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Re: [Synoptic-L] Re: Number of words in gospels

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  • John C. Poirier
    ... Thank you for your interest. When I wrote the words statistical work on the synoptic problem , I was referring to my attempts to quantify the patterns of
    Message 1 of 3 , Jan 13, 2000
      Stephen C. Carlson wrote:
      >
      > 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

      Thank you for your interest.

      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
      homepage).

      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
      Middletown, Ohio
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