Depression and the Bible: Charting the “Moods” of Scripture

This past Sunday, my church focused its worship service on the topic of mental illness. We listened as a member of our congregation shared their testimony of years spent struggling with crippling depression—a devastasting experience that was overcome not by an instantaneous miracle, but by a long journey through prayer, counseling, medication, Scripture reading, and family support.

There’s a sense that in recent years, the church has been slowly but meaningfully awakening to the reality of mental illness within its walls. I’ll delve into this topic at more length later this week, but to get you thinking in the meantime, I thought it would be useful to dig out an interesting chart about the “moods” of Scripture. Click on the image below for a larger version:

A sentiment analysis of the Bible. (Click the chart for a larger view.)

This data was put together several years ago by Stephen Smith on the Bible Gateway team. Here’s how he summarized the chart:

Things start off well with creation, turn negative with Job and the patriarchs, improve again with Moses, dip with the period of the judges, recover with David, and have a mixed record (especially negative when Samaria is around) during the monarchy. The exilic period isn’t as negative as you might expect, nor the return period as positive. In the New Testament, things start off fine with Jesus, then quickly turn negative as opposition to his message grows. The story of the early church, especially in the epistles, is largely positive.

Does this data surprise you, or challenge your understanding of the Bible? Do you generally think of the Bible as an “uplifting” text, or a “downbeat” one? What do you think this means for Christians suffering from depression or other forms of mental illness?

Related posts:

  1. The Ups and Downs of the Bible: A Sentiment Analysis of Scripture
  2. How Can the Church Help People Struggling with Depression?
  3. Picturing the Bible: Illuminating Scripture with Illustrated Bibles
  4. Stories About Scripture: The Story of a Scribe

Posted by Andy

Filed under Statistics