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Benjamin Lee White
Clemson University (Clemson, SC 29634-0001)
The Authorship of the Pauline Epistles: The Promise and Limitations of Computational Methods

Research and preparation of two scholarly articles on the forensic stylometry and authorship of the Epistles of Saint Paul.

This project explores the limitations of forensic stylometry – the detection of an author’s literary fingerprint in the service of exposing forgery. The development of tests, tools, and protocols within computational stylistics has increased confidence in conclusions about authorship, yet tests on the Pauline Epistles in the New Testament over the past 50 years have resulted in divergent findings about which of the 13 texts are authentic. This project seeks to discern why some ancient corpora like the Pauline Epistles have been resistant to consistent authorial categorization. The results will not only help scholars of Christian origins to reassess the relative value of forensic stylometry for their work, but will also serve as a caution for scholars of antiquity more generally who work with short texts in small corpora. Moreover, the project will help forensic stylometrists identify the limitations of their tools in relation to some corpora of great historical interest.

Project fields:
Ancient History; Computational Linguistics; History of Religion

Summer Stipends

Research Programs

$6,000 (approved)
$6,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
6/1/2018 – 7/31/2018