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Statistical Determination of Genre in Biblical Hebrew - Institute for ...

Statistical Determination of Genre in Biblical Hebrew - Institute for ...

Statistical Determination of Genre in Biblical Hebrew - Institute for

Chapter 9Statistical Determination of Genre in BiblicalHebrew: Evidence for an Historical Reading ofGenesis 1:1–2:3Steven W. Boyd, Ph.D.*Abstract. It is axiomatic that a Biblical text cannot be properlyinterpreted unless its genre is known. This is particularly true for poetryvis-à-vis prose. The goal of this study was to determine the genre of Genesis1:1–2:3 and to explore the hermeneutical implications of this finding. Toaccomplish this task it was necessary to develop a method to rigorouslydistinguish Biblical Hebrew poetry from narrative, in general. But thetask was formidable, because Biblical authors left us no hermeneuticaltreatises, labeled their texts inconsistently (and these refer to content ratherthan form) and did not even have a word for poetry. Moreover, our bestmanuscripts attest a unique “brick-upon-brick” stichography only for oldpoetry. Perforce, Hebraists have turned to study the texts themselves todiscover an objective and accurate method for distinguishing these genres.Subjective descriptions of each abound, but the nature of these genres isthat the characteristics of each blur into the characteristics of the other:major features of one are not absent from the other. An alternative approachtherefore was undertaken to address this problem: a statistical analysis ofcountable linguistic features. Two populations were identified using thedescriptive methods well documented in the literature. A stratified randomsample from each population was generated and the finite verb distributionfor each was determined. Side-by-side scatter plots of the ratio of preteritesto total finite verbs for each text in the narrative sample vis-à-vis those inthe poetry sample revealed that this ratio varies with genre to the extentthat it could have the inferential capacity to classify texts. To determine ifthis was the case, the null hypothesis H 0, that a logistic regression model* Associate Professor of Bible, The Master’s College, Santa Clarita, California

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