a story lives forever
Sign in
Form submission failed!

Stay signed in

Recover your password?
Form submission failed!

Web of Stories Ltd would like to keep you informed about our products and services.

Please tick here if you would like us to keep you informed about our products and services.

I have read and accepted the Terms & Conditions.

Please note: Your email and any private information provided at registration will not be passed on to other individuals or organisations without your specific approval.

Video URL

You must be registered to use this feature. Sign in or register.


The most beautiful 3:16 in the world


Writing a book about the Bible: 3:16
Donald Knuth Scientist
Comments (0) Please sign in or register to add comments

The other thing I started working on at that time was a... a completely off-the-wall project that... that became another book later on called 3:16. 3:16 is a... is a book that... that's different from any other... other book that's ever been written and there are either two reasons why... why this happened. One is that it was a stupid idea to... to write such a book, you know. Anyway, well, let's see... what's the other reason that it's different... that it could be different? Anyway, that there was, you know, that it was... the time was finally ripe to write such a book, I suppose. Anyway, I... 3:16 is... is a study of the Bible from a... from a... a different perspective than has been used before and it's a... and... and so, I have to explain it a little bit. The... the... computer scientists find it very natural to - when they're studying a complicated thing - to look at random parts of that thing and... and then probe those in-depth and try to learn something about the whole by having a few parts that they understand well. It's like the Gallup Poll where the Gallup Poll would come and interview... interview several people, you know, and... and after interviewing a thousand people they'll... they'll speak for, you know, for what they think millions of people are... are like and Nielsen ratings and so on, are based on sampling. Well, I would use sampling when I was grading papers. If somebody gives me a term paper, I don't have time to read all 50 pages of the term paper, I'll choose a random page or so, and then I'll see what that leads me to. The student doesn't know in advance which page, which page I'm going to do. So, anyway, sampling is something that comes naturally to a computer scientist. One day in the '70s it... I said, well, you know, what would happen if I tried this on the Bible? I would... that's a complicated thing. What if I looked at random parts of the Bible and just to see what people... and go to the library and see what people have said about those... about those parts. I... instead of somebody telling me what part of the Bible to look at, I would just take an ordinary part, you know, one... one that was... wasn't pre-planned and I would see whether or not I could learn something that way. And I found it was really interesting to do this. In... in fact, I... I did it with a group of people at our... at our local church, and we decided that we would go through and we would study chapter three, verse 16 of every Book of the Bible.  So we started with Genesis 3:16, and then Exodus 3:16 and we continued through until we got to Revelation 3:16 and... and I told you that I had gone to Lutheran schools as a child, so I had been exposed to the Bible, but I never really felt that there was any part of it that I knew well. This way I would have... I would have some 60 verses of the Bible that I... that I would really have nailed. I could say I... I knew Genesis 3:16 rather thoroughly because I could go to Stanford library and I could... and I could check out all the commentaries on the Book of Genesis and I... and I... and there was only a few pages to read that would tell me what... what's important about Genesis 3:16. So, the sampling idea was not... was a big... was a big win, not for understanding the Bible so much, but for understanding the secondary literature, for understanding the... the commentaries about the Bible. You could... you could pretty well see how opinions changed during... during the centuries about... about these different verses and... and you could see that people... a lot of people had different insights and other people hadn't done their homework very well, and so on.  But you could... you could get a pretty good idea on these thousands and thousands and thousands of books written about the Bible as to... as to what their slant was if you just happened to know a... a few of the... a few parts to probe into. Anyway, this was... this was a surprisingly effective way to learn something about the Bible and... and so, it's one of these moments again, where I wake up in the middle of the night, and I say, hey, this would be... this would be a... a good book to... to... where I could take these things that I had learned in the library about the... the 3:16 verses and explain them to other people, that, you know, it was... it was a story that... that I think other people would enjoy learning about as well.

Born in 1938, American computing pioneer Donald Knuth is known for his greatly influential multi-volume work, 'The Art of Computer Programming', his novel 'Surreal Numbers', his invention of TeX and METAFONT electronic publishing tools and his quirky sense of humor.

Listeners: Dikran Karagueuzian

Trained as a journalist, Dikran Karagueuzian is the director of CSLI Publications, publisher of seven books by Donald Knuth. He has known Knuth since the late seventies when Knuth was developing TeX and Metafont, the typesetting and type designing computer programs, respectively.

Tags: 3:16, Bible, Gallup Poll, Nielsen ratings, sampling, Genesis, Exodus, Revelation

Duration: 5 minutes, 14 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2006

Date story went live: 24 January 2008