Saturday, January 30, 2010

Chapter Four: Palestinian Jewish Names.

In Chapter Four we have a fairly quick chapter about the amount of times Palestinian Jewish names appear in the NT in comparison with their general frequency in 1st Century Palestine. Here there are many more tables (and at the bottom of this post is a photo of on of the many lists of names with frequencies etc. beside them in his book).

Why do we care about this? Well, if you recall the one reservation or potential argument I posed at the end of my last post, then you will understand. Here is the question: what if the names in Mark are later additions? then that would render the arguments in chapter 3 useless.

So, we have a massive analysis of ALL the Palestinian Jewish names that were around at this time as recorded on ossuaries, in Josephus etc. (some 2953 people with names). How does this defend the authenticity of the names in the gospel? Well, his argument is basically that the amount of times certain names appear in the area is about the same percentage as they turn up in the New Testament. Here they are:

In Palestine 15.6% of the people had the most popular names for men, those being Simon and Joseph. Compare this with the amount of times those names appear in the Gospels and Acts: 18.2% Then the top nine most popular names in Palestine have a percentage of 41.5% while in the Gospels and Acts its about 40.3%. Then the least popular names (only occurring once in our sources) have a percentage of 7.9% in Palestine, while in the Gospels and Acts it's 3.9%

Now for the Woman: 28.6% of woman in Palestine had the two most popular names: Mary and Salome, while in the Gospels and Acts its 38.9%. Then the nine most popular names have a percentage of 49.7% while in the Gospels and Acts its 61.1%, finally the least popular are 9.6% and 2.5 % respectively.

So, it is very unlikely that later 2nd Century AD scribes or even the original writers could have made up names that are so close to the frequencies we see throughout the area. The larger discrepancies in the woman's numbers are to be expected given the scarcity of there names mentioned in sources (they often can be referred to simply as 'the wife of...' without their name.)

He then has a bunch or random information that does not advance his argument much, I am guessing that he waxes lyrical here because it must have been so time consuming to process this much information, and he may as well have more to show for it then just one defensive argument. As an aside, one interesting thing I learned was that one way in which the Gospel's (and other sources) tell apart people's names is to give them a patronymic substitute. What does this odd phrase mean? well it has do with the persons father (Pater = father in Greek) and then it has to do with the hebrew way of saying 'son of' which is 'bar' so you may have hear 'Yeshua ben Yoseph' i.e. Jesus son of Joseph. Well a patronymic substitute takes away the first name and amalgamates 'ben' and the fathers name, which gets turned in greek into 'bar' so Bartimaeus means Bar = son of, Timaeus = father's name! So all those names like that are actually nicknames! crazy. Plus, on a personal note, if I ever do Post-grad work, I never want to have to go through this kind of information: (Click for a blown up image)

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