Friday, October 14, 2011

Using Arab Math to Uncover Authors of the Torah


It is interesting when the contributions of Afro-Arabians are used to better understand the oldest sources of information about the ancient Afro-Asiatics, sources found in the oldest layers of the Bible, especially in Genesis.  Such is the case with the application of algorithm to the biblical texts.

The Arabs introduced the decimal system to Europe and the Zero, which originally was a solar hieroglyph.  From the Arabs came the works of Al-Khwarizmi who is known in English as Alghorismus, from whom the term "algorism" was derived.  His work laid the foundation for algebra and complex mathematical problems, such as square roots and complex fractions. Many of his books were translated into European languages. Now researchers hope to use his thought to uncover the authors and authorial threads of the Torah.  This may prove helpful in the case of Genesis if the kinship, marriage and ascendency pattern is factored in. However, from reading the article, it appears that the genealogical data is not part of the equation. This means that the results will be flawed.



Algorithm could untangle authors of Torah

October 11, 2011

In both Jewish and Christian traditions, Moses is considered the author of the Torah, the first five books of the Bible. Scholars have furnished evidence that multiple writers had a hand in composing the text of the Torah. Other books of the Hebrew Bible and of the New Testament are also thought to be composites. However, delineating these multiple sources has been a laborious task.

Now researchers have developed an algorithm that could help to unravel the different sources that contributed to individual books of the Bible. Prof. Nachum Dershowitz of Tel Aviv University’s Blavatnik School of Computer Science, who worked in collaboration with his son, Bible scholar Idan Dershowitz of Hebrew University, and Prof. Moshe Koppel and Ph.D. student Navot Akiva of Bar-Ilan University, says that their computer algorithm recognizes linguistic cues, such as word preference, to divide texts into probable author groupings.

By focusing exclusively on writing style instead of subject or genre, Prof. Dershowitz and his colleagues sidestepped several methodological hurdles that hamper conventional Bible scholarship. These issues include a potential lack of objectivity in content-based analysis and complications caused by the multiple genres and literary forms found in the Bible — including poetry, narrative, law, and parable. Their research was presented at the 49th Annual Conference of the Association for Computational Linguistics in Portland.

A keen eye for detail

According to Prof. Dershowitz, 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. Such details have little bearing on the meaning of the text itself, but each author or source often has his own style. This could be as innocuous as an author’s preference for using the word “said” versus “spoke.”

To test the validity of their method, the researchers randomly mixed passages from the two Hebrew books of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, and asked the computer to separate them. By searching for and categorizing chapters by synonym preference, and then looking at usage of common words, the computer program was able to separate the passages with 99 percent accuracy. The software was also able to distinguish between “priestly” materials — those dealing with issues such as religious ritual — and “non-priestly” material in the Torah, a categorization that is widely used by Bible scholars.

While the algorithm is not yet advanced enough to give the researchers a precise number of probable authors involved in the writing of the individual books of the Bible, Prof. Dershowitz says that it can help to identify transition points within the text where a source changes, potentially shedding new light on age-old debates.

Categorizing the unknown

Part of a new field called “digital humanities,” computer software like Prof. Dershowitz’s is being developed to give more insight into historical sources than ever before. Programs already exist to help attribute previously anonymous texts to well-known authors by writing style, or uncover the gender of a text’s author. But the Bible presents a new challenge, says Prof. Dershowitz, as there are no independently attributed works to which to compare the Biblical books.

The Torah algorithm may also provide new information about other enigmatic source material, such as the many pamphlets and treatises of unknown composition that are scattered throughout history. And because the software can identify subtle linguistic cues, it is able to uncover differences within mere percentage points, a feat that has never before been possible. “If the computer can find features that Bible scholars haven’t noticed before, it adds new dimensions to their scholarship. That would be gratifying in and of itself,” says Prof. Dershowitz.
 
Source: Scienceblog


Related reading:  Who Wrote Genesis?; The Documentary Hypothesis; The Possibility of Davidic Authorship

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ms. Linsley, the computer age meets the Sacred texts. And what comes from this honest investigation? We know in the fullness of time. Fascinating. Thanks for posting. Best, Brent

Alice C. Linsley said...

Yes, this is an fascinating experiment. I hope that we will be told the results.

I hope that your Harvard studies are going well.

Anonymous said...

the ancient dravidians..who established the mergharh,indus valley and mmohenjo daro..introduced the concept of zero along with many mathemetical methods..which the arabs spread to the west ..like chess too...

Anonymous said...

infact many western buildings are based on dravidian buildings...the dravidians migrated from iraq to india 9000 yrs ago..

Anonymous said...

indeed the shiva temple in indonesia(8th century dravidian built temple)...must have been a prottype for the parliament buildings..?

Alice C. Linsley said...

Dravidian movement into India is well documented. Their movements into Africa are less well known, but Dravidians were in contact with the ancient Egyptians and traded with Kushites. They were also exporting gold mined in sub-Saharan Africa around 1000 BC.

Many Dravidian settlements and monuments are now submerged under the sea, but originally they were on a land bridge between the Arabian Peninsula and southern Pakistan. This is the "Har-appa" civilization. Har refers to Hor (Horus) and "appa" is the Dravidian word meaning father. The word Hapiru appears to be related. The Dravidian language is more closely related to ancient Egyptian than to the languages spoken in Irag, Pakistan and India today. The Indian historian and anthropologist Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan has written: "We have to begin with the Negroid or Negrito people of prehistoric India who were the first human inhabitants. Originally they would appear to have come from Africa through Arabia and the coastlands of Iran and Baluchistan."

Personally, I don't think that the ancient Dravidians were black. Their skin tone would have been closer to the dark red-brown of the Egyptians and Sudanese. The words "Sudra", "Chudra" and "Sudroid" are related to the word Sudan, meaning black, but the Sudanese are not as black as the Bantu peoples.