Scripture Index Madness

For the moment I am afflicted with SIM (Scripture Index Madness). And I’m only up to Matthew. For a 684-page book mainly about the New Testament. Bible geeks will get the joke. And nod their head in commiseration.

What’s SIM? A thing that doesn’t exist that I just made up.

This is a syndrome that befalls one in the weird world of biblical studies where these bizarre things called Scripture Indexes exist. That’s an index of every single reference to scripture (Old Testament and New) in a monograph (that’s what normal people call a book). Building one is sort of mechanically simple (simpler in principle than the subject index, which I’m also working on), but not simple enough for a computer to do well (since the way you cite or mention scripture is not typically consistent or obvious, and the rules involved would be too complex and buggy to get right). It’s thus a long, tedious manual task. And you start to go bonkers after a while.

It’s rather like being simultaneously tired, confused, and drunk. You start to get punchy. Your eyes can’t focus. You forget stuff. You feel like you’re floating. You’d swear the faint sound of nails on a chalkboard can be heard in the distance. And a little hallucinated elf is screaming inside your head for it to end.

So I’m going to stop for today.

I’m working this up for my book On the Historicity of Jesus. You can expect its release by Summer. The book has been done for ages, but has been slowly grinding through the typesetting process at the publisher. Now I just have to submit the index from the corrected proof now in hand, and then all the business and manufacturing stuff has to happen.

Meanwhile, in order to inflict you with a tiny amount of SIM, here’s the index entry for Matthew (the passage cites are in UK style):

1.16 … 338 (n. 92), 339
1.20 … 240 (n. 8)
1.21 … 472
1.23 … 464
2.1-19 … 287
2.2 … 233 (n. 197)
2.3 … 354 (n. 119)
2.16 … 304, 354 (n. 119)
2.23 … 92, 400, 401 (n. 34)
3-4 … 462
3.1-12 … 71
3.16-17 … 313
4.1-11 … 233 (n. 195)
4.2-10 … 468
4.18-20 … 505
4.23-5.1 … 471
4.24 … 354
5-8 … 460, 462, 465-67
5.27-30 … 555
5.38-42 … 466
7.2 … 556
7.15-23 … 147 (n. 197)
7.28-29 … 460
8 … 496 (n. 219)
8.5-13 … 471, 488 (n. 211)
8.32-34 … 354 (n. 119)
9.1-8 … 506 (n. 241)
9.15 … 127 (n. 164), 233 (n. 196)
9.26-31 … 354
11.1 … 460
12 … 460
12.18 … 68 (n. 17)
12.24 … 185
12.30 … 68 (n. 17)
12.39 … 489
12.46-50 … 373 (n. 30)
13.47-50 … 505
13.53 … 460
13.55 … 440, 453 (n. 134)
13.56 … 372
14-18 … 462, 465
14.13-21 … 354 (n. 119)
15.22-28 … 499 (n. 223)
15.32-39 … 354 (n. 119)
16-18 … 462
16.4 … 489
16.13-14 … 68 (n. 21)
16.15-19 … 524 (n. 29)
16.19 … 195
17.1 … 404 (n. 39), 588 (n. 97)
17.10-13 … 68 (n. 21)
18.3-7 … 312
18.18 … 195
19.1 …460
19.12 … 555
20.29-34 … 402 (n. 34)
21.1-9 … 459
21.5 … 233 (n. 197)
21.8-11 … 354 (n. 119)
21.12-13 … 354 (n. 119)
22.1-10 … 233 (n. 196)
24 … 85 (n. 49)
24-25 … 460
24.11 … 147 (n. 197)
24.14 … 278 (n. 47)
24.15 … 85
24.24 … 147 (n. 197)
25.1-13 … 233 (n. 196)
25.26-29 … 558 (n. 58)
25.32 … 278 (n. 47)
25.34 … 233 (n. 197)
26-27 … 286
26.1 … 460
26.23-25 … 312, 440 (n. 112)
26.49 … 440 (n. 112)
26.67-68 … 471
26.71 … 401 (n. 34)
27.5 … 325 (n. 67)
27.11-42 … 233 (n. 197)
27.16-17 … 338 (n. 92), 406 (n. 43)
27.22 … 338 (n. 92)
27.37 … 370
27.45 … 354 (n. 119)
27.51-53 … 354 (n. 119), 458 (n. 141)
27.54 … 232 (n. 194), 439
27.56-61 … 369, 439 (n. 108), 454 (n. 135)
27.62-66 … 369
28.1 … 454 (n. 135)
28.4 … 369
28.11-15 … 5 (n. 7), 369, 489
28.17 … 56
28.19 … 278 (n. 47)
28.20 … 464

