Computerized Source Criticism of Biblical Texts


Idan Dershowitz, Moshe Koppel, Navot Akiva, and Nachum Dershowitz. 2015. “Computerized Source Criticism of Biblical Texts.” Journal of Biblical Literature, 134, 2, Pp. 253-271. Direct Link


We have developed an automated method to separate biblical texts according to author or scribal school. At the core of this new approach is the identification of correlations in word preference that are then used to quantify stylistic similarity between sections. In so doing, our method ignores literary features—such as possible repetitions, narrative breaks, and contradictions—and focuses on the least subjective criterion employed by Bible scholars to identify signs of composition. Te computerized system is unique in its ability to consider subtle stylistic preferences in aggregate, whereas human scholars are generally limited to cases where a word preference is pronounced. Our method is also less liable to accusa-tions of bias, thanks to its reliance on context-independent criteria. Its efficacy is demonstrated in its successful deconstruction of an artificial book, Jer-iel, made up of randomly interleaved snippets from Jeremiah and Ezekiel. When applied to Genesis–Numbers, the method divides the text into constituents that correlate closely with common notions of “Priestly” and “non-Priestly” material. No such corroboration is forthcoming for the classic Yahwistic/Elohistic division.

Last updated on 09/19/2017