synopsis construction and checking hypotheses
- David Peabody commented on a message from Brian Wilson -
> Since you had dinner with David Dungan a few nights ago, you
>might now want to read what he has written on synopsis construction, if
>you haven't already...David has been trying to get New Testament
>scholars to see the inherent bias in all synopses for almost 2 decades,
>but few, even among persons who have constructed synopses, have been
>willing to admit that these tools are not "neutral" and, in fact,
I did have a brief discussion with Professor Dungan on this
point, after the Seminar at which he read a paper on Tuesday at the
Divinity School in Cambridge UK. I suggested to him that it might be
possible using modern technology to construct a computer synopsis, with
each synoptic gospel in Greek in a separate computer "window" so that
the contents could be independently moved vertically without changing
the order of material in any gospel. It would be possible for the user
to choose any passage of any reasonable length from each synoptic
gospel, and have the three passages chosen displayed in parallel columns
in the three windows on the screen. If the text of each gospel was
appropriately "tagged" according to word-roots, then agreements in the
use of word roots could be picked out and indicated by different colours
on the screen, so that the same word root in all three could be one
colour, and three other colours used for agreements between each
possible pair of synoptic gospels. The reader's own tags could then be
temporarily added to help in the check he is carrying out. This computer
synopsis would not use the pericope divisions of any printed synopsis,
because it would have no pericope divisions at all.
As I understood Professor Dungan's reply, such a synopsis would
"certainly be possible", and would be ***"neutral"*** in his view.
He went on to wonder whether such a synopsis could be adapted to throw
any light on similarities and differences of **order** of material,
especially "in the first six chapters of Mark". He indicated that this
is a "problem area" for constructing a printed synopsis. We agreed that
computers are useless for producing a solution to the synoptic problem.
They cannot create a hypothesis. They are not students. They can only do
what they are told. Dungan commented, "Unfortunately computers always
do as they are told." This was only a brief conversation since others
wanted a discussion with Professor Dungan after his lecture to the
Seminar. It broke off at this point.
The lecture was brilliant. It was a summary of Dungan's coming book on
the history of the Synoptic Problem. Professor Stanton in the chair
held up a galley proof for us to see, and commented that its state of
preparedness probably indicated that the finished book would be on sale
soon. In the Seminar, the discussion by the professional dons was
tremendous. It extended for an hour (usually it only lasts 30 minutes).
The Head of the Vatican Library, an archbishop, was present and asked
extraordinarily perceptive questions on the uses of historical
criticism. Professor Hooker thought that Dungan was more pessimistic
about the usefulness of historical criticism than she was. You could
have heard a pin drop at some points in the seminar discussion.
Professor W. R. Farmer commented to the Seminar that he doubted whether
he had ever before heard a discussion of such "quality" on the synoptic
gospels. I do not think he was just being polite. The non-professional
observers like myself felt privileged to be there.
From my viewpoint, I would want to use computers to check the individual
synoptic hypothesis, not to support a particular hypothesis, nor to
Please does anyone know of any work being done to produce a computer
synopsis of the synoptic gospels, in Greek, with appropriate tagging of
words, but with NO PERICOPE DIVISIONS? Please let me know if you do.
Would such a synopsis be of interest to others? - I might be able to
find a software engineer who would produce one, if he is given a
grammatically-tagged text of the synoptics in Greek.
E-MAIL : brian@... homepage -
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