chapter  5
35 Pages

Computing philology

The Dead Sea Scrolls Project, “A Quality Leap and New Dimensions,” 1957–1959

This chapter looks at S. J. Roberto Busa's, and Paul Tasman's work on the Dead Sea Scrolls as marking a kind of philological turn. Tasman's and Busa's work on the Dead Sea Scrolls continued into the mid-1960s. It led to Father Busa's helping Hebrew University in Jerusalem set up a literary data processing center of its own, as part of the larger plan for a network of centers. Busa and Tasman consciously described the work as dealing with textual "facts" in an instrumental way, and even said it should be free of interpretation. And yet the process itself of working on the scrolls revealed new ways to reveal hard-to-grasp dimensions of the texts. Busa explained his own computerized project and asked Joseph A. Fitzmyer to help prepare some Aramaic and Nabatean texts for it. At that point, Busa's goal was to publish his own machine-generated index as soon as possible.