restricted access A Flaw in McIver and Carroll’s Experiments to Determine Written Sources in the Gospels

Robert McIver and Marie Carroll published an article in JBL in 2002 in which they discussed experiments with Australian undergraduate students that might help with determining the existence of written sources in the Gospels. They suggested that sixteen words in exact conjoined sequence provided a clear indicator of the presence of copying. However, McIver and Carroll transferred the results of their experiments in English to the Greek Synoptics without making any adjustments for the differences in language. A noninflected language like contemporary English takes more words to say something than an inflected language like Koine Greek. The problem can be illustrated by taking McIver and Carroll’s list of Synoptic parallels that feature sixteen-word sequential agreements and higher, and comparing these parallels with English translations. In practically every case, the English sequential agreements are substantially higher. The presence of this important flaw in the conceptualizing of the experiments places a major question mark over McIver and Carroll’s case.