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"ghostwriting" the Torah?

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Credit: Courtesy of American Friends of Tel Aviv University

Tel Aviv University (TAU) researchers have developed a computer algorithm that could help identify the different sources that contributed to the individual books of the Bible.

The algorithm, developed by TAU professor Nachum Dershowitz, recognizes linguistic cues, such as word preference, to divide texts into probable author groupings.

The researchers focused on writing style instead of subject or genre to avoid some of the problems that have vexed Bible scholars in the past, such as a lack of objectivity and complications caused by the multiple genres and literary forms found in the Bible. The software searches for and compares details that human scholars might have difficulty detecting, such as the frequency of the use of function words and synonyms, according to Dershowitz.

The researchers tested the software by randomly mixing passages from the Hebrew books of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, and instructing the computer to separate them. The program was able to separate the passages with 99 percent accuracy, in addition to separating "priestly" materials from "non-priestly" materials. "If the computer can find features that Bible scholars haven't noticed before, it adds new dimensions to their scholarship," Dershowitz says.

From American Friends of Tel Aviv University
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