Rev Dr David G. Palmer
46 Regent Street
This website exposes important features of the New Testament Books that the church and its scholars have not been seeing. No one has been reading the New Testament Books as their writers intended, but now we can. We can identify the writing style that is common to all the writers of the New Testament. We can locate with pinpoint precision all their divisions within their texts. We can define the structures of all their Books. We can establish, with accuracy, the leading ideas of all the Books. We can re-create the layout and contents (in detail) of the original manuscripts. We can delight in the New Testament Books in ways that we never before have been able to do.
My literary-analytical work began at Cambridge University when I was training for the Methodist Ministry. In the Spring of 1982, my interest was stirred as I started work on an Undergraduate Thesis on the Central Section of Luke’s Gospel. It was in this area of the Gospel of Luke that I first became aware of much that was still to be known about the literature of the New Testament. (Scholars were puzzled about the limits of this section, and they looked in vain for any common thread running through it.) For me, the project simply grew from there.
For a time, my focus was on the Gospels and Acts only. Before I left Cambridge, I knew that Mark’s Gospel was likely arranged in Four Series of Seven Days, that Luke and Acts likely paralleled each other and were eleven-section chiasms and that Matthew as well as John (then, that is, at that time) were likely also eleven-section chiasms. It was on a Summer Exchange with a United Methodist Minister that I ventured further. At Sicklerville, New Jersey, in the USA, in 1986, my congregation, once they learned of my work, started asking me about the Revelation to John. I had never thought till then to look seriously into that book. Reading the text for signifiers of structure, as I had learned previously with the Gospels and Acts, I very quickly established to my own satisfaction that the plan was a seven-section chiasm with seven parts per section.
In 1988, on St Luke’s Day, while in ministry in Cardiff, South Wales, I self-published my developing work on the six ‘Books’ of the New Testament: Sliced Bread: the Four Gospels, Acts and Revelation: their Literary Structures, Ceridwen Press, Cardiff. (‘Ceridwen’ was the Welsh middle name of our baby daughter who died on St Luke’s Day, 1987.) As soon as I had arrived in Cardiff from Cambridge, I applied to the University there to study for a PhD part-time. I was unsuccessful with my application. I was asked, no ‘told’ by the then Dean of the Theological Faculty at my interview, ‘Do you expect us to write your book for you?’ He thought that my work was ‘already too advanced’. But my opportunity to research for a PhD came eventually, some seven years later, when I was ‘stationed’ in Paisley, in Scotland, in 1991.
At Glasgow University, I concentrated on Mark’s Gospel. The rules of Ancient Rhetoric and an approach to analysing the Greek, which I didn’t know then could be called ‘parsing’, became the foci for the development of an analytical methodology. In 1998 I was awarded my PhD and in 1999 the work was self-published as The Markan Matrix: A Literary-Structural Analysis of the Gospel of Mark, Ceridwen Press, Paisley. On the back cover of the book, I put: ‘This book challenges nearly all that we have ever been told about Mark’s Gospel: the length and character of the Prologue, the structure of the book, its leading idea, the ending of the book, and so much more besides.’
What I learned from ‘Mark’ I started applying to the other Books of my earlier investigations. It was only in the last week of October 2003 that I decided to have a look at Paul’s writings. I had always resisted getting involved with the Letters, primarily because of my assumption that as they were ‘Letters’ they would not have structures like the ‘Books’. I just thought, nevertheless, that I’d give Romans a ‘go’. It was a revelation, a complete surprise! My methodology, developed for New Testament ‘book’ analysis, was then applied to all the ‘letters’. An introductory look into the letters of John and Jude gave way to a study and full analysis of Hebrews (for me, the most impressive piece of writing of the New Testament, just ahead of Romans). Within a few weeks, the work (of a first full parsing and rhetorical analysis) had been completed. I and II Corinthians were the last to be done.
I opened a ‘msnusers’ website on Bible Sunday 2003 with what I had ready for ‘posting’ - the Gospels, Acts and Revelation, Romans, a few more Letters and three or four papers. By New Year’s Day 2004, the website had a complete record of my first summaries of the structures of all the Letters. The website was set up so that I could share my results with scholars, without delay. I notified many of my fellow members of the 2003 British New Testament Conference. It was a really thrilling time for me. I was very excited that my methodology was revealing all sorts of new things that I and no one else had ever seen before.
By March 2004, I had two-hundred copies printed of a pre-publication version of a booklet. Over a period of about four months I gave copies out free at Conferences in Sri Lanka, where I was serving as a UK Mission Partner. Other copies were sent through the post overseas and others were distributed by hand in the UK when I was home on furlough. All were given to people who I thought might give me some useful feedback. Honesty requires me to say that I had little response. Disappointingly also, I had few visitors to the website. (I have been aware for some time now that scholars and publishers have an aversion to anything new, especially when it runs counter to many ’currents and consensuses’.) I also kept trying publishers, but to no avail. Hence, I published this booklet myself: it was first launched in Jaffna on the 1st April 2005. It replaced the earlier website and pre-publication booklet.
A second edition of this booklet was prepared in July 2005, in the UK (after my return from five years of work with the Methodist Church in Sri Lanka). This revised edition was a stepping-stone to a new publication, which was accompanied by a disk of the New Testament Books in Greek, fully parsed and rhetorically analysed. (It is only in the Greek, of course, that we find all the evidence that we need.) This revision of the booklet along with the production of a disk was published in the UK in June 2006.
Since the launch in January 2008, in CD-ROM, of New Testament: New Testimony to the Skills of the Writers and First Readers (The Third Revised Edition), I have further presented my work in a travelling Exhibition in the Summer of 2008 and celebrated it in a two-page centre spread in the Methodist Recorder of Thursday, 7th August 2008.
Throughout all the years of this research, I have presented my work, in my churches and circuits. I am grateful for these opportunities. Throughout the last five years, I have been able to revisit the results of my earlier analyses, take another look, several new looks, and revise as I thought fit. I knew that revisions would be needed in the detail. There’s just so much of it! It is a lesson I first learned with Mark. I know that still more sessions of analysis will better ensure a near 100% representation of what was in the minds of the writers as they wrote. How far am I now? I would dare to estimate that I may be over 95% there!