Talk:Genesis creation narrative/Archive 9

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Archive 8 Archive 9 Archive 10


Exegetical points: Myth

Why is this matter being raised again? I though it had been agreed that whilst he term "myth" is often used colloquially to refer to a false story, the academic use of the term generally does not refer to truth or falsity. See page 1 of Mircea Eliade's. Myth and Reality. [Trans. Willard R. Trask. New York: Harper & Row, 1963] and page 1 of the intro of Alan Dundes, Sacred Narrative: Readings in the Theory of Myth. [Ed. Alan Dundes. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984. 1-3]. The Oxford English Dictionary gives a non-judgmental definition: "MYTH: a traditional story concerning the early history of a people or explaining a natural or social phenomenon, typically involving the supernatural." The term MYTH is consistently used throughout Wikipedia to refer to traditional stories of this kind. This article is included in the categories on Abrahamic mythology, Christian mythology, Comparative mythology, Creation myths and Jewish mythology - and there are equivalent categories for Hindu Mythology, Buddhist Mythology etc. The same discussion has occurred in relation to articles under all these categories and use of this terminology has been agreed as general policy. --Tediouspedant (talk) 16:44, 1 March 2010 (UTC)

WP:RNPOV allows for and even encourages reliably sourcd content that discusses objections to "critical historical treatment" which the the section attempts to do by showing that there is some scholarly dissent to the usage of "myth". I think the section could be improved as to not sound like WP:OR and its length is a little bit WP:UNDUE for one single source. Nefariousski (talk) 17:02, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
Agreed with Nef. The style could be tightened and some more sources should be used to balance it out. Tedious, as I've demonstrated through a number of attempts, I asked several of the other active editors to give me a synonym for myth that matches the claimed formal meaning, and I also asked for an example of the word used in a context in which "false" was clearly not implied. Not one editor -- not a single editor -- could give me the simple synonymous meaning of "symbolic" that I finally provided myself; and a number of editors, including Ben in his ANI, claimed it was unreasonable! I think that if it is "unreasonable" for our own editors to conceive of a meaning for myth that doesn't connote "false", then it is only fair to cut a typical reader some slack and allow him some clarification and balance. While the section should be tightened and rounded out with another source or two, it's certainly fair to keep it.EGMichaels (talk) 19:21, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
My point in referring to the use of the term "mythology" throughout a hierarchy of categories of articles relating to world religions and traditions was that it makes no sense for isolated piecemeal decisions to be made in relation to this and other individual articles or for comments to be individually drafted for inclusion in each article where this matter arises. There should be, and I strongly suspect there is, a standard agreed policy and terminology for use in such articles. If there is not then we should arrange for it to be discussed through a relevant project or on the talk page of one of the higher level categories - possibly --Tediouspedant (talk) 20:44, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
WP:WTA#Myth and Legend and WP:RNPOV both explain proper usage of Myth / Mythology and as policy they have been quoted OVER AND OVER in this discussion. Please note that just because something is policy doesn't mean that everyone magically stops debate. I wish it were so easy. Nefariousski (talk) 20:59, 1 March 2010 (UTC)

There may not be. Sometimes it takes a discussion of mutually committed perspectives to identify and solve a problem like this. I've offered a solution in the first note of this present article, which I'm also suggesting on the "words to avoid" giudeline. "Symbolic" indicates a formal meaning that is both "not literally true" but not necessarily "false." And that's fair for mythologies. Although most or all mythologies do have literal believers, the originators of the symbolism knew that they were writing in a symbolic way. It may be (as I've seen speculated in academic literature) that the concept of a "literal meaning" may be a new innovation, and true believer fundamentalists may be a more modern phenomenon as human culture developed more scientific (and therefore literal) perspectives. Before then, human culture was probably more right brained in their approach and a literal reading never really came up.EGMichaels (talk) 21:00, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
Nef, sometimes the existence of debate indicates that there is an inherent assumption in the wording of the guideline that isn't common to all editors. The "other side" (i.e. perspective) isn't the enemy of the guideline, but a useful aid in reaching a more universal wording -- as I'm proposing with the addition of three words in the guide.EGMichaels (talk) 21:02, 1 March 2010 (UTC)

As WP:RNPOV states "Conversely, editors should not avoid using terminology that has been established by the majority of the current reliable and notable sources on a topic out of sympathy for a particular point of view, or concern that readers may confuse the formal and informal meanings." As long as due diligence is done to establish formal meaning any further concern regarding intent or possible informal meaning is moot. Fear that someone might "take it the wrong way" is not a valid stance. You might want to try and get this policy changed too if you prefer the decision by committee approach regarding POV / NPOV. Nefariousski (talk) 21:05, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
Agreed that it is a valid stance. However, as we've seen in the Parsing Meaning thread, I was accused of being unreasonable to request an example on any subject in which "myth" was used for something that was not "false". This isn't because I was being coy or that the other editors in the discussion were being stupid. We were all intelligent people honestly trying to communicate with each other. So, the problem wasn't with us but with the clarity of the guide itself. In a formal academic sense, myths refer to symbolic literary structures, and even today writers strive to "create myth" in their narratives. The Godfather, for instance, reaches mythic impact on its audience because of its tightly woven artistry. The specific symbols encoded in the book and screenplay have an archetypal impact on all audiences of all kinds of backgrounds. Robert Graves goes into great detail about this understanding of Myth, and Joseph Campbell wrote a lifetime of books on how myths are constructed from the way all humans are hardwired. His "Hero with a thousand faces" is a classic that has inspired two full generations of writers -- and even George Lucas' original Star Wars trilogy. In any case, if it was unreasonable of me to ask for an example of the word being used in a formal way that excluded the informal meaning, then it is reasonable to take a look at tweaking the wording in the guide. I've recently made the change, and you're welcome to review it. If you need specific references for this minor clarification, I could give you a fair dozen, and would be happy to do so if it would help forestall this problem in the future in this and other articles.EGMichaels (talk) 21:18, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
I think the reason you didn't get many bites on your request for examples was because most of us aren't in the business of negative proofs. I think a good case for creation myth can be made, I have yet to find a definition that implies falsehood. Whether it is actually "false" (e.g. informally myth) is completely beyond the scope of the actual term itself and relies strictly upon the interpretation of the individual. Big chunks of Greek Mythology turned out to be very much true / historical (Troy being a great example of a place that was mythical/legendary as well as factually true). Not to mention that if you remove timelines from the discussion most myths were at one point in time unquestionably true and factual. Nefariousski (talk) 21:29, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
It's not a negative proof to simply give an example of what you claim to mean. Some editors were arguing that an informal meaning was being used, while the other editors were arguing that a formal meaning was being used. The problem wasn't the intelligence or good will on either side, but in the guide itself, because the wording of the formal meaning did not exclude the informal. I pointed this out by asking for an example of the word being used, in ANY context, in which the formal meaning was clearly being used and the informal meaning clearly not being used. The editors could not provide this because of a problem with the specificity of wording in the guideline itself. In other words, both sides were right.EGMichaels (talk) 21:39, 1 March 2010 (UTC)

An additional scholarly thought about the use of the word "myth":

  • "Moreover, in light of contemporary attitudes that link myth with fairy tales and the imaginary, we should demur on labeling Genesis 1-2 myth." (John S. Feinberg, in No One Like Him: The Doctrine of God", p. 575)

Also, a thought about genre:

  • Steven Boyd created a logistic regression model to calculate the probability that a particular Hebrew text is a narrative. He concluded that "For Genesis 1:1–2:3, this probability is between 0.999942 and 0.999987 at a 99.5% confidence level." And that "It is therefore statistically indefensible to argue that this text is poetry." (in "Statistical Determination of Genre in Biblical Hebrew: Evidence for an Historical Reading of Genesis 1:1-2:3")

Ἀλήθεια 03:41, 2 March 2010 (UTC)

Recognizing that this discussion has probably been rehashed over and over, I'm going to throw in my two cents here (for what it's worth). I have to concur with those who say there is an element of falsity around the word "myth". Looking to the closest reliable source I have at hand, we see that "myth" can refer both to a story which is not necessarily true or false, and it can refer to "invented stories". From my reading the word "myth" primarily means maybe true and secondarily (though not insignificantly) not true. Average those possible definitions together and you have a word that means "leaning false".
With that said, I think Genesis creation myth suggests falsity. At the same time Creation according to Gensis does seem to suggest an element of truth. Perhaps Creation in the Book of Genesis?
Anyways, as I've said, I'm sure this is rehash. I do feel however that "myth" is uncomfortably close to POV pushing. I think we could do something more NPOV. Would someone be so kind as to point me in the direction of the survey showing a majority of editors were for this wording?
P.S. Apologies Nefar, but I hounding you ;-) NickCT (talk) 00:45, 3 March 2010 (UTC)
The important thing to realize is "creation myth" is not what the article is about. The article is about two chapters of Genesis. It is about the first two chapters of Genesis. "Creation myth" is just a characterization of these chapters of Genesis. Apparently it is sourced. Therefore it belongs in the article. But the article isn't solely about Genesis as a creation myth. Even if that were the case, which it is not, a better and clearer and more explanatory name for such an article would be "Genesis as a creation myth." But there is far too little material relating to the characterization of Genesis as a "creation myth" in the article in its present state for the present title to adorn it. It is way out of place. Bus stop (talk) 01:27, 3 March 2010 (UTC)
I think that the consensus between the so-called formal and informal is "not literally true." While that doesn't necessarily mean false, I'd say that those promoting myth in the title do not believe in the text even symbolically, while those promoting another term are split either way.EGMichaels (talk) 01:27, 3 March 2010 (UTC)
EGMichaels — but there is no one promoting such as title as "Genesis, the word of God." Furthermore I don't know what you mean by "do not believe in the text even symbolically." It does not require "belief" to interpret something. Symbolic understanding is commonly practiced by the most secular of people. Bus stop (talk) 01:32, 3 March 2010 (UTC)
If you just linked to a diff of one of the previous times you made the exact same "Creation myth is just a characterization" statement it'd save a lot of wear and tear on your keyboard and probably save a good bit of space on the servers over at WP HQ. Or you could just let it go and move on maybe? Nefariousski (talk) 01:41, 3 March 2010 (UTC)
Nefariousski — It is just a contrived title. If the material is sourced it certainly should be in the article. I have no objection to the characterization. But why would it be asserted in the title? Bus stop (talk) 01:48, 3 March 2010 (UTC)
But it is a title that is accurate and specific and provides information regarding the subject at hand, is in line with policy and sources. For the entire explanation you can look here Nefariousski (talk) 01:55, 3 March 2010 (UTC)
It doesn't provide information; it provides interpretation. That is exactly what is not called for. The purpose of a title is not to predigest material for a reader. The reader is supposed to be left to their own resources, reaching the conclusions that they reach, based on the material they encounter in the article. A reader should not be told what to think by a title, nor should even a suggestion as to what to think be planted in a title. Bus stop (talk) 01:58, 3 March 2010 (UTC)
So tell me if you disagree with the following statement. "Genesis 1-2 is a religious account of how the earth, life, people, etc... were created" Nefariousski (talk) 02:04, 3 March 2010 (UTC)
It sounds fine with me. Is that a sentence you are proposing for inclusion in the article? Bus stop (talk) 02:08, 3 March 2010 (UTC)
That sentance is already included in the article and the talk page. It's the definition of "Creation myth" with the words "Genesis 1-2 is a" added to the front. The content of Genesis 1-2 meets the exact same definition as the term "Creation myth". This is why we use it. It provides accuracy and meaning. Reading the title tells us that "This article is about a religious account of cosmogenesis that is written in Genesis". The WP:UCN section in the link above explains the value of accuracy and precision in naming and why it's preferable to use academic terms as long as they aren't arcane or obscure and frequently appear in sources on the subject. Nefariousski (talk) 02:16, 3 March 2010 (UTC)
Nef, I think the difference between you and Bus Stop is on what you think the article is. I think the present article is about Genesis creation as myth. My problem with "Genesis creation myth" is that it is worded in such a way that it implies there are no other relevant articles on this text. "Genesis creation facts" or "Genesis creation history" or "Genesis creation allegory" are titles that say "this is what the passage IS." It's presumptive. An allegorist would answer, "But it's just a factual title. Of course it's allegory. A creationist would do the same. And the allegorist would point to other allegories and say that "allegory is appropriate in a title about an allegory, which this is." Ultimately your argument becomes cicular, and pointing to other articles that are similarly titled leaves anyone outside of your paradigm nonplussed.
That said, however, THIS ARTICLE is indeed about Genesis creation as myth. While "Genesis creation myth" is not a good title, regardless of other titles on Wikipedia, the term "myth" must be included in the title of the article as it now is. There should be a minor tweak. AND -- the Wikilink to "Creation according to Genesis" absolutely should not go to this particular article, because this article is too specifically about one aspect of the study of the Genesis text. Bus is right that it is a characterization. And even a true characterization is still a characterization. It's like "Einstein Genuis." Well, wasn't he? Sure. But it's a bad title that LIMITS Einstein to that one (even true) characterization.EGMichaels (talk) 02:28, 3 March 2010 (UTC)
So you're saying it's possible to make a case that Genesis 1-2 is not a "Creation myth"? It's possible to make a case against allegory or fact or history because they all require different interpretations and value judgements. Saying Genesis 1-2 is "Creation myth" is like saying my BMW 650 is a german car. I'm not saying it's the fastest german car, I'm not saying it's the best german car I'm just calling it a german car. Conversely there is no case that can be made that it isn't a German car. It is a factually true statement not a value laden one. We need to get over this "myth" as a standalone word. "Creation myth" does not equal "Creation" + "myth". To say that this title is a categorization is to say that "Genesis 1-2 is a religious cosmogenical account" is a categorization which it clearly isn't. I don't understand why this needs to be explained any further. All aspects of study of the Genesis text fit under the current title because it doesn't rule out allegory, historicity, creationist views etc... It's just the short form of saying "The religious cosmogenical account in Genesis 1-2" which can be interpreted any number of ways. Nefariousski (talk) 02:51, 3 March 2010 (UTC)
Nefariousski — it is unnecessary. Its fault lies in its superfluousness. It is a contrivance to append a term that is unnecessary. It is an error to tell the reader what to think. Article titles have a requirement to stop short of making assertions beyond the identifying of the subject matter. Bus stop (talk) 03:05, 3 March 2010 (UTC)

Nef, it doesn't "need to be explained" because the problem isn't that I haven't heard you. I believe Genesis is a creation myth. It's not that I object to the title on grounds of veracity. I believe Einstein is a genius. It's simply a true statement. But that's just one angle to explore. "Genesis as creation myth" could be fine. It's like "Allegorical interpretations of Genesis." As TITLES they express the ARTICLE, not the book of Genesis itself. "Babylonian creation myth" might be fine since there aren't a bunch of other articles about it. It's the only angle of relevance to readers. But creation myth is certainly NOT the only angle or relevance to Wikipedia readers.EGMichaels (talk) 03:14, 3 March 2010 (UTC)
EGM, I agree with your assertion that "creation" is "just one angle to explore" in Genesis, but given that there is already a Book of Genesis article, I'm not sure what the point is. NickCT (talk) 14:08, 3 March 2010 (UTC)
The point is just that this is being treated as the default link for Creation according to Genesis. If you click it, it comes to this article. That's a huge no no for a pov limited article like this one. There are a ton of angles to the Genesis creation account: literary, allegorical, mythical, historical, form critical, scientific. Creation according to Genssis should go to an umbrella article summarizing all of those and pointing to any of those aspects that already have an article. Nef et at are treating Genesis creation myth as the umbrella, and giving it a title that presupposes that no other angles of interest exist.EGMichaels (talk) 15:25, 3 March 2010 (UTC)

So basicly EGM, you want a disambiguous Creation according to Genesis page, that then points to "Literary Creation According to Genesis", "Allegorical Creation According to Genesis" etc etc? NickCT (talk) 16:35, 3 March 2010 (UTC)

So then make a proposal that Creation according to Genesis redirect it to the creationism page or write a new section in this article and redirect the link to that section. Pretty easy fix. Nefariousski (talk) 16:49, 3 March 2010 (UTC)
Although a disambiguation page would help, that wasn't what I had in mind. I was thinking of a summary article in which we could add a literary analysis section (there is currently no such article). Basically a set of edited ledes pointing to the different articles, and adding a literary section. Nef, I certainly wouldn't want creationism to be the default page either.EGMichaels (talk) 17:02, 3 March 2010 (UTC)
The easiest "fix" is to name this article "Genesis chapters one and two". The simple problem with that suggestion (my suggestion) is that leaves out "creation" as a search term. Essentially the previous title ("Creation according to Genesis") was the best one. But for those who want to be dogmatic about removing all potentially "religious" associations I think the best solution is to name this article "Genesis chapters one and two." Bus stop (talk) 17:04, 3 March 2010 (UTC)
Bus, my problem with an ambiguous title is that the article itself is painted into a POV corner. We need a DIFFERENT article that points to each of the different legitimate and notable views that exist on this passage (in which such a title would apply). Your title is fine -- it just no longer matches this article. The old article survived an AfD, and then was murdered by other means.EGMichaels (talk) 17:08, 3 March 2010 (UTC)
I don't think the article in its present form relates to Genesis as a "creation myth" — not to any great extent. Furthermore I have my doubts that there is even enough cogent material to fill out more than one article on the first two chapters of Genesis at this moment in the writing of this article. Bus stop (talk) 17:13, 3 March 2010 (UTC)
Well, I'll admit there is the danger to additional POV forking in my umbrella idea. But there ARE mutiple articles now. It would be a mess to pull them all into a single article.EGMichaels (talk) 17:17, 3 March 2010 (UTC)
The largest component of this article is a retelling of the story contained in the two chapters. I fail to see how such an article warrants a title with the uncalled for commentary that pigeonholes that story as a "creation myth." Bus stop (talk) 17:28, 3 March 2010 (UTC)
FFS, will you drop this lame-duck argument? Calling the story in Genesis a creation myth is no more pigeonholing than calling Tyrannosaurus Rex a dinosaur. — The Hand That Feeds You:Bite 20:17, 3 March 2010 (UTC)
Hand, the problem isn't that it's a "creation myth." I ALSO believe it is a "creation myth". The problem is that it is not ONLY a "creation myth." There are plenty of aspects to this account that are covered in multiple articles. I would equally oppose such titles as "Genesis creation record" or "Genesis creation allegory" or "Genesis creation history", etc. Such title presuppose that no other articles for this text exist on Wikipedia, which is clearly not true.EGMichaels (talk) 20:27, 3 March 2010 (UTC)
I really think you've got it backwards. The existence of other articles doesn't affect this article's title. A "See also" section is adequate for pointing editors to other articles on the topic. — The Hand That Feeds You:Bite 21:14, 3 March 2010 (UTC)

Other myths in Genesis

For what it's worth, there's ANOTHER problem with the term "myth." There are a lot of creation myths that are based on Genesis. Lilith is an example. I have multiple volumes on Jewish and Christian myths, which even Christians and Jews will say are myths. Ginsberg's "Legends of the Jews" is a good example. "Genesis creation myth" doesn't even address these creation myths about Genesis, although the title clearly implies that it should. The first reaction I had when I saw this article was to look for Aggadic material, and I was concerned by the fact that it was talking about Genesis, and not myths based on it. I've let that slide for a while since that isn't what anyone has been arguing about, but it is a way the title is misleading. We need to be clear that it is Genesis ITSELF that is regarded as a creation myth. "Genesis as creation myth" would do just that. It's clear, it's accurate, it's about the article, it follows all of existing guidelines, it allows for the existence of other articles on Genesis (which there clearly are), and it is clearly NOT about myths BASED ON Genesis.EGMichaels (talk) 21:07, 3 March 2010 (UTC)

Uh, Lilith isn't mentioned anywhere in Genesis. She's apocryphal for that, and first mentioned in Isaiah. Which you'd know if you'd actually read her article. — The Hand That Feeds You:Bite 21:21, 3 March 2010 (UTC)
The Deluge myth is in Genesis, but doesn't fit nor have anything in common with the creation myth (hence why they are two seperate articles). If you find another story in Genesis that fits the definition of Creation myth then by all means please feel free to add it to this article. Nefariousski (talk) 21:46, 3 March 2010 (UTC)
Hand, you're obviously unfamiliar with Lilith. Lilith is a genesis creation myth that says the woman in Genesis 1 is not the same woman as the one in Genesis 2. The first wife, Lilith, was an equal for Adam. Once she was rejected then God put Adam in a deep sleep and formed Eve. Ginsberg lists other Genesis creation myths in his Legends of the Jews. Lilith is just the most famous.EGMichaels (talk) 13:54, 4 March 2010 (UTC)
That is not included in Genesis, hence is not part of the Genesis creation myth. This article is not titled "Jewish creation myths" or "Judaism-related creation myth". · CUSH · 14:35, 4 March 2010 (UTC)
Cush, the article isn't titled "Genesis as creation myth" (indicating Genesis itself characterized as a creation myth). It is "Genesis Creation Myth" (which could include any myth about or derived from the Genesis creation narrative).EGMichaels (talk) 14:57, 4 March 2010 (UTC)
Proverbs 8:22-31 is probably the nearest you'll get to another Creation myth within the Old Testament. Isaiah 27:1 references the Babylonian creation myth. John 1:1-10 probably seeks to reconcile Genesis 1:1–2:3 with Neoplatonism. --Tediouspedant (talk) 16:01, 4 March 2010 (UTC)
for the millionth time a Creation myth isn't defined as a "Myth" about "Creation" (e.g. a fairy tale about building a birdhouse is not a Creation myth). Creation myth has a specific definition and if your story doesn't meet the definition then it's not applicable to this article. Nefariousski (talk) 17:12, 4 March 2010 (UTC)
Hey, Nef, I didn't pick the bad title. It's ambiguous and can include Genesis AS "creation myth" or a "creation myth" ABOUT Genesis. Don't complain to me. I didn't invent the title. But if you are stuck with it, then let's make this an enclyclopedic article that matches the ambiguous title.EGMichaels (talk) 17:33, 4 March 2010 (UTC)
BTW, Nef, aren't you tired of having such a bad title that you have to explain it over, and over, and over, and over...? If you have to keep explaining it, there's something wrong with the title. "Genesis as creation myth" is very clear that you are characterizing the Genesis creation narrative as a creation myth, and you can keep the article completely focused on just the myths that are parallel and possibly foundational to this narrative. Philo wouldn't fit in here any more, perhaps...EGMichaels (talk) 17:50, 4 March 2010 (UTC)
Then 90% of the article should be discarded, because that's how much of the article in its present state is not about Genesis as a "creation myth." Bus stop (talk) 18:56, 4 March 2010 (UTC)
Not discarded, Bus -- just moved to a NPOV article.EGMichaels (talk) 17:46, 4 March 2010 (UTC)
True. Not discarded. But all the material presently in this article arguably belongs in this article. The only problem is the improbable title. Bus stop (talk) 17:52, 4 March 2010 (UTC)
Wikipedia is not the place to make your sacred texts "special" or "stand out" amongst others' sacred texts (it would not be unreasonable to presume that is the reason you're on this talk page instead of the countless other pages belonging to the same class). This article is not special - as I just said it is one of many from a large class. So long as other reference works refer to this article's topic as a creation myth (I've personally cited a large group of Oxford's reference works and Encyclopedia Britannica) and Wikipedia uses the term (creation) myth consistently, I think you'll find this article title is not only probable, but sanctioned by WP:NPOV's guide to editorially neutral writing. Ben (talk) 18:07, 4 March 2010 (UTC)
Vaulting a term gratuitously into a title is a contrivance. I have no vested interest in any "sacred text." I respect the integrity of widely used cultural artifacts. I oppose pigeonholing material in ways in accordance with the personal sentiments of editors. Genesis is a multifaceted cultural entity and all of those facets should be explored within the body of the article, with NPOV as a guiding principle. "Creation myth" is one characterization of this complex, widely used artifact of human thought. All a title need do is identify the subject. The previous title did that adequately. Bus stop (talk) 18:55, 4 March 2010 (UTC)
Please stop using the same argumentation over and over again. And really, Genesis is NOT a complex, widely used artifact of human thought. Even compared to contemporary sources Genesis is simple and inelegant language. And the title does identify the subject. · CUSH · 20:16, 4 March 2010 (UTC)
Cush — what argumentation do you feel I've repeated? Bus stop (talk) 20:23, 4 March 2010 (UTC)
Well, "Creation myth is a characterization", off the top of my head, that one is still flying around --King Öomie 20:32, 4 March 2010 (UTC)
King, I suppose "Genesis creation record" wouldn't be a characterization either, would it?EGMichaels (talk) 20:54, 4 March 2010 (UTC)
'Creation myth' is a classification, not a characterization. It has nothing to do with how someone feels about it. And that would based on which definition of 'record' you use. If you mean "Objectively true and accurately reported", I would call title factually inaccurate. --King Öomie 21:33, 4 March 2010 (UTC)
Sure you would, as well as half of the people who object to the title "Genesis creation myth." I would object to both "Genesis creation myth" and "Genesis creation record." Both are presumptive, and unencyclopedic as long as another article on this topic exists.EGMichaels (talk) 21:43, 4 March 2010 (UTC)
Nobody who reads and understands the definition of "Creation Myth" can reasonably make a case that Genesis 1-2 doesn't fit. On the other hand if a person were to read and understand the definition of "record" a case could be made that Genesis 1-2 doesn't fit. That's the difference between a category and a characteristic I think King is trying to explain. Furthermore, I'm not tired of explaining it over and over, I'm tired of explaining it to the exact same people over and over. Although I do have to admit the constant repetition has given me a new appriciation for what my daughter's kindergarten teacher goes through every day. Nefariousski (talk) 21:51, 4 March 2010 (UTC)
Nef, again, the problem isn't one of comprehension. If it were, your "explanations" would make some headway. The problem is that people both UNDERSTAND you and still DISAGREE with you. The kindergarten teacher understands that -- but her students don't.EGMichaels (talk) 21:55, 4 March 2010 (UTC)
Do these objectors know what 'creation myth' means? Or do they not believe us when we say we're not calling it a fairy tale? --King Öomie 21:48, 4 March 2010 (UTC)
What is "presumptive" about saying Geneis 1-2 is a religious cosmogenical account, described as a deliberate act by a deity (e.g. the definition of creation myth). How is using a formal / academic term unencyclopedic? Anything new that doesn't assume a false definition of "creation myth" as "a myth about creation" or generally harp on some other informal interpretation of myth while ignoring that it is never used informally or alone in the entire article? Nefariousski (talk) 22:01, 4 March 2010 (UTC)
King, if you didn't think it was false, you wouldn't call it a myth. Can you name ANYTHING "factually correct" that you would call a myth? I can, but I use "myth" differently than you do.EGMichaels (talk) 21:56, 4 March 2010 (UTC)
Nobody is calling Genesis a "MYTH". Furthermore informal usage of "myth" isn't the issue here. True or False isn't the issue here. Creation Myth doesn't imply either and unless you split the formal term apart or go off on "Myth" all alone again you have ZERO case to show anything POV, unencyclopedic or otherwise frowned upon regarding the term. Nefariousski (talk) 22:01, 4 March 2010 (UTC)
Nef, I'll ask you the same thing I asked King -- can you name ANYTHING "factually correct" that you would call a myth? And don't hide behind the silliness that "creation myth" doesn't have anything to do with "myth."EGMichaels (talk) 22:25, 4 March 2010 (UTC)
EGM - Just to give two examples, both C.S.Lewis and J.R.R.Tolkien repeatedly referred to Christianity as "True Myth" and they both believed that it was factually correct. For more examples check out this book The Word As True Myth: Interpreting Modern Theology or J.R.R. Tolkien: Truth and Myth or Christianity as True Myth or The ‘Postmodern’ Barth? The Word of God As True Myth. --Tediouspedant (talk) 01:10, 5 March 2010 (UTC)
Bingo, Tedious :-). Tolkien actually convinced Lewis to convert to Christianity because it was myth.EGMichaels (talk) 01:26, 5 March 2010 (UTC)
I agree that it's a crappy title, but "Genesis 1 and 2" is even worse, because it would sucker a reader into thinking that this was a balanced reference to all the notable characterizations of Genesis. THAT hypothetical article no longer exists. While "Creation according to Genesis" survived an AfD, it was murdered by other means. A very concerted effort has been made to make this article about Genesis as creation myth. I think that is a notable and encyclopedic characterization to make about Genesis. There is plenty of material to put into it. There SHOULD be an article on that subject, so why not this one? My beefs with the title are twofold: 1) it presumes the POV in such a manner that no other articles could logically exist, and 2) it is ambiguous -- neither disallowing Genesis itself AS a creation myth or other creation myths ABOUT Genesis. "Genesis AS creation myth" covers both of those problems. We can focus on Mesopotamian parallels, neolithic matriarchal issues (no one has bothered to notice that the primal waters are a matriarchal symbol... the universe is being BORN like a baby -- yes, that's covered by Campbell and others as residual matriarchal mythic symbolism), depth psychology, and possibly mention other myths spawned off of this narrative. We could do so, because we'd have a well focused characterization spelled out in the title. Another article could cover links and summaries to this and other characterizations of the Genesis creation narrative.EGMichaels (talk) 18:02, 4 March 2010 (UTC)

As a thought, wouldn't Genesis (creation myth) serve disambiguation without implying truth or falsehood, much like Genesis (band) does the same without making touching on how much they do or do not rock? Aindriahhn (talk) 20:19, 9 March 2010 (UTC)

Genesis itself isn't a creation myth, Genesis contains a creation myth (specifically the first two chapters). Noah's Ark, the fall of man etc... are contained within Genesis yet not part of the creation myth. Nefariousski (talk) 20:43, 9 March 2010 (UTC)
Agree with Nef. IMO, "Creation according to Genesis" is still the only title among the proposed alternatives that meets the most significant objections. "Genesis creation myth" or any variation on that theme ambiguously reflects on the whole Book of Genesis, of which the creation story/account/narrative is spatially a very small percentage of the whole. Unlike most or perhaps all other creation myths, the Book of Genesis is a chronicle of and basis for the foundations of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. "Creation according to Genesis" would be a parallel construct to "Deluge according to Genesis" or "Abraham according to Genesis." Can that same comparison truly be drawn about any other major creation myth?
With that prior article title, early in the lead the creation myth connection can be made.
Earlier objections to "according to" don't hold water. How often do we read or hear from major media, "According to..." and that sometimes even includes "a source who chooses to remain anonymous." "According to..." does not imply truth or falsity any more than the formal definition of creation myth. ─AFA Prof01 (talk) 04:24, 10 March 2010 (UTC)

New articles to help simplify and clarify

I created two new articles: Interpretations of Genesis and Religious interpretations of Genesis. The goal is to bring clarity to the set of articles about Genesis. The organization can be thought of as:

  • Book of Genesis - NOT interpretation, but simply documenting it as a book of the Bible.

This set of articles should allow all notable content to be included in the encyclopedia, in a way that won't confuse the readers of this encyclopedia. Naturally, the articles will have some shared content, but "see also" links should be used liberally to avoid unnecessary duplication. The article Religious interpretations of Genesis is a stub article, now, and editors are encouraged to add content to it. --Noleander (talk) 17:30, 5 March 2010 (UTC)

While I like the idea of organizing so that all different interps have a place here on Wiki I'm not sure "Genesis creation myth" would fall under the category of an "Interpretation". Everybody agrees that Genesis 1-2 is a religious cosmogenical account that was a deliberate act by a diety. Unless I'm missing something in my research nobody contests it as such or interprets it differently. There may be some consternation regarding the formal term that is used to describe a Religious cosmogenical acccount ... (e.g. Creation Myth) but that still doesn't land it in the realm of just one interpretation out of many. Nefariousski (talk) 17:35, 5 March 2010 (UTC)
For example, if we were somehow to show Genesis 1-2 to be undeniably factually true it would still meet the definition of a creation myth whilst validating the Religious interpretations of Genesis article, if it were proven to be undeniably allegorical it would also still meet the definition of a creation myth etc... No matter what slant one takes in their readings of Genesis 1-2 it doesn't change the fact that it represents a creation myth. Nefariousski (talk) 17:39, 5 March 2010 (UTC)
You've got a good point. But we do need some word to use in the top-level navigation article to describe the various ways to look at Genesis. How about Approaches to Genesis or Understandings of Genesis? The key thing is helping readers navigate with clarity. What word would you suggest? --Noleander (talk) 17:40, 5 March 2010 (UTC)

I don't disagree with your approach, I just think that it would be more along the lines of:
  • Book of Genesis - NOT interpretation, but simply documenting it as a book of the Bible.
  • Specific articles that discuss
I know I expanded the scope beyond specifically looking at Genesis 1-2 but I wanted to give you my thoughts on where I think this should fall in the larger picture. Nefariousski (talk) 17:51, 5 March 2010 (UTC)
Okay, that looks good. I think the important point is: faith-related content has a few other articles that it can go into (namely, Religious interpretations of Genesis, Framework interpretation (Genesis) and Book of Genesis, so this article can get focused more on the creation myth aspect. --Noleander (talk) 18:09, 5 March 2010 (UTC)
I agree, If we try to include all different interpretations, viewpoints etc... in this article we're going to have a serious issue with WP:SIZE eventually not to mention making the article difficult to read through. Nefariousski (talk) 18:15, 5 March 2010 (UTC)

Noleander -- very impressive! Thanks! Nef, I appreciate your work too, but I'm leaning toward Noleander. I think this would be a much better article if it were focused on mythological foundations and parallels to the Genesis creation account. When people see "Genesis creation myth" they are interested in finding out about Mesopotamian parallels more than anything else. We should give them that in a tightly focused article and move allegorical, historical, etc. interpretations from here into the articles they more closely belong to. Pico should like that too :-).EGMichaels (talk) 18:47, 5 March 2010 (UTC)

My take would be something like...

