How Frequently are Biblical Books Quoted in the Babylonian Talmud? [Talmud Tuesday]
Not infrequently in the Babylonian Talmud is the Hebrew Bible quoted. But how much of it is quoted? Recently, the numbers were crunched over at Sefaria and they came up with the results. While more than a quarter of the verses in the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) are quoted (6448 out of 23206 (27.79%)), there are some books that have more verses quoted than other books. Here are the top sevenmost frequently quoted books:
- Leviticus: 644/859 (74.97%)
- Deuteronomy: 564/956 (59.0%)
- Esther: 95/167 (56.89%)
- Malakhi: 29/55 (52.73%)
- Song of Songs: 57/117 (48.72%)
- Ecclesiastes: 94/222 (42.34%)
- Exodus: 511/1210 (42.23%)
It is fascinating that Leviticus (ספר ויקרא) is so far ahead of the rest of the books, with only three other books having most of their verses cited (Deuteronomy (ספר דברים), Esther (מגילת אסתר), and Malakhi (ספר מלאכי)). Although Malakhi has a small number of verses, allowing for most of them to be cited, it is most likely that Leviticus and Deuteronomy are the two most quoted due to their prescriptive/proscriptive nature (and Exodus, also, at number 7). Okay, so if those are way above average, what about the seven least frequently quoted books? Here they are:
- I Chronicles: 78/943 (8.27%)
- II Chronicles: 79/822 (9.61%)
- Nehemiah: 39/405 (9.63%)
- Joshua: 99/658 (15.05%)
- Jeremiah: 207/1364 (15.18%)
- Ezekiel: 196/1273 (15.40%)
- Judges: 98/618 (15.86%)
It seems that most of these books are largely narrative, especially Chronicles, Nehemia, Joshua, and Judges, helping them onto this list, rather than being of a more prescriptive/proscriptive nature. Also, it seems that Jeremiah and Ezekiel got onto this list due to the high volume of their verses (they still each get quoted about 200 times in the Babylonian Talmud).
first interactive application for exploring link structure. From the first screen, you can see the curious blue diagonal swath. The books of Torah, on the top left, are most heavily referenced in the Talmud section of Kodshim, on the bottom right, which deals with temple service and kashrut. You can hover over a book to see where it’s referenced, and click on a book or a book link to dig deeper in, and see the detail.
As to the biggest connectors, aside from the Torah, they seem to be
Isaiah and Psalms, Brachot and Sanhedrin. The last chapter of Sanhedrin in particular is hugely reference heavy. Heavy link concentration usually indicates an aggadic (less legal, more philosophical) passage. Once you’re looking at detail, click on an individual link to see the text itself.
This project is not yet done: “There are lots of insights to be mined here, and it suggests a whole world of further visualizations. This whole project is built on top of the Sefaria API, and it’s all open source and open information.” I may need to explore this…. Happy exploring!