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Re: testing the synoptics

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  • Mark Goodacre
    ... I think most studies based on vocabulary statistics would manage to assign passages to the right Gospel because usually the statistics are comparative. To
    Message 1 of 8 , Mar 26, 1998
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      David Mealand wrote:

      > Incidentally NT scholars are
      > very keen on vocabulary statistics or rather vocabulary counts -
      > most such tests never offer any tests of significance (Gaston is a
      > rare and honourable exception). It would be interesting to see how
      > well such tests fared on say correctly assigning portions of Mark or
      > Matthew to the right gospel.

      I think most studies based on vocabulary statistics would manage to
      assign passages to the right Gospel because usually the statistics
      are comparative. To take Matthean vocabulary, for example, the lists
      of Hawkins, Goulder, Luz, Gundry and Davies-Allison all make their
      decisions about what is and isn't characteristic or distinctive by
      means of comparison with the other Synoptics.

      This is, in fact one of the potential problems with the lists. If
      they are not properly used, there can be some circularity, as when
      Davies and Allison, for example, say that their list of Matthean
      vocabulary is "helpful for determining to what extent a given passage
      has been moulded by the evangelist", in spite of their claim that
      many of the words on their list are there because they "must . . . be
      regarded as very often editorial" (*A Critical and Exegetical
      Commentary on the Gospel According to Matthew*, Vol. 1 (ICC;
      Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1988), pp. 75-9).

      It is for these kinds of reason that I would be interested to see
      some successful stylometric study on the Synoptics. I was
      struck by Lloyd Gaston's conclusion to his own *Horae Synopticae
      Electronicae: Word Statistics of the Synoptic Gospels* (Montana: SBL,
      1973):

      "Perhaps the very preciseness of the tables will encourage us to
      rely more on considerations of style and content. These latter
      criteria, while superficially not as "objective", are really
      much more important" (p. 12).

      All the best

      Mark
      -------------------------------------------
      Dr Mark Goodacre M.S.Goodacre@...
      Dept. of Theology, University of Birmingham
      Homepage: http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/goodacre.htm
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