I read (listened to the AudioBible) the entire Gospel of John today, and the final words of the book hit me particularly strong today. I remembered the gist of what the ending said, but today I heard it more clearly.
Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written. (John 21:25)
JESUS DID MANY OTHER THINGS
I knew the Bible said that Jesus performed many other miracles that were not documented in the Gospels. I even taught a lesson on this once years ago where I went through a list of all the documented miracles during Jesus’ ministry and made a point that, as great as all of these miracles are, they only scratch the surface of everything that God does for us. However today, that last line just really stuck out to me and got me to thinking about the sheer number of great things Jesus did during His too-short life on Earth. I am almost 33 years old, the same age of Jesus when He was crucified. I feel like I have done some good things in my life, occasionally maybe a great thing or two, but if I was feeling particularly prideful, I could probably record all the good things I have done in just one book. The great things I have done would probably be less than a chapter, maybe just one page.
Jesus on the other hand worked so many miracles and did so many great things during His 33 years on Earth, that the whole world could not hold all the books it would take to record His greatness. Just take a minute and think about that.
This got me curious about how many books there are in the world. It turns out Google has been on a mission in recent years to scan every published book in the world and create digital archives for a multitude of purposes. In 2010 they concluded, through use of endless research and countless complex algorithms, that there were 129,864,880 books in the entire world.
This number is 7 years old, and it is most likely closer to 145 million books now. This is not actually the number of physical books in existence, but this is the number of unique books that have been published at any point anywhere in the world. No one really knows how many copies have been printed of these 130+ million books, but you have think it is in the billions or trillions. If 7.3 billion people live on Earth right now, I would think theres an average of at least a few books per person, despite some 3rd world people having few to no books at all. So let’s be conservative and guess that there are about 100 billion physical books on Earth right now.
Since we are counting children’s books, let’s say conservatively that the average book is only 100 pages (approximately 25,000 words). That would be about 10 trillion printed book pages, using conservative numbers all around, or approximately 2,500,000,000,000,000 (2.5 quadrillion) printed words in printed book pages on the Earth right now. Obviously printed books only make up a minute fraction of the Earth’s surface, so you could multiply these numbers indefinitely to imagine how many books we would have to print before the Earth ran out of space.
HOW MANY BOOKS TO COVER THE EARTH?
I will now attempt mathematically to figure out how many books it would take to cover the surface of the Earth in one single layer.
The average book is 6×9 inches, meaning the cover has an area of 54 square inches. This also equals out to 0.37500 square feet and 0.000000013451 square miles.
The Earth has a surface area of 196.9 million square miles.
I think that means to figure out how many books (laying flat on their backs in a single layer) it would take to cover the surface of the Earth, we would do this…
196,900,000 ÷ 0.000000013451 = 14,638,317,000,000,000
That is 14.6 quadrillion books / 1.46 quintillion pages / 365 quintillion words
Now think how many books you could have if you stacked them or even just stood them up. Or how about we take this a step further. The tallest building in the world is the Burj Khalifa, located in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. It is 2,717 feet tall. So what if those 14.6 quadrillion books covering a single layer on top of the earth all started stacks of books reaching 2,717 feet per stack?
Earlier I used 100 pages as the average book length. A 100 page paperback book would be 50 sheets of paper thick, or about 5.5 mm (0.216535 inches). To account for book covers I will round that up to .25 inches per book.
That means to make a stack of books 2,717 feet tall, we would do the following math…
12 inches (1 foot) ÷ .25 inches = 48 books per foot
48 books per foot X 2,717 feet = 130,416 books per stack
130,416 books per stack = 13,041,600 pages per stack = 3,260,400,000 words per stack
Now that we calculated how many books we could fit on each stack, let’s figure out how many books it would take to make 14.6 quadrillion stacks.
