Bible sentiment analysis

OpenBible quantifies the ups and downs of the Bible. Red is negative and black is positive.

Things start off well with creation, turn negative with Job and the patriarchs, improve again with Moses, dip with the period of the judges, recover with David, and have a mixed record (especially negative when Samaria is around) during the monarchy. The exilic period isn’t as negative as you might expect, nor the return period as positive. In the New Testament, things start off fine with Jesus, then quickly turn negative as opposition to his message grows. The story of the early church, especially in the epistles, is largely positive.

The Viralheat Sentiment Analysis API is used to assign a probability that each verse is positive or negative, and several translations are used to find a moving average.

Those who know the Bible well want to chime in on the accuracy?



  • “Red is negative and black is negative.” Pretty accurate analysis I’d say…

  • One Freudian slip summarised all its sentiments elegantly indeed ;)

  • Yep..people were negative in the first half, and got more negative in the second half. Only one person who can save us, and we killed Him in the 2nd half. But He is alive. The graphic? Another great example of visualisation. And your book is very good Nathan.

  • Fascinating. I reckon some of it is wrong because analytics can’t / didnt capture theological weight of some things that well. Jesus’ second coming should be massive positive sentiment and yet it appears as a blip. Ditto the resurrection.

  • Its interesting that a radial area chart like this with negative portions is only readable if you create a very large dead area in the middle. Otherwise you get lots of ugly self occlusions. What’s your opinion on the effectiveness of this visualization? I work on a chart component where we excluded the ability to set a 0-level on a chart like this specifically because it was way too easy to use to create ugly plots.

  • It’s not clear why a circular plot is used here, since the data are not periodic. Seems like a linear plot would be easier to read and make more sense, and would eliminate @Graham’s complaint about the “dead space” in the middle.

  • Not knowing too much about it, I imagine sentiment analysis was not designed to analyze this kind of information, but rather conversational text from social media concerning products, brands, etc, that expresses an attitude of like or dislike- often explicitly.

    Put aside the ludicrousness of a simplistic algorithm’s interpreting a multifaceted religious text, is Bible text compatible “data”? Does it make sense to apply sentiment analysis to it? What is meant by sentiment? Sentiment towards what? It says “Things start out well…” So, it’s the attitude of the writer towards “things”? Attitude of God towards the world? Of the people towards God?

    It’s easy to throw something to an algorithm to visualize without thought, just because it looks good. I think the lesson here is to ask What are we visualizing? and For what purpose?

  • Hi, visualization creator here. The criticisms you make here are certainly valid. I thought I’d give a little background so you’d know where I’m coming from.

    The original visualization was linear rather than circular (it’s essentially a timeline, after all). There were three issues here: first, it made absolute comparisons too easy-as Vlad and Manny note, sentiment analysis wasn’t designed for this kind of text, and I didn’t want people to weight too heavily small differences in absolute values, since the data is really noisy. Second, with that in mind, I decided that the real focus of the visualization should be on the chapter titles so that people familiar with the Bible could easily find the chapter they were interested in and explore the context around that. A circular arrangement allowed me to display more chapter titles legibly, though I grant that there are other solutions to this problem. Third, I felt that the circular arrangement better showed the Bible as a unified whole rather than as a simple series of events implied by a linear timeline.

    I hesitate to mention this since it’s subjective and doesn’t inherently follow from the shape of the data, but in my opinion an advantage of the circular arrangement is more impactful (and memorable): the second visualization essentially provides the data in a linear format but is much less interesting to look at.

    For this project, I was mostly interested in exploring whether off-the-shelf sentiment analysis could work for a large text and found it worked decently on a large scale and fairly poorly on a small scale.

  • In Sunday School a long time ago we saw a filmstrip called “Amos: God’s Angry Man.” But no worries: he’s happy now. Take a look at the summaries provided in the graphic and draw your own conclusion or make up your own tuning plan–for instance, these are positives:

    Isaiah Woe to the Wicked
    Judgement on the Whole Earth
    Amos The Guilt and Punishment of Israel
    The Destruction of Israel

    Possibly it’s a matter of perspective, but…

  • Well since both black and red are negative, seems pretty accurate.

  • I tried something similar once :). With another approach though: extracting PAD (Pleasure, Arousal, Dominance) values from the bible using the ANEW (Affective Norms for English Words) lexicon. It was for a project to create an ‘affective’ screen-reader. I never put the data to good use, the graph I used for analysis was quite messy:

  • Given that many of the accounts contain a mixture of positives and negatives, it would have been useful to graph them against each other rather than letting one cancel out the other.

  • Very cool idea and it seems to make sense.

    I wonder how how the sentiment is impacted when negative issues are talked about in a negative way. For social media conversations we might always want to hear positive words – but in the Bible, a negative word associated with something negative like sin or Satan could be a positive and encouraging things.

    Love seeing someone use data in unique ways – keep up the good work!

  • What makes a statement positive or negative? Do we judge something from a theocentric or anthropocentric perspective? From some theological perspectives (Karl Barth) judgement is a form of grace? If you are oppressed and God notices your situation, that’s positive, right? And if the Israelites are miraculously rescued, that’s positive, right? And if the Egyptians drown in the sea, that’s… positive…. right?

    • Agreed — context and perspective are essential to judgement. Death is negative from the perspective of the living, but from a spiritual perspective, at least to believers of the afterlife, it represents the passage into life and love eternal — a positive, obviously. Likewise, how can we consider something like shame to be positive or negative unless we know it’s nature/context? If shame compels me to modesty, for example, is it not positive? But if it compels self-loathing, is it not negative?

  • I agree with Ray and Steve. SENTIMENT ANALYSIS – you gotta be kidding! You people are missing the boat big time… “Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die.” Rev.3:2

  • Things start of well with creation? I guess coming into being is always a good thing, but what about the fall? God’s various curses on Adam and Eve? You know, death and returning to dust and all that? By the time we get to Abraham, there is more pain and morbidness: the slicing off of the male foreskin, and we aren’t talking babies here, Jacob hogtied and about to be knifed by his own father. Then there is Sodom that went up in flames and Lot having drunken sex in a cave with his two daughters. Moses is positive? An awful lot of Egyptians died directly by God’s hands. I mean, it was clear that he really wanted to kill and decimate them, to which end he hardened Pharoh’s heart against doing the right thing and freeing the children of Israel. Jumping over the centuries to Jesus, what about Herod and his bloody rampage searching for the blessed infant? That is a positive start? Please. I love the Bible. There is no greater book in the entire literature of the world. But really, it can only be compared to some of Shakespeare’s high dramas where blood, guts, mayhem, betrayal and always brutal slayings are the very stuff of the human condition.

  • very impressive for read your articles and comments

  • dead on, chirsto. having read the entire christian bible recently– cover to cover, I have to agree that it’s a book full of misery, violence and destruction. there we so few positives that I found in there that I could only conclude that it was the work of violent and angry men from long ago. honestly, I can’t believe that so many people follow it except for the fact that most have read less than 10% of it.

    • Well Tony – it describes and you, me and everyone else on the planet. If we want to find the cause of misery and suffering and violence -we just need to look in the mirror. And there looking back is the problem! This book describes people who have lost their way. God’s answer was to send Jesus to find us.:Look in God’s mirror – His Word, the Bible – and you will see the how you can become in the New Testament. Rathing than “taking life” now, many give their lives for others. Because of God’s love for us. Worth reading it again and asking a bunch of questions :-)

  • Who was polled? How many were polled? What made something black and what made something red? This don’t got no information except maybe somebody’s idea of the important events. It is so weird.