Evidence indicates that the first five books of the Bible, known as the Torah
, were penned by multiple persons. This is contrary to Jewish and Christian tradition which holds that Moses was the singular author. Likewise, the authorship of Shakespeare's plays has come under scrutiny.
A team of computer science experts and Bible scholars has devised an algorithm that, in essence, decodes and identifies individuals who had a hand in writing the plays and biblical testaments. The software program depends on linguistic cues to categorize works by their author. Each author has their own style and word preferences, for example using "said"
The result indicates that biblical texts are a composite.
Software already exists that helped attribute anonymous texts to well known authors according to their style. Much work has been done attempting to disprove Shakespeare's authorship of some or all of the works that bear his name. Many have argued that he was neither educated enough, nor worldly enough, to compose such well-rounded works. Hence, the recent movie Anonymous
that has been poorly received by scholars.
Software that tries to prove authorship falls in the new field called "digital humanities."
Such computer programs are mainly comparative. They compare the writing style and content of an anonymous work to that written by a specific known author. Such comparisons to proven authors are not available for biblical texts. The team's new program can sort out which passages were written by the same author, but they cannot identify who that author was. Professor Moshe Koppel and Navot Akiva of Bar-Ilan University Computer Science Department
with Professor Nachum Dershowitz
of Tel Aviv University and Idan Dershowitz
of the Department of Bible Hebrew University have been focusing on writing style instead of subject matter. Thus, their algorithm is easily applied to poetry, narrative, law and parables that make up the Bible whole.
The research team presented a paper, "Unsupervised Decomposition of a Document into Authorial Components"
at the 49th Annual Conference of the Association for Computational Linguistics in Portland, Oregon. By "unsupervised" they mean the experiment does not include any information about the author and no identified sample of any author's writing is involved.
The team tested their computer model by mixing random passages from the books of Jeremiah and Ezekiel. The program was 99 percent accurate in separating the two books. Their method exploits the different synonyms chosen by each author. However, they don't look at actual words, but at word roots. The accuracy of the test is relevant to the source for the biblical text used, whether original or translated version. For example, two non-synonymous Hebrew words are translated into two senses of the same English word. They note that there are seven Hebrew synonyms corresponding to "fear".
Dershowitz's class notes emphasize his belief that programming knows no limits
Computational linguistics and natural language processing are active research fields in Israel. Prof Dershowitz's lecture, What is An Algorithm
covers the basics of the concept behind the software they designed to study biblical texts. He teaches natural language processing
where we see the difficulty of dissecting texts. His notes indicate there are approximately 6809 known spoken human languages
. That is simplified by statistics indicating that four percent of those languages, or 272, are spoken by 97 percent of Earth's human inhabitants. His software accomplishes what none has before – distinguishing subtle linguistic cues, pointing out differences "within mere percentage points."
What you say, how you say it, your penmanship, and now your tweets, can give you away. Prof. Koppel's earlier works include an algorithm that can determine with better than 80 percent accuracy the sex of the author. In handwriting analysis, the roundness of an "o", the height of a "t" in your penmanship can be used to detect personality traits. Boy or girl, Jew or Christian, Jehovah or Moses, egotist or schizophrenic, beware. Your identify is no longer a secret.
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