Wednesday, 27 May 2009

There are a few different types of math that we could do with the NT. If things go well, I might even get round to doing them.

* Firstly I'm going to be doing mostly counting stuff: frequencies, broad patterns, distributions, and so on. These are easy, because they only involve single quantities. We can look at the distribution of a particular verb form across the NT books, for example, or find the easiest verse to read (as in the previous post).

* Secondly we could look at correlations. These are data that are derived from more than one quantity, and specifically look at how they vary in combination with one another. Strictly the distribution of verbs across NT books is a correlation measure, but here I'm particularly thinking about more text-text correlations. We could look at how pairs of unusual greek forms appear together, or determine just how similar are the same pericope in different synoptic accounts.

* Thirdly we can look at models of the texts. This involves determining which of a number of models underlying the texts is more likely. So we could build a model of the synoptics with a hidden source, (Q for example), and look at whether that model is more likely than one with no hidden source. This final step is unlike the previous two because we need to construct and justify our models before we begin. Math can't magically tell us history, but it can help us understand which of several well-defined historical possibilities might be more likely, given a set of explicit (and normally quantified) assumptions.

So I'm aiming for 3, but for a while all my results will be at level 1. Mostly because I'm just getting use to the text and starting to write the code that I'm using to do these calculations. At some point between 2 or 3 I suspect I'll also need to learn a good deal more textual criticism too, but then I'm in no rush to get anywhere with this.

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