Mapping New Testament Social Networks

The recent launch of Many Eyes, a data visualization site, lets us make a start toward mapping New Testament social networks:

A network diagram showing co-occurrences in the New Testament with Jesus as the hub.

The live visualization at Many Eyes lets you pan and zoom around to your heart’s content. (You need the Java plugin for your browser to be able to interact with the visualization.)

The data set behind the visualization isn’t perfect. While it disambiguates people with the same name (John the apostle and John the Baptist, for example), it only tracks occurrences in the same chapter. In other words, just because two people appear in the text near each other, that doesn’t mean they have a relationship. So you have Joseph the Old Testament patriarch linked to Jesus even though they obviously weren’t contemporaries. You’d need an ontology about New Testament names to map deeper relationships.*

But it’s a start and may help you make some useful insights. This data set only includes three or more co-occurrences. We also uploaded a complete list of co-occurrences in the New Testament, but the data set breaks the visualization software at the moment. And there are so many nodes that it isn’t that useful. But feel free to play with our data sets and come up with interesting visualizations of your own.

We’ll leave you with a treemap diagram of similar data:

A treemap diagram showing co-occurrences in the New Testament. Again, Jesus is the most prominent figure, with links to David, Abraham, Timothy, and Peter being most plentiful.

In treemaps, each section has a label (e.g., “Jesus”), and the size and color of the enclosed boxes show the relationships. For example, Peter, Moses, and Paul are the most common names linked with Jesus. Why Paul? Well, Paul has a habit of introducing himself and greeting people in the name of Jesus when he begins his letters. The association of the two is either a feature or a bug of the data set, depending on your perspective.

Via O’Reilly Radar.

  • Also see the post at Blogos for a way of using Many Eyes to look at parallel Gospel passages.