New At Fourmilab: The Stratified Bible

In Comment 3 on Hypatia’s 2022-02-04 post “Sump’n To It?” I discussed Donald E. Knuth’s book 3:16 Bible Texts Illuminated and the technique of stratified sampling of individual verses thoughout the Bible as a tool to understanding it in depth. I have long admired this book and been intrigued by the technique he presents, and it occurred to me that since Fourmilab has hosted full text editions of the Bible in English, Latin, and Hebrew since the dawn of the Internet, it would be relatively easy to automate the process of sampling verses across the books of the Bible and present them in an easy to use form.

The Stratified Bible is the result. Simply enter the chapter and verse you wish to sample (for example, 3 and 16 to reproduce those from Knuth’s book), click “Generate”, and you’ll receive a document with the selected chapter and verse from every book in the Bible which contains a verse with the given number and chapter, in English (King James Version), Latin (Vulgate), and Hebrew (Koren Tanakh, Old Testament books only). The verse text in each language is linked to the verse in context within the book where it appears: to avoid clutter, the links aren’t obvious, but clicking the text will take you there. A Custom Query page allows you to choose which languages are shown and to select subsets of the Bible’s books, for example, just the Torah and New Testament Gospels. You can also choose chapter and verse numbers at random if you prefer that kind of sampling to using the same numbers across the entire Bible.

This resource is not yet linked to the Fourmilab home page. Consider this a “pre-release beta” version, and report any problems or things you find confusing in the comments.


This is so exciting! After our exchange on my thread, I went through the Bible using 3:16. I’m too lazy to retype them all here, but to skip to the end, look at Revelation 3:16:

“So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.” (KJV)

I totes believe this is a valid, worth-pursuing mode of study. But again: is it only that way because many of the verses are so gnomic, due to the para tactical style of the Bible? Kinda like a “cold read” on a horoscope: so general and even self-contradictory that EVERYBODY sees meaning in it?

In the course of writing my article about criminalization of fortune telling, I read something about the performances given by psychics. They throw out a phrase which has just come to them and ask if there’s anybody there to whom it means anything. The example used was “clown in a graveyard”. (See, the more ridiculous and incongruous the better. )
But, just reading the article,I realized that if I had been in the audience I’da entertained the idea that maybe this was my recently deceased best friend, a hospital clown in life, and now dead and buried, trying to get through to ME!!

The prophecies of Nostradamus, so far as readable, are of the same ilk. You first hafta decide what they MIGHT refer to, but once you do that, your decision about it influences your attempt to make a coherent narrative out of the disjointed fragments.

So far,I’m reminded of those old pictograph games where you shuffle and match up the top part of an image with an incongruous bottom half.

What do YOU think JW?


I think a lot of prophetic texts are subject to open-ended interpretation where the reader sees something that makes sense in their context. The I Ching is well known for that. Knuth’s technique was not so much divination but rather in-depth exegesis, teasing out all of the context and connections of a single verse to its historical or spiritual meaning. What he found is that when you’re reading the text as a narrative, you’re inclined to skip over matters which can make a big difference in understanding what the author was trying to say or the events of the time which are relevant to its meaning.

There are a number of detailed Bible commentaries, some which go verse by verse, including a number of classics in the public domain. I was thinking of linking each verse selected to the commentary in one of the documents, but decided against it because each has the sectarian spin of its author, and the last thing I want to do is get embroiled in doctrinal disputes among Catholics, Baptists, Wesleyans, etc.


Been THERE….

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But that’s what makes it fun!


Yeah, it’s an absolute frolic! Just ask those Anabaptists about the Siege of Muenster !

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