You will be graded on this.


    • Dave Mack says

      Richard, Well I know it is possible and would be incredibly terrific, but OMGosh, what a laborious task that would be! I would not wRichard, Well I know it is possible and would be incredibly terrific, but OMGosh, what a laborious task that would be! I would not want anyone to have a stroke! :-)ant anyone to have a stroke! :-)

    • says

      I guess that’ll work as a way to spice up a dry subject. “…These implications will be further explored in the following chapter. But first, watch this couple getting freaky in the jacuzzi.”

  1. says

    As much work as it may be, it’s worth it for the reader. I find it a real pain in the ass when a book related to biblical studies doesn’t have a Scripture index.

    That said, I wish these indices would use some method of differentiating between one-off Bible references and actual discussion of a Bible passage.

    • says

      The most important discussions are in the subject index, and sometimes with bold numbers for the most important passage (e.g. “Matthew, Gospel of” is actually in the subject index as well as the scripture index, and where I discuss Matthew as a whole, the page numbers are in bold; likewise, there is a “Sermon on the Mount” entry; etc.). That doesn’t cover everything, though. So it doesn’t exactly fit your dream. But it’s halfway there.

  2. birgerjohansson says

    “not simple enough for a computer to do well”

    This is why we need “strong” AI. Having to read through page after page just to find biblical references is a task condemned as “cruel and unusual punishment”.

  3. pausanias says

    I’ve been busy too catching up on scripture study.

    I just finished Bart Ehrman’s new book “How Jesus Became God.” Here is a selection from it that I think would very much agree with the Christ Myth Theory. Ehrman talks about Paul’s view of Jesus as an angel. Ehrman writes:

    “I have read Paul’s letter to the Galatians hundreds of times in both English and Greek. But the clear import of what he says in Galatians 4:14 simply never registered with me , until, frankly, a few months ago. In this verse Paul calls Christ an angel … Paul writes ‘Even though my bodily condition was a test for you, you did not mock or despise me, but you received me as an angel of God, as Jesus Christ’ … I had always read this verse to say that the Galatians had received Paul in his infirm state the way they would have received an angelic visitor, or even Christ himself. (But the verse is actually not saying) that the Galatians received Paul as an angel or as Christ; it is saying that they received him as they would an angel, such as Christ. By clear implication, then, Christ is an angel.” (How Jesus Became God,252-253)

    Ehrman then goes on to explain his interpretation in terms of Greek grammar and the rest of the Pauline corpus.

    Ehrman concludes that for Paul, Christ is God’s chief angel, “Christ is a pre-existent being who is divine; he can be called God; and he is God’s manifestation on earth in human flesh. Paul says all these things about Christ, and in no passage more strikingly than in Philippians 2:6-11.” (How Jesus Became God, 253)

    Interesting stuff.

    • Dave Mack says

      pausanias ,
      I downloaded Ehrman’s new book only last night from Amazon (after price was jacked up another two bucks, unfortunately). Nevertheless, after listening to all the Amazon reviews with my text-to-speech processor )I am blind), I definitely picked up on some aspects mentioned that sure seem to support possible mythical elements not unfamiliar to a Doherty, Carrier, et al. Of course, I will be plodding through with my TTS on reduced speed to gain my own appraisal of the actual book, but I was interested in your comment. Thanks!

