[Synoptic-L] Re: The failure of color coding
- Brian Wilson wrote --
>Michael Grondin replied --
>Color coding is for the purpose of indicating similarity of wording
>irrespective of any semantical relation between the passages concerned.
>Well now, wait, that can't be right. The word KAI, for example, would
>not be color-coded just anywhere in the texts, but only in parallel
>passages - which would necessarily have similar meaning (i.e., semantic
>similarity), right? What am I missing?
On the contrary, it _can_ be right. A color-coding should posit
clear objective criteria of what is to be accepted as significant
agreement of wording between two passages in different synoptic gospels.
What is to be coded depends entirely on the criteria of similarity of
wording posited by the definition of color-coding being used. If the
definition required it, then, yes, it is theoretically possible that
every instance of the word KAI would be color-coded. It all depends on
the criteria of similarity of wording posited in the definition of
color-coding being followed. You ask what you are missing. You are
missing a definition of color-coding that specifies criteria of
similarity of wording between synoptic gospels that does not employ
considerations of semantic agreements.
One definition we could use, for instance, would be that, for the
purposes of color-coding, significant similarities of wording occur
between one passage in one synoptic gospel and another passage in
another synoptic gospel if each passage consists of a string of no more
than (say) 20 words and if at least (say) 8 of the words in the first
passage have word roots the same, and in the same order, as at least 8
of the words in the second passage. Other definitions using different
parameters, or positing that the similar words should be the same words
in exactly the same grammatical form, could also be used.
If such an objective definition is adopted, it is certainly not the case
that KAI would be color-coded only in parallel passages which
necessarily have similar meaning, that is, in parallel passages that
have semantic similarity. Two passages that have some significant
agreement of wording (possibly including the word KAI) can be quite
different in meaning.
For instance, the first part of the parable of the Seed Growing Secretly
(Mk 4.26-29) is similar in wording to the first part of the parable of
the Tares (Mt 13.24-30), in that the first part of the Seed Growing
Secretly has 8 word roots the same and in the same order as 8 words in
the first part of the Tares. (All word roots the same and in the same
order in both parables are set out in full in Greek in my Finland talk
available on my home-page.)
In this connection, Michael, it would appear that you have omitted a
crucial part of what I wrote --
>It would be possible to produce and run a computer program using the
>It seems to me that color coding of agreements of wording between the
>synoptic gospels could theoretically be carried out by a computer
>program using the text of the synoptic gospels as data.
sort of objective definition of color-coding given above. Any color-
coding produced should, of course, include a statement of the definition
being used, including the parameters it specifies. Programs using
different parameters could be run to produce color-codings suitable for
Note especially that this would produce some instances of more than one
passage in one gospel being significantly similar in wording to a
passage in another synoptic gospel.
Note also that _not_ every instance of KAI would be identified as a
verbal agreement between synoptic gospels.
Note also that the program would be entirely syntactical. No semantic
considerations would be employed. A computer program would hardly be
able to spot semantic agreements.
By the way, it is not true that syntactical agreement necessarily
implies semantic agreement. Some words in exactly the same grammatical
form can have different meanings in different contexts, including even
the word KAI.
Brian Wilson continued --
>Michael Grondin replied --
>The problem, as Farmer rightly observed, is that "two or more passages
>in one gospel may be parallel to one or more passages in another". This
>has nothing to do with any semantical relationship between similar
>passages. It is a purely syntactical question.
>I would respectfully suggest that perhaps your way of thinking needs
>Again, I miss the point. Perhaps I'm using the word 'semantics' in a
>different way than you are. To my way of thinking, identical syntax
>implies identical semantics, though not vice-versa. So it seems quite
>odd to me to say that two passages can be 'similar', though
revising at this point. Similar wording in different contexts does not
necessarily imply similarity in meaning. A word in one passage can have
a very different meaning from the same word in another similarly-worded
passage. In any case, whether or not syntactical agreement implies
semantic agreement is irrelevant to constructing and using a color-
coding that takes no account whatsoever of semantic agreements. Semantic
agreement is not what color-coding the text of the synoptic gospels is
about. Farmer's *Synopticon* was designed to highlight verbal agreement,
that is syntactical agreement.
Brian Wilson also wrote --
>Michael Grondin replied --
>Color coding ... ultimately fails because some significant similarities
>of wording between the synoptic gospels are part of non-parallelism
>similarities between the synoptic gospels, and color coding is not
>designed to apply to similarities other than parallelism similarities.
>The problem with synopses is not that different synopses identify
>different parallels, but that synopses do not identify non-parallelism
>In which case I am glad that everyone, yourself not excluded, is in
>As you indicate, when you say that color-coding "fails", what you mean
>is that it fails to tell the whole story. I don't know as anyone would
>disagree with that.
agreement with me on this point! :)
>One of the non-parallel similarities is that the two-fold repetitions
>But you're also claiming (if I understand you correctly) that it's
>impossible in principle for a synopsis to be so arranged as to identify
(as defined in my Rome talk) unique to each synoptic gospel are such
that in each synoptic gospel the order of the earlier components is
significantly similar to the relative order of the later components. I
would suggest that to produce a "synopsis" that identified that this
similarity of order occurs in all three synoptic gospels, and is
therefore a similarity between them (even though they are not
similarities of wording between synoptic gospels) would require such an
extraordinary change to the format of what is normally considered to be
a synopsis, that the result would hardly be recognizable as a "synopsis"
as usually understood. Moreover, the color-coding program (suggested
above) would not output all the two-fold repetitions since some of them
consist of two pieces of material in one synoptic gospel such that
neither piece of material is significantly similar in wording to a piece
of material in any other synoptic gospel. So the color-coding program
suggested above would fail to identify all instances of two-fold
repetitions unique to any synoptic gospel, though it would identify some
Michael Grondin continued --
>Your argument is irrelevant if a synopsis cannot be so arranged. I do
>If so, that would seem to be a short-coming of the synopsis format, not
>of a color-coding scheme, for if a synopsis _could be_ so arranged,
>then the color-coding wouldn't "fail", right?
not think it can. The re-arrangement needed would be too drastic for it
to remain a synopsis. Also, the color-coding would fail in the case of
the example just considered above, and in other cases also for similar
Farmer produced his *Synopticon* as an aid to the study of the synoptic
problem. It is not a synopsis. I took my copy to Cambridge a few years
ago, and discussed its usefulness with Farmer who was staying in a flat
in Pinehurst which is within sight of Selwyn College. He considered the
book to be a useful tool for the study of the synoptic problem. One of
the things we discussed was whether the "switches" from yellow to green,
and from green to yellow, in the first chapter of Mark, could be used to
support the Griesbach Hypothesis against the Two Document Hypothesis. In
no way did the possibility of similarity of meaning of these words with
the corresponding words in Matthew or Luke come into the discussion. I
argued that the color-coding in the *Synopticon* did not provide
sufficient information to decide between opposing synoptic hypotheses. I
would now want to add that the color-coding in the *Synopticon*, even
though independent of any semantic considerations, cannot be used to
identify non-parallelism similarities between the synoptic gospels, and
that identifying these and accounting for them is crucial to solving the
synoptic problem. I would suggest the same would apply to other color-
codings of the text of the synoptic gospels that use clear objective
criteria of what is to be accepted as significant agreement of wording
between two passages in different synoptic gospels.
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