EGMichaels (talk) 18:55, 5 March 2010 (UTC)

This outline could result in very confusing edits, and confusion for readers. It does not contain an article for content regarding faith-based analysis/interpretation of Genesis. Creationism is too narrow for that purpose. Were you intending that religious content regarding Genesis go into Book of Genesis? Do you have an objection to the new article Religious interpretations of Genesis? --Noleander (talk) 19:10, 5 March 2010 (UTC)
Additionally Genesis creation myth shouldn't be focused on any interpretation, it should just discuss the actual creation myth. A second article titled Mythological foundations of Genesis would in no way be redundant or conflict with Genesis creation myth feel free to add that to the hierarchy as one of the interpretations. But I would highly recommend we take a formal stance that we are not discussing "Myth" in the informal sense and that creation myth doesn't fall into the "just one interpretation" section of the hierarchy. Nefariousski (talk) 17:07, 9 March 2010 (UTC)
Too late. The title "Genesis creation myth" presupposes that this is a myth. While I agree with the interpretation, it IS an interpretation. This article should be entitled Mythological foundations of Genesis and focus on that aspect of the text. Honestly, Nef, with a straight face, do you seriously believe people will read this article if they don't have an interest in the Mythological foundations of Genesis? Successfully retaining a title that doesn't match the umbrella goals you have for this article would be an empty victory. You'll have exactly what you want, and no one will care. People really ARE interested in the mythological aspects of Genesis. I know I am. People clicking on that title will stop reading the article if it's some kind of unfocused umbrella, and people looking for an umbrella will never click here. Make the cover match the contents, or the contents the cover. Pick one and go with it.EGMichaels (talk) 17:53, 9 March 2010 (UTC)
Can you explain how "myth" is presupposed without splitting "creation myth" into "creation" and "myth" and in the context of the definition of "creation myth"? Additionally can you explain how anyone can argue that genesis 1-2 is not a "creation myth" as the term is defined? Nefariousski (talk) 21:17, 10 March 2010 (UTC)
Ancient mythologies were religions. And a lot of religious people (including, if I'm not mistaken, some allegorists and/or framework) accept mythological foundations to this account. A number of refs in here come from the Word Biblical Commentary -- a conservative Christian commentary series, that definitely sees parallels with ancient myth. I'm not sure we can sequester Genesis creation myth as a non-religious interpretation, since it is shared by many conservative religious scholars and even appears in Christian study Bibles like the Oxford Annotated Bible.EGMichaels (talk) 19:16, 5 March 2010 (UTC)
I'm not talking about the faith of the sources ... I'm talking about the content of the article: to re-phrase the question: you dont think that there should be an article dedicated to Judeo-Christian faith-based analysis/interpretation of Genesis? And you think that that faith-based analysis should be lumped into the same article that discusses Genesis from a historical/literary creation myth context? And you think that such a shared article would be best for the readers of this encyclopedia? --Noleander (talk) 20:15, 5 March 2010 (UTC)

I don't see any need to create new articles yet - not unless this article expands too much. I think we've just about managed to cover every perspective in a logical order. We start just describing the text itself - it's structure and content (without any analysis or interpretation). Then we discuss its precursors and possible origins. Then we look at how it has been interpreted by literal and non-literal believers in it - exegesis, theology and theological differences and disputes. Then (I propose) we include commentary and criticism of the text and it's traditional interpretation by anyone outside the tradition or skeptical of the tradition. That covers most of the proposed topics. If you wish to divide the theological interpretation section into several sections - such as literal (eg Creationist) and allegorical interpretation or Jewish and Christian interpretation I have no objections. But these sections should just cover views of people and schools that accept (in some form) the truth or meaningfulness of the texts. --Tediouspedant (talk) 20:30, 5 March 2010 (UTC)

Sorry, I have to disagree. This article cannot contain content that is specific to Christianity, or apologetic regarding Christianity. The _sources_ can be Christian scholars, of course, but the content needs to focus on the creation myth context. Don't forget that the Genesis creation myth pre-dates Christianity. There is a vast amount of material (not yet in this article) that discusses Genesis in a Christian-focused manner (in defense of Christitanity), and that content deserves its own article. Furthermore, due to the large number of _existing_ articles related to Genesis, a WP:summary style article is useful. --Noleander (talk) 20:37, 5 March 2010 (UTC)
The Genesis Creation Myth obviously predates ALL commentary on it. I assume you're not proposing that this page just contains the original text (in Hebrew) with no commentary or interpretation. If it does contain commentary then we need to divide up that commentary into categories. The current categories are good. At least half the article - Exegetical points and Theology and Judaeo-Christian interpretation already contains Christian perspectives. If and when this page gets too long (not yet, but it will) I suggest that sections 1,2 & 3 of this article (The narratives + Ancient Near East context + Structure and composition) remain the lead article on Genesis Creation Myth and that we divide up the analysis into two or three subsidiary articles:
1. Exegetical points + Theology and Judaeo-Christian interpretation [with a new title: Religious interpretations of Genesis Creation Myth - or have two separate articles on Literal Interpretation and Allegorical Interpretation]
2. Commentaries, Criticism, Controversies and non Judaeo-Christian views [with a new title: Secular responses to Genesis Creation Myth] --Tediouspedant (talk) 21:01, 5 March 2010 (UTC)

Commentaries, Criticism, Controversies and non Judaeo-Christian views

I've removed this section for now. Such self-labelled work in progress should not appear in an article. Please finish the section in user space before bringing it here. --PLUMBAGO 12:46, 8 March 2010 (UTC)

I have no intention of wasting vast mounts of time writing detailed sourced material when the entire section is almost certain to be removed almost immediately on the basis of some technicality. I will test contributions first by adding an outline and and then see what ridiculous objections arise. A quick look through the changes to this page over the last four years reveal that just about everything that has been done to add interesting and relevant material to this page has been reverted and deleted and countless people have wasted a vast amount of time achieving nothing. I've had enough with this article. --Tediouspedant (talk) 23:26, 8 March 2010 (UTC)
Ach! Tedious was one of the most moderating influences on this article! This is not good.EGMichaels (talk) 23:46, 8 March 2010 (UTC)
Sorry Tedious, but leaving such incomplete material in the article was simply inappropriate. It could easily have been edited here first then added to the article when complete. As it happens it looks like you tidied it up then deleted it yourself. Anyway, sorry if my deletion appeared heavy-handed, but there's really no need to leave such edits in an article. --PLUMBAGO 09:35, 9 March 2010 (UTC)
Plum, it looks that Tedious was trying to create a framework for us to go forward. Whether appropriate or not, it may have been necessary because of the ridiculous ownership issues going on here.
  • Every night sourced material is deleted rather than (at worst) moved.
  • I'm demanded to talk HERE instead of on my own talk page about this article, and then slapped with an ANI for... drum roll... talking HERE about the article!
  • Tedious adds refs FOR Pico's chosen POV and even they get deleted.
  • We are pointed to some kind of policy about the use of the term "myth" and then told that
  1. folks are just following policy (which we later learned they WROTE), and
  2. the word "myth" in the policy has nothing to do with the term "creation myth" (then why point us to the policy).
  • We're also told that myth isn't being used in an informal way (as false) and yet I'm accused of making unreasonable demands when I ask for someone, ANYONE, to give any example on any subject in which the term "myth" is used in a way that's NOT "false" (and even accused of being unreasonable after I supply several examples myself).
Poor Tedious (poor all of us) comes in with the same idea I had: to bridge the gap in collaboration. He gives a good example of "myth" used in a non-informal sense. He collaborates with me to provide refs for both sides of the ex nihilo subject, pro and con. And... he gets deleted every night. Honestly, Plum, given the present environment I think it's unreasonable to appeal to norms.EGMichaels (talk) 15:34, 9 March 2010 (UTC)
While I feel your pain you don't do development or run tests in your production environment. This page is live to all of the world and placeholders / WIP aren't acceptable. I created a subpage of my talk page to get input on and develop the FAQ and where I to make any considerable content change to the article that I suspected would be contested or would take me more than a few edits to finish I would also do so on my talkpage. I hardly think the request to not have outlines of future info / placeholders in the article inappropriate even moreso in such a volatile article. Nefariousski (talk) 17:01, 9 March 2010 (UTC)
Nef, a straw is just a straw... unless it breaks the camel's back. The problem with this article isn't volatility, but rather unnecessary volatility. All the rope a dope circles people have to run around in order to accomplish... next to nothing. Did anyone think to MOVE Tedious' framework? No. Just delete. Delete is a powerful feeling, that accomplishes less than nothing on this page.EGMichaels (talk) 17:35, 9 March 2010 (UTC)
I don't disagree in the slightest. Wholesale deletion of sourced material / good faith edits is tantamount to vandalism in my eyes but the way to deal with it isn't to add "work in progress" caveats to the article and turn it into its own sandbox. I personally wouldn't have completely deleted the framework that Tedious created, I would have moved it to a section on this talk page or a subpage for further work or suggested that he/she move it to their own userspace for work/discussion. One of the great things about Wikipedia is its historical logging, nothing is ever really "Deleted" Tedious, or anyone for that matter can grab that framework from the history and re-add it to the appropriate talkpage or userspace in the blink of an eye. Nefariousski (talk) 17:51, 9 March 2010 (UTC)
Hi Nef -- I don't disagree with you either. I just think we're all over tired from running in circles. Tedious is one casualty, and all the work I never got to add is another. The framework just needed to be moved with a nice note offering to help work on it. Sometimes that seems longer than a delete, but it gets to the goal faster.EGMichaels (talk) 17:57, 9 March 2010 (UTC)

← Yes, I should have copied the deleted material here. My bad. --PLUMBAGO 09:18, 10 March 2010 (UTC)

Scholarly sources and mainstream opinion

Wikipedia has to be based on reliable sources and reflect mainstream scholarly opinion. The mainstream opinion, as reflected in the references I've given, is that there is no creation from nothing in Genesis, and that there Genesis 1:1-2 do not form a structural prologue to the remainder of the chapter. I'm sorry, but it's just not possible to take seriously a pov that says the opposite and quotes an astronomer and a mathematician in defense. Nor is it permissible to claim one's personal acquaintance with Hebrew to stand as a scholar of the language - that's OR (as well as a little arrogant). Reliable sources, mainstream opinions, please.

On the other hand, I don't enjoy edit wars any more than you two do. Can I suggest that the compromise should be to remove all references to creation ex nihilo or from chaos from the Narrative and other sections, and reserve it for the Myth section, where the evidence for the two interpretations can be presented? PiCo (talk) 07:20, 8 March 2010 (UTC)

PiCo is right. No amount of wiki-drama, edit-warring and haggling on talk will take away the burden to present the academic consensus as it stands, strictly adhering to WP:DUE. "Debate" on Wikipedia is not debate on editor's opinions on the topic, but on editor's opinions on the status of the various references presented. This is a topic of biblical studies, and the academic references presented must be quality academic publications from the field of biblical studies, not popular introductions, not casual references in papers from unrelated fields, not primary sources expounding the interpretation in religious denominations.
if certain editors do not have access to or sufficient grasp of the academic field in question, they are required to resign themselves to the position of observers and leave the actual editing to people who do.
as long as people do not accept that this is strictly a topic within the scope of a specific academic field, there can be absolutely no progress, as the "debate" won't even get past a basic grasp of Wikipedia policy fundamentals and never even touch upon the article subject.
the point on ex nihilo creation is important. It is perfectly undisputed that the original (Iron Age) text of Genesis included no such notion. But it is also undisputed that any discussion of Genesis should not just be about its Iron Age origins but also about its long history of re-interpretation. And it is perfectly undisputed that later re-interpretation took Genesis as describing ex nihilo creation. This history of re-interpretation of a classic text needs to be discussed carefully and in detail, based on academic publications from the field of biblical studies. This is not something you can casually search for on google. You need to understand the problem and the history of study on the problem. If you cannot accept that there is a complicated history of reception of Genesis between the Iron Age and Late Antiquity, you have a lot of study to do before you have any business editing this article.
--dab (𒁳) 10:02, 8 March 2010 (UTC)
Wenham is a mainstream biblical scholar. I didn't add the other refs and I'll leave them to the various editors who added them. But it's specious to delete a biblical scholar and then claim no bibilical scholar supports that claim. And Wenham is mainstream. In any case, there are FOUR views covered by Wenham. When the edit wars stop I'll have the time to add them. And please discuss with the editors in question. You keep talking to me about other people's work. I'll neither promote nor defend another person's edits when they are still on Wikipedia to discuss. Contact the correct editors, discuss, then find the best place on Wikipedia to move the sourced material, if not this article. But simple deletion is uncalled for.EGMichaels (talk) 12:41, 8 March 2010 (UTC)

Dab, it's even more complicated than you claim, since creation ex nihilo is embedded in the ancient versions of Genesis. The text has a long enough history and a late enough standardization that interpretations on the text may have fed back into the text itself. You're making too clean a distinction based on a desire to promote a POV that isn't so ubiquitous as you claim. Is your POV valid? Sure. Is it exclusive? Hardly. Let's list the possible views, who had those views in history, ref them, and move on. THEN we can move any refs we want to move. But pretending scholarship doesn't even contain various views when I've supplied a source who meets your "criteria" is just playing games.EGMichaels (talk) 12:47, 8 March 2010 (UTC)

Gabbe, Dbachman, Pico please stop removing refs and info from scholarly sources. The sources I've supplied reflect the current mainstream views from the fields of science, philosophy, theology, history. On the other hand the sources that you have supplied are often without peer review and therefore are unreliable - they also represent a single POV. Ex Nihilo creation is idiomatic in our culture with an association to Genesis 1 and 2 for each of the four fields I listed. Granted there is debate pro and con but no one disputes that Ex Nihilo creation discussions in our culture invariably involve Genesis 1 and 2 in the fields of science, philosophy, theology, history. Wikipedia is a repository of knowledge. Knowledge invariably involves being informed on all perspectives of a subject - pro and con. It is somewhat impossible to fully appreciate all the nuances of one perspective without understanding the counter arguments.

Genesis as myth can be due to:

1) The original author(s) thought they were reporting fact and were mistaken. 2) The original author(s) had a message that they wished to convey allegorically which was framed in a seemingly factual or fantastical account. (Spenser's fairy queen, Gulliver's travels, See Philip Schaff's Early church fathers volumes 1-31 and Robert Graves mythology 1 and 2) 3) The original author(s) employed language that symbolically represented their ideas since their language lacked the proper terminology and reference frame to formulate their ideas literally (hence to the aztecs the conquistadors were originally described as half human half animal since they had never seen a horse before, the descriptions of the atomic blast of Hiroshima and radiation sickness by Japanese eye-witnesses, the description of aircraft operations by cargo cults in the pacific). 4) The original author(s) wanted to adopt the myths of others as their own and stylized the already existing myths of other nations. Note according to Robert Graves and other mythologists when foreign myths were adopted by ancient peoples an allegorical system inherent to the adopting group was often employed as in 2) above. 5) Genesis is fact and is only perceived as myth in our current culture.

So far, you have only presented viewpoints 1),4) and counter arguments to 5) while seeking to censure all postings involving 2) and 3). This is nothing more than POV on your parts. For what it's worth, the majority of theologians both ancient and modern consider 2) as the most important aspect of Genesis 1 and 2. Deadtotruth (talk) 14:55, 9 March 2010 (UTC)

Have you read this above? Anyhow, Wikipedia is not the venue for exposing readers to all viewpoints, merely the most prevalent viewpoints among reliable sources. While mathematicians and physicists may be reliable sources for mathematics and physics respectively, they are not necessarily reliable sources regarding what message the Bible is trying to convey. This is why I removed those sources in these edits. Gabbe (talk) 15:55, 9 March 2010 (UTC)
They probably wouldn't have been necessary had the section not been routinely deleted. NOW they are needed to establish the notability and relevance of this view.EGMichaels (talk) 16:04, 9 March 2010 (UTC)
In what way do these sources indicate this viewpoint is notable among contemporary mainstream biblical scholars? Gabbe (talk) 16:07, 9 March 2010 (UTC)
They indicate that this is an influential view. Then biblical scholars are quoted below. The biblical scholar for Genesis (Wenham) supports ex nihilo, and another biblical scholar for 2 Peter supports an alternative understanding by Peter. Note that NEITHER of the biblical scholars say that Genesis does NOT support ex nihilo. The 2 Peter commentator merely suggests that an alternate understanding may have been held by the author of 2 Peter. These should have been satisfactory, but the continuous edit warring against this view creates the need to add the additional refs Deadtotruth has provided to show that this view has a most notable influence.EGMichaels (talk) 16:12, 9 March 2010 (UTC)
I'm not saying Wenham isn't a biblical scholar, I'm saying that the sources I deleted here are not biblical scholars. Gabbe (talk) 19:43, 9 March 2010 (UTC)
What is the significance of the "ex-nihilo" question that it has to be mentioned in the article at great length and with so many references? · CUSH · 16:21, 9 March 2010 (UTC)
Cush, you've been around long enough to see this happen. Whenever someone tendentiously deletes material, multiple kinds of refs become necessary: in this case from biblical scholars and authors in other fields. The other fields establish the NOTABILITY of this view, and the biblical scholar (Wenham) establishes the RELIABILITY of this view. Had there been no edit warring against the inclusion of this notable view, the refs establishing that notability wouldn't have been necessary. Now they are. You can thank Pico for proving their necessity.EGMichaels (talk) 16:28, 9 March 2010 (UTC)
There is an entire article about the ex nihilo concept, including a section for Christianity. Notability and references to reliable sources can be shown there. This article can just mention it and refer to the other article. Where is the problem? · CUSH · 17:57, 9 March 2010 (UTC)
The problem is that I did EXACTLY what you just suggested and Pico deleted it. THAT is the reason (I think) that Deadtotruth saw the need to anchor the notability of the subject with more refs.EGMichaels (talk) 17:59, 9 March 2010 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── A lot of people believe that the Sun revolves around the Earth[1], without it being a notable view in the field of astronomy. It's quite possible that a lot of laymen believe that Genesis describes a creation ex nihilo, but this is completely irrelevant unless this is a prevalent view among contemporary biblical scholars. Arguably, it may also be the case that a prevalent view among contemporary biblical scholars is that Genesis describes a creation ex nihilo, but the way to show this is not by citing sources from outside the field of biblical scholarship. Gabbe (talk) 19:43, 9 March 2010 (UTC)

As I said, I quoted a biblical scholar and it was deleted. That should have been all that was necessary, but Pico demonstrated that more was needed. Heck, Tedious and I made sure there were biblical scholars for AND against this view. THAT was deleted. So, the extra refs are definitely needed.EGMichaels (talk) 21:08, 9 March 2010 (UTC)
I don't think I understand your argument. Are you saying that references to non-biblical scholars are needed because a reference to a biblical scholar was removed from the article? Gabbe (talk) 21:34, 9 March 2010 (UTC)
Not just removed, but habitually removed, even though two biblical scholars were cited by two different editors for and against ex nihilo -- while a number of editors stood by and said nothing to Pico. Since biblical scholars certainly pass the reliability test, then the ONLY reason for someone to have said nothing to Pico would be that he didn't find ex nihilo NOTABLE somehow. So, it seems that Deadtotruth has added refs and points that show that ex nihilo is embedded in numerous aspects of our culture, through a spectrum of fields. Since reliability seems insufficient, then notability is absolutely essential.EGMichaels (talk) 22:45, 9 March 2010 (UTC)
I understand your concern, but it's impossible to determine the notability of a certain viewpoint within the field of biblical scholarship by referring to sources outside the field of biblical scholarship. If the sole purpose of these references is to show that a certain viewpoint is notable in contemporary biblical scholarship I honestly don't see why they should stay in the article. The only thing they show is what a number of individuals who are not contemporary experts on the Bible think. Gabbe (talk) 23:04, 9 March 2010 (UTC)
Gabbe, I think the problem you are having is in the way you are framing the question. I don't know of ANY biblical scholar, pro or con, who thinks the idea is not notable. I mean, seriously, can you find a single commentary on Genesis that doesn't mention it at all? Whether they are for it or against it, they ALL find it notable. The additional refs demonstrate that it's not only notable for biblical scholars, but is embedded in our culture and notable to numerous experts in even unrelated fields. When you frame the question, consider this 1) is it notable to biblical scholars who cover these verses? (yes, they all mention it for or against). 2) is it notable in our culture? (some nuances biblical scholars worry about are of no interest to anyone else, even on Wikipedia). Ex nihilo passes both of these questions, and is therefore appropriate in this article.EGMichaels (talk) 23:29, 9 March 2010 (UTC)
Possibly, but point #2 is irrelevant. Whether a notion is notable "in our culture" or not shouldn't have any influence on us when we write articles. If that were the case then the article on the Earth should mention the view that the Sun revolves around the Earth, which certainly is "notable in our culture", but not among contemporary astronomers. Again, I'm not saying that I think the "creation ex nihilo" viewpoint is not a prevalent view among contemporary biblical scholars, nor am I saying that the ex nihilo viewpoint doesn't deserve to be in the article. I'm saying that these references don't deal with this question, and should therefore be removed from the article. What I'm saying is that the only question we should be asking ourselves is "is this a prevalent view among biblical scholars?" Gabbe (talk) 01:13, 10 March 2010 (UTC)
I would have agreed with you before the biblical refs were deleted. Sorry. The behavior on this article is vastly different from the norm. That always ends up with more refs than a normal article, and it's entirely necessary. I really wish you had pushed back on Pico rather than Deadtotruth here. That was the opportunity to keep the number of refs down -- while the vandalism was ongoing. Taking them down now is just inviting more bad behavior. The refs establish the importance of this view being addressed.EGMichaels (talk) 03:19, 10 March 2010 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── This is not a valid argument. The purpose of sources is not to deter vandalism, see WP:A. Also, I don't think you're using the term "vandalism" as it is defined on Wikipedia, see Wikipedia:Vandalism. Gabbe (talk) 17:27, 10 March 2010 (UTC)

I believe that this is a perfectly valid argument. Vandalism under the guise of editing uses a lack of sufficient references as a "reason" for romeving sourced info. However this could also simply be a good faith edit. Thus the only response is to add sufficient references for the information. How much is sufficient? A smattering of reliable sources from the various fields of study mentioned in this article is probably enough which is what we currently have. This should also help any reader grasp the various perspectives that touch this topic.Deadtotruth (talk) 00:32, 12 March 2010 (UTC)
I never said that the references were not numerous enough. Neither did I say that the sources were not experts in their respective fields of study. My complaint is that their area of expertise is not biblical scholarship. That's what makes them insufficient as references. Gabbe (talk) 00:51, 12 March 2010 (UTC)
Gabbe, it is certainly a valid argument since sourced material was being routinely deleted. It takes a lot of time to write an encyclopedia, but constantly rewriting and reresearching and rereffing will take us to doomsday before anything gets done. That's just vandalism. It takes hours to research and ref. It takes seconds to delete. It's a waste of everyone's time. If he had wanted to MOVE the material, that would have been different. But what did he do? 1) He moved the Philo material to a different section, and then 2) deleted that section under the pretense that Philo didn't warrant his own section. Philo has his own article. Allegorical interpretations has its own article. Ex nihilo has its own article. And he couldn't find any place for Philo? Please.
Look, each time he deleted something it meant that someone felt the section was insufficiently reffed -- so people kept adding refs to anchor it. That's what happens when someone's work keeps getting trashed: it gets bigger. If you want to avoid that sort of thing -- then argue with the person destroying the information rather than with the people trying to write an article.EGMichaels (talk) 18:01, 10 March 2010 (UTC)
That "sourced material was being routinely deleted" is not a valid reason for including sources which are not contemporary experts on the Bible. There is nothing in Wikipedia's policies saying that all sources warrant inclusion in articles. It is necessary for sources to be reliable as well. In the context of this article, Robert Jastrow and George Smoot are just as unreliable as the man on the street. Neither is the fact that someone spent a lot of time to find such sources a valid reason for including them. Now, do you have any other justification for including references to non-expert sources? Gabbe (talk) 21:15, 10 March 2010 (UTC)
EGM, if you are upset that your work is being repeatedly deleted, this may not be the place for you. Wikipedia requires a thick skin, and anyone's edits can and will be mercilessly changed by others. If that thought upsets you, if you feel it's a waste of time, then this isn't the right venue for you. Wikipedia will never be "finished." And I agree with Gabbe, you are misusing the term "vandalism" as described on Wikipedia. — The Hand That Feeds You:Bite 21:19, 10 March 2010 (UTC)
Again I feel compelled to butt in. The use of multiple references to support an unpopular yet highly supported / accurate, word or section of an article is sometimes justified to serve as a preemptive strike against repetitive arguments around the topic. But that's where I feel the usefulness of the tactic ends. I can give you a dozen sources that show "creation myth"'s definition and point out that it in no way implies the informal myth nor is just "one interpretation" etc... but I guarantee that's not going to shut anyone up (since it has already been done over and over) nor will it prevent people coming in and changing the lede from time to time. Nefariousski (talk) 21:35, 10 March 2010 (UTC)

I believe it would be helpful if someone could white paper an outline for this article. Then we might have a better idea of what should be in the lead portion.Deadtotruth (talk) 00:16, 12 March 2010 (UTC)

Revert war brewing

Ok ok, lets stop before we get started. [2],[3] and [4] look dangerously close to a storm on the horizon. We have an agreement (per the tag at the top of this page) to at least discuss large scale changes to the article before making them do we not? So assuming that I don't think Gabbe's revert was necessarily unacceptable. if the IP editor wishes to discuss then let's have it. We can't keep skipping the "D" part of WP:BRD. Nefariousski (talk) 00:35, 12 March 2010 (UTC)

I think that both sides can be satisfied here. The wide range of refs may not buttress what MUST be understood about this verse, but rather to document how pervasive this view has been. Well those refs absolutely support the widespread nature of this view. Can we move on now?EGMichaels (talk) 02:13, 12 March 2010 (UTC)
The problem with the references is that they don't document how widespread the ex nihilo view is among biblical scholars, which is what matters. Whether the view is pervasive among experts in fields other than biblical scholarship is completely irrelevant. Please see this thread above. As the references in question are not written by specialists in the field of biblical scholarship, I see no reason to keep them in the article. I've started a thread at WP:RSN to get more input from others. Gabbe (talk) 10:18, 12 March 2010 (UTC)
Please draw me a picture of what's going on. I strenuously object to the wholesale reversion to what was a whole evening of careful edits that totally avoided anything dealing with "myth" which, as I understand it, is the no-no. From [5] to [6] were 11 successive edits: a segué to the two creation accounts from the historical understanding of one, but completely agreeing with the two version view; minor ce's in the next paragraph; moved 'ruach' to a footnote; fixed some m- and -ndashes; some bibleref2 templates; gender neutral 'humanity' from 'mankind' twice; cleaned up the list of the ten phrases (tôledôt); added accents to Enûma Eliš; moved the "When skies above were not yet named" poem into poetry format; and corrected "name of God" to plural to agree with text.
References: I didn't remove any. Per the question I had earlier asked and was answered on the talk page about ten superscript footnoted notations, I put them all into one pair of ref's. THEN, the ten sources are incorrectly listed twice (separate lists), putting the full list into Footnotes twice. They should be listed only once and named so they appear once in Footnotes with superscripted a b c etc.
For all of those edits to be reverted without any explanation is extremely frustrating. I thought the object was to continue improving the article while the myth issue was on indefinite hold.??? Please explain. ─AFA Prof01 (talk) 02:50, 12 March 2010 (UTC)
Prof -- I think you just got sandwiched in an edit war trying to delete numerous refs that were put in place in order to stop yet another edit war. Basically, ex nihilo was repeatedly deleted, so Deadtotruth added refs. Some folks are trying to delete those refs.
I think Deadtotruth was just trying to get his refs back -- which is totally appropriate. Unfortunately, you probably got caught in the crossfire. We really need to stop the edit warring here so this doesn't keep happening.EGMichaels (talk) 03:02, 12 March 2010 (UTC)
So you're saying my 10 unrelated edits are on indefinite hold? ─AFA Prof01 (talk) 03:05, 12 March 2010 (UTC)
No, I'm saying that my wife is having contractions and her water broke and I'm trying to figure out how to get your edits in there with his. Give me a few minutes, please. It's crazy here right now and I'm getting REALLY interesting looks from my mother in law.EGMichaels (talk) 03:12, 12 March 2010 (UTC)
EG, for Heaven's sake, STOP immediately and take care of your wife and baby, PLEASE. I'll be glad to wait, and I'm sure Deadtotruth will do the same. GO, Man. This is a grain of sand in the middle of the Sahara compared to your family. Don't give this a 2nd thought until all is well! PLEASE! ─AFA Prof01 (talk) 03:17, 12 March 2010 (UTC)
It's a little weird over here, but we aren't going anywhere yet. We've talked to the doc and are monitoring everything. I should have this fixed in a few more minutes. But if I disappear...EGMichaels (talk) 03:31, 12 March 2010 (UTC)

Okay -- I've preserved as much as possible between Deadtotruth and AFA Prof. Both of these good faith editors should be able to work free from getting sandwiched in a ridiculous edit war spawned by WAY TOO MUCH testosterone.

And with that I'll have to leave you folks for a while. I have a baby boy on the way.EGMichaels (talk) 03:57, 12 March 2010 (UTC)

I see that dbachman performed an unwarranted deletion of a large section of the work that EGM did last night. I have restored the article to the last edit by EGM which I appreciate since it restored my refs and AFA's contributions. Sorry about the lost work AFA. By the way this all stems from a wholesale deletion of refs and properly sourced info by the handthatfeedsyou yesterday.Deadtotruth (talk) 14:07, 12 March 2010 (UTC)

I believe that the edits lost by Afaprof01 have been restored by EGM and myself. Afaprof01, hopefully we got everything.Deadtotruth (talk) 15:05, 12 March 2010 (UTC)

Thank to EGM and DDT for your restoration efforts. I appreciate them very much. ─AFA Prof01 (talk) 17:45, 12 March 2010 (UTC)

Suggestion to remove some uncited material

Since this is a controversial article, editors need to pay special attention to the guidance at the top of the page: "Please discuss substantial changes here before making them, making sure to supply full citations when adding information, and consider tagging or removing uncited/unciteable information." I notice that many changes are being discussed on this Talk page prior to making the change in the article, and that is a very cooperative and useful approach. In addition, it looks like most new edits are accompanied by citations. However, the article still contains many statements that are not supported by sources/citations. I suggest that the time has come for interested editors to start finding reliable sources for the un-cited statements. This is a well-documented area of research, so it should not be too hard. Academic and scholarly sources are preferred, of course. At some point in the future, it will be wise to prune this article: removing all unsourced statements. Although that may seem draconian, in the end it will improve the article, and ensure that the content is balanced and neutral. --Noleander (talk) 17:35, 12 March 2010 (UTC)

Let's just be clear that we do not remove refs and then come back and remove content because it's "unreffed"!

Rope a Dope

(Now that Hand is edit warring on this talk page, I'm starting a new thread. Ben Tillman, go put an ANI on Hand for making this new thread necessary, and leave me out of it).