14,638,317,000,000,000 stacks X 130,416 books per stack = 1,909,070,700,000,000,000,000 total books
So to cover the surface of the Earth with books stacked as high as the tallest building on Earth, it would take 1.9 sextillion books. At 100 pages per book, that is 190 sextillion pages. At 250 words per page, that is 47.7 septillion words.
The Gospel of John has 15,635 words. At 21 chapters, that is about 745 words per chapter. More important than chapter numbers is the number of subsections throughout the book. I counted about 73 sub-headings throughout the Gospel of John. So I think it is fair to say that John tells around 75 things that Jesus did, although some sections might have multiple miracles or events. Each of the 73 sub-sections of John averages 214 words. So if you can write about a miracle of Jesus with 214 words, how many miracles can you describe with 47.7 septillion words?
47,726,769,000,000,000,000,000,000 words ÷ 214 words = 223,022,290,000,000,000,000,000 stories
In other words, if you covered the entire planet with stacks of books piled as high as the tallest building in the world, you could share approximately 223 sextillion stories of Jesus’ works and miracles.
Even if you took away the giant stacks of books and just went with 1 layer of books covering the entire surface of the Earth, you could still tell 1.71 quintillion stories about Jesus.
365,000,000,000,000,000,000 words ÷ 214 words = 1,705,607,500,000,000,000 stories
HOW MANY GREAT THINGS DID JESUS DO PER DAY?
Let’s keep going with this. Jesus lived between 33-34 years on Earth. There are 12,418 days in 34 years. If he did 1.71 quintillion noteworthy things in 34 years, that would be an average of 137 trillion per day, every day of His life.
If there are 86,400 seconds per day, then Jesus would perform 1.6 billion (1,589,694,600) miracles and positive actions per second for His entire life. He would literally be a walking (and sometimes crawling) miracle machine from the first time that He opened His eyes.
I just did more math than I have done in about 13 years, so I am very likely miscalculating some things here. However, even if you take a few digits off all my numbers, they are still absurdly large. It seems impossible for any man, even Jesus, to do 1.6 billion things per second, whether those things are minor or miraculous. I could imagine instances where Jesus may have healed hundreds or even thousands of sick people at once, and I could think up other potential circumstances where Jesus might perform large scale miracles instantly. However the numbers do not add up if you only consider His life on Earth. This really only leaves me with 2 possible conclusions here.
When John wrote the final words of his gospel, he was just trying to say that Jesus did a whole whole whole whole whole whole bunch of miracles and amazing feats that were not even recorded. He never intended to imply that he had any idea how many miracles Jesus performed, but he wanted to make it a point for people to realize that Jesus was doing amazing things every single day, whether in public or in private. With this conclusion, my little math experiment is pointless other than the fact that it was a fun challenge for my nerd-brain.
To consider that Jesus could have performed somewhere between 1.71 quintillion (1 layer of books covering Earth’s surface) and 223 sextillion (stacks of books 2,717 feet tall covering Earth’s surface) means that you must account for far more than His 33-34 years living among us. John began his gospel by telling us that Jesus was there with God participating in creation. You could argue that the number of miracles and amazing feats performed during creation far exceeds 223 sextillion. Creating everything in this world and universe, down to the molecular level, is a series of tasks even the most brilliant scientists cannot possibly begin to comprehend. The detail given to one human brain (100 billion neurons that each have up to 10,000 connections with neighboring neurons) alone is monumental. Not only did Jesus participate in creation, but He was there with God for thousands of years (or billions of years if you listen to many scientists’ estimates of the Earth’s age), probably helping God answer endless prayers, command nature and weather, cast down plagues on the Egyptians and perform countless other important tasks that we will never know about.
If you consider all that Jesus did before He ever became flesh and dwelt among us, then my calculations are probably very conservative guesstimations about how many miracles John is referring to in his closing remarks.
Ultimately there is no way to ever know all the amazing things that Jesus has done, whether it be during His time living as a man among us or during the entire duration of history. I don’t think God intends for us to know such things, and what we do know from scripture is more than enough for us to believe.