Computer used to hunt for Bible 'authors'

Oct. 11, 2011 at 8:53 PM

TEL AVIV, Israel, Oct. 11 (UPI) -- Researchers in Israel say a new computer algorithm is helping them identify contributors to the Old Testament

While in both Jewish and Christian traditions Moses is considered the author of the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, some scholars say they believe multiple writers had a hand in composing the text of the Torah.

Nachum Dershowitz, a computer scientist at Tel Aviv University, says a computer algorithm he developed with his son Idan Dershowitz, a Bible scholar at Hebrew University, and others can recognize linguistic cues, such as word preference, to divide texts into probable author groupings.

The software searches for and compares details human scholars might have difficulty detecting, such as the frequency of the use of "function" words and synonyms with little bearing on the meaning of the text but which can identify the style of an author, a TAU release said Tuesday.

The difference could be as subtle as an author's preference for the word "spoke" over "said," the researchers said.

While the algorithm cannot yet give researchers a precise number of possible authors involved in the writing of the individual books of the Bible, Nachum Dershowitz says that it can help to identify transition points where a source changes, potentially providing clues in age-old debates.

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