Plum, it looks that Tedious was trying to create a framework for us to go forward. Whether appropriate or not, it may have been necessary because of the ridiculous ownership issues going on here.
  • Every night sourced material is deleted rather than (at worst) moved.
  • I'm demanded to talk HERE instead of on my own talk page about this article, and then slapped with an ANI for... drum roll... talking HERE about the article!
  • Tedious adds refs FOR Pico's chosen POV and even they get deleted.
  • We are pointed to some kind of policy about the use of the term "myth" and then told that
  1. folks are just following policy (which we later learned they WROTE), and
  2. the word "myth" in the policy has nothing to do with the term "creation myth" (then why point us to the policy).
  • We're also told that myth isn't being used in an informal way (as false) and yet I'm accused of making unreasonable demands when I ask for someone, ANYONE, to give any example on any subject in which the term "myth" is used in a way that's NOT "false" (and even accused of being unreasonable after I supply several examples myself).
  • Now an "admin" Gabbe has escalated against references in a "Reliable sources noticeboard" while...
  • Noleander is lobbying to delete anything that isn't reffed, while...
  • I'm accused of being a sockpuppet (Gabbe again) with Deadtotruth for the temerity of (gasp) backing up his refs, while...
  • Refs from someone afraid of using a signin are actively deleted even though they support chaos (rather than ex nihilo)!!! (no doubt I'll be accused of being the phantom IPer as well).
  • And Hand won't even let people add to their own comments on the talk page without edit warring THOSE!
Poor Tedious (poor all of us) comes in with the same idea I had: to bridge the gap in collaboration. He gives a good example of "myth" used in a non-informal sense. He collaborates with me to provide refs for both sides of the ex nihilo subject, pro and con. And... he gets deleted every night. Honestly, Plum, given the present environment I think it's unreasonable to appeal to norms.EGMichaels (talk) 21:46, 15 March 2010 (UTC)
Let's clarify your "We are pointed to some kind of policy about the use of the term myth" point. The policy specifically directs against the informal use of "myth" it's not that usage of "creation myth" has nothing to do with this policy, its that you can't seperate component words of a term and define them seperately. The spirit of the policy is that we shouldn't use "myth" to in an informal context to mean something that isn't true. The very fact that "creation myth" is a formal term with a singular definition shows that there is no shaky ground for informal usage where the term is involved. You can't talk about "Creation myth" in the terms of "Creation as myth" or "mythological interpretation of creation" because they are not one in the same. Additionally just because someone involved in this discussion contributed to the WP:WTA article change the fact that that contribution is accepted by the greater consensus of editors. Nefariousski (talk) 21:54, 15 March 2010 (UTC)


EGMichaels: Can you clarify your point "Noleander is lobbying to delete anything that isn't reffed,.."? That is standard policy for all articles in WP, especially articles in controversial topics. Without exception, following that policy reduces edit wars, and improves the quality of the article. What is your point? --Noleander (talk) 22:02, 15 March 2010 (UTC)
My point is that the cumulative effect of things that are supposed to reduce edit wars are working as part of that very edit war. I'm having to spend so much time fighting to preserve other people's references on both sides of the equation that I can't even add refs of my own. While your lobbying by itself would be a good thing, in the context of an edit war to DELETE refs it becomes counter productive. While you may mean well, the environment here has become so toxic that Wikipedia processes are being poisoned as well.EGMichaels (talk) 22:15, 15 March 2010 (UTC)

Nice. Now I'm "edit warring" to keep you honest? You edited posts on this Talk page from 3-9-10 to add new material. I wouldn't have objected if you just made a new comment in that same thread, explaining your further points. Going back to add items looks very bad, and can be confusing once this gets archived. Note I did the same to Nefariousski, for the same reason. I'm not doing this out of prejudice, but to keep the flow of information readable for everyone without having to dive into the history to see who did what when. — The Hand That Feeds You:Bite 22:18, 15 March 2010 (UTC)

Hand -- call it what you will, you were deleting additions we were making to the talk page. I didn't take anything away. I just added material to the rope a dope litany because it won't stop and there's more material to add. FAIR NOTICE, I plan to continue adding to this list as the behavior continues. This is a simple content dispute being taken to every kind of distraction game imaginable.EGMichaels (talk) 22:21, 15 March 2010 (UTC)
Then take me to a noticeboard. You won't get far with that, I'm afraid. If you have further points, you can make them separately (each point should be able to stand on its own anyhow). Editing days old posts really isn't a good idea, and can give people the idea you're trying to hide something in older discussions for a future "gotcha" against someone else. Believe me, I've seen people try to pull that off before on Wikipedia. The fact you think this is a "distraction game" tells volumes. If you think people are violating policy, prove it. Otherwise, this is just bluster. — The Hand That Feeds You:Bite 22:33, 15 March 2010 (UTC)
Violating policy? Nah. Just turning it on its head. Any single of these events may not be a problem (which is possibly why you would want them each treated in isolation). But think about this -- multiple ANIs, Sockpuppet accusations, edit warring on the article and the talk page, deleting refs while arguing that unreffed sections should be deleted, an RSN -- with a fair number of these things not even being noted on the relevant editors' talk pages is just weird. Any one of these wouldn't violate policy. The cumulative effect, though, is gaming the system. A content dispute is simple. Ready? Here you go:
  1. Include editors from multiple POVs.
  2. Include references from multiple POVs.
  3. Leave the arguments to the SOURCES (and not the editors).
  4. Trim and move once the content becomes stable.
  5. Call it a day.
While not exciting to Wikilawyers hooked on a testosterone rush, it makes for better articles. Wikipedia isn't here to prove ultimate TRUTH. It's here to document different views and sources as a glorified bibliography. Keep it simple; it's called collaboration.EGMichaels (talk) 22:59, 15 March 2010 (UTC)
"Collaboration" does not mean "bend over and take what EGM gives you." Disagreements are going to happen. Oh, and content is never going to be stable. This is a living, changing encyclopedia, so don't be fixated on getting a "stable" version. And I love how everyone disagreeing is a "Wikilawyer on a testosterone rush."
Seriously, you are way too upset over this whole thing. There are more important things than arguing over a single article on Wikipedia. That's why I've been virtually silent on this page for the last week or so. I took time away, for personal reasons, and it's helped. You might consider doing the same, especially with the new baby around. Give it a week and come back at it fresh. — The Hand That Feeds You:Bite 00:57, 16 March 2010 (UTC)

Hand -- exactly HOW does "include editors from multiple POVs" translate into "bend over and take what EGM gives you"? If you'll note, I've fought to retain references to points that OPPOSED points I've supplied references to. While I agree that time away is a good thing -- exactly HOW does that work with ANIs, RSNs, and Sockpuppet accusations? In any case, I don't mind disagreement, and in fact I welcome it as essential to collaboration. But disagreement is not gaming -- and gaming is what I am objecting to here. The Wikitricks need to stop: we need to let the sources disagree, ref the notable POVs from reliable sources, and call it a day. Then I think we can ALL enjoy a break.EGMichaels (talk) 01:11, 16 March 2010 (UTC)

See, that's the problem. You equate people's disagreements with gaming. You've "fought." You accuse others of "Wikitricks." You've taken a WP:BATTLEGROUND mentality to this whole thing, and decided it has to be balanced by both sides... without telling us what "sides" are being taken. There are no ANIs, RSNs or Sockpuppet investigations going on right now. Seriously, you're investing way too much into this personally. — The Hand That Feeds You:Bite 10:07, 16 March 2010 (UTC)
So "neutral" as usual means only one POV is welcome, and the opposing one isn't... Sounds like the old "The bullshit is falling out of our ears now and beginning to hit the floor, what do we do now" line of defense. If anyone has turned this into a battleground, its self-proclaimed atheist editors who insist on declaring religious beliefs indisputably "myth" and no compromise. Now you've got the battleground you wanted, and we're watching. Keep the heat up, EGM, you almost got 'em roped.... (talk) 11:18, 16 March 2010 (UTC)
No. The battleground has been created by Christians against everybody else. There are all kinds of creation myths around, but once you stop calling the Judeochristian creation myth exactly that, you need to come up with hard evidence. As long as you don't there is no reason whatsoever to treat Christianity and its mythology any different from other religious views.
Religion is myth by definition. Everything that involves the supernatural is myth. · CUSH · 12:38, 16 March 2010 (UTC)
Hand -- I linked to the ANI, RSN, and Sockpuppet investigation (all open) so you can see them. Not sure how you missed them. I can link to the rest of the nuisance actions from the past month too, and may need to do so anyway for an admin to see. As for battleground -- you've got it backwards. Wikipedia isn't supposed to BE the battleground. It's supposed to be a collaborative effort to DOCUMENT reliable sources -- including THEIR battles (their battles, and not ours). Urging collaboration from multiple POVs and encouraging the retention of sources does not create a battleground. Rather, ANIs, RSNs, and Sockpuppet nuisance cases -- including trying to delete sources and drive out any POV but a secular humanist one DOES create a battleground. Although I believe in evolution, I also think a good number of editors here have been acting like cavemen.EGMichaels (talk) 12:44, 16 March 2010 (UTC)
Sorry, the machine I was working on that night didn't show me link colors. And yes, Wikipedia isn't supposed to be a battleground, but your attitude has been one. We aren't going to include every POV & reference under the sun in an article, and claiming it's "driving out" all but a "secular humanist one" is part of the battleground mentality I'm trying to get you to see in yourself. Your concept of NPOV seems like that of some flaky "news" shows: give multiple sides of a debate, free of any fact by the presenter, and "let the audience decide." An encyclopedia doesn't work that way. We present the facts, as given by reliable sources; not every opinion under the sun. If we went with the latter, the articles on the September 11 attacks in NYC would be full of conspiracy theories. Even the article about the conspiracy theories is carefully maintained to show the mainstream opinion, with the conspiracies presented as unsupported... because that's what the facts show. People who believe in those conspiracy theories also call the regular Wikipedians "POV-pushers" and accuse them of wikilawyering. The thing is, we're here to present reliably-sourced facts, not every off-the-cuff opinion on a subject. CUSH has it right above: there is no reason the Genesis tale should get preferential treatment compared to any other religion's creation myths. — The Hand That Feeds You:Bite 17:27, 16 March 2010 (UTC)
Hand, part of the problem we are having is that editors from multiple POVs are still fighting the previous title war. The old article Creation according to Genesis no longer exists, but has been replaced with Genesis creation myth. We're all trying to fit a square peg in a round hole and are getting upset with each other about it. I think that people really would be interested in a well referenced article on mythological parallels with Genesis. Well, that's what we should give them. The rest of this stuff on the narrative itself belongs in some other article(s). We have creationism stuff in there, allegorical stuff, etc. While these things should be briefly commented on, they are only relevant to this article when they touch on the subject of mythology. Let's make this article about a creation myth, and not a creation allegory, or a creation narrative, or a creation record.
Right now you're talking about the quality of sources, when in fact the applicability is what should be discussed. 90% of the sources warred over here are perfectly fine sources in their own context (though not necessarily here). Let's take Philo... I was quite tolerant of Deadtotruth's addition there because my take on the word "myth" is more Jung/Campbell/Neumann/Vogler-ish. A myth is a metaphor, and Philo is all about allegory. Okay... it's probably more relevant to this present article than most of the residual crap from the old Creation according to Genesis article. You know what? Philo belongs in the allegorical interpretations of genesis article more than in here. The creationism stuff doesn't belong here either. Creation ex nihilo DOES belong here since biblical scholars DO argue this point in reference to mythological parallels with Genesis.
What we have is what engineers call a "scope" problem. We haven't limited this article to Genesis and mythology. If we would all agree to do so, and if we agreed to MOVE references to other articles rather than DELETE them, I think we could all COLLABORATE (gasp) in about a week's time and have a nice little tidy article that's interesting, concise, and tightly focused on references and pionts we can all (or mostly) agree on.
Doubtless this will never happen, though, because people enjoy the testosterone rush too much.EGMichaels (talk) 18:05, 16 March 2010 (UTC)
(edit conflict)I don't think it's a "scope" problem as such, but confusion that an article about a creation myth should go into depth about what a creation myth is. The article really isn't about "Genesis and mythology," but about the creation mythology as told in Genesis. That's not just semantics, it's specifically about the story itself. This article isn't supposed to be about the arguments around the creation myth (that's best covered in Creationism). Breaking it down to myth vs. allegory is a red herring. We're not here to debate that.
The "ex nihilo" debate only deserves a brief mention, as we already have an article on that. Just a brief summation of the opinions on Genesis as an ex nihilo tale would suffice.
We don't have to agree to move references anywhere. If the references are appropriate in another article, add them! If they're not, it doesn't matter. So, I don't see what your point there is, except to once again feel victimized when something is debated and removed. Especially since you're so fond of the "testosterone rush" insult, which is exemplary of your bad faith assumptions, yet again. Seriously, you need to distance yourself emotionally from this subject. — The Hand That Feeds You:Bite 19:02, 16 March 2010 (UTC)

Update -- the sockpuppet case has been declined. One down, umpteen bazillion tricks to go...EGMichaels (talk) 18:55, 16 March 2010 (UTC)

... case in point. — The Hand That Feeds You:Bite 19:02, 16 March 2010 (UTC)
Of course "case in point." The first ANI was declined as a simple content dispute. The sockpuppet case was declined as not even meriting a full blown check. The second ANI is just sitting there. And the RSN is just duplicating what we are saying here. This is all just a content dispute cause by a hijacking of the title that created a scope problem. Keep the title, and make the article ABOUT that title: Genesis creation from the perspective of it as just another creation myth paralleled and distinguished from other creation myths. But literary details, geologic details, allegory, and even theology are covered in other articles and should be exported there. The earlier article was about the "Genesis creation story." That is no longer the case, and those residual vestiges should be moved.EGMichaels (talk) 19:13, 16 March 2010 (UTC)

Ex Nihilo

Reference to ex nihilo has been deleted as this is a theological and later concept that may or may not be attributed to the text. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:30, 9 March 2010 (UTC)

Ex nihilo is ubiquitously addressed regarding these verses in biblical scholarship (even biblical scholars who don't interpret this text as ex nihilo at least take note of that fact), and notable in multiple fields of interest -- historical, philosophical, and scientific. As such it is essential for this article.EGMichaels (talk) 15:56, 10 March 2010 (UTC)
For the record - and I don't think this has been made quite clear - the Hebrew of the first sentence of Genesis 1 is inherently ambiguous when you try to translate it into English. It's not ambiguous in Hebrew, only in English. This allowed Philo of Alexandria to interpret the passage in terms of Platonic philosophy, with Yahweh (or rather, given the context, Elohim) taking the place of Plato's immaterial "uncaused cause". Philo had little impact on Jewish thought at the time, but his idea was adopted by the early Church Fathers and subsequently by the Jewish rabbis. Nevertheless, modern biblical scholars almost universally agree that the original author/s of the passage didn't have creation from nothing in mind. They believe this because (a) Plato hadn't drawn anyone's attention to the ontological problem involved; and (b) the framework structure of Genesis 1 supposes that Elohim is creating order out of chaos rather than being out of non-being. So, in brief, the modern scholarly consensus is that there's no ceration ex nihilo in Genesis 1 as conceived by the original author, whoever he may have been. PiCo (talk) 11:01, 17 March 2010 (UTC)
Pico, Wenham goes into great detail rebutting your statement. Let's leave this to the experts, shall we?EGMichaels (talk) 12:28, 17 March 2010 (UTC)
Wenham is a deeply religious man, an Evangelical Christian. It's hardly surprising that he takes this point of view. But it's not the point of view of mainstream scholars as represented by Coogan, Alter, and others. Wenham's is a fringe view, as he himself admits when writing for mainstream publications. The passage by Wenham that you refer to comes, incidentally, from a confessional Christian source rather than from a scholarly source. PiCo (talk) 04:20, 19 March 2010 (UTC)

Scope Proposal (not a name proposal)

In light of what I just wrote to Hand, I propose that we try to agree on the scope of the article. Given the present title "Genesis creation myth," I think that anything not directly pertinent to Mesopotamian mythological parallels Genesis as a creation myth should be exported to other articles. Discussion?EGMichaels (talk) 18:13, 16 March 2010 (UTC)

This is again wandering into defining this article as just "one of many" interpretations of Genesis or "Genesis as myth" which again goes against the meaning / definition of creation myth. The scope of this article should be to describe the creation myth in genesis just like all of the other "XXXXXX creation myth" articles do. If additional sections are added that discuss various interpretations that's fine but those are just interpretations of the creation myth. In short, "Genesis creation myth" does not equal "Mythological parallels/interpretations in/of Genesis" thus the scope should be pretty clear. Nefariousski (talk) 18:32, 16 March 2010 (UTC)
Nefariouski -- I'm just trying to keep this article focused to SOMETHING. Right now you're making "genesis creation myth" to supposedly equal "genesis creation narrative." Let's keep this focused on mythology and leave the rest for other (already existing) articles. None of the other "XXXXXX creation myth" articles have all this out of scope crap piled in.EGMichaels (talk) 18:51, 16 March 2010 (UTC)
This is the umpteenth time that someone has suggested that the phrasing of titles of other articles is relevant to this article. The relevant rule is Use Common Names. When people talk about creation stories, they talk about creation stories. The use of "myth" as a technical term which doesn't carry judgement with it is an academic usage which fails the UCN rule.
The section on UCN gives examples such as using Venus de Milo instead of Aphrodite of Melos. Even though scholarly articles will more often use the latter term. Or using Nazi Party instead of the full blown German name, or even National Socialist Workers Party. The same thing should apply here. The use of "story" already runs the risk of implying that the account is fiction, but by far the most common way the account is referred to is as the Genesis creation story.
Furthermore, the run-of-the-mill user of Wikipedia looking up the Genesis creation account is going to be looking primarily for what's in that account. And only secondarily what various schools of thought have to say about that account. One of these is the idea that the Genesis account cribs from Mesopotamian myths. So that deserves a section. But it hardly deserves to be the entire article. - Lisa (talk - contribs) 18:56, 16 March 2010 (UTC)
Lisa, once the content fits the title, I don't think there will be a real problem. The only people who would read it would be looking for mesopotamian parallels and contrasts. Well, there are parallels and contrasts. Why not have an article on it? But the rest of the stuff needs to move to more... common... titles.EGMichaels (talk) 19:16, 16 March 2010 (UTC)
Nice thought, but I think people will call POV Fork on that. Not that there isn't sometimes a reason for a POV fork, but I don't think your proposal is going to go anywhere. I think it's probably time for mediation. - Lisa (talk - contribs) 19:37, 16 March 2010 (UTC)
Lisa, this may survive the POV Fork call just from the fact that the other articles already exist.EGMichaels (talk) 20:02, 16 March 2010 (UTC)

Oppose Support scope change - The scope of this article must be "Genesis as a creation myth" as defined in the article Creation myth. Period. --Noleander (talk) 19:39, 16 March 2010 (UTC)

Noleander -- uh, is that a typo? You just said you opposed my proposal and then argued in favor of it. I'm trying to get the article to do EXACTLY what you just said. Everything NOT about Genesis as a creation myth should be moved to other already existing articles.EGMichaels (talk) 20:00, 16 March 2010 (UTC)
Sounds good. I was concerned about your limiting words "Mesopotamian mythological parallels" ... those strike me as unnecessary. --Noleander (talk) 20:14, 16 March 2010 (UTC)
Sorry -- my bad on that. Good catch :-)EGMichaels (talk) 20:15, 16 March 2010 (UTC)

Oppose the only reason why "Genesis as a creation myth" is proposed is to open the door to have other articles that present Genesis as something else, e.g. "as the real story of the world's origin". But there is no need to have various articles that only offer different (and often fringe) interpretations of the beginning of Genesis when this can be presented in a single coherent article. These constant discussions to avoid calling Genesis a creation myth make me sick. Since we call a cigar a cigar, why not call a creation myth a creation myth? There is no need to always bow to the biblical literalists. · CUSH · 07:19, 17 March 2010 (UTC)

Cush, you are opposing the existence of other articles that already exist, such as Allegorical interpretations of Genesis.EGMichaels (talk) 12:13, 17 March 2010 (UTC)
And? Allegory is something else anyways. And even interpretations that take Genesis as symbolic still are contained within the scope of the article. "Creation myth" == "origin of the world through supernatural means". I don't see how "Genesis as a creation myth" makes any sense. · CUSH · 12:26, 17 March 2010 (UTC)
Cush, why have allegory in the scope of an article about myth? Why have all the other crap? Genesis creation is a creation myth, no? Then get the non-myth stuff out of here. It's almost like you don't want to be happy unless you're unhappy about something. Why demand the inclusion of details that you so obviously dislike? There are OTHER articles already in existence to contain those details.EGMichaels (talk) 12:31, 17 March 2010 (UTC)
Stop annyoing everybody with suggestions of name changes just because you don't like the word "myth". Myth is a neutral determination, and there is no reason to not have interpretations of the judeochristian creation myth in the article which deals with the creation myth. "creation myth" itself is not an interpretation of Genesis, but a description. So the as is not justified. · CUSH · 12:54, 17 March 2010 (UTC)
What on earth are you talking about? This proposal isn't to change the NAME (though I think the name is a problem), but rather to delete everything in this article that wouldn't be in it if it were something like "Norse creation myth" or "Greek creation myth." Keep the myth stuff and export the non-myth stuff. This article is an unfocused disaster and needs to get rid of all the crap that doesn't belong in a "creation myth" article. Why do you insist on treating the Genesis myth differently from the Greek myths? Those other articles don't have all the non-myth crap. Why insist on keeping it here?EGMichaels (talk) 13:00, 17 March 2010 (UTC)
I don't see a problem with including interpretations and impact of creation myths in the respective articles. I would prefer that to artificially splitting up articles to satisfy particular POVs. · CUSH · 14:16, 17 March 2010 (UTC)
I'm glad that you don't see a problem with it. Unfortunately, Wikipedia is built by collaboration.EGMichaels (talk) 14:19, 17 March 2010 (UTC)
Articles on books and movies often have sections dealing with interpretations and cultural impact, why should that be different for two rather short paragraphs of the bible? Because you say so and want a separate article where you can present Genesis as something else? · CUSH · 14:26, 17 March 2010 (UTC)
Cush, as I said -- those other articles already exist. Piling non-myth stuff in this article is just redundant. In any case, what I was trying to say is that what you think and what I think are important parts of collaboration, but not the only parts. There are all kinds of editors here with information from reliable sources. That information needs to be located in places that readers will be able to find them. One wouldn't look for allegory under this title, or myth under the allegory title. We editors need to be aware of how searches will be done (hence Lisa's comment about common names). "Creation myth" certainly is a common title among creation myths, but relatively uncommon for most, er, commoners.EGMichaels (talk) 14:55, 17 March 2010 (UTC)

Strong oppose. Cush is right - this is merely another attempt to placate Biblical literalists. As has been pointed out time and time again, Genesis is a creation myth, at least as that term is understood in reliable sources. To imply otherwise, as this latest in a long line of proposed moves does, puts Genesis on a different, and unfair, footing to comparable creation myths from other religions. Oh, and it completely ignores the gargantuan quantity of evidence that falsifies the literal interpretation of Genesis. --PLUMBAGO 10:22, 17 March 2010 (UTC)

Plum, as far as I can tell, neither Noleander nor I are biblical literalists. Please stop making these bizarre accusations. My problem with this article is that it is DIFFERENT from other creation myth articles, not that it is the same. This article has a whole bunch of residual crap in it from the original article that was hijacked. Well, that crap needs to go to the other articles that exist, and this article needs to focus on the mythic aspects of the creation story. Rather than making it harder for you to get the point across (which you have such evangelistic zeal for), a focus on myth should make it easier for you. Again, my proposal is to treat this article THE SAME as the other "creation myth" articles. You are the one trying to treat it different.EGMichaels (talk) 12:13, 17 March 2010 (UTC)

Strong oppose. Cush is right, Plumbago is right. The first two chapters of Genesis are a creation myth, no more and no less. Everything in them has to be treated.PiCo (talk) 10:47, 17 March 2010 (UTC)

Pico, uh, Noleander and I BOTH seem to agree with you here. The first two chapters of Genesis are a creation myth. That's why the other crap needs to go into the other articles out there.EGMichaels (talk) 12:13, 17 March 2010 (UTC)
So help me understand. What is the "other crap" that you are proposing go elsewhere? Nefariousski (talk) 16:43, 17 March 2010 (UTC)
Basically anything that wouldn't be in a "Norse creation myth" or "Greek creation myth" article -- especially things that already have articles, like allegory or creationism.EGMichaels (talk) 17:03, 17 March 2010 (UTC)
Maybe it would be a good idea for you to create the version you think would be best in your userspace for others to check out? Nefariousski (talk) 17:31, 17 March 2010 (UTC)
Sounds like a good idea. I'll try to put something along the lines of the other existing articles. Might take a few days. Everything's chaos over here with the new baby.EGMichaels (talk) 19:29, 17 March 2010 (UTC)
"The first two chapters of Genesis are a creation myth, no more and no less."
— Cush, Plumbago and PiCo, appendix to "Genesis creation myth", Wikipedia, 2010.
Hmmm, while I think I get your point PiCo, I'm not really sure you believe what you're saying.
I think you're impressively sensitive to the best scholarship (of all colours) when you see YHWH himself as key to this text.
The evangelical Christian community in Sydney that I come from (in keeping with a very widely held scholastic Christian tradition) views all of Genesis 1-11 as broadly a "theologically motivated polemical mythology": the theology is viewed as foundational to later biblical material, the polemic is against the polytheistic (biblically "idolatrous") cosmology of the surrounding ancient Near East.
"The first two chapters of Genesis" do not stand alone. Chapter 1 culminates in a Sabbath. Chapter 2 culminates in Marriage. Chapter 2 also sets the groundwork for a mythologically expressed explanation for the origin of sin, in turn explaining the empirically demonstrable problem of evil, worked out in detail in chapters 3 (original sin) and 4 (ongoing sin--fratricide, polygamy and violence).
Now, while I'd dearly love for the scope of the article to be as wide as possible, so we could "preach the gospel" from the many reliable sources that do precisely that from Genesis 1-3, I'm not really sure that is what the oppose votes above have in mind.
Also, given your own preference for a post-exilic date for the final composition of Genesis, PiCo, surely you'd agree Genesis 1-2 have a very specific theological agenda. Given that very notable scholastic view, it's odd you should say these chapters are myth, no more and no less. On that view, debunking the myth involves considerably more evidence and rationale than recognition of a mythological literary genre.
Ultimately, I'm not big on restricting the scope of work at Wiki, so I'm kind of with the oppose votes here. However, since motivated and educated people are gathered here right now, it might be wise for at least just us to focus our attention on things most directly bearing on the namespace topic: the mythological features of Genesis 1-2, which is a literary question, not a theological one.
Whatever people decide, clearly title and scope go together. At the moment we have a very narrow title: the literary character of Genesis 1-2. I think that's the ideal place to start, personally. It largely excludes the theological and sociological questions which are huge. But, yes, that means sorting through those other vast topics is simply being deferred to another article, or more likely many articles. Alastair Haines (talk) 05:36, 20 March 2010 (UTC)
Right now I'm waiting for EGM to describe just what it is he thinks should not be treated in this article - he wasn't very explicit in his lead post, and from what he's said later about excluding sections on Creationism I might be able to agree with him. As for what In personally mean when I say that Gen.1-2 is a creation myth, I mean that these two chapters are an integrated whole that can't be torn apart - nor can you add Gen.3-11 to them, even though they all form part of the Primeval History, because those following chapters aren't about Creation. Anyway, let's wait for EGM. (Incidentally, I'm not trying to "debunk" Genesis 1-2 - I don't even like using the term "myth" to describe it). PiCo (talk)

Support I have to agree, this article seems to put a lot more into disproving this creation myth than any other myth, so either we should make the scope similiar or but all the geology all the scientific stuff else where. Weaponbb7 (talk) 22:58, 20 March 2010 (UTC)

What? This article is not supposed to deal with geology or anything that would put the creation myth into a competition with actual science. Can you point out where this article introduces "scientific stuff" anywhere? The only place where such material could possibly be referenced is a section where it deals with the far out claims made by creationists and their use of pseudoscience. · CUSH · 09:05, 22 March 2010 (UTC)

Oppose. This makes no sense at all. There is something that has music by Henry Purcell and words by John Dryden. Sometimes performers just talk like in a theatre piece, sometimes they sing as in an opera. This work is generally called King Arthur, but that title is already taken by King Arthur. So it needs to be disambiguated, and the disambiguator that was chosen is "(opera)": King Arthur (opera).

The present proposal is as if I went to that article, complaining that King Arthur isn't actually an opera at all. That it is generally called a semi-opera, but that that is an inherently POV term because it stresses the music aspect and doesn't make it sufficiently obvious how important the dialogues are. Then, after my attempt to have it renamed to King Arthur (theatre piece with music) has failed and people got so angry at my POV pushing that they even rejected the compromise proposal King Arthur (Dryden/Purcell), I would propose:

"I propose that we try to agree on the scope of the article. Given the present title King Arthur (opera), I think that anything not directly pertinent to King Arthur as an opera should be exported to other articles."

Obviously it would be even more wacky if I did something similar to push some strange idea that this semi-opera is actually a true historical account of the exploits of a historical King Arthur and his pal Merlin. I will spare you the details of that version. Hans Adler 11:34, 22 March 2010 (UTC)

