Re: testimony-books and parsimony
- Brian Wilson wrote -
>Dave Hindley commented -
>If probability is to be our guide (as you propose above), then, I would
>suggest that we should therefore reject the idea that Mt used a
>testimony-book. For, on the principle of parsimony, the hypothesis that
>he used a testimony-book in addition to the OT and oral tradition is
>less probable than the hypothesis that he used the OT and oral
>tradition but no testimony-book.
>Unfortunately, it is not too difficult to find real life cases where the
>number of entities required to resolve a problem turned out to be more than
>the minimum required by the principals of "Occam's Razor."
I agree with this entirely. But what you write does not affect my
argument above. It was Wieland who introduced the idea of "probably",
and who has in the past appealed to Occam's Razor in order to assess the
relative probability of two appropriately-related hypotheses. I would
suggest the principle applies in this particular case, to the two
hypotheses set out at the end of my paragraph set quoted above. I was
not suggesting that every hypothesis positing a hypothetical document
should be rejected. I was pinpointing just the two hypotheses at the end
of the paragraph above, as is required in a proper application of
>As I explain above, I have not argued that generally the idea of a
>BTW, I am not sure why your proposed Matthean note-book does not qualify as
>an "unnecessary additional entity" when a "testimony book" does.
testimony-book is an unnecessary additional entity. Testimony-books were
actually written several centuries after the first century. I produced
one myself when I was a teen-ager, using the columns of "cross-
references" in my copy of the King James Version of the Bible. Very
obviously these testimony-books from later centuries actually exist and
cannot be unnecessary additional entities. A testimony-book as such
clearly does not necessarily qualify as an "unncessary additional
Also, if you consider that there is an "unnecessary additional entity"
in my LTH, you should be able to put forward a simpler hypothesis which
explains the facts equally as well, or even better. What is this
simpler hypothesis? Please tell us, and show how it fits the facts. I
would be genuinely delighted if you can simplify the LTH in this way to
produce a solution to the Synoptic Problem.
>Such a hypothesis is indeed simple. But is it a solution? Not every
> Also, the simplest solution is that the authors of Mt, Mk, Lk and Jn
>just made everything up. That doesn't require any additional entities
>at all, aside from the authors themselves.
hypothesis is a solution. A solution would have to be a hypothesis which
can be shown to fit the observed data. Independent authors making
everything up would not produce the sort of close agreement in wording
observable between the canonical gospels. This is why for over two
hundred years scholars have considered that there is a Synoptic Problem
to solve, and speak of a "literary relationship" between the synoptic
gospels. It is precisely because the idea that all four canonical
evangelists independently "made everything up" does not fit the observed
facts, and does not begin to explain the relationship between the
synoptic gospels, that the study of the Synoptic Problem began. I would
suggest that the idea is therefore not "the simplest solution", but no
One of the conditions of using "Occam's Razor" is that each of the two
hypotheses being compared must fit the observed phenomena. William of
Ockham himself actually criticized people of his day who put forward
hypotheses which were too simple to fit the facts. Some of William's
hypotheses were very complicated. He was not interested in simple
hypotheses which do not work, but in establishing the simplest
hypotheses which do work.
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