Computer Analysis and the Pauline Corpus: A Case of “Deus ex Machina” -- By: James R. Moore

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 130:517 (Jan 1973)
Article: Computer Analysis and the Pauline Corpus: A Case of “Deus ex Machina”
Author: James R. Moore


Computer Analysis and the Pauline Corpus:
A Case of “Deus ex Machina”

James R. Moore

[James R. Moore, Graduate Student, University of Manchester.]

T. H. Huxley is alive and well in Scotland. Or so it seems, for in the latter half of the twentieth century the evangelical church is again being twitted by self-appointed “bulldogs” of science in the persons of A. Q. Morton and his lesser compatriot, James McLeman.

Beginning with an article in The London Sunday Observer on November 2, 1963, followed by a popularization of their research, titled Christianity and the Computer, and concluding in Paul, the Man and the Myth,1 Morton and McLeman have scandalized the unsophisticated and rather amused the learned by publishing a computer revelation of a “five letter Paul.” Their basic technique was exceedingly simple: count the number of times the Greek word καί (“and”) appears in each of the Pauline epistles; average each sum over the number of sentences in its epistle; and compare the averages. They found a consistent average in Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians and, particularly, in Philemon. The averages derived from the other epistles were quite different, proving that they could not have been written by the apostle.

Laymen for the most part had never questioned the authenticity of the epistles bearing the apostle’s name. Radical biblical criticism was for them only a dim memory passed on from great-grandfather’s day, when Colenso, Essays and Reviews, and Lux Mundi agitated English orthodoxy. To scholars, on the other hand, aware of the speculations of F. C. Baur and the “Tubingen school” which reached generally the same conclusion over 100 years ago, the “revelation” of Morton and McLeman seemed not a little anachronistic, especially since the view that Paul had written only the so-called Hauptbriefe had come into considerable disrepute in recent years. However, for both parties, the use of a computer in advancing the view was plainly unsettling: it became, alternately, the supreme accreditation or the deus ex machina.

Which way shall we have it? An answer will emerge as we consider Morton and McLeman’s argument and the attitude which has attended its promulgation.

“Yond Morton Has a Lean and Hungry Look”

In ninety-five pages Morton and McLeman make the rather pretentious claim to integrate their research with “a contemporary view of the Bible, the church and personal religion” (p. 7). Whether or not this task has been accomplished there is little doubt that in

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