Hm...Adler has my curiosity up. Are we going to ever learn the details of that version??? And the King Arthur example is elegant. I still believe that the hold up with GCM is still the title. As has been pointed out, Genesis creation myth (GCM) implies that all of Genesis is a creation myth. There appears to be general agreement that is incorrect. Next, it narrows down to Gen. 1-11 being creation myth. Again, incorrect. The minimum subset, then, is Gen. 1-2, which seems widely agreed upon in the literature. As Alastair Haines points out along with his other inimitably sage editorials, the literary character of Genesis 1-2 is the ideal place to start.
I submit that the present title has been our focus of thought and discussion for so long that it's nigh on to impossible to block it from our minds to properly consider scope. Further, the text normally is driven by the title, as Adler has articulated. Creation according to Genesis still is the best title because it lacks unnecessary specificity such as "myth," "account," "narrative," "1-2," "1-11," etc. etc. "According to" is no problem because there is much precedence for use of that phrase with no truth-or-consequences valency implied or intended. The World According to Humphrey (a classroom rodent); The World According to Twitter; The World According to Mr. Rogers (children's TV program host); The Gospel According to Peanuts; The Gospel According to The Simpsons; The NBA According to the Sports Guy. None of these is taken to imply truth, except possibly for devotees of the Sports Guy. The point: "according to" is truth neutral. The Gospel According to John means different things to the average Christian in the pew than it means to a scholar who doesn't believe John wrote it.
Final observation: Creation according to Genesis was the title of the Wiki article until late 2009. It was when creation myth became an even more virulent Talk page issue that a very few editors decided not only to prevent any quashing of the phrase in the opening paragraph, but to put it into flashing neon lights in the title so that anyone offended by the term in conjunction with Genesis would be thoroughly outraged. I can think of no more NPOV title than Creation according to Genesis. Because we sometimes label certain literature as "myth" because we do not believe that the world works that way, the label becomes as way of holding it at arm's length so as to clarify that we do not share that belief (Walton, John H. "The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate." IVP Academic, 2009. ISBN-13: 978-083083704 Web: )
Thank you. ─AFA Prof01 (talk) 01:23, 23 March 2010 (UTC)
We are evidently going in circles. Your claim that "Genesis creation myth (GCM) implies that all of Genesis is a creation myth" doesn't make more sense than the claim that "Cambridge University implies that all of Cambridge is a university", and it doesn't seem necessary to take this seriously.
Your second paragraph recklessly ignores that many of the titles you cite are parodies of titles which are intended to imply truth.
I agree with most of your final paragraph, except the claim that "Creation according to Genesis" is NPOV. It is not: The article is about a creation myth which can be found in Genesis, so "Genesis creation myth" is an obvious title. "Creation according to Genesis" is not an obvious title at all, unless you know that some people believe it actually happened that way. That's not something we should convey in the title, because it's frankly too absurd. I don't want to dig in the archives now, but I guess the attempts to purge the term "creation myth" from the article have made someone to propose the current title, perhaps as a kind of revenge, and then editors noticed the POV problem with the previous title. So far as I am concerned the article could be called "Genesis creation story". Hans Adler 01:44, 23 March 2010 (UTC)
Hans, if I have the right accent and come across with a modicum of dignity and appropriate decorum, etc., "I am a professor at Cambridge" would never generate a challenge question like "Cambridge what???" "Cambridge" becomes shorthand in academic circles for the Cambridge University. Even "I'm a graduate of Cambridge," absent a reason to question the obvious implication, would not make one wonder if it was a trade school in the city.
What do parodies have to do with the "according to" argument? Let's focus just on "Gospel according to John." It doesn't sound like a parody; it is a phrase still being printed in most New Testaments; I've never heard from a pulpit a disclaimer like "The New Testament reading this morning is from the Gospel according to John—uh, I mean what everyone thought was written by the Apostle John until the Age of Enlightenment." Or, "The Old Testament reading today is from the Creation account according to Genesis 2—er, I mean the Creation myth in Genesis 2." I acknowledge that some of the parodies are a bit absurd, but then there are those who have been saying Genesis 1 and 2 are quite absurd.
I cannot find even a single suggestion that "according to" implies either truth or untruth. It's simply a statement of source. How often do we use the phrase "according to" in writing a Wiki article? Over and over again. If we are NPOV, we report the facts, what WP:RS say about the topic. We say where we find the claim, where we find counterclaims, etc.
With respect to creation literalists, I'd be very surprised if that comes as a surprise to you. Just look at any list of the various types of creationists. Creationism#Types of Biblical creationism correctly says "Young Earth creationism is the belief that the Earth was created by God within the last ten thousand years, literally as described in Genesis creation myth, within the approximate time frame of biblical genealogies (detailed for example in the Ussher chronology)." While that is neither my view nor yours, it is the view that is sacred to a large proportion of Orthodox Jews and conservative Christians that apparently would be a huge surprise to you. "Creation according to Genesis", IMHO, "fits" everyone. There is no question that Genesis contains two (some say one) creation stories or narratives or accounts or whatever; the questions begin when we go from reporting to interpreting. No one questions that it is there. There is no serious question about its antiquity or entitlement to canonicity. There is huge disparity among interpretations.
Again, I urge a return to "Creation according to Genesis" since it was the best received (least challenged) and longest-running title, and is the most neutral I can even imagine. Let's leave it to the reader's opinion about Genesis, particularly creation narratives, about the Old Testament in general. If you review the archives of the change to the present title, I believe you will agree that there was not some clear consensus, and that it was ultimately improperly performed by a Sysop in an untimely manner. That's another story, but one that should be considered when deliberating whether the mythic title even has the right to be there today.
Now, back to King Arthur. Would it be POV to write, "According to Tennyson, Arthur and Lancelot were.... However, according to Adler, there is no evidence of such a claim which he describes as "preposterous." He says more attention should be given to Merlin's role in...." ─AFA Prof01 (talk) 05:24, 23 March 2010 (UTC)
Friends, I'm a naive optimist perhaps, but I trust working together here is far from as difficult as it currently seems.
As I read comments above, Genesis literalists are not currently represented among those of us who are presently commenting. At the risk of offending brothers and sisters I respectfully disagree with, I am willing to declare my true colours in that I do not personally subscribe to their reading of the text which is the subject of this article.
Let me add, of all matters Christians may choose to be dogmatic about, it is my experience that insisting on a literal reading of Genesis is the most counterproductive to recommending Christianity to a general audience. Were I a passionate anti-Christian, I would love the arguments in defence of reading Genesis literally to be advanced at Wiki, because I'd be confident it would give readers the same mirth it would give me. However, as a Christian who would dearly love others to "repent and believe the good news", I could surrender both humility and academic integrity and seek to silence their point of view.
But let me leave off the hypotheticals, we have work to do. As bitter a pill as it is for me to swallow, and critics of Christianity will probably not understand how very bitter it is for me to say this: Wiki policy is absolutely clear that all substantial points of view must be presented without fear or favour. We are not about truth de re (that is, the facts of the matter) but truth de dicto (the facts of what has been said about the matters we encyclopediarize).
This article is not an article about whether a God or many gods exist, or whether one God who might exist, has spoken in human history in the Hebrew Bible, specifically Genesis. There are other articles for that (though I've not investigated their quality). So there is a scope restriction already.
The question is whether we limit the current article to summarising (in a long piece of organised sustained prose) literary analysis of Genesis (as EGM proposes), or whether we also admit the question of what kinds of truth-functional propositional content there may be in the literary text we're documenting. If we also admit the latter, and indeed there is a case for that, we must document the considered opinion of the literal Genesis movement.
This is what I find strange. People who oppose the scope restriction are essentially providing a mandate for documenting the case for a literal reading of Genesis at this article. Yet some of those people have articulated they don't want that view anywhere at Wikipedia. Just as strange is the insistance on title, which also leans towards requiring some treatment of "myth" v. "reality". The new title screams for that question to be addressed and all notable PsOV to be documented. It puts the Genesis literalist PoV square on the centre of the table.
Frankly, I think Creation according to Genesis is the topic we all want addressed. It actually permits scope to document the abundant scholastic treatment of evidence that whatever truth Genesis may contain, it does not extend to a host of physcial, geological, biological or chronological details. But that also entails the presentation of the contrary POV.
What I'd most dearly love to document is the scholarship on the theological implications of Genesis. That's where I personally resonate with a vast constellation of reliable sources (however wrong they may all be). But I'm not going to push that agenda, nor fight for a title that admits it. It is such a huge topic, it can have its own article some time.
What do readers want, or what can we give them to put decision making in their hands? I return to my earlier point. The current title lends itself to the first question we should be asking about the text anyway: what is its literary character? There is more than enough material in hundreds of thousands of sources on that topic alone. Let's become experts on it, all of us. We could do some Jigsaw reading and push this project forwards. Alastair Haines (talk) 06:03, 23 March 2010 (UTC)
Alastair, am I sensing ambiguity in your final 3 paragraphs above? I'm having trouble reconciling "Frankly, I think Creation according to Genesis is the topic we all want addressed" with "The current title lends itself to the first question we should be asking about the text anyway: what is its literary character?" How does Genesis creation myth provide a better venue for exploration of literary character than Creation according to Genesis? How can our defining the literary character of Genesis be of practical assistance to anyone with a genuine interest in the subject? That Genesis is an ancient text/story/narrative is nothing revolutionary by way of genre. The word "myth" predisposes many readers of Judeao-Christian persuasion to be on the defensive before they read on. We cannot become expert when there is such diversity of expert opinion. Wouldn't it be a sufficient contribution to somehow catalog in the article the main tributaries of how it is variously viewed. The range is so great: from a false belief or a fictitious story all the way to word-for-word literal from the mouth of God─and numerous intermediate positions between the two extremes.
I also will appreciate your opinion on the issue of theological basis for Jews, Christians, and to some extent, Muslims. If Genesis were only about creation, it would be a somewhat different (at least less serious) issue. But the fact is that even Jesus himself quoted from the creation passages as a source for a theological point he was making (e.g., marriage). Paul did the same thing. Then there are those who see later parts of Genesis as containing prefigurations of the salvific nature of Jesus' mission and role as "savior" and "messiah." There are myriads of folks who depend on the validity (definitions vary) of Genesis to authenticate their faith in the NT, and ultimately in Christianity. For more than 1800 years, the Christian church has upheld the sanctity and validity of the creation narrative (now plural), the sacrificial system introduced in Genesis which became NT atonement of one sort or another, Abraham, Moses, the Exile, and so on.
Clearly there are deep theological implications─perhaps literary character/genre─in how Genesis is understood. That's not our calling, however. But the strong linkage─between virtually all of Genesis and the theology of redemption in both Orthodox Judaism and New Testament Christianity─makes the Hebrew creation accounts very unique among the so-called creation myths of the world). Some say cosmogony is preferable to myth because it disambiguates the huge ambiguity in the common understanding of "myth." At a minimum, we do tremendous disservice to many in three major world religions to overemphasize the creation myth designation in the very title. Further elaboration of what myth means or doesn't mean is much like the judge instructing the jury to disregard what they just heard from a witness.
Being an academician, I acknowledge that we academics sometimes contribute more to the problem than to the solution with our esoterics. The very fact that this particular article may be approaching a new Wiki record for dissent and major unrest and accusatories certainly is telling us something. But are any of us hearing it? ─AFA Prof01 (talk) 20:00, 23 March 2010 (UTC)
Mea culpa! Sure, I'm ambiguous in that I think all of us posting here are interested in more than just a question of literary classification: several people have expressed a concern regarding the truth value of Genesis as a chronology, others of us have pointed out the importance of the theology of Genesis. So I find it odd that we've titled the article in such a way that a discussion of literary genre is really the only on topic discussion under it as heading. Those of us who would like to document the debate in reliable sources regarding the many theological aspects of Genesis must do so at other articles. Those of us who would like to document the debate in reliable sources regarding the truth value of the chronology must also do that at other articles. It looks to me like there's a consensus that the literary genre of Genesis is one of the least of our concerns, yet we're supposed to have formed consensus that this is the topic we shall document here: the creation narrative in Genesis ... as mythological genre.
The key to my ambiguity is that, on the one hand I'm asserting the above, while at the same time I'm asserting that documenting the debate in reliable sources regarding the literary classification of Genesis 1-2 is actually an extremely valuable exercise, one so valuable, in fact, that in my own personal opinion, it is precisely the work that logically preceeds the very extensive work needed on the bigger questions we're all interested in.
So, I guess I'm not rigid about this scope question, I'm just keen that we grab the serendipity or providence of this focus on comparing and contrasting Genesis to the surrounding creation myths. Genesis is arguably the first great piece of myth-busting literature, or so several hundred or more reliable sources are going to teach us.
"The adherents of these [ancient near eastern] myths believed that by myth (word) and by ritual (act) they could reenact these myths in order to sustain the creation."
"[Genesis] serves as a polemic against the myths of Israel's neighbours".
Bruce K. Waltke, "The Creation Account in Genesis 1:1-3: Part IV: The Theology of Genesis 1", Bibliotheca Sacra 132 (1975): 327–342.
Genesis is absolutely all about myths, and how very wrong and dangerous they are. Genesis agrees with all of us more than we recognize we agree with one another. But I should leave it to sources and the keen minds of others here to flesh that out.
Have I clarified some, good Sir? Alastair Haines (talk) 07:01, 24 March 2010 (UTC)
Alastair, thanks so much for your points here. You've definitely hit the nail on the head, even in the ambiguity: we could make the article match the title, or make the title match the article. Like you, I really don't care either way. There is real value in having an article on Genesis creation in the literary genre of myth. It speaks to both sides of the issue: Genesis as myth, or Genesis as polemic against myth. I apologize for not being around much. I've been horrifically sick most of the week and have been sleeping through the days. But I did want to say I appreciate your input here and plan to take it up with you as soon as I can. I am not ignoring you here.EGMichaels (talk) 17:10, 25 March 2010 (UTC)

Scholastic views of Genesis as demythologizing polemic (and theological prologue)

To my knowledge, scholars (Jewish, Christian and atheist) other than the Genesis literalist movement, tend towards viewing Genesis as a very carefully constructed literary work, aimed at presenting Yahweh worship as superior to the polytheistic mythologies of the surrounding cultures. The details and dating of that vary quite widely. If there's anything like scholastic consensus on anything to do with Genesis, it is this "myth-busting" one-upmanship. The technical term most often used is polemic. I'll try to provide a bit of an annotated bibliography here. I'll simply add to it from time to time without signing. I'd appreciate others contributing. Let's see how we go. Alastair Haines (talk) 14:05, 25 March 2010 (UTC)

The view that Genesis 1 is "amythological" (rather than the later view that it is deliberately demythologizing) is famously attributed to Julius Wellhausen, who contrasts the mythology of Genesis 2 and 3 with the "sober reflection about nature" of Genesis 1.
"In the first account we stand before the first beginnings of sober reflection about nature, in the second we are on the ground of marvel and myth. But the materials for myth could not be derived from contemplation, at least so far as regards the view of nature which is chiefly before us here; they came from the many-coloured traditions of the old world of Western Asia. Here we are in the enchanted garden of the ideas of genuine antiquity; the fresh early smell of earth meets us on the breeze. The Hebrews breathed the air which surrounded them; the stories they told on the Jordan, of the land of Eden and the fall, were told the same way on the Euphrates and the Tigris, on the Oxus and Arius."
Julius Wellhausen, Prolegomena, (BiblioBazaar, 2007), p. 379.
First published as Prolegomena zur Geschichte Israels, (Berlin, 1882).
"The author's purpose in giving a six-day structure to his creation narrative (a structure unknown in any other ancient creation narrative) was to set forth a pattern, for man to follow, of working for six days. It should be noted that it is not only the literary structure (i.e., the six-day arrangement of the material) that relates to the theme of man's work. The content of 1:1-25 [does also.]"
—Ian Hart (1995), "Genesis 1:1–2:3 as a prologue to the Book of Genesis", Tyndale Bulletin 46/2: 315–336.
"The image [of God] is to be understood not so much ontologically as existentially: it comes to expression not in the nature of man so much as in his activity and function."
DJA Clines (1968), "The Image of God in Man", Tyndale Bulletin 19: 101.
"There is neither a divine earth, nor divine beasts, nor divine constellations, nor any other divine spheres basically inaccessible to man. The whole demythologised world can become man's environment, his space for living, something which he can mould."
—Hans Walter Wolff (1974), Anthropology of the Old Testament, (SCM), p. 162. Translated from the original German published 1973. Review in JSOT 5 (1978).
Alastair, I appreciate what you're trying to do, and I agree with your overview of the field, but I think you're getting off the topic of the article. Despite the title, it's not meant to suggest that all of the Book of Genesis is myth; it's meant to be about the creation myth in Genesis 1-2, no more. Perhaps a small amendment to the title is called for to make this clear. (Ok, just saw the next thread - things move fast around here.)PiCo (talk) 04:12, 26 March 2010 (UTC)

Alastair -- thanks for your overview. Since the current title contains the characterization of "myth" we need to include other elements that are not currently in place, such as common and unique aspects in relation to other mythological cosmogonies. Berkhof, for instance, sees the unity of humanity to be a unique aspect of this narrative. The unity of deity, and creation ex nihilo (already touched upon) should also be organized in a section for "comparison with other cosmogonies." Even if the title of the article is returned to something less polemic, the polemic aspects of Genesis should probably be retained.EGMichaels (talk) 16:56, 28 March 2010 (UTC)

Reliable sources

Pico, you deleted refs that included Philip Schaff on the basis that the refs weren't by biblical scholars. Philip Schaff founded the United Bible Societies and edited/authored/produced dozens of scholarly biblical references including the 30+ volume set on the early church fathers as well as an 8 volume set on the history of the christian church and a four volume set on the creeds. Your deletion of Philip Schaff's refs on the basis that he isn't a biblical scholar is nothing more than vandalism. See 08:51, 22 March 2010 PiCo (talk | contribs) (69,263 bytes) (None of these are reliable sources - please stick to biblical scholars.) Please explain.Deadtotruth (talk) 20:58, 27 March 2010 (UTC)

Philip Schaff died in 1893 - more than a century ago. The field has changed radically since then, and he can't be accepted as a reliable source. You should try to restrict your sources to those published in the last 15 years, as anything prior to that is likely to be out of date. The bulk of your "sources" are such irrelevancies as astronomers, mathematicians, and journalists. Please explain why you think these are acceptable sources for a scholarly article. I'll delete the silly ones in three days unless you can provide a good explanation.PiCo (talk)
The field is relatively small, and limiting reliable sources to the past 15 years isn't reasonable. - Lisa (talk - contribs) 03:40, 28 March 2010 (UTC)
Lisa, the field of biblical studies of ancient Hebrew religion has undergone a revolution since the 1980s with the work of Smith, Day and others - no contemporary scholar would get his work published if he didn't take this into account. Therefore a cutoff around 1980 is entirely reasonable. PiCo (talk) 03:46, 28 March 2010 (UTC)
Pico, if Schaff isn't a biblical scholar, NO ONE is. Give it a rest.EGMichaels (talk) 04:01, 28 March 2010 (UTC)
EGM, we're talking about reliable sources, not biblical scholars. Of course Schaff was a biblical scholar - but "was" is the operative word. PiCo (talk) 04:22, 28 March 2010 (UTC)
Pico, you're being unreasonable. Besides, you deleted Wenham half a dozen times too. You can't just delete things and make up reasons as you go.EGMichaels (talk) 04:24, 28 March 2010 (UTC)
I certainly don't want to be unreasonable, and I sincerely believe that I have a good point. I don't know that I can state it any more clearly than I already have, but I'll try. Wikipedia has to be based on reliable sources - I think we can agree on that. As this is an article about an issue in biblical scholarship, that means we have to use biblical scholars - who do, in fact, study the influence of ANE myth on the HB (Wenham does this himself). Biblical scholarship, like any field, advances and changes over time - later scholars build on and incorporate the work of earlier ones, theories which seem solid are overturned, new ones arise, and for this reason we need to use the latest scholarship available to us (hence my choice of a cut-off of about 1980, when the current revolution in scholarly approaches to the HB got underway). For this reason Schaff is not acceptable as a reliable source - anything valuable in Schaff will be reflected in contemporary scholarship, and outdated ideas/readings/etc will be avoided. Similarly, we can't use journalists, mathematicians and astronomers as sources on biblical scholarship. Finally, Wenham: yes, I hope you'll put the book you have in mind here, and then I'll tell you why it's not a reliable source - note that it's not Wenham himself who's at issue, but the publication he's writing in. PiCo (talk) 04:43, 28 March 2010 (UTC)
By your logic Darwin couldn't be quoted in an article on Darwinism. Schaff is one of the foremost biblical scholars ever. As for the publication Wenham was writing in, it was his own commentary on the book of Genesis that you deleted -- over and over and over again. Stop trying to delete other people's work and instead try to help people add to the encyclopedia.EGMichaels (talk) 04:47, 28 March 2010 (UTC)
I've just checked back to the article, and I can't see either Schaff or Wenham - are we talking about the same thing? (I'm talking about the list of about 12 footnotes in the first sentence of the 3rd or so paragraph of the lead). As for Darwin, no, if we interpret Wiki policy strictly and correctly, he shouldn't be quoted directly in an article on evolution, only indirectly through secondary and tertiary sources. Things move on in the field of evolution, too.PiCo (talk) 04:55, 28 March 2010 (UTC)
I think we all agree that the idea of basing Wikipedia on secondary sources is essential, and actually part of the foundational pillar WP:RS. However, in my experience, it is poorly understood even by established editors, and is frequently used as a bid to silence precisely the RS we need to be depending on. The problem is that people latch on to the idea, but push it to mean something it cannot mean: "whoever speaks most recently settles the matter." Wikipedia is not about "settling the matter."
We probably need to produce a clearer explanation of the epistemology of Wikipedia, and I don't think it's all that hard in theory. The history of reliable published commentary on topics can be approximated by a tree, with branches at various points where contemporary scholars diverged into various PsoV. It is our job to give readers a picture of the whole tree, ideally verified by a reliable source on the history of debate on a given topic. We may ignore minor branches if they are WP:UNDUE, but major branches must be included.
Sources from the last decade cannot be priveleged over earlier sources, because in ten years they themselves would become redundant. Unlike normal publishing where writers often argue to a conclusion, we are liberated from that responsibility. We are simply documenting the history of published ideas up to the time of writing. Wikipedia should grow over time, because it has more history to document, unless scholarship on the topic reaches a consensus or polarity that never changes.
The irony is that every Wikipedia article is a history article, referencing primary sources: real scholars, who really spoke to the topic of the article. It cannot be otherwise. If we aimed only to report secondary sources--what B says about what A said--then we couldn't actually report what B said about A, unless we had C, who told us what B said about what A said. Using the "secondary source" idea illogically can sound like responsible, neutral protection of content, but it's not what it seems if it is removing "branches" from the history of ideas our project is committed to documenting.
If Carl Linneaus had not documented the numerous branches of the tree of life (science), Darwin would have found it much more difficult to find an explanation for what had not as yet been observed! A Wiki contributor can never be more than a Linneaus, our reader must be the Darwin. Alastair Haines (talk) 06:08, 28 March 2010 (UTC)
Thanks Alastair. Very well stated! Pico, if Wenham and Schaff aren't there at the moment, you must have deleted them. I know you've deleted Wenham at least six times that I've had to restore in the past -- since this recent scholar's commentary on Genesis (written in the time frame you claim) was still fodder for your hatchet. I think that you (Pico) are trying to make Wikipedia do something it isn't designed to do. This is a glorified bibliography, reporting on the history of views given by other sources. Darwin could be quoted as well as those who have understood him. The Primary is given with the lens of the secondary and perhaps tertiary. We don't settle disagreements, but rather list them, ref them, and give the reader a starting place for real research. For me at least, Wikipedia is a good resource to FIND resources. While I'd never do a paper off of Wikipedia, I'd certainly check Wikipedia to see what references are there. That's the primary value of this site. But deleting views and sources, while permissible in a piece of writing that aims to settle a matter, is unwarranted here unless those sources are so fringe that they are undue.EGMichaels (talk) 12:32, 28 March 2010 (UTC)
Fair warning Pico -- I just cited two (gasp) historians...EGMichaels (talk) 12:54, 28 March 2010 (UTC)
I also corrected a stated third party view about Wenham from Wenham's own words. If Gunkel was quoted correctly, then Gunkel was mistaken. I left the Gunkel reference intact, on the assumption that the editor was reading it correctly. But Wenham himself does not think what Gunkel appears to think he thinks (inconceivable!).EGMichaels (talk) 13:36, 28 March 2010 (UTC)

PiCo, you wrote "Lisa, the field of biblical studies of ancient Hebrew religion has undergone a revolution since the 1980s with the work of Smith, Day and others - no contemporary scholar would get his work published if he didn't take this into account. Therefore a cutoff around 1980 is entirely reasonable."

All this means is that there is a current style in that field of scholarship that you personally approve of. You want to delegitimize anything before that, because you want to exclude all sources that don't fit your personal worldview.

You can't do that. Yes, you can include sources that you like. No, you cannot exclude sources that you dislike. I'm perfectly willing to have an RfC on this issue if you choose. Just let me know. - Lisa (talk - contribs) 15:40, 28 March 2010 (UTC)

Lisa, I honestly don't know what you're talking about. What I'm talking about when I draw a distinction between pre- and post- 1980 (or thereabouts) is the pretty universal acceptance by contemporary scholars of the view that the religion of ancient Israel/Jordan, c.1200-400BC, grew organically out of Canaanite religion and underwent numerous changes during that period. This contrasts completely with the previous paradigm, which saw Israelite religion pretty much in the terms presented in the Torah - a once-off revelation or revolution dating from around 1400 BC or thereabouts (think Kaufmann, although admittedly he's an extreme case, Albright, etc). The revolution came about as a result of increasing familiarity with the Ugaritic texts and the de-historicising of the OT by Van Seters and others, and the terms have been set by Day and Smith in particular. Anyway, I ask you to be clearer, as I just don't know what it is you mean by "worldview".PiCo (talk) 09:45, 29 March 2010 (UTC)
Just to be clear, Pico, I don't think anyone has a problem with the POV you want to include -- they just have a problem with your deliberate exclusion of other POVs. Indeed, it is even appropriate to show (as Alastair stated) a development of POVs through time culminating in the most current view. But eliminating the trunk can leave the branches floating in a false vacuum. Hardly any view on any subject comes without some kind of precedent -- even if that precedent is rejected. That's what this article is saying about Genesis (i.e. that it did not arise in a vacuum); how much more does it apply to the secondary sources!EGMichaels (talk) 16:08, 28 March 2010 (UTC)
Good point Tim. For the last 100 years or so, nearly all scholars have come to agree that Genesis itself is a secondary source. I'm pretty sure PiCo agrees with that too. Alastair Haines (talk) 02:43, 29 March 2010 (UTC)
EGM: To make this manageable, can we just address one thing that causes me problems, namely the inclusion in the article of huge numbers of sources which are clearly not reliable, and which I think we can both agree are not reliable - I mean astronomers, mathematicians, journalists etc. Wenham is of course notable, and on Schaff you can put forward a respectable argument (I'd disagree, but it wouldn't annoy me to have to argue my case). Can you agree that the astronomers shouldn't be cluttering up the article? PiCo (talk) 09:50, 29 March 2010 (UTC)
Pico, if you'll recall, you deleted Philo and Wenham repeatedly, on the grounds that this reliably sourced traditional view was not notable. Well, the point being made is that this is not only notable, but traditional (Philo), normative (Wenham), and pervasive (a score of other sources from different fields). Had you left Wenham alone to begin with, we'd be resting on it now. Your problem was ex nihilo, and you made up any argument you could to delete any reference to it by any means. I'm sorry, you created this need. And I'm not inclined to compromise with you here because the last time I compromised with Philo, you moved it (as per the compromise) and then the next day DELETED it on the grounds that it shouldn't be in the very place you moved it!
In any case, I'll be offline for a few days. Please remember that nothing is ever truly deleted here. I plan to check to see if the refs are intact when I come back from Pesach.EGMichaels (talk) 12:51, 29 March 2010 (UTC)

Restart-article naming dispute

I propose we squash on sight two categories of argument:
  1. The dictionary/intelligencia/man-on-the-street says "myth" means such-and-such; and
  2. The "we're special" crowd who're asking for preferential treatment need to be brought up short because "fair is fair".
This dispute is over the article's name, which by WP guidelines is to be the most commonly used name. Can we please focus on that? None of us here were given the responsibility or power of coming up with the name In Real Life. So our opinions of what the name in real life should be Do Not Matter. Are WP editors "pushing" a given terminology beyond what can be supported as common usage? That should be the focus. As well as paying heed to what phrases readers will attempt in their lookups. I'm weary watching this same dispute flare again and again, while most of the arguments are completely beside the point. Professor marginalia (talk) 06:25, 29 March 2010 (UTC)
In real life, the first two chapters of the book of Genesis are a creation myth. That is why this article is called just that. "Genesis creation myth" describes accurately and comprehensively the subject matter here : what 1. Genesis contains and 2. what the focus of this article is. The title is in accordance with numerous WP guidelines, as discussed at length many many times around here. The approach of the many Christian and Jewish editors who only say "I don't like that" and "my relifigion is true and special" is not encyclopedic. · CUSH · 07:02, 29 March 2010 (UTC)
There's something about what Prof. Marginalia says that seems to get to the heart of what matters for a good clear discussion.
But all that's missing in the discussion above, imo, is quotes from reliable sources on the subject.
May I ask what you think the topic or subject of this article is? It might not have a common name.
As far as I can tell, this article is supposed to document scholastic analysis of "what Genesis says about Creation".
"In Genesis, creation ..."
I would have thought there'd be endless permutations of good titles, the problem would be picking one, not sticking with one.
As long as it has the common names "Genesis" and "creation" people will find it won't they?
Perhaps I don't understand what the article is supposed to be about. What do you think is the topic here? Alastair Haines (talk) 07:23, 29 March 2010 (UTC)
At Cush, it would help if you could cite reliable sources for your opinion that "Genesis 1-2" is a creation myth.
Most sources I know, of all colours, see Genesis 1 and Genesis 2-3 as distinct units. Just which scholars are you reading?
"Myth" is a comprehensive description of just what? The Sabbath? Marriage? You don't even get talking snakes until chapter 3.
While you may have a point that unwritten policy says Wikipedia is supposed to be written from the atheist, rather than agnostic point of view, even atheist scholars see that Genesis 3 is part of the Genesis myth of human origins.
Your case needs reliable sources, not editorial assertion. Alastair Haines (talk) 07:23, 29 March 2010 (UTC)

(ec):::Reframe your argument so that it doesn't rely on Fallacy #2 and focus on the chestbeating "we called it that because that's what it's called" stuff. As I said, the "fair is fair" fallacy is irrelevant. The other issue raised is the key: and every time I've researched this claim, the "we called it that because that's what it's called" stuff, it doesn't completely hold up. There's more than one agenda behind the POV-pushing on this here at wp. So what have you got to to show this is what it's typically called? Please...lay it out here. Professor marginalia (talk) 07:27, 29 March 2010 (UTC)

@Alastair Haines-I've noted above what I've found to be the most commonly used phraseology. Professor marginalia (talk) 07:34, 29 March 2010 (UTC)
Ah yes! I'd read it already, but now I have you associated with your thoughts (proceeding as they do from some real checking in sources). I still prefer Creation in Genesis, which is a topic title, not a phrase or name, and does not imply any propositions. I don't think Creation according to Genesis formally implies that the Genesis account is true, but I can see why some people are sensitive to the plausible possibility of that proposition being formed by some readers encountering that title. Genesis creation story, does imply a proposition, but I would think a demonstrably true and unambiguous, non-technical one.
But finally, I don't think this current debate can be settled by phrase searches in sources, because I doubt there's a consensus in scholastic terminology or common usage. I don't think it will be settled by all editors who care coming to agreement, either. I think it will need to be settled by supplying a rationale based on reliable sources and policy, that will stand up because its sources and reasoning withstand scrutiny.
I am extremely interested to see how the proposal is closed, because there's enough in the discussion to do it already, yet a lot of temptation to close it irrationally. It's a good test of the capacity of those who staff the system to actually uphold it without fear or favour.
We will see what we will see, but I certainly value the thoughts you've posted Prof. M. Alastair Haines (talk) 08:05, 29 March 2010 (UTC)

More myth concerns

Here are some comments I wrote 27 Mar 2010 at Talk:Creation myth. I want to include them here:AFA Prof01 (talk) 05:14, 29 March 2010 (UTC)

The problem is that the common, ordinary use of the word "myth" is so dominant in societal thinking, all the way back to the days of our bedtime stories, that it's only reasonable for the reader to assume that he/she certainly already knows what that simple four-letter word means. Therefore, how reasonable is it even to suspect that any reader might reason that they don't know what "myth" means, with or without the "creation" prefix? Is this line of reasoning by Wiki's fictitious "ordinary reader" logical for any of us to even imagine:

"Hm, 'myth'. That's something that is imaginary or not true. It's fictional like the Santa Claus myth or 'Peter and the Wolf' and the Loch Ness monster and urban legends. But just in case 'they' are thinking of some other kind of myth (though I don't think there IS any other kind), maybe I'd better look it up by clicking on the light-blue Wikilink." Hogwash!

From umpteen years teaching in university classrooms, and almost as many years as a student, I know that people are loathe to look something up if they think it's somehow beneath their dignity on the basis that "I already know that. When we read the word "myth," unless we are among "the few and the proud" who are specifically schooled in a technical/academic/literary genre, highly atypical usage of the word, our kneejerk response is to run with the MOST familiar definition we've had of that word throughout our lifetime. And that's going to be an untruth that has been whitewashed as truth.

May I illustrate from the Wall Street Journal's use of the word myth, and the connotation they clearly expect from readers:

  • Jun 20, 2009 . "A Doctor's View of Obama's Healthcare Plans: The Myth of Prevention."
  • Feb 20, 2010. "The Myth of the Techno-Utopia." The complete sentence: "It's fashionable to hold up the Internet as the road to democracy and liberty in countries like Iran, but it can also be a very effective tool for quashing freedom. Evgeny Morozov on the myth of the techno-utopia."
  • Apr 24, 2009: "...the Treasury for getting only 66 cents in value for every TARP dollar spent. This accusation would be troubling if true, but the 66 cent claim is a myth. The 66 cent conclusion is no more sound than a subprime mortgage."
  • November 20, 2009: Lies, Myths, and Yellow Journalism. "Because this editorial is based on deception (or, more charitably, bad journalism), it's not surprising that harmful myths about education reform are also woven in. The myth that spending more money on poor and minority kids is a waste ("some of the worst school districts in the country spend the most money on students"), the myth that vouchers help kids from low-income communities (they haven't worked, which is why they're off the table), the myth that strict accountability will close the achievement gap (it won't, although accountability with clear standards, and with more capacity to meet those standards will), and the myth that teachers' unions are the enemy (they have problems, but reformers need to work with, not against them).

An ordinary Google search of Wall St. Journal + "myth" turned up these and many more. Please try the search for yourself on any of your favorite printed sources that contain OpEd's. We can continue to play ostrich and bury our heads in the sand, or we can stop trying to force "myth" with all its shades of gray down people's throats.

