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[Synoptic-L] Re: The failure of color coding

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  • Brian E. Wilson
    Brian Wilson wrote -- ... Michael Grondin replied -- ... Michael, On the contrary, it _can_ be right. A color-coding should posit clear objective criteria of
    Message 1 of 5 , Aug 8, 2001
      Brian Wilson wrote --
      >Color coding is for the purpose of indicating similarity of wording
      >irrespective of any semantical relation between the passages concerned.
      Michael Grondin replied --
      >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 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.

      It would be possible to produce and run a computer program using the
      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
      different purposes.

      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 --
      >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.
      Michael Grondin replied --
      >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
      >semantically unrelated.
      I would respectfully suggest that perhaps your way of thinking needs
      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 --
      >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
      Michael Grondin replied --
      >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.
      In which case I am glad that everyone, yourself not excluded, is in
      agreement with me on this point! :)
      >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
      >"non-parallel similarities".
      One of the non-parallel similarities is that the two-fold repetitions
      (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
      of them.

      Michael Grondin continued --
      >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?
      Your argument is irrelevant if a synopsis cannot be so arranged. I do
      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.

      Best wishes,

      >HOMEPAGE *** RECENTLY UPDATED *** http://www.twonh.demon.co.uk/

      Rev B.E.Wilson,10 York Close,Godmanchester,Huntingdon,Cambs,PE29 2EB,UK
      > "What can be said at all can be said clearly; and whereof one cannot
      > speak thereof one must be silent." Ludwig Wittgenstein, "Tractatus".

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