What is the message of the New Testament?

Remember Kevin Rudd? He was once the Prime Minister of Australia, and he said some things about the New Testament that weren’t true.

One of the things I used to do when I worked in public relations once upon a time – a bit for the laughs, but also because it’s a useful tool – was run my media releases through Wordle. Word clouds don’t necessarily prioritise words – they simply show what ideas are repeated and linked. They’re imperfect. But always interesting.

Kevin Rudd said the New Testament is all about universal love.

Interestingly, other people occasionally suggest Paul, not Jesus, invented Christianity as we know it.

Just for fun I got a little bit “red letter” – I wordled the words of The Word as recorded in the Word (I wordled what Jesus said in each Gospel). And then in the ‘synoptic’ Gospels – Matthew, Mark, and Luke – which are quite similar. And then I wordled Jesus’ words from all the Gospels.

I’ll put a little bit of analysis here – because it gets a bit image heavy.

Jesus seems to focus on arriving as the person who is bringing in God’s kingdom. He talked about God, his father, very often. And commonly referred to himself as the “son of Man” which gets split up in the word clouds. From Jesus’ words the emphasis is clearly on what God is doing in his arrival. His message is that the kingdom of God has come. In him. Love is surely a part of that, but it doesn’t pop up as often in Jesus’ words as one might think if one believed Kevin Rudd.

Paul, understandably, talks a lot about Jesus.

I’m keen to look at Peter, James, and John in a future batch.

The Message of Jesus (wordled)

Matthew
Matthew's Gospel

Mark
Mark's Gospel

Luke
Luke's Gospel

John
John's Gospel

The Synoptics

The Synoptics

The Gospels
The Gospels

The Message of Paul (Wordled)

Then I did the same with the Pauline corpus – from Romans to Philemon.

Romans
Romans

1 and 2 Corinthians
1 and 2 Corinthians
Ephesians
Ephesians

Philippians
Philippians

Colossians

Colossians

1 and 2 Thessalonians
1 and 2 Thessalonians

1 and 2 Timothy
1 and 2 Timothy

Titus
Titus

Philemon
Philemon

Pauline Corpus
Pauline Corpus

The author

Nathan runs St Eutychus. He loves Jesus. His wife. His daughter. His son. His other daughter. His dog. Coffee. And the Internet. He is the campus pastor at Creek Road South Bank, a graduate of Queensland Theological College (M. Div) and the Queensland University of Technology (B. Journ). He spent a significant portion of his pre-ministry-as-a-full-time-job life working in Public Relations, and now loves promoting Jesus in Brisbane and online. He can't believe how great it is that people pay him to talk and think about Jesus.

4 thoughts on “What is the message of the New Testament?”

  1. In terms of making a fair comparison, how does the wordle look when you just use the text of the gospels (rather than some “red letter” restriction)? Also, which translation are you running this with? Finally, how about some OT as well?

    1. 2011 NIV from Bible Gateway.

      I don’t know what the other wordles look like – see my answer to Gav below that fleshes out the red letter rationale a little more. While seeing what Matthew, Mark, Luke and John wanted to communicate about Jesus would be interesting (and doubtless this informed their editorial policy regarding the quotes they chose to use) – that wasn’t the question that drove me to do this…

  2. Intersting Nath, but I think you feel into a trap when you only used the red letter, as if the rest of the gospels aren’t Jesus’ words too.
    I know that you know that they are so I’m puzzled as to why you did it.

    1. I did it because I wanted to make the distinction between the narrative of the gospels and direct speech. I think Paul’s epistles were written to be read out loud so it’s a comparison of like with like.

      The narrative also contains words of criticism spoken against Jesus that aren’t affirmed by the narrative, I didn’t want to over complicate the process of selecting the text to use from the gospels.

      While agreeing with you on an inspiration of Scripture level – I wouldn’t say the Gospels are Jesus’ words in the same way that the direct quotes are. The teachings of Jesus are not any more “Biblical” than the other bits of the Gospels, but they are something that the other bits are not – and that something is at the heart of what I’m trying to get a picture of – which is really the question of is there a meaningful distinction, that can’t be accounted for, between what Jesus thought he was on about and what Paul thought Christianity is on about.

      People who are asking different questions of the text can also use wordle…

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