Moses is believed to have authored the first five books of the Bible, known as the Torah. But scholars have presented evidence that multiple writers had composed Torah's text. Other books of the Hebrew Bible and of the New Testament are also thought to be composites.
However, identifying these multiple sources has been a laborious task. Now a new algorithm could help unravel the different sources that went into the making of the Bible.
Nachum Dershowitz, professor in computer science at Tel Aviv University, who worked with colleagues from Hebrew and other universities, says their algorithm recognises linguistic cues, such as word preference, to divide texts into probable author groupings.
By focusing exclusively on writing style instead of subject or genre, Dershowitz and colleagues sidestepped hurdles that hamper conventional Bible scholarship, according to a Tel Aviv statement.
These issues include a potential lack of objectivity in analysis and complications caused by the multiple genres and literary forms found in the Bible, including poetry, narrative, law and parable.
To test the validity of their method, researchers randomly mixed passages from the two Hebrew books of Jeremiah and Ezekiel and asked the computer to separate them.
By searching for and categorising chapters by synonym preference, and then looking at the usage of common words, the computer programme was able to separate the passages with 99 percent accuracy.
These findings were presented at the 49th Annual Conference of the Association for Computational Linguistics in Portland, US.