God's Bible? Computer says 'no'

By Nathan Jeffay, July 21, 2011
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For almost 300 years, scholars have been poring over the Bible, trying to work out how many authors wrote it and who wrote which part. Now, Israeli computer whizzes have developed a computer programme that carries out virtually all their research in seconds.

"We have been able to recapitulate centuries of manual labour with our automated method," the computer science team from Bar Ilan University announced in an academic paper.

While Orthodox Jews and other traditionalist groups maintain that the Pentateuch was authored by God, most biblical scholars accept the theory that there were various human authors.

The new computer programme scanned the Pentateuch and divided up verses into two styles which, in nine out of 10 cases, matched the division that scholars have arrived at: the "priestly source" - said to have been written by a person or people close to the priesthood - and other "sources".

The result may seem an own goal for Israel's only Orthodox university. Dr Koppel disagrees. "This research has no implications for questions of faith," he said. "All the assumptions we make on are based on human limitations and how humans write. Great writers are able to write in multiple styles." And in his view if a talented human writer can vary his or her style, God certainly can.

    Last updated: 2:46pm, July 21 2011