Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Scoring the books of the canon: cumulative scores

After all of the previous work scoring various early Christian writings, here are the cumulative scores. This uses the system for evaluating strength of attestation and an initial evaluation of the canon lists reviewed. The canon lists included in this initial project were: Here are the cumulative rankings showing the combined scores for each book across those five lists for how strongly each book was attested:
Early Christian writingCumulative score
1 Corinthians36.25
2 Corinthians36.25
1 Thessalonians36.25
2 Thessalonians36.25
1 Timothy28.75
2 Timothy28.75
1 Peter13.75
2 Peter13.75
1 John28.75
2 John24.75
3 John9.75
Acts of Paul2.75
Acts of Peter2.75
Apocalpyse of Peter2.00
Epistle of Barnabas2.75
Letter to the Alexandrines-15.00
Letter to the Laodiceans-15.00
Shepherd of Hermas2.75
Teachings of the Apostles-1.00
Again, I do not consider this evaluation to be the final word but a starting point. It is a move towards a more objective way of discussing the books of the canon, towards measuring rather than merely asserting the relative strength of historical attestations. Further work remains to be done. Additional canon lists could be evaluated. The history of citations by early authors could be evaluated. The scoring system itself was simply based on what seemed to me the most even-handed way to give greater weight to earlier writings, to writings which showed interest in historical value, and to early writings which discussed the relative historical merits of the different books. I would welcome comparable studies of other materials -- or the same material with other scoring systems -- to continue the discussion.

Note on the list of books: the list here contains all of the books named on any of the five canon lists I am reviewing in this series, regardless of whether the mention is positive or negative. The order of the books is for the convenience of the reader: since the books are listed in different orders on the various lists, the books are listed here in common canonical order for the canonical books, followed by an alphabetical listing of the non-canonical books mentioned.


D. P. said...

Thank you for all your work. This has been a fun series to read!

Have you given any though to doing something similar with the OT with respect to the books of the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha?

Weekend Fisher said...

Actually yes. If only blogger were more table-friendly. I do spreadsheets in 10 minutes that take me an hour to blog. I've got to find a better way on that.