  4. Kris Rhodes says

    How smoothly you slip in the information that an April release bas been pushed back to a “before Summer” release… 😉

    • says

      That’s because I don’t know the actual release date. Normally this would have been out in February (as I said before, six months being a typical production timeline), but the publisher is far behind in its process (even for an academic press), and still hasn’t given me a release date. But it can’t possibly take so many more months at this point that it won’t be out by summertime. Imaginary gods forbid.

    • Andrew G. says

      Sheffield Phoenix actually have it listed on their website now as forthcoming in June, but I’ve noticed that some other books on their forthcoming list have slipped by months…

  5. ryancunningham says

    Ha! You fool! I’ve used this index to reverse engineer your book! It’s mine now! Mwah ha ha ha ha!

    (Okay. So I’ve been creating Powerpoint slides for a lecture about object oriented programming. I might be suffering from a similar syndrome.)

  6. billseymour says

    Hmm…might be a fun project. And potentially even easier than the Bayesian calculator that I came up with.

    1.16 … 338 (n. 92), 339

    I’m guessing that means that Matthew, chapter 1, verse 16 is referenced on pp. 338 and 339. Is that right so far? And what does “(n. 92)” mean? I can’t guess.

    The only “interesting” part is probably comming up with a formal grammar for the citations in the main text. Once that’s done, generating the index would seem to be trivial.

    Might it be possible for me to get an electronic copy of Historicity given a customary non-disclosure agreement? Alternatively, just a flat file containing references in the various forms that I’d need to recognize with some ordinary text mixed in would be OK as initial test data.

    I’d suggest that we could talk at Skepticon 7, but that might be a little far off. 😎


    • says

      n. 92 = “in footnote 92”

      The tricky part is that only a human knows that discussion of a verse continues onto another page, for example, or that a discussion of a passage relates to a specific verse (as not every instance actually contains a citation, or the citation number won’t be near the book’s name), or when to aggregate passage numbers when several passages are discussed together, and how to recognize a footnote, and so on. The more you try to work it out, the more problems you discover. It’s possible with months of dedicated coding and testing and debugging you could come up with something, but it would cost thousands of dollars in time, for little market value.

  7. Stella says

    Dave, Ehrman’s book is available as an audiobook, though I wouldn’t expect hot links or a scriptural index.


    • says

      Of course you can code a book while you write it. That’s just double the work (and requires a skillset and software most people don’t have or the time to learn).

  8. Jim Reed says

    Bart Ehrman was on NPR Fresh Air today. Is he now backtracking? The story says he is author of Misquoting Jesus and Jesus Interrupted. There was no mention of DJE. His new book is How Jesus Became God:. He talks about changing his views on things while researching this book, and having clarity he hadn’t seen before. He kind of skips over what he calls pre-literary traditions (30 AD to 50 AD) and says then came the decades of Paul’s writings, but only says Paul talks of Christ being exhalted and doesn’t say anything about later gospel stories not being included in Paul. Is he possibly changing his mind about DJE, or at least now trying to avoid that discussion? That’s what it seemed like listening to him.

    • says

      I would say avoiding. In my experience, Ehrman never admits being wrong. He just pretends he never said something. Even if that requires lying. (See here and here for examples; many more in that same article of his false statements he just pretends he never said, without stooping to try and lie about it.)

      In this new book, he pretty much defends everything I’ve been saying, then throws in his stock assumption of historicity to argue one more layer of tradition existed (even though we actually have no evidence of that), and pretends he never said anything about pre-Pauline Aramaic sources for the Gospels.

      I think he realized he goofed, and, as is his usual practice, won’t own up to it. (e.g. in DJE he criticizes me for calling the early Jesus a god, and now in his new book writes my own rebuttal to that claim in extenso, without apology; thus, he now realizes his criticism was wrong and now even defends my position, but doesn’t acknowledge the previous error or apologize to me for making it.)