What Can You Do With the Composite Gospel Index?


Elsewhere, i've described the Composite Gospel Index (CGI for short), an XML data structure that combines the four Gospel accounts of the life of Jesus into a single unified view, sub-divided into several hundred pericopes (puh-RIH-kuh-pee) that describe some coherent event, teaching, or parable. There's a longer description here.

This document explores some possible uses for the CGI that arise from its design as a machine-processable index. It's my hope that others might think big, expand on these possibilities, and even implement some of them to expand the value of the CGI.

Web Services

I've written a more detailed piece elsewhere about using web services with the CGI. The short version is that it ought to be easy to set up a service that can be accessed across the web to retrieve things like the pericope for a passage reference, the text for a pericope reference, etc.

Aggregating Interest in the Pericopes

An interesting consequence of the self-publishing nature of blog feeds (using various versions of RSS) is providing an aggregate view of what a great many people are writing. Sites like Technorati use this to provide a comprehensive picture of who's linking or referencing whom. More specialized sites do this for particular types of information. All-Consuming finds links to books to provide an aggregate view of who's blogging about particular works, and brings them all together in one place (this article at webservices.xml.com gives a very readable overview for techies). For example, this page indicates who's blogged about the book "A is for Abductive" in the past week (which includes me right now), and in the preceding weeks. Another take on this is Dave Winer's Share Your OPML site, which brings together people's subscriptions to RSS feeds to providing interesting views like the Top 100 Feeds, or who subscribes to whom (here's the short list among those who have contributed to the project of the ones who subscribe to my blog).

Over my thirty years as a student of the Gospels, i've had many opportunities to study them personally, listen to sermons, and read other articles. However, even for those who believe Jesus holds "the words of eternal life" (John.6.68), we seem to pay more attention to some of His words than others. This is entirely human, and there's nothing wrong with it. But wouldn't it be interesting to be able to see in the aggregate what passages others are reading, to be able to find posts where particular passages are discussed?

While this could be done at a verse by verse level, that seems too fine grained: but the pericope structure provides a larger unit to which individual verses can be easily and mechanically mapped (you could also use chapters).

Here's how it would work. You periodically scan some number of RSS feeds with a simple parser that can recognize references to a verse or passage from the Gospel. For those literate in Perl regular expressions, something like

\(Matthew|Matt|Mark|Luke|John\)[ .]\d[\d][:.]\d[\d]

ought to work reasonably well. Then you map these to pericopes and collect them all. Following the model of Share Your OPML , you could then publish this week's Top Ten Pericopes, find out who recently referenced a pericope of interest to you, etc. There's some work involved in getting this structure set up, but there are several examples already out there, and once you've got code to parse references out of text, no invention required.