Unraveling the Synoptic puzzle: stylometric insights into Luke's potential use of Matthew

:speech_balloon: Speaker: Sophie Robert-Hayek, Jacques Istas and Frédérique Rey

:classical_building: Affiliation: 1, Laboratoire Ecritures, Université de Lorraine, France; 2, Laboratoire Jean Kuntzmann, Université Grenoble Alpes, France

Title: Unraveling the Synoptic puzzle: stylometric insights into Luke’s potential use of Matthew

Abstract: The literary sources behind the three canonical Synoptic Gospels, namely Luke, Matthew and Mark, have long intrigued scholars because of the Gospels striking similarities and notable differences in their accounts of Jesus’s life. Various theories have been proposed to explain these textual relationships, including common oral witnesses, lost sources or communities possessing each other’s works. However, a universally accepted solution remains elusive. Leveraging advancements in statistics, data analysis, and computing power, researchers have begun treating this as a statistical problem and quantitatively measuring the likelihood of the different theories based on verbal agreements and stylometric features. \ In this paper, we rely on a very recent Machine Learning based approach to solve the synoptic problem. We use Machine Learning classifiers two-sample tests, a novel approach relying on the analysis of the success rate of binary classifiers to identify whether two samples are drawn from the same distribution, to detect differences in sources within Luke’s Gospel and variations in the edition patterns of Markan material between Matthew and Luke. This analysis is done on a pericope-per-pericope basis, defined as thematic units encompassing teachings or narrative episodes. The results suggest significant dissimilarities in style and edit distance, indicating that the double and triple material within the Gospel of Luke likely originate from different sources. This suggests that Luke derived his triple tradition from Mark and not from Matthew. Despite the necessity of cautious interpretation due to the size of the dataset, our study thus offers substantial evidence supporting the theory of Luke’s dependency on Mark’s material for his triple tradition and makes the two-source hypothesis, which suggests that Luke did not have access to Matthew’s work, the most likely explanation based on our methodology.

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