None of us were around when the term "creation myth" was spawned by a group of the intelligencia who probably had at least a couple of years of Greek, so the choice of words isn't our fault. But we do have other terms that are not ambiguous, even terms that no less prestigious an agency than NASA has chosen, such as cosmogony. True, it's not well known, but since it isn't, that's the type of word that most of us WILL click on if it's blue. Thanks. ─AFA Prof01 (talk) 05:14, 29 March 2010 (UTC)

Dear Sir,
I, for one, can appreciate what seems like common sense, pleasantly expressed, well-reasoned and supported by a diversity of recent publications addressed to a general, intelligent and educated audience in your post above.
I'd like to grab the opportunity, not simply to second your opinion, however. I'd like to push you to engage more with the concerns of readers and editors who may think Genesis has some kind of historical cultural value, but is rather clearly not the sort of explanation of the origin of the world and humanity that is now pretty much accepted among educated people around the globe.
Out of politeness, a lot of people may be willing to agree to drop "myth" from the title of this article. Others, I suspect, will be willing to drop "myth" from the tile because it's hardly the ordinary scholastic way of referring to the Genesis anyway.
But, I'd like to hear your thoughts regarding the claim I made above, that Genesis is actually a secondary source. That is, it was hardly the first piece of ancient literature to address the "origin question." Do you think that is a fair statement? Was other literature, that might fairly be described as "myth" already known to the writer, writers or editor, editors of Genesis? At least by the time of it reaching the form in which it has been transmitted to us? Are you aware of any scholars who think that Genesis engages with this already "published" pre-existing mythology?
Now, here's the rub, does Genesis, as secondary source, endorse, quote and assume the veracity of the prior material? Does it critique it? Or is it some combination of assuming or accomodating parts of prior works, while critically presenting a new point of viw? What do the Genesis scholars you've read say? Are they all in agreement? Do they divide on "party lines"?
If, for example, Genesis thought populating the "heavens and the Earth" with a plethora of supernatural agents was a load of mythological bunkum, what might it say instead? What could it say to communicate that idea to people in the habit of thinking otherwise?
Aren't there ancient sources that describe monotheists as atheists? Isn't it possible modern atheists have more in common with ancient monotheists than they realise? A modern atheist views even monotheism as mythological God of the gaps nonsense, however ancient monotheists had very much the same view of the even more ancient polytheists and animists.
It's awfully frustrating watching people talking at cross-purposes when their reasoning is so very similar, just they are so dreadfully dogmatic about vocabulary.
To say Genesis 1 is technically myth is to say: 1. that it must be taken literally and 2. that there can be no God. I would not have thought either of those statements to be matters of self-evident truth without any dissenting points of view. Alastair Haines (talk) 06:15, 29 March 2010 (UTC)
[to Alastair Haines] My esteemed colleague, thank you for your gracious compliments, though far too generous. I am far less than your peer when it comes to the sophistry you express here. Please know that I am a theorist only in my chosen field of science, and express myself mostly in a practical meat-and-potatoes way. Therefore, I am both unworthy and unqualified to respond to your sage inquiry with any modicum of expertise or wisdom.
With that sincere disclaimer, I proceed: I completely agree that Genesis has historical/cultural value, and I personally do not hold to the literalist explanation you depict. However, I don't consider that the issue here. For the sake of discussion, let's assume there is a large group of intelligent, educated, respected people who believe the message of Genesis creation to be that "Almighty God" created the universe and all that is in it. They subscribe to divine inspiration but not to divine dictation. They are willing to consider the possibility that the intent of the biblical writings was not to provide some sort of scientific and historical schema of creation. Perhaps, they say, the meaning of creation for the writers of Genesis was something other than the present understanding of literal-historical. Let's further assume that they have a "high view" of Scripture that is reasonable and moderate (by some definition. Therefore, they aren't literalists; they just believe God created the heavens and the earth, that it's very incompletely understood just how he did it, though we are in process, albeit imperfectly, of learning the "how's" through science; that the J and P sources believed God is Creator and did their best to write a historical narrative through the prism of their inspired world view. The sources wrote no political or cultic treatise and mentioned no rituals—unlike the cosmologies of some of their predecessors and neighbors.
Today, some consider the Genesis accounts to be a demythologized myth (technical use of term), but that doesn't mean we must ignore the influences upon their narratives brought to bear on the writers by their cultural milieu and other creation stories. The writers were not monastics.
Let's even assume that more than a few of these hypothetical 21st century moderates do believe that the Creator set it all in motion, is still very much involved in the universe he created, and that ongoing natural and supernatural processes (not to exclude evolution) are indications of this. To these folks, as well as to the 3rd graders whose upbringing has led them to these same conclusions at a much less mature level, we throw the "myth" curve ball. Darwin write that the OT is a "manifestly false history of the earth." Rather than focus on the possibility that Genesis creation narratives were never intended to be historic account, religious objections to Darwin's assessment have focused on the word false, and many evolutionists have agreed with the Darwinian "false history" claim. This is why I personally believe the word "myth", even with a thousand notes to say it doesn't mean untrue, is manifestly offensive to such a huge number of readers and editors.
Thanks again for your supportive comments and your provocative (but at times over my head) thoughts. ─AFA Prof01 (talk) 05:15, 30 March 2010 (UTC)

From my research, historically there was no controversy. Apparently, both the patristic and medieval church interpreted the Genesis accounts allegorically or figuratively. I read that the Protestant reformers rejected the allegorical method in favor of a more literal-historical method of interpretation. Even then, an exegetical emphasis on what appeared to be the plain meaning of the text did not place the Bible in serious conflict with the new science of the day, in that there was some latitude in the application of a literal approach.
Good science professor, sir,
what great good humour, patience and humility there is in your clear and nicely written reply!
I particularly appreciate the picture you build up of the educated, intelligent moderate.
There are many who know a fair bit about science, and a fair bit about theism, and find little conflict between what they know of each.
When we turn to the early chapters of Genesis, the information we lack is not conclusive proof of God's existence, nor conclusive proof from a fossil record, what the average moderate lacks is knowledge of historical literature.
Our average moderate is not familiar with Hebrew, nor with Akkadian or Sumerian. We are dependent on people we'd normally pass by in the street—professors of ancient languages and literature—who for once, we can see do serve us and our civilization in matters of interest and importance for all.
I wonder if we can all quieten down a bit, so their voice can be heard, and their sense bring us together to con-sens-us.
I'm hushing, let's see what old voices might be given the floor to engage us.
Alastair Haines (talk) 07:23, 30 March 2010 (UTC)

Looking past the obvious

I've read a lot of the discussions on this talk page regarding the article's title and I'm fascinated by how many points of view are represented in this discussion. However, I'm also wondering if you all aren't looking past what seem to be some rather obvious conventions on Wikipedia (conventions that actually also generally mirror scholarly usage as far as I understand it). Other articles about specific creation myths, or groups of such myths, on Wikipedia *almost* exclusively follow one of two patterns in regard to their titles:

1) Simply using the common name of the narrative that comprises or contains the creation myth in question (without the word myth, or "creation myth" in the title). See - Enûma Eliš, Völuspá, Rangi and Papa, etc.

2) Referring to the creation myth(s) of a specific civilization (or group of related civilizations) by pairing the name of the civilization and the term "creation myth". see - Mesoamerican creation myths, Sumerian creation myth, etc.

From the cursory exploration I did the first option appears much more common than the second. Both of these observations also appear to be in line with scholarship. Scholars are just as unlikely to ever use the phrase "Enuma Elish creation myth" as they are to use the phrase "Genesis creation myth". The Enuma Elish is a ancient narrative and there is consensus that this narrative can be grouped with others in a general category we call "creation myth". Likewise the passages in Genesis discussed in this article are a narrative and there is consensus that this narrative is also included in the category of "creation myth". However, what these passages are most plainly are narratives. That basic fact of narrativness is very clearly articulated in virtually every other article on other similar narratives but not this one. Why is that? I noticed a couple of arguments against "exceptionalism" but I wonder if those arguments are not in fact turned on their heads. The current title is clearly itself an exception and not in accord with scholarly usage. If the conventions of other articles were followed this one would not contain the term "creation myth" in the title, but would retain the notion that it is primarily considered a creation myth in the introduction and body of the text. Perhaps this observation has been stated before and discounted for some reason (I must admit that while I was fascinated by the discussion I could not read the entire archive). I do not wish to enter this dispute but I figured I'd share these thoughts. Good luck.Griswaldo (talk) 12:47, 30 March 2010 (UTC)

I would like to note that given the observed convention I mentioned above there would be two options available here. Either something like Israelite creation myth, Judeo-Christian creation myth, Abrahamic creation myth, etc. or to be in line with the more common convention a title that signifies the narrative without the word "creation myth". Just in case that wasn't clear. Good luck.Griswaldo (talk) 12:50, 30 March 2010 (UTC)
Ancient Near Eastern creation myths would be an excellent setting in which to place the Prologue to Genesis. I do hope others explore this option. Alastair Haines (talk) 13:54, 30 March 2010 (UTC)
Genesis (the whole 50 chapters) doesn't deal with creation, only the first two chapters do. And those first two chapters don't have a name like Enuma Elish. Nice thought, but impractical. PiCo (talk) 04:06, 31 March 2010 (UTC)
I'm not disagreeing with you PiCo, but it's worth realising even Enuma Elish doesn't have a name. If Enuma Elish is the name, then B'reshit is the name of Genesis. Likewise, Enuma Elish (the whole work) doesn't deal with creation, only the first book does. Alastair Haines (talk) 04:51, 31 March 2010 (UTC)
Your second point is a good one, Alastair. As for the namelessless of Enuma, yes, but my point is that we need to call the article by a title that's easily identifiable to the average wiki-user - he's going to type "Creation Genesis" or something similar into the search-bar. PiCo (talk) 10:53, 31 March 2010 (UTC)
As far as searching goes isn't that taken care of by doing what I just did for Norse creation myth and Babylonian creation myth? It is my observation that some rather excessive and complicated tangents have been and are being discussed on this page related to what is really a much simpler naming issue. My advice is to seriously consider the convention I mentioned above and its implications to the title of this article. Someone should explain why this article needs to be the exception or else figure out how to move on. Using the current title is also an exception in scholarship, BTW. I'm not sure anyone has done so yet but I'd bet the farm on the fact that combinations of words like "Genesis creation story", "Genesis creation narrative", or "Genesis creation account" is much more common in scholarship than the current title phrase. What I've seen are a lot of arguments conflating the title itself with the scholarly consensus that this section of Genesis is in fact a creation myth. It is no more a creation myth than Völuspá or parts of Enûma Eliš and that is the simple point. Anyway good luck once again.Griswaldo (talk) 11:43, 31 March 2010 (UTC)
Erm... both of those are creation myths. — The Hand That Feeds You:Bite 13:55, 31 March 2010 (UTC)
Huh? Of course they are. Did you read what I wrote? They are (and/or contain) creation myths but the articles about them are not called: "Enuma Elish creation myth" or "Voluspa creation myth". This article appears to be the only one titled in this fashion. Have a look for yourself across the Wiki. The convention is to use the two types I listed clearly above.Griswaldo (talk) 14:20, 31 March 2010 (UTC)
Also, I don't want to get into this debate. There appears to be a knee jerk reaction here against anyone who suggests that the current title is bad to assume that they are also arguing that this section of Genesis is not a creation myth. This section of genesis is a creation myth, but logic does not necessitate that the term go in the title and convention says it probably shouldn't. These types of assumptions are what I was afraid of before commenting and I'm seriously done now. Good luck.Griswaldo (talk) 14:26, 31 March 2010 (UTC)
You said, "It is no more a creation myth than Völuspá or parts of Enûma Eliš and that is the simple point." We're not saying Genesis as a whole Genesis is a creation myth, but the creation story is. If the creation myths contained in Völuspá or the Enûma Eliš stood out enough to deserve their own articles, sure, we could have Enûma Eliš creation myth. Note that the articles with the words "creation myth" in the title are specifically about the creation myth itself, not the source book/poem/tablets/whatever. And yes, there are other articles with "creation myth" or "creation mythology" or just plain "mythology" in the title here. Finally, your own knee-jerk reaction in your second comment is noted, but doesn't really help anything. — The Hand That Feeds You:Bite
I understand where the confusion came from and apologize for jumping to conclusions. What articles that are comparable to this one have "creation myth" in the title? Do you disagree with my claims above (in the very first post of this string) regarding the convention I observed across this category of entries? If so contradictory examples would be helpful. Clearly the words "creation myth", etc. are in article titles (see my first post above), but the observation I made is that they are not in titles of articles like this one. Is that because there really is no article like this one? Is this really an exceptional case that merits an exceptional title? In my view, given the clear convention, that should be the foundation of an argument for keeping this title. I've said to much already, but I did want to apologize for jumping to conclusions.Griswaldo (talk) 19:35, 31 March 2010 (UTC)

Muslims and Genesis

I noted an edit summary suggesting Muslims don't know of Genesis.

I believe the editor making that comment forgot for a moment that those who claim decent from Abraham (Genesis 12) via Ishmael are well aware of what they believe to be a Jewish corruption of the historical truth.

To my understanding, in broad terms, Muslims accept the Old Testament, torat, as Law given by Allah to Moses, Musa (pbuh), for the Jews and the New Testament, injil, as Mercy given by Allah to Jesus, Issa (pbuh), for the Christians, but both, in their current form, corrupted by the adherants of those faiths. In practice, certain scrolls, like the Book of Job are considered to be consistent with Allah's final teachings in the Qur'an given to Muhammed (pbuh). The Qur'an, to the Muslim, is the standard by which the corrupted words of God in the Bible are to be measured.

The Qur'an has quite a different account of creation, specifically the creation of man. It is significant even for understanding food laws: what is halal, and what haram. Muslims have little patience for Genesis 1, which they take to be intended literally (not myth), demonstably false by science, contrary to the Qur'an, typical of the corruption that should lead Jews and Christians to turn to the truth of the Qur'an instead, where Law and Mercy meet. Alastair Haines (talk) 07:04, 1 April 2010 (UTC)

If Islam considers the Torah to be corrupted, and if they consider the Koran to be the uncorupted revelation, and if the account in the Koran is substantially different from the account in Genesis, then it follows that Islam does not consider the Genesis account to be a genuine or accurate reflection of the Word of Allah. The fact is that Islamic scholars don't study Genesis, or any other [part of the Hebrew or Christian scriptures, and don't wriote commentaries on them - they don't "consider" them at all. PiCo (talk) 09:36, 1 April 2010 (UTC)
OK, sure, I stand corrected. Alastair Haines (talk) 11:15, 1 April 2010 (UTC)

Letting a reliable source speak: history, story, legend, myth?

Reliable sources are pretty jolly good at explaining how easy it is to ask the wrong questions. Apologies for adding emphasis, but I know how little time most people have for reading. ;) Alastair Haines (talk) 11:15, 1 April 2010 (UTC)

Sir Charles Leonard Woolley, "Stories of the Creation and the Flood", Palestine Exploration Quarterly 88 (1956): 14–21.

They make the fundamental mistake of classing together in the same category two things which are essentially different. Even the tile given to my lecture today to some extent perpetuates the error--"Stories of the Creation and the Flood"--it seems to put them upon the same footing, whereas they could scarcely be more diametrically opposed. Let me explain this. The Flood story purports to be history. It deals with a definite incident in man's experience, with the adventures of an individual human being whose name and genealogy are on record, and it recounts the facts of that experience as they were remembered and handed down by tradition through subsequent generations. On the other hand, the Creation story deals with times and events prior to the appearance of man upon the earth, prior indeed to the very existence of the earth. It cannot therefore be based on human memory. If it be claimed to be a record of facts, then it can only result from divine revelation, since nobody but God could know the facts--and I certainly cannot imagine anyone attributing to divine inspiration the very unpleasant theogony of the Sumerian tablets from which the Genesis account is derived. Otherwise it is necessarily an invention, but a serious one; an essay in cosmological speculation whereby man attempts to explain the universe. Here, then, we have two things, tradition and myth, which are absolutely different; we have tended to confuse the two, but, as I hope to show later, the Hebrews did not; they recognized the difference and treated the two things differently. Let me take the Creation myth first.

The cuneiform tablets which contain the Creation story are terribly fragmentary, so that the text is very far from complete. Moreover, they contain not one legend but several, and these cover a very wide field. The main subject is not the creation of the universe but something much more important, the creation or genesis of the gods who rule the universe.
To summarise: Noah's Ark is true history, tho distorted by time, but Creation is myth and speculation. Lisa? PiCo (talk) 09:24, 2 April 2010 (UTC)
Not sure that was what he intended. I think the point is that history (or purported history) deals with events which claim to have been observed and reported by human beings, while events which could not or do not claim to have been observed and reported by human beings fall into a different category. The events of Noah at least purport to have been observed and reported by human beings.
However, I'd like to differ with this source on a number of grounds. First, God's attitude and reasons given for the flood and the decision not to repeat it are not humanly observable. Second, the universality of the flood is not humanly observable. At best one could claim that he could not see land anywhere for a while, but to claim that the entire earth was submerged is not naturally observable by an individual at sea level.EGMichaels (talk) 15:49, 2 April 2010 (UTC)
Thanks for interacting, friends. I don't agree with this source about a number of things, including some that you've pointed out. However, the purpose of providing it here was to demonstrate that some of the things that have come up in discussion are, indeed, discussed in reliable sources. In particular, Wellhausen and Woolley agree that Genesis 1 is "sober reflection" and "an essay in cosmological speculation". But Wellhausen distinguishes that from myth, where Woolley considers it the basis for designation as myth. Regarding Genesis 2-3, though, Woolley would push down the line of this involving "tradition" rather than myth, whereas Wellhausen sees it (and the Flood) as perpetuation of myths. I sympathise with where Woolley is coming from, but I'm more comfortable with Wellhausen's terminology. However, my tastes are not relevant, the main point is that Wellhausen and Woolley both read Genesis 1 the same way, with quite different takes on its value, and with different terminology, in particular with different terminology regarding the sense of the term "myth". Alastair Haines (talk) 19:24, 2 April 2010 (UTC)

More Rope a Dope (Cheap Shots)

I specifically said here that I would be offline during Pesach, and SPECIFICALLY said that I would restore the sources Deadtotruth researched to stabilize sections Pico kept deleting if someone vandalized them during the holiday [7] (someone apparently vandalized my request!!!!). It may take me until tomorrow to catch up, since I'll be on the road today, but it's a cheap shot to target a section a person specifically requests a hiatus on during their holiday.EGMichaels (talk) 13:08, 1 April 2010 (UTC)

Your comment did not request a hiatus and was already archived by the 'bot (who set it to 24 hours?) by the time Professor Marginalia created his section above. No one "vandalised" your request. It is a cheap shot to fail to assume good faith to your fellow editors and call their edits "vandalism." You are making the assumption that PM saw your note then waited while you were away to sneakily delete them, even though he created a section on the talk page discussing the removal. The logic fails there. Auntie E. (talk) 17:05, 1 April 2010 (UTC)
Yes, I suggest you should put away that "vandalism" accusation if you're too busy to pay attention. You're sounding like the boy-who-cried-wolf. None of the sources that you discussed over in that discussion were removed (Schaff, Wenham or Gunkel). The discussion was *archived* by a bot-nobody vandalized it. I was not involved in that discussion-even now I can't don't recognize you discussing the cites I removed. I haven't worked with you before on any dispute that I can recall, and I will not be held responsible for failing to track of your holiday plans or await your approval before making any edits. Almost all the cites I removed I checked and found failed to support the claim attributed to them. One I didn't check obviously doesn't qualify as a WP:RS on this subject at WP, and the second (which I've since checked) is drawn from the insights of such notable theological historians as Stephen Hawking and Carl Sagan, and contributes nothing to this claim except corroborate ex nihilo translates as "nothing". References aren't meant to merely decorate claims with a beaded-string of numbers--they need to verify the statements they're attributing. Professor marginalia (talk) 17:48, 1 April 2010 (UTC)
Professor -- please take time to research the reasons refs have been added before deleting them. Pico deleted any reference to ex nihilo well over a dozen times and the refs grew in response to this. First, things need to be reliable. Wenham and Philo showed the reliability and the age of the view. Then they continued to be deleted on the grounds they were not NOTABLE. The additional refs demonstrated the notability of this view, including pervasiveness in the culture.
While I'm not married to someone else's refs, I tend to lean in favor of preserving other people's refs (even to points I disagree with), especially when they are added for the purpose of stabilizing repeatedly deleted text.
Several years ago I put this respect for refs on my user page -- and stated that deleting refs (rather than moving them to better locations) is tantmount to vandalism. While you can disagree, please understand that this is the degree of respect I accord to all POVs for all editors, especially on contentious pages. If we delete refs on stable pages, perhaps no harm is done. But a contentious page should err on the side of refs until the page stabilizes. This page is CLEARLY not stable.
Please discuss this with Deadtotruth, the editor who added the refs. Please consider alternative locations for refs you do not feel appropriate here. And then, once you have worked collaboratively, please accept my compliments for working with other editors instead of against them. But I cannot afford those compliments while you are deleting refs supporting a section that keeps getting deleted. Thanks.EGMichaels (talk) 00:13, 2 April 2010 (UTC)

These refs have been demonstrated to be not worth including in this article. If your concern is for the term ex nihilo, why don't you just wait until someone tries to remove the term, and in the meantime, look for some reliable biblical scholars who discuss the term so that when you inevitable have to defend its inclusion, you can add it back with better references. Wikipedia has a very specific definition of vandalism, and this ain't it. Maher-shalal-hashbaz (talk) 00:56, 2 April 2010 (UTC)

Maher, your comments suggest that you are unaware of the history of this issue. The refs were added by no less than three editors in an attempt to anchor ex nihilo from a routine daily edit war in which an editor deleted all references to the subject. Deadtotruth warned Pico, and reported him for edit warring. The initial ref was to Philo. Pico claimed that Philo was not notable or reliable. I added refs to Wenham, a biblical scholar. Tediousness added refs to another biblical scholar. Pico continued deleting these biblical scholars. I attempted compromise with Pico and requested he MOVE refs to places he felt more appropriate. He appeared to agree and moved Philo, and then the next day deleted Philo and my own refs and Tediousness' refs to biblical scholars. The reason? While ancient (Philo) and reliable (two biblical scholars) it was not notable. At that point Deadtotruth added refs to multiple disciplines, including scientists -- establishing notability.
These refs demonstrate the notability and pervasiveness of this view. Although I did not add the refs, I understand and support the need for them to establish that notability.
I have not yet seen any arguments that the refs fail to demonstrate the pervasiveness and notability of the view. Instead, I find on my page an "edit war" warning in which you failed to show another party. As I asked on your talk page -- who else did you warn for edit warring? Who am I warring with, and who is warring with me?
In fact, I'll repeat the request to you that I made to the professor -- work WITH other editors instead of against them. Collaboration is easy, but less exhilirating. I prefer we forego the exhiliration and posturing and respect other people's refs -- moving rather than deleting. To your comment "These refs have been demonstrated to be not worth including in this article" then WHICH article did you move them to? And to your accusation that my support of other editors work is "lazy", then please demonstrate your lack of laziness by showing what you have added, or moved, to appropriate places.
I believe all of these are perfectly reasonable questions -- and I did so without threatening to block you (as you did me). But, again, I don't enjoy giving threats.EGMichaels (talk) 02:52, 2 April 2010 (UTC)
EGMichaels, your comments suggest you are not clear on what is considered vandalism. Please read WP:NOTVAND to find out what is and is not vandalism. Thank you. Auntie E. (talk) 04:08, 2 April 2010 (UTC)
Aunt, people are allowed to use terms in discussion in ways that they define, as long as they are clear on their meaning. I've been clear both here and even on my user page (for years now) that deletion of references without collaboration or moving to better locations is simply vandalism. You may argue that my use is different from a particular guide and that's perfectly fine -- the definition on that page does not limit my own clearly specified use. I insist that editors work WITH each other rather than AGAINST each other. Most refs that I've seen in dispute belonged somewhere, even if not in the disputed place. Truly respectful editors discuss these refs with the person who actually added them (when possible). Granted, Professor was new here, and granted, he had no way of knowing the history of these refs, and granted (on my own behalf) I did not have the time to research whether or not the deleter was the same deleter as always or some new person who stumbled into it. But I would defend your work, Professor's work, and even Pico's work, just as strongly if it was being deleted in a non-collaborative manner, rather than discussed or moved.EGMichaels (talk) 04:18, 2 April 2010 (UTC)

Maher-shalal-hashbaz please stop deleting references. Deadtotruth (talk) 03:23, 2 April 2010 (UTC)

@EGMichaels-You cannot demonstrate notability of a tenet by lining up 10, 20 or 30 footnote examples of the concept in use (the more examples, the more notable? no. no. no.) If the notability of some tenet is disputed, you have to source it's notability.
You have described to me your own preservation-comes-before-all-else oriented policy. However WP has a policy about references, WP:Verifiability. I will bold the passages I think relate to references (and a passage) you insist on restoring.

Articles should be based on reliable, third-party, published sources with a reputation for fact-checking and accuracy. Reliable sources are needed to substantiate material within articles, and citations are needed to direct the reader to those sources to give credit to the writers and publishers. This avoids plagiarism, copyright violations, and unverifiable claims being added to articles. Sources should directly support the material as it is presented in an article, and should be appropriate to the claims made: exceptional claims require high-quality sources.

When I looked at the sources, I judged them unqualified and explained my reasons. Since you've been aggressive about keeping these, why don't you please give your reasons to disagree besides "there's no pleasing Pico"--because that's not a reason to abandon WP:V. Look - all you need is one good reference that says "most [fill-in-the-blank] interpret Genesis creation as creation ex nihilo." Here's one that comes very, very close. "The creation of the universe by God is common to the monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam' reflection on creation has been most extensively developed in the Christian tradition. Creation is by a single supreme God, not a group of deities, and is an 'absolute' creation (creation ex nihilo, 'out of nothing') rather than being either a 'making' out of previously existing material or an 'emanation' (outflow) from God's own nature." Concise Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. I say close, not perfect, because Genesis creation isn't specified and it's somewhat ambiguous about whether Jewish and Islam tradition are to be included here, or if it's speaking there of the "extensively developed" Christian tradition. Professor marginalia (talk) 03:29, 2 April 2010 (UTC)

<outdent> - Uh, Deadtotruth. Maher-shalal-hashbaz didn't remove the sources. And you've restored 2 gibberishly messed up references - at least - a sentence lifted almost word-for-word from the source (in other words copyrighted), and 2 other edits completely unrelated to the obsession you and EGMichaels have for ridiculously long stringing footnotes[4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14] repeated[4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14] five[4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14] or six[4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14] times for the same statement repeated over and over in a single article. But now you're here, how about you offer a justification for having them here at all. Thanks. Professor marginalia (talk) 03:41, 2 April 2010 (UTC)

Professor -- I only own one of the books in question and did not add the references. I merely understood the reasons for their inclusion and appreciated their additions in the wake of an endless string of deletions. As you have granted, I tend to err on the side of supporting the work of other editors -- and will do the same for you if someone decides to delete your research rather than adjust it or move it. My additions to this article so far have been limited to Campbell and Wenham (mostly the latter). I noticed that you left my citations alone, and so I have no personal stake in the preservation or elimination of sources. However, as an editor I find that writing an encyclopedia is hard enough without having to continuously rewrite it, and that 95% of all disputed refs I've experienced belonged in this encyclopedia SOMEWHERE. In any case, since I do not own more than one of those books, I've asked you to deal with Deadtotruth before dismissing them. It could be that you two could agree to collaborate on the best use of these materials. Collaboration is always the best way to go, and now that you two have caught each other's attention, I wish the both of you best of luck. Hopefully Deadtotruth will give you far more respect than you have given him thus far.EGMichaels (talk) 04:10, 2 April 2010 (UTC)
And I urge you to ask yourself how you've followed your own advice. I didn't remove the sources. I cleaned them up, and I removed inline citations where I investigated those sources and was satisfied they didn't conform to WP:V. I'd be quite willing to demonstrate the amount of work I put into my changes and compare them to that put into your reverts. Nobody at WP is given the burden of hunting down the original editor behind an edit before changes are made. Nobody does this. And you certainly didn't contact me when you reverted changes I made. So your lectures to me are both unwarranted and unwelcome. This isn't about me. It's not about Deadtotruth or you. It's about the value of these references to the claim they're supposedly sourcing. If you don't know what the references say, get out of the way. Professor marginalia (talk) 04:24, 2 April 2010 (UTC)
Professor -- as I said, I would do the same if someone were deleting your references without bothering to discuss it with you. Granted, things were difficult for me over the holiday and that is unfortunate. I assumed (wrongly) that Pico had simply ignored my request and did his daily deletion. I'm still playing catch up here and merely requesting that you discuss this with Deadtotruth (who is apparently poking his head in). If Deadtotruth were deleting your work without discussing it I would do the same for you. Wikipedia is built by working together, not by running each other over. Whenever I see a bulldozer I DO get "in the way." You'll appreciate it when it's your turn to be vandalized by someone else.EGMichaels (talk) 04:32, 2 April 2010 (UTC)
I accept the value you put in your Code of Conduct regarding removal of sources. We can debate the pros and cons of this approach some other day. But for now, it's not policy; it's not a guideline; and it won't buy one an end-run around WP:V. So how about we do this. I won't focus on debating your policy. And you won't focus on my violations of it. Instead we both focus on WP:V and WP:RS. Can we agree to this? Professor marginalia (talk) 04:43, 2 April 2010 (UTC)
Professor, I appreciate your offer, but there is a simpler way to do this: instead of arguing with me about why you don't want to talk to the editor you are deleting, why not just talk to the editor you are deleting? I'd ask him to do the same for you if he were, er, enhancing your hard work the way you have, ahem, enhanced his.EGMichaels (talk) 05:04, 2 April 2010 (UTC)
Whatever. So why are you still focused on me? Professor marginalia (talk) 05:15, 2 April 2010 (UTC)
Because you keep talking to me instead of the editor you keep deleting. Please discuss this with the editor in question and you may end up with an ally instead of a victim. That's called collaboration. EGMichaels (talk) 05:37, 2 April 2010 (UTC)
You're just digging your hole deeper. I made one revert. Your scoldings ring grow more hollow by the minute. Professor marginalia (talk) 05:57, 2 April 2010 (UTC)
And you continue talking to the wrong editor. You're spending a whole lot of effort to avoid a little bit of courtesy.EGMichaels (talk) 05:59, 2 April 2010 (UTC)
Why don't you bring Deadtotruth here to talk? He's not replied to my invitation. Professor marginalia (talk) 06:06, 2 April 2010 (UTC)
You wrote him on his talk page? Sorry if I missed it. In any case, you'll see that Pico is now deleting my references to Wenham (as well as my ref to a text on Babylonian mythology). Please understand my legitimate concern about arbitrary deletion of sources. I feel bad that you stepped into it, but, well, you're here. Note that Alastair (below) has taken what I've admitted is your "good start" and gone a step further: viz, if you aren't satisfied with some sources, why not update them with better ones? I think that's the most collaborative way to go for a heavily disrupted article. I'm sure even Deadtotruth would not object to your finding BETTER sources, rather than just deleting. Granted, that would take real work -- but that's what we're all supposed to do here.EGMichaels (talk) 14:13, 2 April 2010 (UTC)
I won't get roped into the sandbox warfare. One more time--we do not need a dozen references on a simple, basic statement. And no-references can't act as placeholders if they don't verify the claim they are attributed to. So if you want to continue to carry on about my failure to abide by your made-up rules, I intend to ignore those comments. Professor marginalia (talk) 16:44, 2 April 2010 (UTC)
Professor, there is no "rule" that you work with other editors, use courtesy, and do research to improve articles -- but it's always the best route. If you don't want to do that, that's fine. I had hoped you would have. But you are ultimately your own person.EGMichaels (talk) 17:36, 2 April 2010 (UTC)

Edit protected version of April 4

The edit protected version looks great. I would object to the deletion of material from this version but would support any scholarly supported additions.Deadtotruth (talk) 17:44, 2 April 2010 (UTC)

Thanks for poking in, Deadtotruth. It's difficult to keep someone in mind after a day or two. In any case, I take it that you have reviewed the refs dealt with by Professor and don't object to the current list of refs? As I said to the Professor, I have no personal stake in refs that I didn't create and cannot reproduce, but I do like it when we slow down enough to include people who took the time to add them.
The existing refs can certainly be built upon, and Professor has found one or two he'd like to add. I'd like to see him do so, and am glad that you would too.EGMichaels (talk) 18:04, 2 April 2010 (UTC)
BTW, Professor -- welcome to collaboration. If you INCLUDE the relevant editors they may even approve of your edits. Granted, it may not feel so triumphant, but it gets us all there together.EGMichaels (talk) 18:09, 2 April 2010 (UTC)

Written by Jews?

Since Jews have always believed that the Genesis account was authored by God, I'm changing that in the lede. - Lisa (talk - contribs) 16:30, 29 March 2010 (UTC)

That sounds like an incredibly silly reason. However, I wonder if we can be sure it was written by Jews. A priori it is not clear (although I may be exposing my ignorance by saying so) that substantial parts weren't written by someone non-Jewish first, and later adopted by Jews. Hans Adler 16:39, 29 March 2010 (UTC)
What rather wonderful contributions by both of you.
Lisa is providing perhaps the oldest documented PoV, that survives in many reliable sources right up to the present day.
Hans is asking precisely the question that has occupied scholars for most of the 20th century, though it is generally phrased as a question of how much editing rather than straight borrowing was done by whom, when and with what purpose.
Bravo! Alastair Haines (talk) 17:23, 29 March 2010 (UTC)
One cannot just replace a reference to actual authorship with insubstantial claims to alleged authorship. Replacing fact with faith is dishonest, unencyclopedic, impermissible. · CUSH · 19:01, 29 March 2010 (UTC)
Plenty of sources.
  • Zechariah Fendel, Legacy of Sinai: A History of Torah Transmission, Rabbi Jacob Joseph School Press, 1981
It isn't faith, Cush. It's fact, based on scholarship and knowledge which has gone on for millenia. - Lisa (talk - contribs) 20:00, 29 March 2010 (UTC)

Lisa seeks to replace information on the subject matter by doctrine (which she calls "tradition"). She has been doing that for the last five years. The book of Genesis was written by Jewish authors and not by some deity. Get real. · CUSH · 07:36, 30 March 2010 (UTC)

Faith requires facts or it is irrational and perhaps dogmatic. The timetable says the train is scheduled for 7:15. On the basis of that fact we place our faith in the rail service to fulfil their promise.
But the important thing here is that Cush is the one who seems to have faith without facts.
Cush believes ardently that "myth" is the unanimous (minus WP:UNDUE sources) common technical designation of the Genesis cosmogony in sources that have studied the ancient documents.
Now that's a verifiable (or falsifiable) proposition. Cush could prove the facts his faith is based on, if indeed it is based on facts rather than presumptions or pre-judice.
The only problem is that we've seen quite a bit of evidence that scholastic literature does not show the kind of unanimous opinion that "myth" is an unproblematic technical description of the Genesis cosmogony.
There are sources that would support Cush's opinion, but I can't understand why he wants us to believe him, rather than those sources. Alastair Haines (talk) 07:40, 30 March 2010 (UTC)
I don't believe cush has ever said that this was "unanimous." So you should retract that statement. — The Hand That Feeds You:Bite 14:17, 31 March 2010 (UTC)
I've refined the statement. If there is a WP:DUE set of reliable sources that have the opinion that "myth" is inappropriately applied to Genesis, then Cush would simply be promoting a POV. I am WP:AGF, which is not hard, and so it follows that Cush seriously believes all (except an WP:UNDUE minority) think "myth" is appropriately and indeed preferably used to describe the Prologue to Genesis. Alastair Haines (talk) 10:41, 3 April 2010 (UTC)
The term "creation myth" refers to a story that explains the origin of the world through supernatural means. That is what Genesis in its opening chapters does. Since Wikipedia is religiously neutral there is absolutely no reason to put the biblical narrative in a different category. Or is there (except the personal convictions of some editors) ?
If you use any other designation, you imply reality. In that case Wikipedia has deteriorated from an encyclopedia to a creationist platform. I doubt that this is the purpose of Wikipedia (although I am not so sure about that anymore).
And please read the elaborate OPPOSE vote by Nefariousski in the Requested move section. · CUSH · 11:18, 3 April 2010 (UTC)

We interupt coverage of the boxing match, for a message from the reliable sources who bring us this encyclopedia

It is correct to say that the verb bārā′, "create," contains the idea both of complete effortlessness and creatio ex nihilo, since it is never connected with any statement of the material. ... It is amazing to see how sharply little Israel demarcated herself from an apparently overpowering environment of cosmological and theogonic myths. Here the subject is not a primeval mystery of procreation from which the divinity arose, nor of a "creative" struggle of mythically personified powers from which the cosmos arose, but rather the one who is neither warrior nor procreator, who alone is worthy of the predicate, Creator.

