popular mantra of the faithful is ringing through:  "Jesus said it.  I believe it.  That settles it."

There are, of course, many factors affecting these results, such as what other resources are available and familiarity.  So we should not read too much into these numbers.  Yet it does seem to be at least a quick glimpse into the inquisitive nature of the Christian believer.


  1. Here here for Ecclesiastes!

    #3 ain't half bad. I have a special place in my heart for the book. I love how genuine the author's voice comes through.

    And Leviticus??? Who are these people? Oh, the ones with the stones...I see them.

    1. Thanks Ben! I know what you mean about Ecclesiastes. It's just too bad that someone doctored up the ending. :-)

      Oh, and about Leviticus, don't forget, that is also has all of the good laws about sex. That could account for some of the popularity.

  2. Maybe not related, but have you looked at Ian's data displays on the Bible at ? Particularly,

    The Popular Bits -

    A massive amount of data done visually. Since yer a junkie for numbers and all.

  3. Thanks Andrew! Ian has done some truly great analysis on his site. I did recently stumble across it prior to seeing your link here, but I sure do appreciate you keeping me in the loop, so to speak.

    (I've got his SQL-generated posts on bookmark for easy review.)