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Re: [Synoptic-L] McIver and Carroll

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  • P.M. Head
    I read it when I saw it, and thought it was a reasonable attempt to construct experimental tests for comparison with use of written sources in the synoptics. I
    Message 1 of 4 , Apr 17, 2003
      I read it when I saw it, and thought it was a reasonable attempt to
      construct experimental tests for comparison with use of written sources in
      the synoptics. I was glad they delivered sucha concrete rule: 16 words in
      seuqence proves written sources. But I couldn't help thinking about the
      cultural differences between Australian undergraduates and Jesus tradents.
      In some ways it all is a bit of a reductio ad absurdum.

      Peter Head

      On Apr 17 2003, John C. Poirier wrote:

      > Has anyone out there spent any time with the recent article by Robert K.
      > McIver and Marie Carroll: “Experiments to Develop Criteria for
      > Determining the Existence of Written Sources, and Their Potential
      > Implications for the Synoptic Problem,” *JBL* 121 (2002) 667-87?
      >
      > I gave the article a close rereading last week, and discovered an
      > alarming number of blunders, both logical and mechanical. The greatest
      > logical blunder is that they attempt a statistical comparison of the
      > sequential agreements between Matthew and Luke (explicitly presupposed
      > as independent writers, per the Q hypothesis) with the sequential
      > agreements between an experimental subject in a memory experiment and
      > his/her prepared source.
      >
      > McIver and Carroll’s experiment told them that a sequential
      > agreement of 16 words or more was a sign of a written source, so they
      > catalogued all the places in synoptic gospels where agreements of this
      > length could be found, suggesting that all *other* parallel passages
      > display patterns of agreement characteristic of the “mechanisms of
      > memory” rather than of the use written sources. It does not occur
      > to them that, for a given double-tradition passage, Matthew might have a
      > sequential agreement with Q for (say) 30 words, and Luke might have a
      > sequential agreement with Q for (say) 25 words, while Matthew and Luke
      > only coincide in their agreements with Q for (say) 15 words. One should
      > always expect a lower rate of agreement between the two pendant documents
      > within a fork model of transmission than between a document and its
      > direct source. In order to apply their experimental results in a way
      > analogous to their view of Matthew and Luke, McIver and Carroll should
      > have compared Matthew-Luke sequential agreements with agreements
      > appearing between the students participating in the experiment, rather
      > than with agreements between the students and their source.
      >
      > This is not a new mistake: it actually revisits the notorious blunder of
      > Theodore Rosché (“The Words of Jesus and the Future of the
      > ‘Q’ Hypothesis,” *Biblica* 79 [1960] 210-20), who
      > (presupposing the Q hypothesis) compared the statistical distance between
      > Matthew and Luke in the double tradition with the statistical distance
      > between either of them and Mark in the triple tradition, without
      > realizing that he was comparing documents whose agreements were mediated
      > by a third document with documents whose agreements were unmediated.
      >
      > There are also a number of mechanical blunders in McIver and Carroll,
      > e.g., erroneous counts in their chart of sequential agreements, but
      > these are not as problematic for their overall argument as the
      > above-mentioned logical blunder.
      >
      >
      > John C. Poirier
      > Middletown, Ohio
      >
      >
      >
      >
      > Synoptic-L Homepage: http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/synoptic-l
      > List Owner: Synoptic-L-Owner@...
      >

      Synoptic-L Homepage: http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/synoptic-l
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    • Jim West
      ... Like a lot of modern hair splitting and reductionism. Whenever I see something like the aforementioned essay I cant help but think of Aristophanes The
      Message 2 of 4 , Apr 17, 2003
        At 03:49 PM 4/17/03 +0100, you wrote:

        >In some ways it all is a bit of a reductio ad absurdum.
        >
        >Peter Head

        Like a lot of modern hair splitting and reductionism. Whenever I see
        something like the aforementioned essay I cant help but think of
        Aristophanes' "The Clouds" lines 64-66 - O happy, happy in your entrail
        learning! Full surely need he fear nor debts nor duns, who knows about the
        entrails of the gnats".

        Jim


        +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

        Jim West, ThD

        Biblical Studies Resources
        http://web.infoave.net/~jwest

        Le Nozze Di Figaro, Act Two, Scene X,
        SUSANNA e LA CONTESSA
        (piano a Figaro)
        Figaro, all'erta........



        Synoptic-L Homepage: http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/synoptic-l
        List Owner: Synoptic-L-Owner@...
      • Ken Olson
        ... McIver and Marie Carroll: Experiments to Develop Criteria for Determining the Existence of Written Sources, and Their Potential Implications for the
        Message 3 of 4 , Apr 24, 2003
          On April 17, John Poirier wrote:

          >>Has anyone out there spent any time with the recent article by Robert K.
          McIver and Marie Carroll: "Experiments to Develop Criteria for
          Determining the Existence of Written Sources, and Their Potential
          Implications for the Synoptic Problem," *JBL* 121 (2002) 667-87?

          I gave the article a close rereading last week, and discovered an
          alarming number of blunders, both logical and mechanical. The greatest
          logical blunder is that they attempt a statistical comparison of the
          sequential agreements between Matthew and Luke (explicitly presupposed
          as independent writers, per the Q hypothesis) with the sequential
          agreements between an experimental subject in a memory experiment and
          his/her prepared source.<<

          John,

          I got hold of McIver and Carroll yesterday. I'm glad people are doing
          experiments like this one, but I agree that it has some major flaws. I see
          your point about their treatment of Matthew and Luke (made obvious in their
          chart on p. 681). This may be a great logical blunder, but I think it's far
          from their greatest. It looks to me like they're trying to push an oral
          tradition hypothesis that minimizes the necessity of written sources for the
          synoptics. As you observed:

          >>McIver and Carroll's experiment told them that a sequential agreement of
          16 words or more was a sign of a written source, so they catalogued all
          the places in synoptic gospels where agreements of this length could be
          found, suggesting that all *other* parallel passages display patterns of
          agreement characteristic of the "mechanisms of memory" rather than of
          the use written sources.<<

          It greatly bothers me that they equate "mechanisms of memory" with "oral
          transmission". They seem to want to argue that anything that isn't verbatim
          copying is probably "orally transmitted," apparetnly forgetting that their
          test # 5, in which a written source was read immediately prior to, but not
          during, composition, produces similar results to their "oral transmission"
          experiments.

          They also don't seem to allow much room for authors to shape or even create
          content intentionally. Extensively paraphrasing written sources was the
          norm in the Graeco-Roman world, and at least many classicists would allow
          that authors felt free to create minor details. This isn't something these
          tests were designed to allow for. In fact, in their test of oral
          transmission they offered financial rewards to students who got the wording
          exactly right. That seems to presuppose that the bearers of the material
          were trying to transmit it unchanged from the beginning. It sure isn't
          going to encourage the test subjects to put their own spin on the material.

          I'm also concerned about their definition of "oral transmission." Telling
          someone a story and having them go into another room and try to repeat it
          verbatim into a tape recorder seems a lot more like some forms of dictation
          using written sources than it does like any kind of oral tradition process I
          've ever heard of.

          I think there are a lot of missed opportunities in the study. It would have
          been a lot more useful to me if McIver and Carroll had published the actual
          student writings produced by the experiment than their conclusions. For
          instance, I'd love to see if different student writings based on the same
          original text exhibit the "alternating support" which many Griesbachians
          find to be such a problem for Matthew and Luke's use of Mark.

          Best Wishes,

          Ken



          Synoptic-L Homepage: http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/synoptic-l
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