The Practical Idealist

The 40 Thousand Words Of Jesus

Charles Lemert preaching July 2014 at Trinity on the Green New Haven

The image above is of Charles Lemert (born 1937), an American born social theorist, sociologist and ordained minister, in the pulpit on July 28, 2012, at Trinity Episcopal Church on the Green, New Haven,  Connecticut. He gave a sagacious “guest” sermon bringing to the congregation years of life-experience as well has his social theories, pastoral counseling, and scriptural exegesis.  However, as is too foten the case, I remember one point — and not always the important point — mentioned in the sermon.  In this case, Rev. Lemert mentioned a teacher of his told him that all the words of Jesus could be spoken in 33 minuets.  Such is the Engineering Mind that I had to test this.

Louis Klopsch, the editor of Christian Herald magazine, printed the first “red letter” edition of the bible in 1899. While the other words are important, the character of Jesus is most revealed by his actions, and then by his words.  So I have no problem with such a bible.

If you take a Red Letter Bible “with all the Words Recorded Therein as having been Spoken by our Lord Printed in Red”, as printed by The World Publishing Company, Cleveland and New York, and use Microsoft Word 2010 to count words styled in red, you get the numbers in the table below.

  Jesus words
 Total words

Percent of total

Mathew 13,552 23,686 57% 34%
Mark 5,387 15,166 36% 14%
Luke 12,282 25,951 47% 31%
John 8,058 19,104 42% 20%
Acts 476 2,424 20% 1%
Total  39,755 86,331 46%


Bible passage from Luke 20 17-22, red letter KJV bible

Luke 22:17-20, red letter bible

The red letter bible was said to be inspired by Luke 20:22,“This cup is the new testament in my blood, which I shed for you.” In this “Red Letter” King James Version of the four Gospels and Acts, Jesus speaks a total of 39,755 words — almost 40 thousand.  At a preaching speed of 140 words per minute, that is 4 hours 44 minutes.

You could speak all of Jesus’s words from the Gospel of Mark in about 38 minutes — or 33 if you were energetic, which is probably what the teacher meant.

Mathew has the highest percentage of spoken words and the most words. If human memory is a guideline, sayings are longer remembered with a higher degree of accuracy than narrative.  The Mathew author clearly treasured the sayings.  Mathew may be the most accurate guide to the words of Jesus.


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