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Avoiding edit wars over sections 2.1 and 3.1[edit]

@Jerm729 and @Kwishahave reverted my edits to sections 2.1 and 3.1, apparently without reading them, certainly without adequate explanation (the edit summaries are among the least informative I've ever read).

These are the passages in question.

Section 2.1: I deleted this sentence: Archaeologist and scholar William G. Dever argues that the biblical story of Abraham reflects a real figure from that period of history. This is unsourced, and I don't recall ever reading it in anything of Dever's. This should be obvious from the way it contradicts the immediately preceding sentence, in which Dever himself is quoted saying that archaeologists have "given up hope of recovering any context that would make Abraham, Isaac or Jacob credible 'historical figures'." The sentence I deleted should remain deleted unless a source can be provided.

Section 3.1: This is a single paragraph consisting of a number of sentences, all sourced to pages 170-171 of Peters' 1970 book "The Children of Abraham". The cite is at the end of the paragraph. For some reason our two editors want to have citations for every sentence, individually. That's ridiculous, but I suspect they haven't looked at Peters' book.

Given that the editors are acting in good faith, and my edit summaries haven't convinced them of their error, the next step is to begin the arbitration process. I propose that we ask @Dougweller, a respected admin who's been active on this article, to give us his informal views. Beyond that, of course, we have the entire arbitration process before us, all the way to Arbcom. But first, do you, @Jerm729 and @Kwishahave, agree to asking Doug to comment? PiCo (talk) 17:40, 27 June 2014 (UTC)

Page 170 of that source can not be previewed. -- ♣Jerm♣729 18:36, 28 June 2014 (UTC)
A somewhat dubious and totally irrelevant assertion; there is no requirement for a source to be readily available online, and assuming "that source" refers to Peters, pages 170–71 can be seen at 2600:1006:B11B:827:B945:D20A:9451:85D (talk) 19:29, 28 June 2014 (UTC)
Oh please, do provide a link since it's readable because the one provided in the article can't view pg.170, and yes it's important for a source to be readable genius. -- ♣Jerm♣729 20:00, 28 June 2014 (UTC)

I don't even care whateverJerm729 (talk) 20:28, 28 June 2014 (UTC)

Coming in late, sources don't have to be online. Is there still a dispute? Dougweller (talk) 18:35, 1 July 2014 (UTC)


Ever heard about the notion of chronology ? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:44, 3 July 2014 (UTC)

Ever heard of the notion of relevance? Ian.thomson (talk) 00:50, 3 July 2014 (UTC)

Paula McNutt[edit]

I've reverted an attempt to discredit this academic - by listing her current title and a comment on her current college clearly meant to imply that she isn't a specialist in the subject. When she was appointed this was posted[1] which says:

"McNutt taught in Canisius College’s religious studies department for 15 years, served as the department chairwoman and spent the past 6½ years as Canisius dean of arts and sciences. She also served as assistant director of the Tell Nimrin archaeological project in Jordan, as well as on other archaeological excavation sites in Syria and Israel.

Her books include “Reconstructing the Society of Ancient Israel” (Westminster John Knox Press, 1999); and “The Forging of Israel: Iron Technology, Symbolism, and Tradition in Ancient Society,” (Sheffield: Almond Press, 1990); and her work as editor, with David M. Gunn, of “‘Imagining’ Biblical Worlds: Studies in Spatial, Social, and Historical Constructs in Honor of James W. Flanagan” (Sheffield Academic Press, 2002). McNutt holds a doctorate in Hebrew Bible studies, with a minor in anthropology from Vanderbilt University, a master’s from the University of Montana and a bachelor’s from the University of Colorado. Among her academic awards and honors, McNutt won a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship for College Teachers in 1994-1995, received an NEH summer stipend in 1991, and is a multiple-year winner of the Canisius Faculty Fellowship Award."

Dougweller (talk) 12:12, 23 July 2014 (UTC)