The statement in the introduction reads, "The first narrative, Genesis 1:1–2:3, begins with the indeterminate period in which God created the heavens and the earth out of nothing (ex nihilo)". Neither "ex nihilo" or "out of nothing" (which apparently is the core dispute here) are in Genesis-they are interpretations of what Genesis implies. We need a source that comes right out and says in so many words "Genesis begins with creation of earth and heavens out of nothing" for that statement, or a source that verifies that's what everyone concludes it means. Since we know not everyone does interpret it this way, does this source go beyond the "argument for an interpretation of Genesis" to the level of general authority of consensus interpretation? Professor marginalia (talk) 06:43, 2 April 2010 (UTC)

Here are four sources that meet your criteria. I will assume that your continued silence concerning these four sources indicates that you agree that they fulfill your criteria and I will add them to the article on April 5:

Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, Unabridged, Genesis to Deuteronomy, by Matthew Henry see - “The manner in which this work was effected: God created it, that is, made it out of nothing. There was not any pre-existent matter out of which the world was produced. The fish and fowl were indeed produced out of the waters and the beasts and man out of the earth; but that earth and those waters were made out of nothing. By the ordinary power of nature, it is impossible that any thing should be made out of nothing; no artificer can work, unless he has something to work on. But by the almighty power of God it is not only possible that something should be made of nothing (the God of nature is not subject to the laws of nature), but in the creation it is impossible it should be otherwise, for nothing is more injurious to the honour of the Eternal Mind than the supposition of eternal matter. Thus the excellency of the power is of God and all the glory is to him.”

John Wesley’s notes on the whole Bible the Old Testament, Notes On The First Book Of Moses Called Genesis, by John Wesley, p.14 see - “Observe the manner how this work was effected; God created, that is, made it out of nothing. There was not any pre-existent matter out of which the world was produced. The fish and fowl were indeed produced out of the waters, and the beasts and man out of the earth; but that earth and those waters were made out of nothing. Observe when this work was produced; In the beginning — That is, in the beginning of time. Time began with the production of those beings that are measured by time. Before the beginning of time there was none but that Infinite Being that inhabits eternity.”

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown, 1871, Genesis chapter 1 see - “created--not formed from any pre-existing materials, but made out of nothing the heaven and the earth—the universe. This first verse is a general introduction to the inspired volume, declaring the great and important truth that all things had a beginning; that nothing throughout the wide extent of nature existed from eternity, originated by chance, or from the skill of any inferior agent; but that the whole universe was produced by the creative power of God.”

Commentaries on The First Book of Moses Called Genesis, by John Calvin, Translated from the Original Latin, and Compared with the French Edition, by the Rev. John King, M.A, 1578, Volume 1, Genesis 1:1-31 see - “In the beginning. To expound the term “beginning,” of Christ, is altogether frivolous. For Moses simply intends to assert that the world was not perfected at its very commencement, in the manner in which it is now seen, but that it was created an empty chaos of heaven and earth. His language therefore may be thus explained. When God in the beginning created the heaven and the earth, the earth was empty and waste. He moreover teaches by the word “created,” that what before did not exist was now made; for he has not used the term יצר, (yatsar,) which signifies to frame or forms but ברא, (bara,) which signifies to create. Therefore his meaning is, that the world was made out of nothing. Hence the folly of those is refuted who imagine that unformed matter existed from eternity; and who gather nothing else from the narration of Moses than that the world was furnished with new ornaments, and received a form of which it was before destitute.” Deadtotruth (talk) 23:58, 4 April 2010 (UTC)

The sources given do state that. Please stop making unwarranted deletions.Deadtotruth (talk) 17:37, 2 April 2010 (UTC)

I have found an additional source that we should add since it clearly states what you are asking for: "The manner in which this work was effected: God created it, that is, made it out of nothing. There was not any pre-existent matter out of which the world was produced. The fish and fowl were indeed produced out of the waters and the beasts and man out of the earth; but that earth and those waters were made out of nothing. By the ordinary power of nature, it is impossible that any thing should be made out of nothing; no artificer can work, unless he has something to work on. But by the almighty power of God it is not only possible that something should be made of nothing (the God of nature is not subject to the laws of nature), but in the creation it is impossible it should be otherwise, for nothing is more injurious to the honour of the Eternal Mind than the supposition of eternal matter. Thus the excellency of the power is of God and all the glory is to him." - Matthew Henry Commentary on GenesisDeadtotruth (talk) 01:05, 3 April 2010 (UTC)

Here are several more that meet your criteria that we should add to the refs:

The manner how this work was effected; God created, tha tis, made it out of nothing. There was not any pre - existent matter out of which the world was produced. The fish and fowl were indeed produced out of the waters, and the beasts and man out of the earth; but that earth and those waters were made out of nothing. – Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

“created--not formed from any pre-existing materials, but made out of nothing.” Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown

“In the beginning. To expound the term “beginning,” of Christ, is altogether frivolous. For Moses simply intends to assert that the world was not perfected at its very commencement, in the manner in which it is now seen, but that it was created an empty chaos of heaven and earth. His language therefore may be thus explained. When God in the beginning created the heaven and the earth, the earth was empty and waste. He moreover teaches by the word “created,” that what before did not exist was now made; for he has not used the term יצר, (yatsar,) which signifies to frame or forms but ברא, (bara,) which signifies to create. Therefore his meaning is, that the world was made out of nothing. Hence the folly of those is refuted who imagine that unformed matter existed from eternity; and who gather nothing else from the narration of Moses than that the world was furnished with new ornaments, and received a form of which it was before destitute.” - John Calvin Commentary on Genesis Volume 1 Deadtotruth (talk) 01:31, 3 April 2010 (UTC)

@deadtotruth-are you referring your Forty Minutes with Einstein et al? If so, this comment is in the wrong section. Please see discussion here. If you dispute my conclusions, please discuss there. You'll need to quote some of the relevant passages, because I couldn't find them in those books. Professor marginalia (talk) 17:46, 2 April 2010 (UTC)
@deadtotruth-this will be the *third* time I've pointed you to this issue. You have added many references (nine?) that I am challenging. Do they verify the claim they are attributing? I failed to find they do. I have given my reasons here. If you want to retain these references here, you have to answer these concerns. What, exactly, (quotes need here), do these sources say that verify the statement they are referencing. You are here, I'm asking you to point out, specifically, how they verify the claim. Let's focus on those first--they are still there, and it's not just me but several editors who have concerns about them. Professor marginalia (talk) 03:22, 3 April 2010 (UTC)
Quite so. The first line of Genesis opens with three things already in existence and not needing to be created: God, the Deep, and darkness. There's also the "wind of God", but it seems to be intimately associated with God and so perhaps shouldn't be counted as a separate entity. The Deep, which, incidentally, has no definite article (it's simply tahom, not ha-tahom), seems to correspond to the waters of chaos found in other ANE myths. This is the general modern understanding, and Wenham is in a distinct minority. PiCo (talk) 09:16, 2 April 2010 (UTC)
Oh, I think you're missing the value of Prof. von Rad. He is very much one of the great writers of the "progressive mainstream". He is neither a dogmatic conservative, nor a dogmatic radical, just a celebrated scholar of biblical literature, especially the Old Testament, and especially Genesis, as it turns out. (Germans have dominated theology for more than 500 years.)
I'm somewhat surprised you're not taking a reliable source like Prof. von Rad seriously, you disagree with him perhaps?
Surely it can't be regarding what he says about the Hebrew verb bārā′, which you'll have to admit is extremely well known.
To rehearse basics, though, you'd know as well as everyone else that the verb occurs precisely 53 times in the Hebrew Bible.
It has wide cognate lexeme attestation in Arabic, Phoenician, Babylonian, Assyrian, Aramaic, Arabic and Sabaean.
In the Bible, it is used "always of divine activity" (BDB). More importantly, although Biblical Hebrew has other lexemes which take no subject other than God, what is special about bārā′ is that it also "is never connected with any statement of the material" [out of which something might be fashioned by God].
For example, Genesis 2:7 says "Yahweh Elohim formed (Heb. yātsar) the man (Heb. ′adam) [out of] dust from the earth (Heb. ′adamah)."
Now, Prof. M., being familiar enough with sources on this topic to speak boldly about what is consensus amongst its scholars, will find it boring for me to point out that in this verse from Genesis 2, God's theta role is that of actor, but because the material from which he is doing his creating is explicit, Hebrew uses a different verb to bārā′, it uses yātsar.
So far, I'm presuming things are pretty clear. These are very well documented facts, unless Prof. M. has some reliable source of information I've not be made aware of.
So, there we have it, in black and white, the Hebrew uses a verb that implies ex nihilo. Not those very words, 'cause unless one has a very bizarre view of the date of composition of Genesis, the Latin phrase couldn't be found there, since the Latin language hadn't yet evolved when Genesis 1 was written or compiled.
Two streams of thought have competed with the plain meaning of the Hebrew. Very early in the history of Christianity, but late in the history of the Jews, Greek thought came to influence biblical interpretation. That story has been told and retold by scholars, with one man standing out by advancing the hypothesis that creation ex nihilo only became a Christian doctrine in reaction against this Greek influence. That scholar has his supporters, but I should think more opponents, and very many more who care not to comment.
A more substantial hypothesis that has been circulating for a little over a century is based on utilizing parallels Genesis may have with earlier ANE works recovered and deciphered a little earlier than that hypothesis was advanced. Parallels between Genesis and earlier material cannot be denied, even by the most conservative of scholars (though many did at first attempt this). However, differences between Genesis and earlier material are even more abundant, which has led, over a couple of generations of scholarship, to far less interest in the proposals that caused such a stir 100 years ago.
For many reasons, scholarship of biblical literature is far more eclectic these days than in times past. I think it would be hard to find consensus on many matters of interpretation. However, there is a countercurrent to that also. Thanks to a great deal of excellent lexicography and linguistics in the field of ancient languages, the meanings of words and the significance of inflections and syntax is much better undersood now than a century ago, and that data is certainly a matter of consensus (at least outside specialists in those ancient languages), most literary interpreters defer to the expertise of the linguists, though it's hard draw hard and fast lines between which scholars are purely literary and which purely linguistic.
Anyway, to conclude this response, I'll simply note that I'll be dropping in some reliable sources here that demonstrate the history of debate to this point on the question of creation ex nihilo, and I'd appreciate others co-operating with that project. I might be mistaken, but to my knowledge, creation ex nihilo is the standard reading of Genesis, other claims rest on demonstrating that early Christians thought differently influenced by Greek thought and some modern scholars think differently influenced by ANE cosmogony. The reader needs to know that Genesis 1:1-2 provoke an interesting question, in the light of other ancient writings, and that there are two points of view regarding an answer to that question. Alastair Haines (talk) 09:48, 2 April 2010 (UTC)
Okay-I found a perfect one!

Most other theologies, even liberal and liberation sorts, presume, as we shall see, the creation from nothing. In other words, the creatio ex nihilo has reigned largely uncontested in the language of the church since the third century ACE. This doctrinal hegemony might not surprise us, but for the untoward fact that the Bible does not support it. As Jon Levenson summarizes the situation: “the overture to the Bible, Genesis 1.1-2.3, cannot be invoked in support of the developed Jewish, Christian, and Muslim doctrine of creatio ex nihilo.” 7 Among biblical scholars there has existed on this matter a near, if nervous, consensus for decades. The Bible knows only of the divine formation of the world out of a chaotic something: not creatio ex nihilo, but ex nihilo nihil fit ('from nothing comes nothing'), the common sense of the ancient world. Yet theological orthodoxy has from nearly its own beginnings insisted on reading its nihil into the first chapter." The Face of the Deep: A Theology of Becoming Catherine Keller Routledge 2002.

So I think here we've got it all. Ex nihilo is "presumed" and has been for 2 thousand years-and-the consensus of modern biblical scholars is that the "nothing" idea as it's come to mean is not really there. Problem solved so long as the statement is tweaked a little bit so that it's clear that Genesis is "interpreted to mean" "out of nothing". The intro isn't the place to digress into the debate - just introduce the concept. This reference is perfect-it establishes the significance of ex nihilo, it makes it clear the meaning of it is opinion, not objective fact, it is speaking specifically of Genesis creation and how all three traditions took it to mean, and both Keller and Levenson are authorities in theology-as opposed to authorities in astronomy and physics. Professor marginalia (talk) 16:16, 2 April 2010 (UTC)

Matthew Henry, Wesley, Calvin, Jamieson, Fausset and Brown clearly refute keller and levenson. See Citations above. They are also much better known. It would seem that the half dozen or so refs are not enough so we should add these refs to the other refs.Deadtotruth (talk) 01:10, 3 April 2010 (UTC)

"Keller argues that the Enuma Elish, with its story of Marduk's battle with Tiamat, is a more probable interpretive framework for Genesis 1:1-2 than is creatio ex nihilo. Drawing from various Christian and Jewish exegetes, Keller argues that one can discern in Genesis 1:1-2 a hidden 'biblical tehomophilia'."
—Bradford McCall, Review descriptive summary of argument, positive conclusion
"According to Keller, this linear salvation history desperately wants to be straight, and, hence, suppresses all that does not fit its orderly structure: those 'who bear the mask of chaos, the skins of darkness, the genders of unspeakable openings' (p. 6)."
—Hilda P. Koster, Review in Anglican Theological Review
Catherine Keller represents at least two very well-known strands within theology, neither of which are consensus positions: firstly process theology and secondly feminist theology. Process theology has reasons to prefer creation not to be ex nihilo, observe the sub-title of the book, A theology of becoming. Feminist theology has reasons to prefer process theology also, but that's a long story.
I note that Keller drives a wedge between theology and biblical scholarship, placing herself in the latter category not the category of biblical scholars. "Most ... theologies ... presume ... creation from nothing ... ex nihilo has reigned largely uncontested ... since the third century." "Theological orthodoxy has from nearly its own beginnings insisted on reading ... nihil into the first chapter." Keller is claiming that biblical scholars are not theologians and have their own "near, if nervous, consensus".
Good for Keller, a theologian, by her own admission not a biblical scholar, stepping outside the consensus she claims for her own field, to disagree with it and side with the consensus she claims for biblical scholarship. I'm all for us documenting the views of theologians, though I'll be supplying mainly the work of theologians who are also biblical scholars, not in the opinion of Keller it seems, but at least in the opinion of publishers and other academics.
I'm curious, though, does Keller actually provide a review of the literature she claims shows a consensus for non ex nihilo readings? Or is all we've got Keller herself so far? Alastair Haines (talk) 18:11, 2 April 2010 (UTC)

More sources that speak to the history of the debate:

  • Richard S. Hess, "One Hundred Fifty Years of Comparative Studies on Genesis 1--11: an overview", chapter 1 in Richard S. Hess and David Toshio Tsumura (eds), I studied inscriptions from before the flood: ancient Near Eastern, literary, and linguistic approaches to Genesis 1--11, (Eisenbrauns, 1994), pp. 3--.
@Alastair Haines-I don't for a minute pretend that Keller's view of creation is to replace ex nihilo here, and the opening in this article (which is all I'm focused on to start with) makes no claim about consensus of modern biblical scholars. It does demonstrate that ex nihilo predominates and that ex nihilo is not a universal interpretation. Since she's "writing for the enemy", so to speak, she's confirming ex nihilo's overall notability. If you dispute her conclusion about modern scholarly consensus that's fine. But that claim isn't made in the introduction here, and personally I don't think it belongs there. In other words, all we need to do is source, "The first narrative, Genesis 1:1–2:3, begins with the indeterminate period in which God created the heavens and the earth out of nothing (ex nihilo)[4] or out of primordial waters / chaos." I think we should avoid trying to load this lead with the myriad of disputes over it. Professor marginalia (talk) 18:23, 2 April 2010 (UTC)
I think that the text Professor intends to use is useful, although the claims of the author are somewhat suspect. The author is claiming more of a consensus before (for ex nihilo) and more of a consensus after (chaos) than may be warranted for either side. However, for NOTABILITY (as Professor seems to intend to use the source) it's probably as good as most of the ones offered thus far. It may be enough to find a source that says something to the effect of "it's difficult to find a commentary or theology covering this passage which does not address a position either for or against ex nihilo" (to establish notability). But the suggested reference of Professor is probably helpful to anchor the section.EGMichaels (talk) 18:51, 2 April 2010 (UTC)
@Prof. M. Good stuff. Yes, if the Keller quote is used to establish that there are two views, and still in tension, that is fine by me. That is a consensus point of view. All that would concern me is if her slant on theology and biblical scholarship even in this quote was also considered to be consensus, which it is not. It is a good quote, in the sense it establishes that there are two points of view. It is a bad quote, in the sense that it also makes other claims which are far from being supported by other sources. As regards Keller's claim that the majority of theologians still uphold creation ex nihilo, that is claimed by the source below also. (The reason it is so important to theistic theologians also is clear in this source.) Alastair Haines (talk) 18:56, 2 April 2010 (UTC)
"Today the majority of scholars who take seriously the mutually constructive interaction between theology and science support the core conviction that evolution is God's way of creating life. God is both the absolute, transcendent source of the universe and the continuing, immanent creator of biological complexity. God gives the universe its existence at every moment ex nihilo and is the ultimate source of nature's causal efficacy, faithfully maintaining its regularities which we describe as the laws of nature."
—Robert John Russell, "Special Providence and Genetic Mutation: A New Defense of Theistic Evolution", chapter 15 in Keith B. Miller, Perspectives on an evolving creation, (Eerdmans, 2003). Emphasis added.
I think we are on the same track here, Alastair. The quote itself claims too much. Notability, yes. The presence of two views, yes. But the near unanimity of a before and after shot and the claims being made on both sides regarding a claimed discomfort between biblical scholars and theologians is problematic.EGMichaels (talk) 19:02, 2 April 2010 (UTC)
We're making progress, but this work isn't explicitly talking about the meaning of the opening passages of the "genesis creation account". Remember this article is about the creation account in Genesis, not the doctrine of ex nihilo and the intriguing scientific quandaries that relate to it. The reference has to put the two together-we can't. Professor marginalia (talk) 19:11, 2 April 2010 (UTC)
I appreciate what you are attempting to do (as I said about another matter as well) -- but the execution isn't exactly perfect (can't we say that about us all?). My citations from Wenham and Tediousness' citation from the 2 Peter commentary certainly demonstrate the existence of multiple views. Indeed, just the other day I included more detail from Wenham that lists not two but four different constructions of the Hebrew syntax -- three of which presume creation from chaos, and one leaning toward creation ex nihilo (or something like it). You may find it interesting that this precise footnote was deleted last night and restored just before the lockdown of the article. In any case, my point is that we do not need (per se) a quote that puts the two views together. That's already been done by the Wenham citations I restored. Yes, putting the two together is HELPFUL, but the particular citation you supplied isn't. Process Theology is a well known POV and should be represented. Your citation appears to represent Process Theology. Check. Your citation appears to show that there are two views. Again, check. But your citation goes way too far to claim unanimity among THEOLOGIANS toward ex nihilo (when Process Theologians are already an exception) and unanimity among BIBLICAL SCHOLARS toward chaos (when Wenham and a host of others can show otherwise). You started well, but found a very awkward citation with rather unfortunately overblown claims. I have to admit that I'm less comfortable with your own citation than some of the ones you deleted (and please bear in mind I've reffed BOTH sides of the equation here). I would say, though, that your first attempt was really very good. It just went WAY too far. There are multiple views, but no unanimity in either camp for one side or the other. At best she could have argued tendencies and even normative tendencies -- but her wording is unfortunate.EGMichaels (talk) 21:11, 2 April 2010 (UTC)
I'm not married to that cite. I'm fine with finding a better one-however we don't need to get so hung up over "going too far" because the parts that you say have "gone too far" aren't going into the article anyway. (We're not quoting her). However any cite used there must directly, explicitly, associate ex nihilo to the Genesis account. Given the degree to which this has been a subject of dispute, I'm not being pedantic about this distinction. To move past this we need a good citation and the reference used has to directly verify the claim. That's not negotiable. The no original research policy is quite clear that you can't source a single claim by joining pieces of it from two different references to construct an argument for it. Find one good, solid and authoritative source that says it, that explicitly identifies it as a widely accepted interpretation of genesis, and we can move on. Two would be great. Professor marginalia (talk) 21:31, 2 April 2010 (UTC)
Well, we still have Wenham. Alastair or yourself could find another commentary or two (most of my excess are either loaned out or in storage -- and I donated a lot to a seminary a few years ago that I now regret). As for theologians, I think Erickson has a good habit of citing other theologians in different traditions, but I've loaned out my copy. All I have at the moment is Berkhof. In any case, I think that the best sources for a heavily disputed issue would be biblical commentaries and perhaps a "theology of the old testament" (I just looked for mine and it might be packed up somewhere from a recent move).
To your "no original research" point, let's not paint ourselves into a corner. It's fair to say that a point of view can be found in a certain tradition or discipline and give examples. That's not really original research because it's not making a value claim. It's just "some people think this" and show some people who do. One need not drive himself crazy finding a source that explicitly says "some people think this" because it's not a value claim. Some people think all kinds of things. An example of a POV is sufficient to document that a POV exists, without crossing the line of "no original research." I'm sure someone will argue with me there, and I'd agree that it's BETTER to find a third party that quotes several other parties to make the point that "some people think thus and so."
Where "no original research" is crossed is when someone tried to make a substantive claim that something is or is not a normative view. It doesn't matter how many examples you cited, you can't claim "normative" on your own. You'd need a sources that SAID "normative" or "fringe." But just documenting that a view existed merely needs an example or two.EGMichaels (talk) 22:01, 2 April 2010 (UTC)
Wenham wasn't among the cites given for that claim, so I haven't investigated it. Wenham is far superior to Forty Minutes with Einstein and that set. So why wasn't it used instead? (Short version) Professor marginalia (talk) 23:12, 2 April 2010 (UTC)
Never mind-looked back a bit in the archives. Ex nihilo is not a normative definition of creation nor universal interpretation, and it is not a fringe interpretation. It should be possible to word that statement better. I'm going to think about this awhile. In any event, the published conclusions drawn from Einstein and Hawking are completely trivial to the dispute-those sources don't and can't help at all. Professor marginalia (talk) 00:27, 3 April 2010 (UTC)
Professor -- not sure why you are still arguing Hawking and Einstein. I had no vested interest in those refs and did not make them. I merely requested that you touch base with the editor who had added them in case there was something you missed. It's a simple courtesy that you would appreciate yourself. And, in fact, the editor who added those refs has stated here that he is satisfied with the current article (sans those refs). No fight was necessary (nor threats from Aunt). In any case, I had previously tweaked the wording around Deadtotruth's refs so that they were not being used as the basis for understanding Genesis itself as ex nihilo, but rather mere examples of people in other fields who had done so. In other words, I had taken the value judgment "teeth" out of the refs and left them as examples of "some people think so".
In any case, I think everyone here is missing something very important that Wenham did say (and this is my fault). While creation from chaos has Babylonian mythological parallels, creation ex nihilo has Egyptian parallels. Wenham has noted this in his commentary, and this certainly needs inclusion. Regardless of whether one actually believes the Israelites sojourned in Egypt, the fact that they CLAIMED to have done so establishes a literary link with Egypt. The Egyptian Leiden Hymns establish the "I Am!" God who created all things -- including himself. While Wenham does not specifically state that this particular hymn is a direct precedent, we can certainly use Wenham's statement regarding the Egyptian ex nihilo connection and cite that Leiden Hymn as an example without violating "no original research."
What's important to realize is that ex nihilo and chaos is not a demythologizing or mythologizing argument per se, since both find parallels in ancient literature of the two lands in which the Hebrews claimed to have come: Egypt and Babylon.EGMichaels (talk) 00:23, 4 April 2010 (UTC)
<sigh> I'm not directing my comments at you, egmichaels. Note, Wenham is not sourcing that claim. Einstein and Hawking are! It's relevant to the discussion then, isn't it? Can we agree now those references don't belong, and have them removed at least? The quality of sources do matter and they are still there.Professor marginalia (talk) 01:39, 4 April 2010 (UTC)
I wasn't aware that they were still there. Apologies, but Shabbat intervened and I missed the changes. I had thought that they had been removed before the article was locked down, and that was what Deadtotruth had responded affirmatively to. All I've ever asked is that you touch base with him to see if he saw something in the refs you might have missed. It happens all the time. It would have taken you two a few minutes, rather than all the rest of us days and hours. Granted, you might have had to wait for him to pop in, but a little note on his talk page would have brought him straight by, I'm sure. Still don't know why collaboration is such a difficult thing. Well -- the article doesn't open back up for a while yet. You guys can probably reach an agreement pretty easily -- most editors DO agree to a little tweaking and improvement of sources if you give them the time of day.EGMichaels (talk) 01:45, 4 April 2010 (UTC)
This is an "anyone can edit" and "Verifiability means that anyone should be able to check the sources to verify that material in a Wikipedia article has already been published by a reliable source, as required by this policy" and "Substandard or disputed information is subject to removal" wiki. And in honor of the wiki and this special time of the year, I accept your apology, and with magnanity leave the rest to you so you may enjoy your own posturing as much as you like. Professor marginalia (talk) 03:13, 4 April 2010 (UTC)
Of course anyone can edit, and of course we should double check the sources. As I said, you STARTED well. I merely encouraged you double check with Deadtotruth to see if he saw something you didn't. You've spent eight times as much effort avoiding that as it would have to have simply followed my suggestion. It's best to co-opt other editors in a collaborative manner if you want to avoid a bunch of battles. Courtesy isn't posturing. It's just... being polite.EGMichaels (talk) 03:18, 4 April 2010 (UTC)
If you go back to the top of this thread, the quote from Gerhard von Rad is taken from his famous commentary on Genesis, and from a section specifically dealing with Genesis 1.
Von Rad is famous for taking on board unorthodox approaches to the Bible, and for producing new methodologies. He was a participant in the debate regarding the German project to "demythologize" the Bible. He is a notable scholar par excellance, both a theologian and a biblical scholar in the estimation of his peers, of very diverse convictions.
Not all theologians and biblical scholars can be presumed to be partisan. Indeed, unless a scholar self-identifies as a process theologian or whatever, that cannot be reasoned by Wiki editors, but only established by published self-disclosure, or by a peer's published conclusion from their works.
I have been generally been chosing sources based on the stature of the writers involved. That is, people whose opinions are valued, by even their opponents, as being the very best of scholarship. In many cases they have wide followings, in other cases they are the "non-paper-tigers" that are engaged with as the gold standard voice for the opposition.
Von Rad will not cease influencing scholarship for some decades to come at least. The words of the Bible have not changed for 1500 years at least (probably much longer). It is rare for interpretation of those words to change much over time. Scientific discoveries have radically altered interpretation of the Bible at various points in history. The ANE documents raised questions. The documentary hypothesis raised others. We do understand the Bible better as a result of that data and that hypothesis. The sexual revolution also prompted a desire to reinterpret the Bible, though it's probably relatively too recent to guage whether any genuine new understanding has resulted as yet.
One way or another, there really has been a lot of discussion of new understandings of what the Bible actually says over the last hundred years. However, stepping back from it all, the final result is more like tweaking than the revolutions in new knowledge we see regularly in (other) sciences.
Von Rad is a first class source for the ex nihilo position: a famous, non-partisan source.
Of course, he is not a source for how many people still agree with him now, but there are very many. It would be odd if there weren't. Things don't generally move very fast in theology (which is possibly why its a field little ol' me thinks he might try to keep up with). As a general rule, sources that claim radical new theologies or interpretations of the Bible are suspect. Too many very great minds have applied themselves to the issues. If you want to break new ground, you're better off in other disciplines. Alastair Haines (talk) 11:23, 3 April 2010 (UTC)

Hello Professor, I'm still waiting for a response to my earlier questions: 1) which sources do you not have access to that you need quotes from. I posted some of the easier ones to get things rolling. 2) You introduced a new criteria that you would like the refs to meet and I have supplied four additional refs that I believe meet your new criteria to add to the group. This is now the third request for a response concerning the four additional refs. Also you asked for the info on Calvin and now that I have gone to the trouble of supplying the info a response would be appreciated. I don't necessarily agree with your criteria for the refs since it comes from a specific POV IMO, but I am willing to try to accomodate you if I can in order to reach a consensus. Unless I hear a reasonable objection from you concerning the four additional refs (Calvin, Henry, Wesley, Jameison et al) I will add them to the article on 4/5/10. I am trying to understand your criteria and a response concerning the four refs that I believe meet your criteria would be helpful in trying to understand your requests concerning refs for ex nihilo.Deadtotruth (talk) 00:15, 5 April 2010 (UTC)

@deadtotruth. I'm not going to repeat the list I want quotes from because I've repeated it to you so many times, here on this talk page and also here. Your new sources are a completely separate issue. No, they don't "refute" Keller and Levenson--(Matthew Henry, John Wesley, John Calvin, and Robert Jamieson lived and died before the period that Keller and Levenson are referring to in their claims that Alastair takes issue with.)
I'm going to stop you short here to emphasize that I don't think you understand at all what I did. I did not remove any content. I did not remove the ex nihilo claim in the article. I removed nine out-and-out ridiculous sources used to quote/unquote verify it. Sources that cannot be defended, even by you, since you've made it clear you won't do so, or EGMichaels who, despite edit warring to keep them, has no defense to offer for them except I was "discourteous" to you for not asking your leave personally, on your talk page, before I removed them. Having now asked you, several times, and failing still to get a satisfactory explanation for keeping them, I'm optimistic that all the barriers have been removed and we can finally go forward and have them removed. And as a bonus to all the article's readers and talk page bystanders we can stop cluttering both the main space and talk space with these irrelevant 9 sources.
Many legit verifiable sources have been put forth to support that claim that have dissolved into edit wars because they aren't "perfect" in one way or another. In stark contrast, these nine I've disputed didn't qualify at even a rudimentary level. Even at WP, one can't sidestep valid disputes and try to ascend Mt Intractable by stacking up a 9 stepped tower of steaming cowpies[4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12]. Professor marginalia (talk) 07:02, 5 April 2010 (UTC)

Lets' see what we've established so far:

1. By his own admission the professor removed refs before he checked their content (violation of WP unwarranted deletion policy). Even now he has indicated that he plans a mass deletion of nine refs even though he has indicated that two refs in the group, yonge and schaff, are acceptable. Thus any action on the part of the professor to delete the yonge and schaff refs is not just an unwarranted deletion but vandalism since he has accepted the validity of those refs. 2. The professor created an unreasonable requirement that all refs concerning ex nihilo contain the phrase "out of nothing." This would disqualify the works of Plato and Aristotle who also didn't use the phrase "out of nothing." I refer the professor to the article in wikipedia concerning ex nihilo. The key phrases in ex nihilo terminology are "first cause" and "beginning." The septuagint version of Genesis 1:1 contains the same terminology as Plato with the greek word "ἀρχῇ" which can be translated as "primary cause." The nine refs in question use terminology consistent with the wikipedia article on ex nihilo. The professor's requirement would be tantamount to requiring any mention of the Christian concept of the rapture refer only to Bible verses that contain the word "rapture" which of course doesn't appear in the Bible. So using the professor's fallacious logic the Bible doesn't refer to ex nihilo or to the rapture. Biblical commentators, theologians, layman, etc. have discussed both of these concepts in relation to specific Biblical passages even though those passages don't contain the words "out of nothing" or "rapture." So the professor's hyperbolic requirement is without any academic or logical foundation and is therefore not valid. 3. Ex Nihilo as used by scientists is with respect to either the universe having a beginning or point of origin. With the proof of the hubble constant of an expanding universe - physicists including Einstein accepted the concept that the universe had a beginning or point of origin similar to the Ex Nihilo concept. The refs I've supplied support or address the views of scientists concerning the universe having a beginning or point of origin. 4. More references demonstrating the connection between Genesis and ex nihilo, spacetime, the Big Bang are needed since hyperbolic attacks such as those launched by the professor aren't completely addressed. Thus the four refs from Calvin, Jamieson, Wesley and Henry and the additional ref to Smoot p. 17 should be added to this article since they contain the words "Genesis" and "out of nothing." These five refs meet the professor's requirement and so far he has failed to indicate any deficiency in these refs. 5. Additional sections are needed in this article since tedentious editors such as the professor want to contentiously address as separate topics the overlapping concepts in ex nihilo, spacetime, the big bang theory. Thus two additional sections should be added to address spacetime and the big bang theory in addition to ex nihilo. Deadtotruth (talk) 16:25, 5 April 2010 (UTC)

