This could be the start of a joke: What do bats, priests and rabbis have in common? The answer: Their social networks can be tracked using a new computer science tool called network analysis.
Prof. Michal Bar-Asher Siegal, a Talmud scholar from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, and Prof. Yossi Yovel, a zoologist from Tel Aviv University, is not an obvious match. However, Prof. Yovel is an expert in network analysis, which he uses to research bats. Along with Prof. Bar-Asher Siegal they have the radical idea of using his methods to examine the Jewish-Christian relationship in literature from the first centuries CE.
Their proof of concept was published in Communication in the Humanities and Social Sciences.
Using passages from the Babylonian Talmud and Christian texts from the first to the sixth century, previously analyzed by Prof. Bar-Asher Siegal, they made the first network analysis of parallel texts in Christian writings and Jewish sources.
“Our study shows that the network analysis of textual parallels using the tools of computer science can give remarkable results. We believe that it will really open up the study of the relationship between the two religions at the beginning of the common era. applied to our small sample of texts. Who knows what exciting discoveries await when we analyze more texts,” said Prof. Bar-Asher Siegal.
“This is a good example of how interdisciplinarity and the use of tools from one scientific field can improve another,” added Prof. Yovel.
While network analysis is not new in the field of digital humanities, it is new in the study of interactions in rabbinical and Christian literature. This is the first time an automated analysis of textual parallels has been done, according to the researchers.
One of the interesting benefits of this novel approach is to see the relationships between Jewish and Christian writings to represent sets of temporal-spatial-contextual relationships, which have evolved over hundreds of years, in a snapshot.
“Visualizations allow us to get a clearer picture of interactions and see them in new ways, prompting new understandings,” explained Prof. Bar-Asher Siegal.
The evolution of relations between Judaism and Christianity is often described as a “parting of the ways” where, after a certain point, the two religions began to develop independently. While recent scholarly research has challenged that idea, these new visualizations really bring to light how the two religions developed together and in dialogue, not separately.
“The use of network analysis makes it possible to identify the most influential texts-that is, the key ‘nodes’-that prove the importance of certain traditions for both religious communities. What is known Jews? The New Testament or the later sources? And what parts of the New Testament? This leads to interesting scholarly questions: why these texts and not others? How do they know and how do they respond to this knowledge?” explained Prof. Bar-Asher Siegal.
“The networks we created revealed that the rabbinic sources ridiculed and argued against the early Christian sources, but not so much when it comes to later, eastern Christian sources, BUT they show a wider geographic familiarity with eastern and western Christian sources in later periods,” according to Prof. Bar-Asher Siegal.
Michal Bar-Asher Siegal et al, Network analysis reveals insights into the interconnectedness of Judaism and Christianity in the early centuries CE, Communication in the Humanities and Social Sciences (2023). DOI: 10.1057/s41599-023-01678-y
Provided by Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
Citation: What do bats, priests and rabbis have in common? Network analysis reveals insights (2023, July 17) retrieved on 17 July 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-07-priests-rabbis-common-network-analysis.html
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