An unqualified opinion from Paula McNutt was in this article over a year ago. The opinion (currently in the article) states that the stories in Genesis "cannot be related to the known history of that time". First of all, the narratives in Genesis constitute history for the Jewish people. It may not be an entirely scrupulous factual history in the tradition of Herodotus or modern historians, but qualifies as history nonetheless. If we do not accept the Biblical narratives as history, then we also cannot accept ancient Sumerian, Egyptian, or Greek historical writing as "history". If we disqualify all these sources, it means there is no "known history of that time", making McNutt's opinion nonsenical. So either we accept that we are comparing flawed histories, in which case we can relate Genesis to other histories, or else we dismiss all the aforementioned Jewish, Egyptian, Greek, and Sumerian histories as unreliable sources. In either situation, McNutt's opinion is pointless here in this article.
Secondly, this opinion is incorrect on a factual level as there are many, many histories - some less factual than others - which do correlate narratives from the Bible to other known history, such as those of the Sumerians and Egyptians. For example, the deluge story of Genesis has been correlated to a Sumerian flood that happened c2950 BC. In another example, historians have attempted to correlate the events of the Exodus to the reigns of various ancient pharoahs, most commonly Ramesses II. While these are far from universally-accepted historical correlations, the fact that such links have been proposed demonstrates that the Bible has been related to historical narratives outside Jewish history, meaning that McNutt's statement is factually inaccurate.
Furthermore, the version of the text present in this article a year ago directly quotes more than three words from McNutt's source without any quotation marks around it, in direct contradiction to Wikipedia's standards for citation listed here:
The second half of McNutt's opinion states that "most biblical histories no longer begin with the patriarchal period." If McNutt had written such a thing on Wikipedia, we would say "citation needed". Biblical historical work by A. M. Rothmueller, R. E. Friedman, and even the contrarian Israel Finkelstein do, in fact, begin with discussions of material in Genesis. Various scholars treat the Genesis material in different ways (Rothmueller accepts it as fact, Friedman questions the reason of its origin, Finkelstein dismisses it as unsupported by archaeology), but the majority of these works do start by talking about the patriarchs. As such, the second half of McNutt's sentence (again, which failed to be presented in quotation marks) is a factual error that has no place in this article on Wikipedia.
A year ago, I attempted to correct the plagiarism and factual inaccuracy while removing an irrelevant opinion from the article. I attempted to paraphrase McNutt (rather than directly quote) in a way that respected and reflected McNutt's opinion (however inaccurate) while mitigating the obvious inaccuracy. Where McNutt says "cannot be related", I paraphrased "it is difficult to relate" and removed the inaccurate latter half of the sentence. Again, relations have been made and still are being made, but the historicity and factuality of those relations is in question. My paraphrase more accurately represents the ambiguity of historical argument, enabling all sides of the debate to be respected until more solid facts come to light. McNutt's statement reflects one scholarly opinion in a much larger debate, and in its original form is unsuitable for use on Wikipedia.
I am going to re-instate my original edit and paraphrase, but would appreciate a third editor taking a look at this situation and either support my attempts to balance the article or propose his/her own method of balance.

Zeppelin42 (talk) 13:44, 22 August 2014 (UTC)

I see that the current version of the article has eliminated McNutt's inaccurate statement, making my re-instatement of the balanced paraphrase unnecessary. I still question the placement of McNutt's opinion in the header. It properly belongs in Section 2.1 (Historicity), though a paraphrase in the header might make sense. The quotations by Thompson and Van Seters are far more reliable than McNutt's observation, especially as McNutt's opinion is based on Thompson and Van Seters (and others), so if it is necessary to leave a quote in the header, it should be from Thompson or Van Seters, not McNutt.

Zeppelin42 (talk) 13:57, 22 August 2014 (UTC)

I second Zeppelin42.
I've noticed Dougweller reinstated that Yet Abraham is rewarded with camels that actually wouldn't live in the area until centuries later; whereas from the camel article we understand that, camels were being domesticated during that period. --» nafSadh did say 16:47, 22 August 2014 (UTC)
I think McNutt's two quoted remarks in the lead could be boiled down somewhat, while still being a quote. I see no need for the reference to camels in the Historicity section - it's just one of many pointers to the late date of composition of Genesis, and putting it in makes it seem that the entire dating question hinges on this. I added in the lead a summary of what the Historicity section says about the date and the circumstances of composition.PiCo (talk) 02:45, 30 August 2014 (UTC)

Suggestion for last para of lead[edit]

The lead currently has 3 paragraphs, the first dealing with purely technical/descriptive matters that shouldn't be the cause of dissent, and the second a summary of Abraham's story which should be equally acceptable. The third seems contentious, and probably always will be, as it deals with the nature of the Abraham story - is it history. I'd like to expand what's there to take in not just McNutt's summary of current scholarly views on this, but a little about the date and purpose of composition. Drawing on what's already in the article, this is what I propose:

The Bible's internal chronology places Abraham around 2000 BCE,[1] but "it is now generally recognized that there is nothing specific in the Genesis stories that can be definitively related to known history in or around Canaan in the early second millennium B.C.E." and "it is now widely agreed that the so-called 'patriarchal/ancestral period' is a later literary construct, not a period in the actual history of the ancient world" (Professor Paula McNutt).[2] The majority of scholars believe that Abraham and and the patriarchs became part of the written tradition of the Pentateuch in the Persian period, roughly 520–320 BCE,[3] as a result of tensions between the Jewish landowners who had stayed in Judah and claimed Abraham as the "father" through whom they traced their right to the land, and the returning Babylonian exiles who based their claim to dominance in Jerusalem on Moses and the Exodus tradition.[4]

I'd like the comments of editors on this proposal. PiCo (talk) 04:27, 30 August 2014 (UTC)


  1. ^ Shea 2000, p. 248.
  2. ^ McNutt 1999, p. 41.
  3. ^ Ska 2009, p. 260.
  4. ^ Ska 2006, p. 44,217,227-228.