Friday, February 10, 2012

Phylogenetic trees and Biblical text

I’ve been experimenting with phylogenetic tree methods. The table below results from taking various translations of John 1:3, and comparing them rather simplistically using edit distance.

On this criterion, the KJV and the ESV (UK) are the closest pair, while the NASB (“All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.”) and the CEV (“And with this Word, God created all things. Nothing was made without the Word. Everything that was created.”) are the most different.

      KJV ESVUK NIV MSG NKJV NASB HCSB GNT NLT DR CEV
KJV 0 8 42 60 22 61 48 59 60 13 67
ESVUK 8 0 46 55 14 54 40 62 52 20 65
NIV 42 46 0 62 35 65 56 50 57 42 66
MSG 60 55 62 0 54 57 56 54 57 58 73
NKJV 22 14 35 54 0 47 36 57 52 26 65
NASB 61 54 65 57 47 0 43 78 68 58 80
HCSB 48 40 56 56 36 43 0 69 62 55 69
GNT 59 62 50 54 57 78 69 0 56 61 69
NLT 60 52 57 57 52 68 62 56 0 56 76
DR 13 20 42 58 26 58 55 61 56 0 62
CEV 67 65 66 73 65 80 69 69 76 62 0

Of course, this definition of difference is unsatisfactory even for the original Greek, since the concept of “distance” should take into account synonyms and other semantic factors. Still it, illustrates the point. The distances can be displayed graphically in a tree created with the Neighbour Joining method. Similar versions are grouped together in the diagram, and the length of the branches shows the magnitude of the distance.


I would be interested if anyone knows of scholarly work in this vein.

Update: Recalculated tree above, using a different version of the software. The MDS plot below is also interesting

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