Thursday, February 21, 2013

Computer advances (?) in biblical studies

A COUPLE OF RECENT STORIES on supposed new discoveries in biblical studies arising from computer analysis are worth noting, but perhaps more for their amusement value than any serious advances in the field.

First, the "Search Visualizer" meets the King James version of Genesis: New Analysis of Genesis Reveals 'Death Sandwich' Literary Theme (ScienceDaily). Not to be confused with the Birthright-Eating-Red-Pottage Theme.

Second: New findings on debated authorship (NewsMaker).
University of Adelaide researchers have provided new evidence on the long-debated authorship of two famous texts – the US Federalist Papers and the Letter to the Hebrews in the New Testament.


The researchers turned their attention to the Letter to the Hebrews, traditionally attributed to Saint Paul, but debated since the third century AD with scholars suggesting Barnabas, Luke and Clement of Rome as alternatives.

Testing was done, using the original Koine Greek texts, with these four possible authors, plus the three other gospel authors, Matthew, Mark and John and another possible author, Ignatius of Antioch.

“What we found is that the Letter to the Hebrews is indeed closest to Paul than to any of these other authors,” Professor Abbott says. “But the sting in the tail is that this positive result had only a weak likelihood weighting. There are two possibilities: Luke was the second closest match so there may have been some collaboration between the two, for example if Paul wrote the letter in Aramaic (the Hebrew language) and then Luke translated it into Greek. Or it may simply mean we have yet to find the true author!
If I had to bet, I would bet the latter.

I love this bit:
If the Vatican were to agree to supply us with more extra-canonical texts that we haven't tried, we would be happy to do more exhaustive tests.”
Hey Vatican, can I have some more extra-canonical texts too? I'm starting to run out.