4451RE: [Synoptic-L] Length of Luke (and Acts)
- Aug 4, 2012To: Synoptic
On: Certain Stylometric Results
David Mealand in a recent post cited certain stylometric results of Patricia
Walters, and ended with a paragraph including this phrase: " So the further
point is to ask whether one should link the contrasting style of seams and
summaries in Luke and Acts demonstrated by Walters."
In view of the uniformly and knowledgeably negative response which Patricia
Walters received at her SBL presentation on Luke-Acts recently, I
respectfully doubt whether her conclusions can be accepted forthwith as
Her specific results aside, there is a more general point. As David himself
points out elsewhere, stylometric indicators tend to be sensitive for style,
but less so for authorship, a matter for which they were not designed. That
is exactly my own experience over many years with style tests (in English,
Chinese, and more recently and tentatively Greek). What we ask, and what our
tools are properly capable of giving us, are often divergent. This readily
leads to misapplication and misinterpretation in use. It's perhaps
questionable as methodology.
Not that we aren't going to try, just to see what happens, but what happens
should always be interpreted with appropriate reticence.
If anyone ever used a style difference test to explore style differences
(preferably within what is otherwise likely to be the work of one author), I
suspect that we would immediately begin to see profoundly interesting
results - answers to questions we have not so far chosen to ask, but which
are there for the asking, any day of any week. All we have to do is use the
screwdriver to drive the screw, and not to open the paint can.
E Bruce Brooks
Warring States Project
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
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