Flavian Signature Verification project -- progress report

This was a fundamental objection from both Richard Carrier...
How dare you.

That is a shame about the insufficiency of the surviving Greek. If I may, what about using a modern Greek translation? The language has changed, but isn't it more likely - or at least more likely to seem - to be more closely related to the Koine?

To Mr. bar Josephus, I applaud you for making the effort to find so many parallels, and I thank you for sharing them so freely. I'm sorry that I'm not yet able to find the "Greek parody of Josephus" theory as strong as the "Josephus using his and other writings as typology" theory as the context for the New Testament. Bear in mind, though, Jerry and Richard (and Joe?) still have yet to bring me to the belief that Josephus was acting out of what Richard likes to call "cynical" motivations.

Regardless, I encourage you to frequent the forum. It's thanks to Jerry, Richard, et al that I even became aware of Ken Atchity, with whom I'm now working on an Augustan theory documentary (still waiting for word from the BBC, though)
 

Richard Stanley

Administrator
Bear in mind, though, Jerry and Richard (and Joe?) still have yet to bring me to the belief that Josephus was acting out of what Richard likes to call "cynical" motivations.
Attributions of such as cynicism may be in the eye of the beholder. If I remember correctly, you agree that Josephus and his maternal ancestors were essentially Hellenizers (i.e. the globalists du jour), then at least on that ledge we are in agreement.

As such, if one views him as continuing to pursue the explicitly stated canonic global ambitions of his ancestors, and merrily graft them with the Greco-Romans wild olive branch, then he is not being cynical from that POV. However, if one wants to view him as the equal of a modern day Democrat or Republican national politician that states that they act in the direct good of the common citizen, then this might be perceived as being 'cynical' and Machiavellian. Especially if you are going to end up in the meat grinder of history, real and/or fictional.
 
If we're going to try making parallels with modern political parties, I'm thinking less along the lines of Democrat or Republican, and more along the lines that a modern day Josephus would be a Ba'athist who takes pan-Arabism to its Globalist conclusion, finding the US occupation of Iraq as preferable to life under Hussein.

What are this poor Ba'athists alternatives to toeing the line in such circumstances? Strap on a bomb and wander into the Green Zone? Truck on down to the local ISIS recruiting station? Bury one's head in the metaphorical sand and wait on some more relief agency rations?

Attempting to make the best of a bad situation, and as humans are inclined to articulate rationale for their decisions, once they've made them, our Hellenized Pharisee Globalized Ba'athist writes an article defending the position that Michel Aflaq prophesied foresaw not the pan-Arabism that Ba'athist orthodoxy claims he developed as a student in the West, but rather a pan-Arabism that is a part of and perhaps only made possible by the Globalism he encountered as a student in the West.

Imagine this article makes it in front of some muckety muck who says to himself, "hey, wait a minute - this writer has got some talent we could put to use!" Next thing you know, our protagonist receives an offer they can't refuse: come out of the metaphorical salt mines, and practice your writing craft to recast the Ba'athist scriptures into a "new song" that grafts the wild branch of (post-)modern philosophy to the nourishing root of pan-Arabic culture, and the US government will fund and distribute your work far and wide.

I freely admit this doesn't sound like anyone who's gonna be walking on water any time soon, but neither does it sound like someone out to do others harm.

But my earlier point was not about modern Josephus, but rather modern Greek (to bring this back to the thread topic)
 

Jerry Russell

Administrator
Staff member
My reasoning is that if there's an algorithm that's looking for parallels and is able to demonstrate a statistically significant result, it shouldn't matter if the algorithm is optimum. That is, we're trying to reject the null hypothesis (no literary dependence between Josephus and the Gospels) with a high probability. Also, with respect to individual parallels, we'd like to show that the similarities between the passages could not have happened by chance.

The first experiment I tried: at the individual parallel level, the similarity measures I was getting for our known parallels was not head and shoulders above the measures for the high tail of randomly selected pairs. I felt that there were some pretty clear steps that could be taken to improve the similarity measure, by using the Spacy parser outputs. I never did "turn the crank" to see if I could establish a statistical significance at the global level, with such a glaring failure at the level of individual parallels, but maybe it would've worked.

I think for now I'm going to keep working in English, so I can develop some intuition about what the tools are doing, and what's going wrong. But if it looks like we're getting closer to a positive result, it might make sense to try working with modern Greek translations of the text, and tools trained on a modern Greek corpus. I hadn't though about that, and it's a good idea.

The gold standard right now is that parallels are valid if the matches between the passages at the word level involve several word matches which are distinctive, sequential and interpretable. The more words that are matched, and the more items are in sequence, the stronger the parallel is. There's no widely accepted threshold criteria, but many of the Caesar's Messiah parallels miss this gold standard by a mile. The idea behind this standard is clearly statistical, but it's based on piling up evidence until the conclusion is indisputable and nobody needs to run the numbers. My hope was that by using objective criteria, we could run the numbers and show that many of the parallels are significant, even if at a marginal level.

