[b-hebrew] Wellhausen: Computer Analysis

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Mon Jan 7 17:58:41 EST 2008

Michael Abernathy:
1.  Radday:  One Author of Genesis
Radday’s computer analysis says the entire book of Genesis was composed by 
one author.
But the style and content of the Patriarchal narratives (the last 40 chapters 
of Genesis) are markedly different than the first 10 chapters of Genesis.  
How could a computer have us believe that one author composed all 50 chapters of 
2.  Houk:  11 Authors of Genesis
Comments on Houk’s analysis by Richard A. O’Keefe, Critical Remarks on Houk’
s ‘Statistical Analysis of Genesis Sources,’ JSOT 29.4 (2005) 409-437.
_http://awilum.com/?m=200509_ (http://awilum.com/?m=200509) 
“This essay critiques the methodology of Cornelius B. Houk’s article which 
appeared in JSOT in 2002. Houk argues on the basis of statistical analysis of 
syllable-word frequency that eleven distinct authors contributed to the 
composition of Genesis.
“One critique of Houk’s methodology that O’Keefe gives is the process of 
determining the sections of the text of Genesis that are compared to one another. 
Keefe states:
“There is a circularity here.  The article begins with a partitioning of the 
text according to ‘the judgments of source criticism.’  The questions put to 
the data do not seek alternative groupings;  the test results correlate with 
source criticism because of the way the tests are constructed, not because the 
data have nothing surprising to tell us…If we are given a group of students 
and separate them into tall ones and short ones, it comes as no surprise if the 
tall ones turn out to be significantly heavier than the short ones (412).
…O’Keefe also warns us against circular reasoning as we construct research 
methodologies and opinions.  He brings a sharp critique of Houk because Houk 
set out to prove multiple authorship of Genesis.  As Houk segmented the text of 
Genesis, he did so according to the conventional thought of source criticism, 
which itself asserts multiple authorship of Genesis.  You prove multiple 
authorship of Genesis by assuming multiple authorship of Genesis and working that 
assumption into your research structure.  This circular reasoning resides not 
only with Houk but with many other researchers and even possibly within entire 
disciplines of thought such as source criticism itself.”
3.  Conclusion
If the computer cannot distinguish the first 10 chapters of Genesis from the 
Patriarchal narratives in the last 40 chapters of Genesis, or if the computer 
finds 11 different authors of Genesis, who on earth would trust the computer?
What is needed is a human being who is generally familiar with the 
well-documented secular history of the mid-14th century BCE, and who is brave enough to 
compare that secular history, no holds barred, to the received text of the 
Patriarchal narratives.  Until and unless that happens, the computer won’t help.
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

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