Periodical Reviews -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 127:508 (Oct 1970)
Article: Periodical Reviews
Author: Anonymous

Periodical Reviews

“The Statistical Analysis Of A. Q. Morton And The Authenticity Of The Pauline Epistles,” Maynard C. Nieboer, Calvin Theological Journal, April, 1970.

The application of the computer and its technology to the field of biblical studies has been a subject for discussion and conjecture from the infancy of the computer age. More recently some tentative steps of action have been taken such as the preparation of a concordance by computer and some projects in information storage and retrieval. One project has created much furor—A.Q. Morton’s use of the computer and statistical analysis in biblical literary criticism.

Morton’s first efforts provided “scientific and conclusive” evidence according to him—that Paul really wrote only Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, and possibly Philemon. The other epistles attributed to him are the work of four or five different authors. It is appropriate and undoubtedly significant that the first preliminary report of Morton’s analysis and conclusions appeared in the magazine supplement of the London Sunday Observer. Journal articles and several books have followed and the analysis has been extended to other New Testament writings. Morton’s current work is an analysis of the entire New Testament.

Morton is convinced that literary and historical criticism of the Bible in the past has been plagued by subjectivism and inconclusiveness. Now all that is ended, for “statistics is the only truly objective, and thus valid approach” for determining authorship. Morton insists “that any Greek prose author has a pattern which is as distinctive for him as a fingerprint. This distinctive pattern is unconscious, but may be discerned in terms of sentence lenzth and the frequency of the use of kai, de, en, einai, and other particles.” Applying this system to the traditional Pauline writings produced the evidence for his conclusions.

In his critique Nieboer claims that “Morton shows an implicit scientism throughout his work.” What he means by this is that Morton believes “that his work is objective and therefore must be accepted as definitive.” Any questioning of his conclusions is interpreted by Morton as unwillingness to be scientific.

The fact of the matter is, as Nieboer states, “that statistics is not normative, nor does it give pure objectivity.” First of all statistics “only shows (formal) differences in terms of chosen parameters and tests.” These are open to serious challenge and criticism. “Second, and perhaps most important, statistics only shows differences with...

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