Toward distant reading of the New Testament commentary: exploring bibliographical and structured textual data
This study argues for distant reading techniques as a new form of understanding the genre of the New Testament commentary. Though it is a dominant form of New Testament scholarship, the commentary is a difficult genre to understand, due to the size of the corpus and the close reading techniques common in Biblical studies. The scholar who wants to understand the genre, therefore, is forced to choose representative samples, a subjective process that distorts understanding of the genre. This study introduces a reading technique that looks for patterns of development over this large corpus, distant reading that will help scholars understand the changes in the commentary over time and help identify places where close reading is warranted. To introduce an alternative form of reading this study demonstrates two modes of reading the genre. The first is a mining of the bibliographical metadata to demonstrate trends in the publication patterns and sizes of New Testament commentaries. The second is to structure commentaries based on their treatment of individual chapters and verses of New Testament texts, as a way of charting the priorities of given commentators over time. The study concludes with an invitation to librarians to work to better prepare the corpus of the New Testament commentary for distance reading.