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synopsis construction and checking hypotheses

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  • Brian E. Wilson
    David Peabody commented on a message from Brian Wilson - ... David, I did have a brief discussion with Professor Dungan on this point, after the Seminar at
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 12, 1999
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      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,
      >*cannot* be.
      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
      formulate one.

      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.

      Best wishes,

      E-MAIL : brian@... homepage -
      SNAILMAIL ; Rev B. E. Wilson,
      10 York Close, Godmanchester, http://www.twonh.demon.co.uk
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