Completely boring literary device found in Bible makes news

The what-now?

‘Genesis Death Sandwich’ Discovered in Bible : Discovery News.

Researchers using text-analysis software say they’ve discovered a new literary device in the first book of the Bible: the “Genesis death sandwich.”

The name refers to a familiar rhetorical structure — sandwiching bad news in between the good. In the case of Genesis, the slices of white bread are themes of life, and the slimy cold cuts in between are mentions of death.

“The structuring of life and death in Genesis appears to be something that hasn’t been noticed before,” researcher Gordon Rugg, a senior lecturer in Computing and Mathematics at Keele University in the United Kingdom, wrote in a Feb. 21 blog post.

Rugg and his colleagues ran the King James version of the Bible through software called Search Visualizer. The mentions of life and death were plotted showing that death references were sandwiched life references.  They say this is an example of inclusio, also called bracketing. So, it’s a literary device. It’s not really special. It’s not even a “code”. Besides that, WHO CARES?

Rugg acknowledged that it is uncertain whether or not this “death sandwich” convention was applied to the text intentionally. Nonetheless, he says it might have been used to cushion the negative messages of death, or perhaps to put life and death in stark contrast.

This story ranks as worst of the day so far. This is absolutely worthless yet it’s being portrayed as some interesting feature.

We are happy to bring you this worthless news. :-) Now you can say to people when then mention how fascinating this is… “SO WHAT!”

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  14 comments for “Completely boring literary device found in Bible makes news

  1. Chris Howard
    February 25, 2013 at 12:48 PM

    Oh man! I so cannot wait to run that as a special at the restaurant!

  2. spookyparadigm
    February 25, 2013 at 2:14 PM

    I’m not sure why textual analysis, which could be useful for several reasons (detecting the origin of the stories, how they were performed, how they were modified and codified, and so on) is painted here as so worthless.

    I’ve seen plenty of work on similar structure in religious and other texts from past societies. True, they didn’t make news websites, but then they weren’t about the most widely read and quoted book in history (one need not give it any significant credence as a historical, and especially not a scientific text, to admit this obvious truth).

    • February 25, 2013 at 2:17 PM

      It was portrayed in the media as some kind of new “Bible Code”.

  3. One Eyed Jack
    February 25, 2013 at 3:02 PM

    Death Sandwich?

    Didn’t I see that on the menu at http://www.heartattackgrill.com/ ?

  4. February 25, 2013 at 3:34 PM

    My brain also went to the “Bible Code” topic. It is worth revisiting the arguments against that sort of analysis to understand the underwhelming nature of what the researchers discovered here: http://www.skepdic.com/bibcode.html
    http://www.csicop.org/si/show/hidden_messages_and_the_bible_code/

  5. Brian
    February 25, 2013 at 4:28 PM

    I need new glasses. I read it as “Genesis Death Star” for just a second….

  6. spookyparadigm
    February 25, 2013 at 5:16 PM

    Dismissing this because of the Bible Code is like dismissing zoology because of Rene Dahinden.

  7. February 25, 2013 at 5:31 PM

    Wait, there is yet another literary device that the bible uses that has not received any attention – its called ‘starting with the first word in the book’ – a greatly underestimated device without which there would be no words in a book at all, just blank pages.

  8. spookyparadigm
    February 25, 2013 at 5:37 PM

    Humanities, who needs em? AMIRITE?

  9. Halidom
    February 26, 2013 at 2:59 AM

    The idea of finding a code in a book that has been rewritten so many times and of course the English version the words are not written in the same sequence as older copies. The oldest Hebrew manuscript from about 2nd century bce is fragmentary and the oldest complete bible from 4th century ce is in Greek. The English version change the grammar to make it understandable to English readers. Jesus and his mates probably could neither read nor write so we don’t have any real bibles. Just story tellers that wrote the fables past down through time. It does not say which form of bible he used. Seems like a joke and who really cares about codes in an rewritten book!

  10. Jon Oliver
    February 26, 2013 at 1:06 PM

    Though it is not a “hard” science, modern linguistics relies heavily upon reproducible statistical methods to analyze texts. In many ways, it is a much more plausible social science than archaeology. It seems to me that you are dismissing this purely due to the fact that the author analyzed a book with which you disagree. He cannot be blamed for the idiotic media response that this, and so many other biblical studies, produce.

    Additionally, linguist Gordon Rugg already has demonstrated significant sceptical cred. His analysis of the Voynich Manuscript refuted previous studies by indicating that it was likely a hoax requiring 300-500 hours to perpetrate. By all accounts, Dr. Rugg’s work is top notch, and he is eminently quotable. This regarding the “death sandwich” study: “We think it’s a standard literary device being used on a larger scale than had been previously realized. No aliens, no secret codes, no conspiracies, but some striking images, and a great name for a band.”

  11. spookyparadigm
    February 27, 2013 at 1:35 PM

    Thank you for the slap against archaeology, Jon. I had been supporting your position. I agree with what you’re saying, but not really sure why that was called for given that archaeology also uses statistical methods (well, some of us), experimental replication, and so on.

  12. Jon Oliver
    February 27, 2013 at 2:07 PM

    I didn’t mean an insult to archaeology, but was using it as an example with which I am familiar. Having worked as an archaeological field tech for years, I know the score. As in any field, there are good and bad representatives.

    The things about archaeology relative to linguistics is that it is destructive. You only have once chance to excavate a site, and you’d better hope that you take good notes.

  13. spookyparadigm
    February 27, 2013 at 5:00 PM

    It’s non replicable in that sense. But it is replicable in that one can test new samples of data against existing ideas. For an extreme example that is nonetheless growing in popularity amongst pseudoarchaeologists, if one claims that there was a culture of eight-foot tall people with red hair and six fingers in the American Midwest, it is fair to ask why no such burials have been uncovered in a century, coincidentally around the time that it stopped being acceptable for professional publishers to routinely lie to the public in an open-faced manner.

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