Re: Improbable Probability Statements

From: Mark Goodacre (
Date: Sat May 24 1997 - 09:43:55 EDT

Paul Dixon wrote (some omitted):

> Having said this, however, this does not mean there is no place for
> word studies, only that such significance may not be as significant
> as once thought. The immediate context of the word in question
> certainly carries far more weight.
> The whole matter of mathematical statistical probabilities is
> fascinating. I am not aware if it has been applied by some, but it
> would be interesting to find out.
My own impression is that there is very little in NT scholarship that
has taken statistics seriously. One attempt is K. Grayston and G.
Herdan, 'The Authorship of the Pastorals in the Light of Statistical
Linguistics' in NTS 6 (1959-60), pp. 1ff. They conclude that the
Pastoral Epistles are certainly not by Paul on the basis of their
method. As a non-expert, though, I would not be able to judge what
they say. Is anyone else familiar with this (or similar) articles?

A simpler statistical analysis was carried out by Michael Goulder in
MIDRASH AND LECTION IN MATTHEW (London: SPCK, 1974) in an attempt to
prove a). the priority of Mark and b). Matthean creation of the Q
material. His method (at least in this respect) is flawed, however,
and disproved in my GOULDER AND THE GOSPELS (JSNTSup, 133; Sheffield:
Sheffield Academic Press, 1996), pp. 85-88. Forgive me for this
bit of self-publicity - it is difficult to resist it!

Good wishes


Dr Mark Goodacre
Department of Theology
University of Birmingham
Birmingham B15 2TT

Tel.: 0121 414 7512 Email:
Fax.: 0121 414 6866

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