Jesus spoke a little more than 31-thousand words in the New Testament; that’s after you exclude duplications of His sayings from the four Gospel accounts. Modern research has found that men say about 15-thousand words a day on average. Some researchers use a higher number (as high as 30-thousand words a day), some lower (as low as 5-thousand words a day). What we don’t know is how many words a day ancient people spoke. They didn’t have email, cell phones, texting, social media and other technological advances, so the number of words the ancient spoke per day may have been higher or lower – we don’t know because there are no recordings of ancient conversations.
The Words of Jesus
Another consideration about the number of words Jesus spoke in a day is that He was a traveling preacher. He spoke all day long. He spoke to large crowds, small groups and individuals. He was always preaching and teaching, unless He was praying. However, even the prayers of Jesus are words He spoke to His Father. We know that Jesus spoke to His Father every day, but we have a record of only a few of the prayers Jesus prayed.
Jesus may have spoken between 15-thousand and 30-thousand words a day (or more), but let’s use the lower number of 15-thousand to be on the conservative side. Based on that average, what we have in the New Testament is just two days of the words that Jesus spoke. Two days of speaking? Didn’t Jesus teach for more than three years? That would be more than 16-million words based on 15-thousand words a day for three years (up to 19 million words if His ministry continued for three-and-a-half years). That means we have only 0.0019375% of what Jesus said during His earthly ministry. That’s less than one-one-hundredth of one percent of all that Jesus said between His baptism and His ascension. We’re not counting what Jesus said as a child, teenager and young adult .. just what He said after He stepped out on the public stage of ministry at the Jordan River. That means we don’t have a record of 99.998% of what Jesus said during His earthly ministry!
Why such a small percentage? Didn’t He tell Satan that “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.”? Given that everything Jesus said was the “word of God,” why don’t we have every word Jesus said while He was on earth? Good question.
The Apostle John gave us some clue at the end of his Gospel account:
And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen. John 21:25
John was a personal witness to the earthly ministry of Jesus from the early days of His ministry. In fact, John was one of the first four people Jesus called to follow Him:
And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then He said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ They immediately left their nets and followed Him. Going on from there, He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets. He called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him. Matthew 4:18-22
John followed Jesus and heard the Lord speak every day. John heard the teachings and saw the miracles. John was the only apostle to stand near the cross and hear what Jesus said as He was dying for John and others. John raced Peter to the empty tomb and saw that the body of Jesus was not there:
Peter therefore went out, and the other disciple, and were going to the tomb. So they both ran together, and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first. And he, stooping down and looking in, saw the linen cloths lying there; yet he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; and he saw the linen cloths lying there, and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed. For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. Then the disciples went away again to their own homes. John 20:3-10
John was behind locked doors with other disciples on the first Resurrection Sunday when Jesus appeared in the room and said, “Peace be with you.” Jesus showed John and the other His hands and His side to demonstrate that though He had died by crucifixion, He was alive. John and the others were glad when they saw Jesus alive standing before them. Then they heard Jesus say these words:
So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’ And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained. John 20:21-23
Jesus presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs and spent 40 days with the apostles “speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3). John was in that group. He saw and heard the risen Savior for 40 days, then watched as Jesus ascended to Heaven. Given all that John had seen and heard, he was correct to say – “And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.”
Jesus probably spoke more than 16-million words during His earthly ministry, but we have just 31-thousand words recorded in the New Testament. That’s not unlike what we see in other parts of the Bible. Adam lived to be 930 years of age, but we have only a few of his words recorded in the Bible. Noah lived to be 950 years of age, but we have less than 50 words that Noah spoke. As we look at the long lives of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, the prophets and others, you will find that the number of their spoken words recorded in the Bible is extremely few in number compared with how many words they actually spoke during their lifetime.
The Words of Jesus Numbered
God is Eternal. He determined what the Son of God would do and say before the beginning of time, before the foundation of the world. Nothing happened by chance. God was not surprised by something that someone did or said. Jesus knew exactly what would happen and what He would say before He came to earth through the virgin birth. Gabriel, the angel who stands in the presence of God, revealed to Zacharias, Joseph and Mary what God was going to do through the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. Angels did the same with a group of shepherds who were watching over their flock at night near Bethleham.
God knew everything that everyone was going to say and do before they said it and did it. God is All-Knowing. That includes how many of Jesus’ words would be recorded in the Bible. The 31-thousand words of Jesus listed for us in the New Testament are the number of words God wanted us to read. No more. No less. God’s Word is Perfect. Because of that fact, it is important that everyone of us hear what Jesus had to say. These are truly words of life and light:
In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. John 1:4
We even have warnings from the apostles about not listening to and obeying the words of Jesus:
If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself. 1 Timothy 6:3-5
Here are some things we know that God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) determined to accomplish before time began, before the foundation of the world:
Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. 2 Timothy 1:8-10
Paul, a bondservant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect and the acknowledgment of the truth which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began, but has in due time manifested His word through preaching, which was committed to me according to the commandment of God our Savior. Titus 1:1-3
… knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. 1 Peter 1:18-21
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will. Ephesians 1:2-5
For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said: So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest,’ although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For He has spoken in a certain place of the seventh dayin this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all His works. Hebrews 4:2-4
It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. Revelation 13:7-8
Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. John 17:24-25
He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. 1 John 3:8
- Everything that Jesus was going to accomplish during His earthly ministry was determined in eternity – before time began, before the foundation of the world.
- God saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began
- God promised the hope of eternal life through the death of Jesus Christ and the preaching of the apostles before time began
- God determined and foreordained before the foundation of the world that He would redeem lost sinners through the precious blood of Jesus Christ
- God chose us in Jesus Christ before the foundation of the world and predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus to Himself according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in Christ
- God finished the works that would bring believers into eternal rest from before the foundation of the world
- God saw His Son as the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world
- God the Father gave His glory to His Son and loved Him before the foundation of the world
- God determined that His Son would be manifest on earth to destroy the works of the devil, who sinned from the beginning
Everything that Jesus said and did during His earthly ministry had already been determined before the beginning of time, before the foundation of the world. The 30-thousand plus words of Jesus that are recorded in the New Testament are the exact words God wanted included there. The Holy Spirit who inspired the writing of the Bible ensured that those words would be included by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. That is the miracle that is the Holy Word of God.
It’s time for us to open up the Gospels and see what Jesus really said about many things. Before you run down to the corner Christian bookstore to load up on books about Jesus and Christianity, let me warn you. We cannot depend on the writings of many of the most ‘popular’ Christian authors today because they are tainted with what the Apostle Paul called “doctrines of demons” (2 Timothy 4:1). Many so-called “Christian” pastors, teachers, and authors are false teachers. Be careful. Test their words against God’s Word.
I’ve heard from some Christians who don’t like the word “doctrine,” so just a reminder that it simply means “teaching.” Any teaching is a doctrine (didaskalia – instruction). We don’t need to be afraid to talk about “doctrines” because it describes what Jesus said. He said – He taught – He instructed. And by the way, what Jesus taught and what popular preachers, teachers and authors teach and write are often not the same thing. I’ve been reading and reviewing Christian books for decades and the problem has become an epidemic of poor thinking and bad theology. Except for an occasional apologetics book that may be helpful, I generally recommend that Christians get a good translation of the Bible, possibly a good study Bible by a reputable teacher, and spend their reading time in God’s Word.
So, we will begin a deep dive into the sayings (teachings, instructions) of the “real” Jesus of Nazareth in the next part of our series, And Jesus Said.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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