Re: [Synoptic-L] Re: Number of words in gospels
- Stephen C. Carlson wrote:
>Thank you for your interest.
> I'm kind of curious to find out what statistical work can be done on
> the synoptic problem. Would you be willing to share your thoughts in
> this area?
> Stephen Carlson
When I wrote the words "statistical work on the synoptic problem", I was
referring to my attempts to quantify the patterns of verbatim agreement
between the synoptic gospels. I began this work in a 1993 Th.M. thesis
at Duke (advised by Sanders), in which I tabulated the lengths of all
the phrases appearing in verbatim agreement, as I found them marked in
Farmer's *Synopticon*. It was (and still is) my contention that it is
not so much the fact that a word appears in parallel that matters most,
nor is it the fact that it is *sequentially* parallel, but rather it is
the *length* of a parallel string of words that is most significant.
Thus I was seeking to improve upon Joseph Tyson's study of "sequential
parallelism", as well as Robert Morgenthaler's enumeration of
"folgeidentisch" words. While Tyson and Morgenthaler both account for
the fact that ABCDEF agrees more with ABCGDE than with ABCGDF, neither
of them considers the fact that ABCDEF agrees more with ABCDEF than with
DEFABC. I developed a method of quantifying these "phrastic
agreements", by presenting a chart that adds together the lengths of
these agreements, after first raising them to various powers (to give
weight to the longer agreements). To my knowledge, the only other
person who has realized the fundamental importance of the lengths of the
strings of words in parallel is Jim Deardorff (see the article on his
Although my time is taken up by other projects, I am still working on
the phenomenon of phrastic agreement. I hope to thoroughly revamp the
whole study (freeing myself from Farmer's *Synopticon*, dividing the
material between logia and narrative, etc.), and to publish a general
study of the phenomenon of verbatim agreement.
There is also the matter of whether, or to what degree, my contention
that it is the *length* of phrastic agreements that matters most within
the attempt to quantify the phenomenon of verbatim agreement. I have
just heard from one scholar who doubts that this is the case, since, in
the case of a conflater, the lengths of phrastic agreements will depend
in part on the compositional principles of the last evangelist to
write. One could add to this the objection that an evangelist may be
fond of inserting a favorite word in the middle of an otherwise perfect
phrastic agreement. Still, I think that the length of phrastic
agreements must be taken into consideration in some way, even if it is
an imperfect way.
I would like to hear from others about the question of how to properly
quantify the phenomenon of verbatim agreement.
John C. Poirier