It’s Greek to Me (Literally): Textual Analysis in Tableau

By day, I design Tableau dashboards for clients. This means I’m often creating financial dashboards (some of these are mine), or healthcare dashboards (like readmissions and restraints compliance), or marketing dashboards. I love the analysis and creativity that comes with my job!

But in off-hours I like to push the envelope a little. Quick, do a Google search for “Tableau literary analysis”.  Anything? “Tableau Textual Analysis”?

But why not? The text of any work of literature is data! And it can be visualized!


So, I turned Tableau loose on the text of the Greek New Testament. This text has been analyzed by scholars and theologians for the past 2000 years. And textual analysis is nothing new. Masoretes were counting and recording the use of each word in the Hebrew Scriptures as early the 5th century. But the opportunity to actually visualize this type of analysis and perform real-time data discovery in a visual way is new.


And so, I present: An Invitation to Explore the Text of the Greek New Testament.  This dashboard is merely an invitation to the casual user to begin to explore the patterns of use and frequency of some of more commonly used words in the New Testament.  It barely scratches the surface of what could be done. And yet, it opens a world of visual discovery.  Each word has its own story – how various authors used it, how often and how frequently.


A couple of notes about the dashboard:

  • “A word cloud?” visualization purists everywhere groaned.  “Yes! And in Greek or English,” I responded confidently (though inwardly I had a mustard-seed of doubt). Remember this is an invitation to a casual user to begin exploring the text. It is the starting place for deeper analysis, not the deeper analysis itself.  And it is a user interface (try typing ancient Greek into the search boxes of some of the best Bible software out there and let me know if you like it).
  • “You took up that much space with instructions!” the design experts shouted. “Don’t judge,” I begged, “until you’ve tried it.”



5 Responses so far.

  1. Jonathan Agee says:

    This is very cool! I definitely enjoyed looking at it.

  2. Al says:

    This is a really cool visualization! I am trying to do something similar with another dataset of text that I have and I was just wondering how you ended up structuring your data so that this works in Tableau. Would you duplicate each passage with the number of unique “keywords”? Also, I was wondering if you used all the scripture or only selected out keywords from specific passages?
    Thanks! Awesome job again!

    • Al,

      Great to hear from you! The basic structure of the data is a record for every single word in the New Testament, with fields that indicate the book, chapter, verse, word order within the book / chapter / verse and then some additional attributes that include things like part-of-speach, English gloss (translation) — unfortunately, that last field is sparsely populated. With a record per word, I could simply use “Number of Records” to indicate the number of times the word is used (and then slice that by book, chapter, etc…) I’ve been working on this workbook off and on for quite a while. When I first started, Tableau public only allowed 100,000 records – so I created a rolled-up extract so the word count was aggregated at a higher level than just 1 record per word.


  3. Lisa says:

    Very helpful! I work for a health insurance company and am exploring ways to present keywords to the end users with Tableau. This type of viz has potential. Thanks for sharing!

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