Part 2: Statistics on Writing Styles
So, how does Ehrman attempt to prove forgery in the NT? He uses the traditional arguments that have been debated for centuries: differences in style, conceptual/theological differences, and historical discrepancies from known facts. Arguments on both sides have been made, and continue to be made, in the scholarly literature. There is a ready answer to arguments that the authors of the NT are not those claimed; see, for example, the NT introductions by Carson and Moo; Guthrie; and Köstenberger, Kellum, and Quarles.
Ehrman however ratchets up the discussion with statistical analysis. After discussing only a part of the data (word usage) that makes up an author’s style, Ehrman concludes: “In almost every study done [in the last ninety years], it is clear that the word usage of the Pastorals is different from that in Paul’s other letters” (98). The documentation at this point cites but one author, Armin Baum, who argues, contra Ehrman, that Paul wrote the Pastorals! Further, Ehrman fails to mention the most recent sophisticated computer-assisted researches by Anthony Kenny, A Stylometric Study of the New Testament (NY: Oxford University Press, 1986), and K. J. Neumann, The Authenticity of the Pauline Epistles in the Light of Stylostatistical Analysis (Atlanta: Scholars, 1990). Kenny’s research concludes that, according to computer analysis, only 1 and 2 Timothy of the Pastorals are Pauline, while Titus is not. Yet no scholar, as far as I know, makes this claim on other grounds: the Pastorals are virtually always seen as a unit, written by the same author, whether Paul or someone else (though sometimes 2 Timothy, not Titus, is viewed as written by a different author than 1 Timothy and Titus). And Neumann, in spite of expecting quite different results, notes somberly that “The hopes did not materialize that the greater labor connected with several syntactic-category indices might produce some very significant criteria. … there is more variability within authors than anticipated” (205). In one test, 2 Thessalonians and 1 Peter both lined up with Paul’s writing style perfectly; in another, Revelation, chapters 2 and 3 were considered Pauline! No wonder Neumann concludes, “Christian authors, especially Paul, are not distinguished by the indices chosen” (213). Surely, these are not the modern sophisticated statistical studies that Ehrman is thinking of, but neither does he mention any in support of his views.
C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger.
Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I’m a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]