Abstract

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. The 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 accusations 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.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1934-3876
Print ISSN
0021-9231
Pages
pp. 253-271
Launched on MUSE
2015-05-30
Open Access
No
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