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Meditation 272
More Fun With Figures

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The Gospel according to John closes with these words:

25: And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.

Let us consider that last verse in which John says that if everything that Jesus did was written down, then the world could not contain all the books.

Using the high end of various estimates, Jesus is supposed to have lived for about 35 years.[1] That is about 1.1 billion seconds.

Let us just suppose it was possible to write a full page of text (on average) for each second of his life. That would be 1.1 billion pages.

Taking my bible[2] as an example, 981 pages of text can fit quite comfortably into a single holy book. So, what we need is a mere one and a quarter million books to fully document the acts of Jesus..

Far from filling the world, a pile of these books would fit quite comfortably in my back yard without casting an undue shadow on my neighbours' yards. Or it would be about one book each for everyone in Calgary, Alberta and surrounding suburbs.

But perhaps I am underestimating the talents of gospel writers. Suppose they were able to document each second of Jesus's life with a full bible-sized book. Then we are looking at 1.1 billion books - more than I'd be prepared to stack in my yard. But they still would not fill the world. There would be not quite enough to give one volume to every person now living in mainland China.

I notice in the Times Literary Supplement[3] that the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography is now available, some 50,000 biographies in 60 volumes.

Just suppose our gospel writers managed to do the same and wrote 60 volumes going into an incredible amount of detail on each second of Jesus's life. The concept just staggers the mind, and the result would be about 66 billion books.

But even with this amount of writing would be nowhere close to filling the world. Everyone now living could have a little library of 10 books.

So what is the point? The point is that the writer of The Gospel according to John was wrong on this particular issue. Now look at the immediately preceding verse:

24: This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true.

Immediately after proclaiming that he gives true testimony, he provides an exaggeration which is several orders of magnitude[4] beyond belief. Consequently, we now know, based on the juxtaposition of these two passages, that his testimony is just not true.



  1. This does not include Jesus's time supposedly spent in North America establishing the basis for Mormonism. That is reported to have occurred long after John had done his writing.
  2. Presented to me 3 June 1956 by the Reverend Howard Matson, Rector of St. Phillips, for perfect attendance at Sunday School. And yes, I did pay attention; that's why I am agnostic.
  3. TLS No 5296, 1 October 2004 p8.
  4. One could argue that in John's time there was no printing, and books were hand written on scrolls, thus would be considerably larger. But, even if texts took up 100 times the space they do now, he would still be several orders of magnitude out.