I don't know the details of how you do your search and compare "similar" words, or how you choose your window size (by paragraph or by sentence number, etc.?) although I would be curious to hear more about your efforts in that direction.
I think it's important to be able to use matches of "similar" words, rather than require exact matches. There are two ways that this can be done using the Spacy toolkit. One is using a database called "WordNet" that's basically a big thesaurus in which words are organized and rated according to their similarity of meaning. The other is to use "word vectors". These are high-dimensional vectors that are "trained" so that the distance between the vectors is proportional to the semantic relation between the word meanings. The newest training algorithms are surprisingly good at learning a variety of different kinds of relationships.

Window size is an important variable. I've played with both sentence-level and paragraph-level windows. Working with sentences, it's going to be important to look for clusters of matching sentences.

As I mentioned earlier, I had gotten to the point where I was getting some of these tools working, and getting discouraging results. And I realized that a big problem was the use of old translations that were confusing the parser. So I was looking at a big chunk of work to fix that, and then life intervened. Maybe there's a message from the universe here, that it's time to try again.
 

Josephson

Member
To Mr. bar Josephus, I applaud you for making the effort to find so many parallels, and I thank you for sharing them so freely. I'm sorry that I'm not yet able to find the "Greek parody of Josephus" theory as strong as the "Josephus using his and other writings as typology" theory as the context for the New Testament. Bear in mind, though, Jerry and Richard (and Joe?) still have yet to bring me to the belief that Josephus was acting out of what Richard likes to call "cynical" motivations.

Regardless, I encourage you to frequent the forum. It's thanks to Jerry, Richard, et al that I even became aware of Ken Atchity, with whom I'm now working on an Augustan theory documentary (still waiting for word from the BBC, though)
Well, I would just about bet money you will be convinced of the satire before long, if you keep up with my work on this. Have you read "Jesus Heals Bartimaeus"? I think this can only be understood as making fun of Josephus and I cannot imagine any reason that Josephus would mock himself like that, the way that a Greek would have likely done. I have posted around 40 of these parallels which appear in the NT as a satirical version of a passage in Josephus making him look like a moron, all of which are much more complicated and detailed than any parallels I have seen before based on exact word associations. I have over 450 of them. I could post another one every single day for a year and wouldn't run out of new ones, each one a satire. See also my new post on "Jesus Walks on Water" which appears to be making fun of Josephus' limited understanding of Archimedes' work on buoyancy three hundred years before him.
http://postflaviana.org/community/index.php?threads/jesus-walks-on-water.1963/

May I ask what this "Augustan theory" is about?
 
I will have to go check out the Bartimaeus thread. Thank you for the suggestion.

Please believe, I love the idea that a first century equivalent to the Principia Discordia has become the source of the world's foremost ideology. However, while it may be true, as the author of Hebrews says, that "the word of God is... sharper than any two-edged sword," still, I think that those words carried by the sword tend to fare better than those that travel without. By this I mean to say that it seems to me that between the cultural works produced and distributed without the support of the empire and those produced which are also carried by the support of the empire, I would expect the latter to represent the ones which tend to survive.

As to what I mean by the "Augustan theory," this is an idea that Augustus Caesar had an imperial cult in which he was worshipped as a god and son of god, born of a virgin, and the embodiment of Father Jasius Christ. This idea was first proffered in chapter 12 of Alexander del Mar's The Worship of Augustus Caesar, which can be found here: https://archive.org/stream/worshipofaugustu00delmuoft#page/302/mode/2up

The current proponent of the theory is emmy-nominated producer and former professor of comparative literature Ken Atchity. The thread discussing this here at Postflaviana is here: http://postflaviana.org/community/index.php?threads/atchitys-messiah-matrix.1682/#post-6634
 

Josephson

Member
Please believe, I love the idea that a first century equivalent to the Principia Discordia has become the source of the world's foremost ideology.
Well, then expect to be pleasantly surprised! However, the angel from the book of Revelation told me to warn you that if you eat the little book with the seven seals (the Wars of the Jews) and the book of Life (of Josephus) it will be sweet in your mouth like honey, but it will make your belly bitter. It is the holy spirit of truth which the Father will send unto you in Jesus' name which shall bring to remembrance all things which Jesus said unto you.

The next one I would recommend you to read, if you haven't already, is "Jesus and Nicodemus". There you learn what it means to be born of the spirit and to be born again (Hint: it's exactly what it sounds like, and you don't even need Josephus to understand that):
http://postflaviana.org/community/index.php?threads/jesus-and-nicodemus.1938/

However, while it may be true, as the author of Hebrews says, that "the word of God is... sharper than any two-edged sword," still, I think that those words carried by the sword tend to fare better than those that travel without. By this I mean to say that it seems to me that between the cultural works produced and distributed without the support of the empire and those produced which are also carried by the support of the empire, I would expect the latter to represent the ones which tend to survive.
Oh, yes, that much is just a matter of historical fact. Christianity didn't spread far until they stopped relying on the word itself and used the literal sword.
 
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