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4451RE: [Synoptic-L] Length of Luke (and Acts)

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    Aug 4, 2012
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      To: Synoptic
      On: Certain Stylometric Results
      From: Bruce

      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
      "demonstrated."

      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.

      Warmly recommended,

      Bruce

      E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst
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