This is absolutely ridiculous. A Mad Hatter's Tea Party:
  1. There are 11 refs to the claim. Douglas 1956; Smoot & Davidson 1993, pp. 30, 189; Herbert 1985, p. 177; Parker 1988, p. 202; Fain 2007, pp. 30-36; Heeren 2000, pp. 107-108, 121, 135, 157; Schaff 1995; Clontz 2008; Jastrow 1992, p. 14; Ellis 1993, p. 97; Yonge 1993 And 11 - 2 = 9. I left Yonge and Schaff alone, and haven't threatened to remove them. I left them because at least some plausible case can be made to keep them, whereas the other 9 clearly don't belong. And I know exactly where you got 8 of them-and it wasn't from researching ex nihilo in those works themselves, but you cherry picked them directly from here. I know this because you copied and pasted the citations, format, pagination, and missed attribution errors included. Of those 9 I removed, (7 I verified prior, 1 I removed because it was a New Testament translation and Genesis 1 is not in the New Testament, and the last Before the Beginning was yet another Big Bang themed essay by an astronomer and publicized by a now gone publishing house that concentrated on works that were "totally unusual and about a world unknown to most English and American readers"(owner Catheryn Kilgarriff). In defense of using it as a reference you quote this passage, "To make sense of this view (design as opposed to accident), one must accept the idea of transcendence: that the Designer exists in a totally different order of reality or being, not restrained within the bounds of the Universe itself". And in no way does that statement verify that Genesis 1 begins with creation "out of nothing". My removal of those references was then, and remains now, 100% justified.
  2. Now you say Plato and Aristotle are valid sources of the interpretation of Genesis 1 also? Still joking, I see.
No, I said that Plato and Aristotle are valid sources for the interpreation of Ex Nihilo.
  1. I've told you before but ex nihilo does not mean "having a point of origin". It means "out of nothing". Big Bang, as I explained to you, is not "out of nothing", and the Big Bang is not Genesis 1. It may well be that part of your problem is that you don't really understand exactly what creatio ex nihilo from Genesis 1 is all about, or what we need to source it here.
You apparently don’t understand the Big Bang theory or the importance of the Hubble constant. Einstein originally based his theories on a universe that wasn’t expanding. If the universe was expanding then it had a beginning and if it had a beginning then something or someone extra-universal started the universe in his original view. Einstein’s understanding was that if the universe was expanding then not only did it have a beginning but that the beginning was caused by God. Einstein as a scientist ruled out the possibility of an expanding universe and therefore God as a cause. He only accepted the expanding universe after he was faced with incontrovertible physical proof that the universe was expanding (the work of Hubble). This led Einstein to explore the possibility that the universe was caused by God. This also made Hubble famous since he de facto proved Einstein wrong on an important aspect of the physical universe.
  1. If you add any more of the Einstein spacetime garbage to source a claim about what Genesis 1 says, I promise I'll be giving it a lot of scrutiny-again...
Your statement is nothing more than POV and indicates that you are not interested in a NPOV article.
  1. I'm far happier to let Calvin or Jamieson source that claim than Einstein and Hawking. But what you don't seem to grasp here is...there are other editors here that have been calling to use more recent references to biblical scholarship which encompass the diversity of opinions about what Genesis 1 means. But nobody can in all seriousness pretend those 9 works I've challenged qualify as authorities on "biblical scholarship".
Actually before I showed up no one was much interested in sources of any kind for this article. Part of the rope a dope is that they want the references to go away under any pretense. They have had plenty of time to offer more recent references and I would welcome more references. Most of the references I supplied are recent in any meaningful sense of scholarship. As an aside, Pico doesn't want Schaff used for Augustine. No one disputes the accuracy of the quotes for Augustine and in fact the book is recent printing 1990's since it is still a valid and useful reference for the works of Augustine.
I don't have the time to devote to arguing with you for hours on end about this (we've gotten nowhere so far), and I may be too busy for the next few days to reply to any new baseless accusations you may decide to launch against me, but if you're patient you'll find me most willing to redress them when I free up the time. Professor marginalia (talk) 17:38, 5 April 2010 (UTC)
fair enoughDeadtotruth (talk) 00:44, 6 April 2010 (UTC)
The key question, professor, is whether Smoot, the nobel laureate in physics in 2006, is an authority on scientific scholarship. Unquestionably and indisputably he is. Furthermore, he is one of the world's foremost experts on the big bang theory. Smoot is explicit in connecting the Genesis creation myth with modern scientific views on the beginning of the universe including ex nihilo. There is no justification for trying to delete the refs from Smoot or for trying to block the addition of refs from him. These refs unquestionably belong in the article since they are from a world renown expert who is contemporary.
Wrinkles in Time, George Smoot and Keay Davidson, New York: William Morrow and Company, 1993, (p. 17: “There is no doubt that a parallel exists between the big bang as an event and the Christian notion of creation from nothing.”) (p. 30: “Until the late 1910’s humans were as ignorant of cosmic origins as they had ever been. Those who didn’t take Genesis literally had no reason to believe there had been a beginning.”) (p. 189: “The question of ‘the beginning’ is as inescapable for cosmologists as it is for theologians.”)
So far, I seem to be the only one quoting nobel prize winners (Smoot, Einstein) and I find it incredible that their views are being challenged as scholarly or relevant. Of course, this is the page with the editors who want the founder of Wikipedia, Wales, to justify his view on changing the title of this article back to the original. I believe that you should revisit the Smoot quotes. This is not an article on biblical scholarship - it is an article on the creation myth and myths are full of different perspectives including those held by nobel prize winnners.Deadtotruth (talk) 00:04, 6 April 2010 (UTC)

Since the professor maintains that he doesn't have acess to any of the refs, I reluctantly am forced to place the info for the remaing refs below. I'm not posting the info from fain since it is not public domain and six pages would violate copyright laws. I have re-checked the page numbers and in a few cases found a discrepancy which I corrected. Below is the remaining material requested by the professor:

Wrinkles in Time, George Smoot and Keay Davidson, New York: William Morrow and Company, 1993, (p. 30: “Until the late 1910’s humans were as ignorant of cosmic origins as they had ever been. Those who didn’t take Genesis literally had no reason to believe there had been a beginning.”)

Wrinkles in Time, George Smoot and Keay Davidson, New York: William Morrow and Company, 1993, (p. 189: “The question of ‘the beginning’ is as inescapable for cosmologists as it is for theologians.”)

Creation—the Story of the Origin and Evolution of the Universe, Barry Parker, New York & London: Plenum Press, 1988, (p. 202: “If we accept the big bang theory, and most cosmologists now do, then a ‘creation’ of some sort is forced upon us.”)

Yonge, Charles Duke (1854). "Appendices A Treatise Concerning the World (1), On the Creation (16-19, 26-30), Special Laws IV (187), On the Unchangeableness of God (23-32)". The Works of Philo Judaeus: the contemporary of Josephus. London: H. G. Bohn.

Squeeze Yong
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Appendices A Treatise Concerning the World (1)

I. There is no existing thing equal in honor to God, but he is the one Ruler, and Governor, and King, to whom alone it is lawful to govern and regulate everything; for the verse - "A multitude of masters is not good, Let there one sovereign be, one king of All,"{hom. Il. 2.204.} is not more appropriate to be said with respect to cities and men than to the world and God, for it follows inevitably that there must be one Creator and Master of one world; and this position having been laid down and conceded as a preliminary, it is only consistent with sense to connect with it what follows from it of necessity. Let us now, therefore, consider what inferences these are. God being one being, has two supreme powers of the greatest importance. By means of these powers the incorporeal world, appreciable only by the intellect, was put together, which is the archetypal model of this world which is visible to us, being formed in such a manner as to be perceptible to our invisible conceptions just as the other is to our eyes. Therefore some persons, marveling at the nature of both these worlds, have not only worshipped them in their entirety as gods, but have also deified the most beautiful parts of them, I mean for instance the sun, and the moon, and the whole heaven, which, without any fear or reverence, they called gods. And Moses, perceiving the ideas which they entertained, says, "O Lord, King of all Gods,"{Deuteronomy 10:17.} in order to point out the great superiority of the Ruler to his subjects. And the original founder of the Jewish nation was a Chaldean by birth, being the son of a father who was much devoted to the study of astronomy, and being among people who were great studiers of mathematical science, who think the stars, and the whole heaven, and the whole world gods; and they say that both good and evil result from their speculations and belief, since they do not believe in anything as a cause which is apart from those things which are visible to the outward senses. But what can be worse than this, or more calculated to display the want of true nobility existing in the soul, than the notion of causes in general being secondary and created causes, combined with an ignorance of the one first cause, the uncreated God, the Creator of the universe, who for these and innumerable other reasons is most excellent, reasons which because of their magnitude human intellect is unable to apprehend? but this founder of the Jewish nation having conceived an idea of him in his mind, and looking upon him as the true God, forsook his native country and his family, and his father's house, knowing that if he remained, the deceits of the polytheistic doctrine also remaining in his soul would render his intellect incapable of discovering the nature of the one God, who is alone everlasting, and the father of everything else, whether appreciable only by the intellect or perceptible to the outward senses; but if he departed and emigrated, then he saw that deceit would also depart from his mind, which would then change its erroneous opinions into truth. And at the same time the oracular commands of God, which had been given to him, did further excite the desire which he felt to become acquainted with the living God. And he went forth like a man under the immediate guidance of others, with the most unhesitating promptness, to search after the knowledge of the one God; and he did not relax in his search till he had arrived at a more accurate and correct perception, not indeed of his essences (for that is impossible), but of his existence and of his providence; on which account he is the first man of whom it is said that he believed in God, since he was the first who had an accurate and positive notion of him, believing that there is one supreme cause of all things, which by his providence takes care of the world and of all things that are therein.

On the Creation (16-19) (16) for God, as apprehending beforehand, as a God must do, that there could not exist a good imitation without a good model, and that of the things perceptible to the external senses nothing could be faultless which was not fashioned with reference to some archetypal idea conceived by the intellect, when he had determined to create this visible world, previously formed that one which is perceptible only by the intellect, in order that so using an incorporeal model formed as far as possible on the image of God, he might then make this corporeal world, a younger likeness of the elder creation, which should embrace as many different genera perceptible to the external senses, as the other world contains of those which are visible only to the intellect. (17) But that world which consists of ideas, it was impious in any degree to attempt to describe or even to imagine: but how it was created, we shall know if we take for our guide a certain image of the things which exist among us. When any city is founded through the exceeding ambition of some king or leader who lays claim to absolute authority, and is at the same time a man of brilliant imagination, eager to display his good fortune, then it happens at times that some man coming up who, from his education, is skilful in architecture, and he, seeing the advantageous character and beauty of the situation, first of all sketches out in his own mind nearly all the parts of the city which is about to be completed--the temples, the gymnasia, the prytanea, and markets, the harbor, the docks, the streets, the arrangement of the walls, the situations of the dwelling houses, and of the public and other buildings. (18) Then, having received in his own mind, as on a waxen tablet, the form of each building, he carries in his heart the image of a city, perceptible as yet only by the intellect, the images of which he stirs up in memory which is innate in him, and, still further, engraving them in his mind like a good workman, keeping his eyes fixed on his model, he begins to raise the city of stones and wood, making the corporeal substances to resemble each of the incorporeal ideas. (19) Now we must form a somewhat similar opinion of God, who, having determined to found a mighty state, first of all conceived its form in his mind, according to which form he made a world perceptible only by the intellect, and then completed one visible to the external senses, using the first one as a model. On the Creation (26-30) (26) Moses says also; "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth:" taking the beginning to be, not as some men think, that which is according to time; for before the world time had no existence, but was created either simultaneously with it, or after it; for since time is the interval of the motion of the heavens, there could not have been any such thing as motion before there was anything which could be moved; but it follows of necessity that it received existence subsequently or simultaneously. It therefore follows also of necessity, that time was created either at the same moment with the world, or later than it--and to venture to assert that it is older than the world is absolutely inconsistent with philosophy. (27) But if the beginning spoken of by Moses is not to be looked upon as spoken of according to time, then it may be natural to suppose that it is the beginning according to number that is indicated; so that, "In the beginning he created," is equivalent to "first of all he created the heaven;" for it is natural in reality that that should have been the first object created, being both the best of all created things, and being also made of the purest substance, because it was destined to be the most holy abode of the visible Gods who are perceptible by the external senses; (28) for if the Creator had made everything at the same moment, still those things which were created in beauty would no less have had a regular arrangement, for there is no such thing as beauty in disorder. But order is a due consequence and connection of things precedent and subsequent, if not in the completion of a work, at all events in the intention of the maker; for it is owing to order that they become accurately defined and stationary, and free from confusion. (29) In the first place therefore, from the model of the world, perceptible only by intellect, the Creator made an incorporeal heaven, and an invisible earth, and the form of air and of empty space: the former of which he called darkness, because the air is black by nature; and the other he called the abyss, for empty space is very deep and yawning with immense width. Then he created the incorporeal substance of water and of air, and above all he spread light, being the seventh thing made; and this again was incorporeal, and a model of the sun, perceptible only to intellect, and of all the light giving stars, which are destined to stand together in heaven. (30) And air and light he considered worthy of the pre-eminence. For the one he called the breath of God, because it is air, which is the most life-giving of things, and of life the causer is God; and the other he called light, because it is surpassingly beautiful: for that which is perceptible only by intellect is as far more brilliant and splendid than that which is seen, as I conceive, the sun is than darkness, or day than night, or the intellect than any other of the outward senses by which men judge (inasmuch as it is the guide of the entire soul), or the eyes than any other part of the body.

Special Laws IV (187) (187) for this is to act in imitation of God, since he also has the power to do either good or evil, but his inclination causes him only to do good. And the creation and arrangement of the world shows this, for he has summoned what had previously no being into existence, creating order out of disorder, and distinctive qualities out of things which had no such qualities, and similarities out of things dissimilar, and identity out of things which were different, and intercommunion and harmony out of things which had previously no communication nor agreement, and equality out of inequality, and light out of darkness; for he is always anxious to exert his beneficent powers in order to change whatever is disorderly from its present evil condition, and to transform it so as to bring it into a better state.

On The Unchangeableness of God (23-32) (23) And it seems good to the lawgiver that the perfect man should desire tranquility; for it was said to the wise man in the character of God, "But stand thou here with me," this expression showing the unchangeable and unalterable nature of the mind which is firmly established in the right way; (24) for it is really marvelous when any one touches the soul, like a lyre tuned in musical principles, not with sharp and flat sounds, but with an accurate knowledge of contrary tones, and employing only the best, not sounding any too loudly, nor on the other hand letting any be too weak, so as to impair the harmony of the virtues and of those things which are good by nature, and when he, preserving it in an equal condition plays and sings melodiously; (25) for this instrument nature has made to be the most perfect of all, and to be the model of all instruments made by the hand. And if this be properly tuned, it will utter the most exquisite of all symphonies, which consists not in the combination and tones of a melodious voice, but in a harmonious agreement of all the actions in life; (26) therefore, as the soul of man can allay the excessive storm and swell of the sea, which the violent and irresistible gale of wickedness has suddenly raised, by the gentle breezes of knowledge and wisdom, and having mitigated its swelling and boisterous fury, enjoys tranquility resting in an unruffled calm. Do you doubt whether the imperishable, and everlasting, and blessed God, the Being endowed with all the virtues, and with all perfection, and with all happiness is unchangeable in his counsels, and whether he abides by the designs which he originally formed, without changing any of them. (27) Facility of change is indeed an attribute of man, which is of necessity incidental to their nature by reason of its external want of firmness; as in this way, for instance: - often when we have chosen friends, and have lived some short time with them, without having any thing to accuse them of, we then turn away from them, so as to place ourselves in the rank of enemies, or at least of strangers to them; (28) now this conduct shows the facility and levity of ourselves, who are unable steadily to adhere to the professions which we originally made; but God is not so easily sated or wearied. Again there are times when we determine to abide by the same judgment that we have formed; but those who join us do not equally abide by theirs, so that our opinions of necessity change as well as theirs; (29) for it is impossible for us, who are but men, to foresee all the contingencies of future events, or to anticipate the opinions of others; but to God, as dwelling in pure light, all things are visible; for he penetrating into the very recesses of the soul, is able to see, with the most perfect certainty, what is invisible to others, and being possessed of prescience and of providence, his own peculiar attributes, he allows nothing to abuse its liberty, and to stray out of the reach of his comprehension, since with him, there is no uncertainty even in the future, for there is nothing uncertain nor even future to God. (30) It is plain therefore that the creator of all created things, and the maker of all the things that have ever been made, and the governor of all the things which are subject to government, must of necessity be a being of universal knowledge; and he is in truth the father, and creator, and governor of all things in heaven and in the whole world; and indeed future events are overshadowed by the distance of future time, which is sometimes a short and sometimes a long interval. (31) But God is the creator of time also; for he is the father of its father, and the father of time is the world, which made its own mother the creation of time, so that time stands towards God in the relation of a grandson; for this world is a younger son of God, inasmuch as it is perceptible by the outward sense; for the only son he speaks of as older than the world, is idea, and this is not perceptible by the intellect; but having thought the other worthy of the rights of primogeniture, he has decided that it shall remain with him; (32) therefore, this younger son, perceptible by the external senses being set in motion, has caused the nature of time to shine forth, and to become conspicuous, so that there is nothing future to God, who has the very boundaries of time subject to him; for their life is not time, but the beautiful model of time, eternity; and in eternity nothing is past and nothing is future, but everything is present only.

Clontz, T.E. and J. (2008). "The Comprehensive New Testament with complete textual variant mapping and references for the Dead Sea Scrolls, Philo, Josephus, Nag Hammadi Library, Pseudepigrapha, Apocrypha, Plato, Egyptian Book of the Dead, Talmud, Old Testament, Patristic Writings, Dhammapada, Tacitus, Epic of Gilgamesh. Cornerstone Publications. ISBN 978-0-977873-71-5. (p. 473 Philo[On Dreams, That they Are God-Sent (2.8) cf. {Genesis 37:5-11}; Special Laws IV (187) cf. {Genesis 1:1-31}]; p. 494 Philo[Appendices A Treatise Concerning the World (1) cf. {Genesis 1:1, Deuteronomy 10:17})

The Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers First Series, Volume 1 The Confessions and Letters of Augustine with a Sketch of his Life and Work, 1896, Philip Schaff, Augustine Confessions - Book XI.11-30 (CHAPTER 11

Squeeze Schaff
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THEY WHO ASK THIS HAVE NOT AS YET KNOWN THE ETERNITY OF GOD, WHICH IS EXEMPT FROM THE RELATION OF TIME. Those who say these things do not as yet understand Thee, O Thou Wisdom of God, Thou light of souls; not as yet do they understand how these things be made which are made by and in Thee. They even endeavor to comprehend things eternal; but as yet their heart flieth about in the past and future motions of things, and is still wavering. Who shall hold it and fix it, that it may rest a little, and by degrees catch the glory of that everstanding eternity, and compare it with the times which never stand, and see that it is incomparable; and that a long time cannot become long, save from the many motions that pass by, which cannot at the same instant be prolonged; but that in the Eternal nothing passeth away, but that the whole is present; but no time is wholly present; and let him see that all time past is forced on by the future, and that all the future followeth from the past, and that all, both past and future, is created and issues from that which is always present? Who will hold the heart of man, that it may stand still, and see how the still-standing eternity, itself neither future nor past, uttereth the times future and past? Can my hand accomplish this, or the hand of my mouth by persuasion bring about a thing so great? CHAPTER 12 WHAT GOD DID BEFORE THE CREATION OF THE WORLD. Behold, I answer to him who asks, “What was God doing before He made heaven and earth?” I answer not, as a certain person is reported to have done facetiously (avoiding the pressure of the question), “He was preparing hell,” saith he, “for those who pry into mysteries.” It is one thing to perceive, another to laugh, — these things I answer not. For more willingly would I have answered, “I know not what I know not,” than that I should make him a laughing-stock who asketh deep things, and gain praise as one who answereth false things. But I say that Thou, our God, art the Creator of every creature; and if by the term “heaven and earth” every creature is understood, I boldly say, “That before God made heaven and earth, He made not anything. For if He did, what did He make unless the creature?” And would that I knew whatever I desire to know to my advantage, as I know that no creature was made before any creature was made. CHAPTER 13 BEFORE THE TIMES CREATED BY GOD, TIMES WERE NOT But if the roving thought of any one should wander through the images of bygone time, and wonder that Thou, the God Almighty, and All-creating, and All-sustaining, the Architect of heaven and earth, didst for innumerable ages refrain from so great a work before Thou wouldst make it, let him awake and consider that he wonders at false things. For whence could innumerable ages pass by which Thou didst not make, since Thou art the Author and Creator of all ages? Or what times should those be which were not made by Thee? Or how should they pass by if they had not been? Since, therefore, Thou art the Creator of all times, if any time was before Thou madest heaven and earth, why is it said that Thou didst refrain from working? For that very time Thou madest, nor could times pass by before Thou madest times. But if before heaven and earth there was no time, why is it asked, What didst Thou then? For there was no “then” when time was not. Nor dost Thou by time precede time; else wouldest not Thou precede all times. But in the excellency of an ever-present eternity, Thou precedest all times past, and survivest all future times, because they are future, and when they have come they will be past; but “Thou art the same, and Thy years shall have no end.” Thy years neither go nor come; but ours both go and come, that all may come. All Thy years stand at once since they do stand; nor were they when departing excluded by coming years, because they pass not away; but all these of ours shall be when all shall cease to be. Thy years are one day, and Thy day is not daily, but today; because Thy today yields not with tomorrow, for neither doth it follow yesterday. Thy today is eternity; therefore didst Thou beget the Co-eternal, to whom Thou saidst, “This day have I begotten Thee.” Thou hast made all time; and before all times Thou art, nor in any time was there not time. CHAPTER 14 NEITHER TIME PAST NOR FUTURE, BUT THE PRESENT ONLY, REALLY IS At no time, therefore, hadst Thou not made anything, because Thou hadst made time itself. And no times are co-eternal with Thee, because Thou remainest for ever; but should these continue, they would not be times. For what is time? Who can easily and briefly explain it? Who even in thought can comprehend it, even to the pronouncing of a word concerning it? But what in speaking do we refer to more familiarly and knowingly than time? And certainly we understand when we speak of it; we understand also when we hear it spoken of by another. What, then, is time? If no one ask of me, I know; if I wish to explain to him who asks, I know not. Yet I say with confidence, that I know that if nothing passed away, there would not be past time; and if nothing were coming, there would not be future time; and if nothing were, there would not be present time. Those two times, therefore, past and future, how are they, when even the past now is not; and the future is not as yet? But should the present be always present, and should it not pass into time past, time truly it could not be, but eternity. If, then, time present — if it be time — only comes into existence because it passes into time past, how do we say that even this is, whose cause of being is that it shall not be — namely, so that we cannot truly say that time is, unless because it tends not to be? CHAPTER 15 THERE IS ONLY A MOMENT OF PRESENT TIME. And yet we say that “time is long and time is short;” nor do we speak of this save of time past and future. A long time past, for example, we call a hundred years ago; in like manner a long time to come, a hundred years hence. But a short time past we call, say, ten days ago: and a short time to come, ten days hence. But in what sense is that long or short which is not? For the past is not now, and the future is not yet. Therefore let us not say, “It is long;” but let us say of the past, “It hath been long,” and of the future, “It will be long.” O my Lord, my light, shall not even here Thy truth deride man? For that past time which was long, was it long when it was already past, or when it was as yet present? For then it might be long when there was that which could be long, but when past it no longer was; wherefore that could not be long which was not at all. Let us not, therefore, say, “Time past hath been long;” for we shall not find what may have been long, seeing that since it was past it is not; but let us say “that present time was long, because when it was present it was long.” For it had not as yet passed away so as not to be, and therefore there was that which could be long. But after it passed, that ceased also to be long which ceased to be. Let us therefore see, O human soul, whether present time can be long; for to thee is it given to perceive and to measure periods of time. What wilt thou reply to me? Is a hundred years when present a long time? See, first, whether a hundred years can be present. For if the first year of these is current, that is present, but the other ninety and nine are future, and therefore they are not as yet. But if the second year is current, one is already past, the other present, the rest future. And thus, if we fix on any middle year of this hundred as present, those before it are past, those after it are future; wherefore a hundred years cannot be present. See at least whether that year itself which is current can be present. For if its first month be current, the rest are future; if the second, the first hath already passed, and the remainder are not yet. Therefore neither is the year which is current as a whole present; and if it is not present as a whole, then the year is not present. For twelve months make the year, of which each individual month which is current is itself present, but the rest are either past or future. Although neither is that month which is current present, but one day only: if the first, the rest being to come, if the last, the rest being past; if any of the middle, then between past and future. 20. Behold, the present time, which alone we found could be called long, is abridged to the space scarcely of one day. But let us discuss even that, for there is not one day present as a whole. For it is made up of four-and-twenty hours of night and day, whereof the first hath the rest future, the last hath them past, but any one of the intervening hath those before it past, those after it future. And that one hour passeth away in fleeting particles. Whatever of it hath flown away is past, whatever remaineth is future. If any portion of time be conceived which cannot now be divided into even the minutest particles of moments, this only is that which may be called present; which, however, flies so rapidly from future to past, that it cannot be extended by any delay. For if it be extended, it is divided into the past and future; but the present hath no space. Where, therefore, is the time which we may call long? Is it nature? Indeed we do not say, “It is long,” because it is not yet, so as to be long; but we say, “It will be long.” When, then, will it be? For if even then, since as yet it is future, it will not be long, because what may be long is not as yet; but it shall be long, when from the future, which as yet is not, it shall already have begun to be, and will have become present, so that there could be that which may be long; then doth the present time cry out in the words above that it cannot be long. CHAPTER 16 TIME CAN ONLY BE PERCEIVED OR MEASURED WHILE IT IS PASSING And yet, O Lord, we perceive intervals of times, and we compare them with themselves, and we say some are longer, others shorter. We even measure by how much shorter or longer this time may be than that; and we answer, “That this is double or treble, while that is but once, or only as much as that.” But we measure times passing when we measure them by perceiving them; but past times, which now are not, or future times, which as yet are not, who can measure them? Unless, perchance, any one will dare to say, that can be measured which is not. When, therefore, time is passing, it can be perceived and measured; but when it has passed, it cannot, since it is not. CHAPTER 17 NEVERTHELESS THERE IS TIME PAST AND FUTURE I ask, Father, I do not affirm. O my God, rule and guide me. “Who is there who can say to me that there are not three times (as we learned when boys, and as we have taught boys), the past, present, and future, but only present, because these two are not? Or are they also; but when from future it becometh present, cometh it forth from some secret place, and when from the present it becometh past, doth it retire into anything secret? For where have they, who have foretold future things, seen these things, if as yet they are not? For that which is not cannot be seen. And they who relate things past could not relate them as true, did they not perceive them in their mind. Which things, if they were not, they could in no wise be discerned. There are therefore things both future and past. CHAPTER 18 PAST AND FUTURE TIMES CANNOT BE THOUGHT OF BUT AS PRESENT Suffer me, O Lord, to seek further; O my Hope, let not my purpose be confounded. For if there are times past and future, I desire to know where they are. But if as yet I do not succeed, I still know, wherever they are, that they are not there as future or past, but as present. For if there also they be future, they are not as yet there; if even there they be past, they are no longer there. Wheresoever, therefore, they are, whatsoever they are, they are only so as present. Although past things are related as true, they are drawn out from the memory, — not the things themselves, which have passed, but the words conceived from the images of the things which they have formed in the mind as footprints in their passage through the senses. My childhood, indeed, which no longer is, is in time past, which now is not; but when I call to mind its image, and speak of it, I behold it in the present, because it is as yet in my memory. Whether there be a like cause of foretelling future things, that of things which as yet are not the images may be perceived as already existing, I confess, my God, I know not. This certainly I know, that we generally think before on our future actions, and that this premeditation is present; but that the action whereon we premeditate is not yet, because it is future; which when we shall have entered upon, and have begun to do that which we were premeditating, then shall that action be, because then it is not future, but present. 24. In whatever manner, therefore, this secret preconception of future things may be, nothing can be seen, save what is. But what now is not future, but present. When, therefore, they say that things future are seen, it is not themselves, which as yet are not (that is, which are future); but their causes or their signs perhaps are seen, the which already are. Therefore, to those already beholding them, they are not future, but present, from which future things conceived in the mind are foretold. Which conceptions again now are, and they who foretell those things behold these conceptions present before them. Let now so multitudinous a variety of things afford me some example. I behold daybreak; I foretell that the sun is about to rise. That which I behold is present; what I foretell is future, — not that the sun is future, which already is; but his rising, which is not yet. Yet even its rising I could not predict unless I had an image of it in my mind, as now I have while I speak. But that dawn which I see in the sky is not the rising of the sun, although it may go before it, nor that imagination in my mind; which two are seen as present, that the other which is future may be foretold. Future things, therefore, are not as yet; and if they are not as yet, they are not. And if they are not, they cannot be seen at all; but they can be foretold from things present which now are, and are seen. CHAPTER 19 WE ARE IGNORANT IN WHAT MANNER GOD TEACHES FUTURE THINGS Thou, therefore, Ruler of Thy creatures, what is the method by which Thou teachest souls those things which are future? For Thou hast taught Thy prophets. What is that way by which Thou, to whom nothing is future, dost teach future things; or rather of future things dost teach present? For what is not, of a certainty cannot be taught. Too far is this way from my view; it is too mighty for me, I cannot attain unto it; but by Thee I shall be enabled, when Thou shalt have granted it, sweet light of my hidden eyes. CHAPTER 20 IN WHAT MANNER TIME MAY PROPERLY BE DESIGNATED. But what now is manifest and clear is, that neither are there future nor past things. Nor is it fitly said, “There are three times, past, present and future;” but perchance it might be fitly said, “There are three times; a present of things past, a present of things present, and a present of things future.” For these three do somehow exist in the soul, and otherwise I see them not: present of things past, memory; present of things present, sight; present of things future, expectation. If of these things we are permitted to speak, I see three times, and I grant there are three. It may also be said, “There are three times, past, present and future,” as usage falsely has it. See, I trouble not, nor gainsay, nor reprove; provided always that which is said may be understood, that neither the future, nor that which is past, now is. For there are but few things which we speak properly, many things improperly; but what we may wish to say is understood. CHAPTER 21 HOW TIME MAY BE MEASURED I have just now said, then, that we measure times as they pass, that we may be able to say that this time is twice as much as that one, or that this is only as much as that, and so of any other of the parts of time which we are able to tell by measuring. Wherefore, as I said, we measure times as they pass. And if any one should ask me, “Whence dost thou know?” I can answer, “I know, because we measure; nor can we measure things that are not; and things past and future are not.” But how do we measure present time, since it hath not space? It is measured while it passeth; but when it shall have passed, it is not measured; for there will not be ought that can be measured. But whence, in what way, and whither doth it pass while it is being measured? Whence, but from the future? Which way, save through the present? Whither, but into the past? From that, therefore, which as yet is not, through that which hath no space, into that which now is not. But what do we measure, unless time in some space? For we say not single, and double, and triple, and equal, or in any other way in which we speak of time, unless with respect to the spaces of times. In what space, then, do we measure passing time? Is it in the future, whence it passeth over? But what yet we measure not, is not. Or is it in the present, by which it passeth? But no space, we do not measure. Or in the past, whither it passeth? But that which is not now, we measure not. CHAPTER 22 HE PRAYS GOD THAT HE WOULD EXPLAIN THIS MOST ENTANGLED ENIGMA My soul yearns to know this most entangled enigma. Forbear to shut up, O Lord my God, good Father, — through Christ I beseech Thee, — forbear to shut up these things, both usual and hidden, from my desire, that it may be hindered from penetrating them; but let them dawn through Thy enlightening mercy, O Lord. Of whom shall I inquire concerning these things? And to whom shall I with more advantage confess my ignorance than to Thee, to whom these my studies, so vehemently kindled towards Thy Scriptures, are not troublesome? Give that which I love; for I do love, and this hast Thou given me. Give, Father, who truly knowest to give good gifts unto Thy children. Give, since I have undertaken to know, and trouble is before me until Thou dost open it. Through Christ, I beseech Thee, in His name, Holy of Holies, let no man interrupt me. For I believed, and therefore do I speak. This is my hope; for this do I live, that I may contemplate the delights of the Lord. Behold, Thou hast made my days old, and they pass away, and in what manner I know not. And we speak as to time and time, times and times, — “How long is the time since he said this?” “How long the time since he did this?” and, “How long the time since I saw that?” and, “This syllable hath double the time of that single short syllable.” These words we speak, and these we hear; and we are understood, and we understand. They are most manifest and most usual, and the same things again lie hid too deeply, and the discovery of them is new. CHAPTER 23 THAT TIME IS A CERTAIN EXTENSION I have heard from a learned man that the motions of the sun, moon, and stars constituted time, and I assented not. For why should not rather the motions of all bodies be time? What if the lights of heaven should cease, and a potter’s wheel run round, would there be no time by which we might measure those revolutions, and say either that it turned with equal pauses, or, if it were moved at one time more slowly, at another more quickly, that some revolutions were longer, others less so? Or while we were saying this, should we not also be speaking in time? Or should there in our words be some syllables long, others short, but because those sounded in a longer time, these in a shorter? God grant to men to see in a small thing ideas common to things great and small. Both the stars and luminaries of heaven are “for signs and for seasons, and for days and years.” No doubt they are; but neither should I say that the circuit of that wooden wheel was a day, nor yet should he say that therefore there was no time. 30. I desire to know the power and nature of time, by which we measure the motions of bodies, and say (for example) that this motion is twice as long as that. For, I ask, since “day” declares not the stay only of the sun upon the earth, according to which day is one thing, night another, but also its entire circuit from east even to east, — according to which we say, “So many days have passed” (the nights being included when we say “so many days,” and their spaces not counted apart), — since, then, the day is finished by the motion of the sun, and by his circuit from east to east, I ask, whether the motion itself is the day, or the period in which that motion is completed, or both? For if the first be the day, then would there be a day although the sun should finish that course in so small a space of time as an hour. If the second, then that would not be a day if from one sunrise to another there were but so short a period as an hour, but the sun must go round four-and-twenty times to complete a day. If both, neither could that be called a day if the sun should run his entire round in the space of an hour; nor that, if, while the sun stood still, so much time should pass as the sun is accustomed to accomplish his whole course in from morning to morning. I shall not therefore now ask, what that is which is called day, but what time is, by which we, measuring the circuit of the sun, should say that it was accomplished in half the space of time it was wont, if it had been completed in so small a space as twelve hours; and comparing both times, we should call that single, this double time, although the sun should run his course from east to east sometimes in that single, sometimes in that double time. Let no man then tell me that the motions of the heavenly bodies are times, because, when at the prayer of one the sun stood still in order that he might achieve his victorious battle, the sun stood still, but time went on. For in such space of time as was sufficient was that battle fought and ended. I see that time, then, is a certain extension. But do I see it, or do I seem to see it? Thou, O Light and Truth, wilt show me. CHAPTER 24 THAT TIME IS NOT A MOTION OF A BODY WHICH WE MEASURE BY TIME. Dost Thou command that I should assent, if any one should say that time is “the motion of a body?” Thou dost not command me. For I hear that no body is moved but in time. This Thou sayest; but that the very motion of a body is time, I hear not; Thou sayest it not. For when a body is moved, I by time measure how long it may be moving from the time in which it began to be moved till it left off. And if I saw not whence it began, and it continued to be moved, so that I see not when it leaves off, I cannot measure unless, perchance, from the time I began until I cease to see. But if I look long, I only proclaim that the time is long, but not how long it may be because when we say, “How long,” we speak by comparison, as, “This is as long as that,” or, “This is double as long as that,” or any other thing of the kind. But if we were able to note down the distances of places whence and whither cometh the body which is moved, or its parts, if it moved as in a wheel, we can say in how much time the motion of the body or its part, from this place unto that, was performed. Since, then, the motion of a body is one thing, that by which we measure how long it is another, who cannot see which of these is rather to be called time? For, although a body be sometimes moved, sometimes stand still, we measure not its motion only, but also its standing still, by time; and we say, “It stood still as much as it moved;” or, “It stood still twice or thrice as long as it moved;” and if any other space which our measuring hath either determined or imagined, more or less, as we are accustomed to say. Time, therefore, is not the motion of a body. 319 CHAPTER 25 HE CALLS ON GOD TO ENLIGHTEN HIS MIND. And I confess unto Thee, O Lord, that I am as yet ignorant as to what time is, and again I confess unto Thee, O Lord, that I know that I speak these things in time, and that I have already long spoken of time, and that very “long” is not long save by the stay of time. How, then, know I this, when I know not what time is? Or is it, perchance, that I know not in what wise I may express what I know? Alas for me, that I do not at least know the extent of my own ignorance! Behold, O my God, before Thee I lie not. As I speak, so is my heart. Thou shalt light my candle; Thou, O Lord my God, wilt enlighten my darkness. CHAPTER 26 WE MEASURE LONGER EVENTS BY SHORTER IN TIME. Doth not my soul pour out unto Thee truly in confession that I do measure times? But do I thus measure, O my God, and know not what I measure? I measure the motion of a body by time; and the time itself do I not measure? But, in truth, could I measure the motion of a body, how long it is, and how long it is in coming from this place to that, unless I should measure the time in which it is moved? How, therefore, do I measure this very time itself? Or do we by a shorter time measure a longer, as by the space of a cubit the space of a crossbeam? For thus, indeed, we seem by the space of a short syllable to measure the space of a long syllable, and to say that this is double. Thus we measure the spaces of stanzas by the spaces of the verses, and the spaces of the verses by the spaces of the feet, and the spaces of the feet by the spaces of the syllables, and the spaces of long by the spaces of short syllables; not measuring by pages (for in that manner we measure spaces, not times), but when in uttering the words they pass by, and we say, “It is a long stanza because it is made up of so many verses; long verses, because they consist of so many feet; long feet, because they are prolonged by so many syllables; a long syllable, because double a short one.” But neither thus is any certain measure of time obtained; since it is possible that a shorter verse, if it be pronounced more fully, may take up more time than a longer one, if pronounced more hurriedly. Thus for a stanzas, thus for a foot, thus for a syllable. Whence it appeared to me that time is nothing else than protraction; but of what I know not. It is wonderful to me, if it be not of the mind itself. For what do I measure, I beseech Thee, O my God, even when I say either indefinitely, “This time is longer than that;” or even definitely, “This is double that?” That I measure time, I know. But I measure not the future, for it is not yet; nor do I measure the present, because it is extended by no space; nor do I measure the past, because it no longer is. What, therefore, do I measure? Is it times passing, not past? For thus had I said. CHAPTER 27 TIMES ARE MEASURED IN PROPORTION AS THEY PASS BY. Persevere, O my mind, and give earnest heed. God is our helper; He made us, and not we ourselves. Give heed, where truth dawns. Lo, suppose the voice of a body begins to sound, and does sound, and sounds on, and lo! it ceases, — it is now silence, and that voice is past and is no longer a voice. It was future before it sounded, and could not be measured, because as yet it was not; and now it cannot, because it longer is. Then, therefore, while it was sounding, it might, because there was then that which might be measured. But even then it did not stand still, for it was going and passing away. Could it, then, on that account be measured the more? For, while passing, it was being extended into some space of time, in which it might be measured, since the present hath no space. If, therefore, then it might be measured, lo! suppose another voice hath begun to sound, and still soundeth, in a continued tenor without any interruption, we can measure it while it is sounding; for when it shall have ceased to sound, it will be already past, and there will not be that which can be measured. Let us measure it truly, and let us say how much it is. But as yet it sounds, nor can it be measured, save from that instant in which it began to sound, even to the end in which it left off. For the interval itself we measure from some beginning unto some end. On which account, a voice which is not yet ended cannot be measured, so that it may be said how long or how short it may be; nor can it be said to be equal to another, or single or double in respect of it, or the like. But when it is ended, it no longer is. In what manner, therefore, may it be measured? And yet we measure times; still not those which as yet are not, nor those which no longer are, nor those which are protracted by some delay, nor those which have no limits. We, therefore, measure neither future times, nor past, nor present, nor those passing by; and yet we do measure times. Deus Creator omnium; this verse of eight syllables alternates between short and long syllables. The four short, then, the first, third, fifth and seventh, are single in respect of the four long, the second, fourth, sixth, and eighth. Each of these hath a double time to every one of those. I pronounce them, report on them, and thus it is, as is perceived by common sense. By common sense, then, I measure a long by a short syllable, and I find that it has twice as much. But when one sounds after another, if the former be short the latter long, how shall I hold the short one, and how measuring shall I apply it to the long, so that I may find out that this has twice as much, when indeed the long does not begin to sound unless the short leaves off sounding? That very long one I measure not as present, since I measure it not save when ended. But its ending is its passing away. What, then, is it that I can measure? Where is the short syllable by which I measure? Where is the long one which I measure? Both have sounded, have flown, have passed away, and are no longer; and still I measure, and I confidently answer (so far as is trusted to a practiced sense), that as to space of time this syllable is single, that double. Nor could I do this, unless because they have past, and are ended. Therefore do I not measure themselves, which now are not, but something in my memory, which remains fixed. In thee, O my mind, I measure times. Do not overwhelm me with thy clamor. That is, do not overwhelm thyself with the multitude of thy impressions. In thee, I say, I measure times; the impression which things as they pass by make on Thee, and which, when they have passed by, remains, that I measure as time present, not those things which have passed by, that the impression should be made. This I measure when I measure times. Either, then, these are times, or I do not measure times. What when we measure silence, and say that this silence hath lasted as long as that voice lasts? Do we not extend our thought to the measure of a voice, as if it sounded, so that we may be able to declare something concerning the intervals of silence in a given space of time? For when both the voice and tongue are still, we go over in thought poems and verses, and any discourse, or dimensions of motions; and declare concerning the spaces of times, how much this may be in respect of that, not otherwise than if uttering them we should pronounce them. Should any one wish to utter a lengthened sound, and had with forethought determined how long it should be, that man hath in silence verily gone through a space of time, and, committing it to memory, he begins to utter that speech, which sounds until it be extended to the end proposed; truly it hath sounded, and will sound. For what of it is already finished hath verily sounded, but what remains will sound; and thus does it pass on, until the present intention carry over the future into the past; the past increasing by the diminution of the future, until, by the consumption of the future, all be past. CHAPTER 28 TIME IN THE HUMAN MIND, WHICH EXPECTS, CONSIDERS, AND REMEMBERS. But how is that future diminished or consumed which as yet is not? Or how doth the past, which is no longer, increase, unless in the mind which enacteth this there are three things done? For it both expects, and considers, and remembers, that which it expecteth, through that which it considereth, may pass into that which it remembereth. Who, therefore, denieth that future things as yet are not? But yet there is already in the mind the expectation of things future. And who denies that past things are now no longer? But, however, there is still in the mind the memory of things past. And who denies that time present wants space, because it passeth away in a moment? But yet our consideration endureth, through which that which may be present may proceed to become absent. Future time, which is not, is not therefore long; but a “long future” is “a long expectation of the future.” Nor is time past, which is now no longer, long; but a long past is “a long memory of the past.” I am about to repeat a psalm that I know. Before I begin, my attention is extended to the whole; but when I have begun, as much of it as becomes past by my saying it is extended in my memory; and the life of this action of mine is divided between my memory, on account of what I have repeated, and my expectation, on account of what I am about to repeat; yet my consideration is present with me, through which that which was future may be carried over so that it may become past. Which the more it is done and repeated, by so much (expectation being shortened) the memory is enlarged, until the whole expectation be exhausted, when that whole action being ended shall have passed into memory. And what takes place in the entire psalm, takes place also in each individual part of it, and in each individual syllable: this holds in the longer action, of which that psalm is perchance a portion; the same holds in the whole life of man, of which all the actions of man are parts; the same holds in the whole age of the sons of men, of which all the lives of men are parts. CHAPTER 29 THAT HUMAN LIFE IS A DISTRACTION BUT THAT THROUGH THE MERCY OF GOD HE WAS INTENT ON THE PRIZE OF HIS HEAVENLY CALLING. But “because Thy loving-kindness is better than life,” behold, my life is but a distraction, and Thy right hand upheld me in my Lord, the Son of man, the Mediator between Thee, The One, and us the many, — in many distractions amid many things, — that through Him I may apprehend in whom I have been apprehended, and may be re-collected from my old days, following The One, forgetting the things that are past; and not distracted, but drawn on, not to those things which shall be and shall pass away, but to those things which are before, not distractedly, but intently, I follow on for the prize of my heavenly calling, where I may hear the voice of Thy praise, and contemplate Thy delights, neither coming nor passing away. But now are my years spent in mourning. And Thou, O Lord, art my comfort, my Father everlasting. But I have been divided amid times, the order of which I know not; and my thoughts, even the inmost bowels of my soul, are mangled with tumultuous varieties, until I flow together unto Thee, purged and molten in the fire of Thy love. CHAPTER 30 AGAIN HE REFUTES THE EMPTY QUESTION, “WHAT DID GOD BEFORE THE CREATION OF THE WORLD?” And I will be immovable, and fixed in Thee, in my mold, Thy truth; nor will I endure the questions of men, who by a penal disease thirst for more than they can hold, and say, “What did God make before He made heaven and earth?” Or, “How came it into His mind to make anything, when He never before made anything?” Grant to them, O Lord, to think well what they say, and to see that where there is no time, they cannot say “never.” What, therefore, He is said “never to have made,” what else is it but to say, that in no time was it made? Let them therefore see that there could be no time without a created being, and let them cease to speak that vanity. Let them also be extended unto those things which are before, and understand that thou, the eternal Creator of all times, art before all times, and that no times are co-eternal with Thee, nor any creature, even if there be any creature beyond all times.)

The Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers First Series, Volume 1 The Confessions and Letters of Augustine with a Sketch of his Life and Work, 1896, Philip Schaff, Augustine Confessions – Book XII.7-9 (CHAPTER 7 OUT OF NOTHING GOD MADE HEAVEN AND EARTH. And whence and in what manner was this, unless from Thee, from whom are all things, in so far as they are? But by how much the farther from Thee, so much the more unlike unto Thee; for it is not distance of place. Thou, therefore, O Lord, who art not one thing in one place, and otherwise in another, but the Self-same, and the Self-same, and the Self-same? Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God- Almighty, didst in the beginning, which is of Thee, in Thy Wisdom, which was born of Thy Substance, create something, and that out of nothing. For Thou didst create heaven and earth, not out of Thyself, for then they would be equal to Thine Only-begotten, and thereby even to Thee; and in no wise would it be right that anything should be equal to Thee which was not of Thee. And ought else except Thee there was not whence Thou mightest create these things, O God, One Trinity, and Trine Unity; and, therefore, out of nothing didst Thou create heaven and earth, — a great thing and a small, because Thou art Almighty and Good, to make all things good, even the great heaven and the I small earth. Thou wast, and there was naught else from which Thou didst create heaven and earth; two such things, one near unto Thee, the other near to nothing, — one to which Thou shouldest be superior, the other to which nothing should be inferior. CHAPTER 8 HEAVEN AND EARTH WERE MADE “IN THE BEGINNING;” AFTERWARDS THE WORLD, DURING SIX DAYS, FROM SHAPELESS MATTER. But that heaven of heavens was for Thee, O Lord; but the earth, which Thou hast given to the sons of men, to be seen and touched, was not such as now we see and touch. For if was invisible and “without form,” and there was a deep over which there was not light; or, darkness was over the deep, that is, more than in the deep. For this deep of waters, now visible, has, even in its depths, a light suitable to its nature, perceptible in some manner unto fishes and creeping things in the bottom of it. But the entire deep was almost nothing, since hitherto it was altogether formless; yet there was then that which could be formed. For Thou, O Lord, hast made the world of a formless matter, which matter, out of nothing, Thou hast made almost nothing, out of which to make those great things which we, sons of men, wonder at. For very wonderful is this corporeal heaven, of which firmament, between water and water, the second day after the creation of light, Thou saidst, Let it be made, and it was made? Which firmament Thou calledst heaven, that is, the heaven of this earth and sea, which Thou madest on the third day, by giving a visible shape to the formless matter which Thou madest before all days. For even already hadst Thou made a heaven before all days, but that was the heaven of this heaven; because in the beginning Thou hadst made heaven and earth. But the earth itself which Thou hadst made was formless matter, because it was invisible and without form, and darkness was upon the deep. Of which invisible and formless earth, of which formlessness, of which almost nothing, Thou mightest make all these things of which this changeable world consists, and yet consisteth not; whose very changeableness appears in this, that times can be observed and numbered in it. Because times are made by the changes of things, while the shapes, whose matter is the invisible earth aforesaid, are varied and turned. CHAPTER 9 THAT THE HEAVEN OF HEAVENS WAS AN INTELLECTUAL CREATURE, BUT THAT THE EARTH WAS INVISIBLE AND FORMLESS BEFORE THE DAYS THAT IT WAS MADE. And therefore the Spirit, the Teacher of Thy servant when He relates that Thou didst in the Beginning create heaven and earth, is silent as to times, silent as to days. For, doubtless, that heaven of heavens, which Thou in the Beginning didst create, is some intellectual creature, which, although in no wise co-eternal unto Thee, the Trinity, is yet a partaker of Thy eternity, and by reason of the sweetness of that most happy contemplation of Thyself, doth greatly restrain its own mutability,’ and without any failure, from the time in which it was created, in clinging unto Thee, surpasses all the rolling change of times. But this shapelessness — this earth invisible and without form — has not itself been numbered among the days. For where there is no shape nor order, nothing either cometh or goeth; and where this is not, there certainly are no days, nor any vicissitude of spaces of times.)

Deadtotruth (talk) 17:31, 5 April 2010 (UTC)

The text under consideration re: ex nihilo

I'm hearing some odd claims from people presenting their own PsoV on the topic, waving their arms in the general direction of scholarship, without citing even one scholar. As impressive as some of those views may sound, some of them don't even stand up under verification against the raw text.

Hebrew and English both read outwards from centre: Hebrew right-to-left, English left-to-right.

בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ in-beginning created God (`elohim) <dir. obj.> the-heavens and-<dir. obj.> the-earth (`erets)
וְהָאָרֶץ הָיְתָה תֹהוּ וָבֹהו and-the-earth (`erets) was/became fluid (tohu) and-empty (bohu)
וְחֹשֶׁךְ עַל-פְּנֵי תְהוֹם and-darkness over-face [of*] deep (tahom) *status constructus
וְרוּחַ אֱלֹהִים מְרַחֶפֶת עַל-פְּנֵי הַמָּיִם and-spirit [of*] God (`elohim) hovering over-face [of*] the-waters

There also seems to be a bad habit at Wikipedia, whereby we permit people to make unsourced generalizations about scholarship on a topic, which are actually much harder claims to verify than the claims made any particular scholar on that topic. On big topics, even scholars admit they have not read everything there is to read.

"I'm not citing a source, because everyone knows that every scholar says this" is nearly always demonstrably false, but often gains support if it expresses a popular PoV. Scholars may present conclusions, but they don't vote, they publish evidence and arguments. It is not the job of Wikipedia to take a poll of scholars' conclusions, but to document the evidence they present and their arguments. Alastair Haines (talk) 10:42, 2 April 2010 (UTC)

Alastair, I have to say that you are a breath of fresh air. Instead of complaining about sources you don't like, you are volunteering to do actual work by updating and improving sources on a contested text -- and I appreciate your requests to others to do the same. Bravo!
On an aside, yasher koach to your "Creation in Genesis" new approach.
Not on an aside, yasher koach to your irenic disection of the Gordian knot here.
Yes, scholarship is never as monolithic as we are often led to believe. Indeed, even your own excellent illumination of Hebrew here is not without nuances of its own. Your "in-beginning" is a lovely way of blandly expressing the Hebrew in a way which contains the contested "In (the) beginning God" and "When God began". Although I think that "When God began" does not preclude ex nihilo, it certainly opens a door. "in-beginning" sticks to the bare Hebrew, leaves the door ajar, and doesn't push anything through that doesn't need to go through. In the beginning God and When God began can both cheerfully step through chatting with each other arm in arm.
I'd like to add to your point about eclectic views that "spirit of God hovering" and "wind from God sweeping" are also allowed. Although I prefer the former, we should probably leave the latter open for some folks.EGMichaels (talk) 13:59, 2 April 2010 (UTC)
How about "an almighty belch/wind passing over the waters", after devouring Tiamat, perhaps? ;) Alastair Haines (talk) 05:39, 3 April 2010 (UTC)
I'd be happy to add some Orthodox Jewish scholarship on the subject. The verb ברא is absolutely understood as meaning ex nihilo in Hebrew. It is juxtaposed with יצר, which is creation from something. - Lisa (talk - contribs) 15:10, 2 April 2010 (UTC)
Thanks Lisa! I envy your command of Jewish sources. Please add them!EGMichaels (talk) 15:28, 2 April 2010 (UTC)
My thanks also Lisa. You've said in two lines what took me rather longer in discussion of von Rad above. Alastair Haines (talk) 18:16, 2 April 2010 (UTC)
I don't have a lot of time to look, but you can start with these three:
  • The Kabbalah handbook, Gabriella Samuel, page 384, link
  • Challenge, Aryeh Carmell, Cyril Domb, page 397, note 33, link - Lisa (talk - contribs) 22:30, 2 April 2010 (UTC)
Yes, I'm pushing 18... Lisa, what about Jewish commentaries? Do you have some that you prefer?EGMichaels (talk) 23:07, 2 April 2010 (UTC)
Jewish commentaries won't be much use - the idea of that Genesis 1 means creation ex nihilo doesn't appear in the rabbinic souces before the 4th century, even later than in Christianity. Nor was it the normative position of the rabbis - Rashi, for example, went to some lengths to demonstrate that the translation "Ïn the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" is wrong. PiCo (talk) 08:40, 5 April 2010 (UTC)

Rivers from a sea of fresh water beneath the Earth?

Reading over the article quickly, the statement that the ancients of the Near East believed that rivers came from a sea of fresh water beneath the Earth really stands out. I would think that to people who worked outdoors, the relationship of rainfall to rivers would just be too obvious to miss in any era. On the other hand, the myth wouldn't be unreasonable in the Sahara, where water really does come from a sea of (ground) water beneath the Earth (just ask Gaddhafi). It would be interesting to see this expanded upon. Wnt (talk) 19:45, 3 April 2010 (UTC)

There is already an article about the Abzu (== Tehom/Abyssos of Genesis 1:2). · CUSH · 19:55, 3 April 2010 (UTC)
The Ancient Near East was a place of low rainfall. Rivers, floods and irrigation were the basis of essentially subsistence farming.
There's a fair bit of scientific study into this. Just one online source that came to hand was
J. Neumann and RM Sigrist, "Harvest dates in ancient Mesopotamia as possible indicators of climatic variations", Climatic Change 1/3 (1978): 239–252.
Alastair Haines (talk) 04:32, 4 April 2010 (UTC)
Yes, and the abzu, especially in Egypt (cf Abdju/Abydos), was thought to steadily flow from west to east, and that on it the deceased take a journey by boat to the underworld. The sky was thought to be the abzu's reflection, so that good (or important) people would be seen as stars in the sky. Just an anecdote... · CUSH · 10:25, 4 April 2010 (UTC)
Mesopotamia isn't quite such as desert as Egypt, but the rainfall is low enough that the idea of rivers coming from it is not very obvious at all. On the other hand, there are undergound water sources in Mesopotamia such as I've never seen anywhere else - huge pools bubbling up from the ground. These, plus wells and springs, would lead far more naturally to the idea that fresh water comes from under the ground. PiCo (talk) 08:37, 5 April 2010 (UTC)

Serious concerns re: some of the sources cited

Reviewing the excessive footnoting for ex nihilo, we have cites to :

Forty Minutes with Einstein-I check the page given and no mention of a) Genesis b) Biblical creation or c) ex nihilo. Nice.
Wrinkles in Time- quote: "Until the late 1910s humans were as ignorant of cosmic origins as they have ever been. Those who didn't take Genesis literally had no reason to believe there had been a beginning." you gotta be kidding.
Quantum Reality: Beyond the New Physics - I couldn't check the Doubleday version, but page 177 of the hardback has this: "I want to know how God created this world" by Albert Einstein. No "ex nihilo", no "Genesis"--and it's a book about quantum physics!
Creation: the Story of the Origin and Evolution of the Universe -quote: "If the universe was truly created, though, there had to be nothing here before the creation. And again this is something that is difficult for most people to visualize, difficult because we usually associate "nothing" with empty space." Terrible.
Creation Ex Nihilo by Fain - :"According to Judaism, 'something from nothing', or the openness of the world, is openness to God. World one, the physical world, was open from the beginning and was created from nothing." both an oblique and obscure reference, certainly not cited much (if ever), but at least it comes closer to verifying the statement than the other refs cited. sorta.
Show Me God: What the Message from Space Is Telling Us About God - It has a picture of Albert Einstein pointing at the title. I'm not even bothering to check inside this one. This is a joke.
Then there's Clontz's Comprehensive New Testament. I'd like someone to quote this, because the description reads, The Comprehensive New Testament only requires a sixth grade reading level and is the most accurate translation of the Nestle-Aland 27th edition Greek New Testament ever produced." Hmmm. New Testament?
Another good one, God and the Astronomers-that one actually disagrees with the statement it's attached to. The book claims Genesis creation describes creation out of "formless matter", not creation ex nihilo.
Before the Beginning-if it's not self-published, it's very close to it - these titles give some indication we're not talking top drawer academic research publisher here [8]

This leaves - St. Augustine and Philo, which are essentially primary source for all intents and purposes here. This is an embarrassment-I'm zapping all but Augustine and Philo, and we need to do better than this. Professor marginalia (talk) 23:46, 29 March 2010 (UTC)

I support Prof. M.'s edit.
Primary, secondary, tertiary sources
I'm not sure I quite understand your definition of "primary source".
I suspect we agree, because I suspect you are speaking Wikipedi-ese, rather than ordinary English. And fair enough.
In ordinary (and academic) English, all sources are primary, some are also secondary, still others are also tertiary, etc., etc., ad infinitum.
Primary and secondary source categorizations are not, in general, mutually exclusive.
Philo and Augustine are secondary sources relative to the topic of interpreting Genesis.
Which I'm guessing is why you rightly have retained them.
This is certainly standard thinking in disciplines related to ancient literature, at least in my experience.
Your experience may exceed mine, or differ with it. I'd appreciate an alternative PoV.
The reason to have secondary sources is to reliably disambiguate sources published prior to them.
Where disagreement exists regarding interpretation of any source, recognized second opinions should be sought and documented.
Philo and Augustine
I won't defend the sources you've removed, but I certainly agree with retaining Philo (1st century Jew) and Augustine (4th/5th century Christian).
Philo and Augustine cannot be cited in interaction with later scholarship, however a good deal of later scholarship can be cited regarding interpreting them.
The important thing is, though, both Philo and Augustine interpreted Genesis in ways that anticipate more recent readings of Genesis. For example, neither of these commentators takes Genesis 1 as intending a literal, historical account or narrative of the origin of the world. Indeed, both would assert Genesis 1 is a story, implying clear, theological (rather than historical) propositions. This is particularly clear in Philo, who is considered to hold that Genesis 1 is technically an allegory.
I know there are 21st century sources that hold up Augustine as an ancient interpreter who would almost undoubtedly call Genesis a story but not a myth. I'd be pretty sure there would be no sources that would say anything much at odds with that.
Earliest source of an idea attributed
There is an expression in the Bible, "there is nothing new under the sun." It is a humbling thought. It applies imperfectly to some academic questions. A good deal of what modern academics write regarding Genesis, merely restates what has been published previously.
It is a useful convention, and essential in an encyclopedia, to acknowledge the earliest known source of ideas.
Philo and Augustine are important as we build up documentation in the current entry, whatever its title.
Alastair Haines (talk) 08:25, 30 March 2010 (UTC)
I'm sorry if I was confusing here. Augustine and Philo are sources there to the interpretation of genesis creation as ex nihilo, not the myth thing again. Unfortunately neither are clear cut, unambiguous ex nihilo-gians. Philosophers, historians and theologians have published Volumes over the centuries sorting out and arguing over the nuances of what "nothing" meant to these two who were so steeped in Greek conceptions. It's a simple statement that's ideally attributed to sources taking a much broader look at what "ex nihilo" means to most interpreting genesis creation. Professor marginalia (talk) 16:12, 30 March 2010 (UTC)
And I'm sorry if I was confusing. I like your cute term ex nihologian! I'm pretty sure we're agreeing here about methodology, which simply means sourcing in this case. We probably diverge somewhat regarding the distribution of scholastic views on ex nihilo.
The case for matter pre-extant to the creation explicit in Gen 1:1 (B'reshit bara Elohim ... vet ha'Arets), with Earth as direct object of the verb "create", rests on the grammar of the Hebrew connecting this to Gen 1:2 (v'ha'Arets hayta tohu ... tahom), where "this Earth is formless ... deep waters". It is a very natural, and traditional reading, that God created first a formless Earth depicted as deep waters ex nihilo. However, it is not impossible to make a case that Gen 1:2 depicts a background, which should be understood as a prior context for the first verse. That is the pre-extant matter reading.
The case against ex nihilo ultimately rests on the semantics of Gen 1:2 and the syntax and pragmatics of the relationship between the two verses. There are a finite number of linguistic arguments put forward by the handful of PoVs, on the evidence of the corpus of ancient literature that has survived.
Neither Philo nor Augustine address these modern linguistic arguments. David Toshio Tsumura and others do. But even without Hebrew, or a knowledge of the last 50 years of scholarship on the subject, editors here should be able to confirm that the ex nihilo debate turns on the meaning of Gen 1:2 and how it relates to Gen 1:1. They can also confirm that English language versions of the Bible published in the last 10 years attest both PsoV on this topic.
This is just one of several really important content issues to be covered in this namespace. I hope my comments above give a practical guide to how to start to form consensus on the basis of reliable sources, that is realistic given that we can presume no expertise on behalf of any of us editors here. Alastair Haines (talk) 02:32, 31 March 2010 (UTC)
Alastair is correct on the Hebrew grammar - there are excellent summings-up in numerous sources, my personal favourite being that by Prof. Harry Orlinsky in his Notes to the NJSP Torah-translation of (I think) 1968. I think, however, that the question of ex-nihilo or non-ex-nihilo is threatening to overwhelm the article - there's more to Gen.1-2 than that, and we're in danger of getting undue weight. In essence, the ex-nihilo argument is a theological one, based on grammar and logic, while the non-ex-nihilo is based on setting Genesis 1-2 in its cultural framework (i.e. the time and place it was composed, 5th century Middle East, when nobody had heard of Plato and his logical arguments and everyone believed that the Ocean of Chaos was the original state of being) and on the structure of the entirity of Gen.1, which is a process of bringing order to disorder as Elohim-God builds his palace, which is the entire universe. As a result, ex-nihilo is the preferred reading of Evangelicals and others who read Genesis as a religious text, while non-ex-nihilo is preferred by the less religious. (Bible translations, my dear Alastair, are neither here nor there - just try selling Middle America a version of Genesis which begins with anything other than "In the beginning God created...").PiCo (talk) 04:17, 31 March 2010 (UTC)
With only minor quibbles, I'm with you, especially on the potential for "profit motive" to distort Bible translation.
But, practically speaking, ex nihilo needs a section, and at least PsoV for and against. The arguments, not merely the "votes" of sources need to be presented also. (Unless, of course, Bart Ehrman is correct and Wikipedia is about training us to do scholarship by democracy.) Alastair Haines (talk) 04:59, 31 March 2010 (UTC)
Ex nihilo needs a mention, but not a whole section - think of all the other things that aren't even being touched on, like the "great sea monsters," the way in which the plants appear (Elohim doesn't actually create them, contrary to popular opinion - he causes the earth to bring them forth), the meaning of imago dei - let's not let this ex nihilo business distract us from the larger whole. (As for the nature of wikipedia, you know my opinion, and it hasn't changed). PiCo (talk) 10:51, 31 March 2010 (UTC)
These ridiculous sources were restored, reverted as vandalism. I've reverted. These references are a joke, they have no business here. Ex Nihilo does not need a dozen sources spamming extremely trivial and unnotable works (several focused more on Einstein than Genesis) whose remarks on 'ex nihilo' are as readable as tea leaves:-they need one (maybe two) direct references based on solid authorities. Professor marginalia (talk) 05:36, 1 April 2010 (UTC)
Gentlemen, ex nihilo is a philosophical concept that is used by philosophers and secondarily used by scientists and theologians. The professor wants sources that are biblical scholars when in fact they aren't more qualified to discuss this term than physicists or theologians. Ex nihilo as discussed by Plato and Aristotle led to what we now call the first law of motion but was initially part of the exploration of the ex nihilo concept. The problem is that all three groups (philosphers, scientists, theologians/biblical scholars) since we are discussing a philosophical term as applied to modern science and to a biblical text. Philo and Augustine qualify in two categories (philosphers, theologians/biblical scholars) but that leaves the field of science unrepresented. Personally, I believe Smoot is the best representative of the scientists regarding ex nihilo scientifically connected to Genesis. Smoot is extremely familiar with Ex nihilo as applied to the big bang theory and he appears to be well informed concerning the Genesis account.Deadtotruth (talk) 20:06, 6 April 2010 (UTC)
Prosaically phrased Prof. M.! I couldn't agree more, as a theologian, Einstein is an extremely reliable source on physics. Though, to be fair, indeed "God doesn't play dice." ;) Alastair Haines (talk) 06:00, 1 April 2010 (UTC)

Just a note -- I see that Deadtotruth and the Professor have engaged this discussion on the Professor's talk page. As expected, Deadtotruth has given reasons and quotes that the Professor missed. Regardless of the outcome, at least collaboration is possible to occur at this point. We can keep our fingers crossed and hope they reach a meeting of the minds.EGMichaels (talk) 14:56, 4 April 2010 (UTC)

A different angle

Genesis: literal or littoral?

Griswaldo, and the others interacting with him have got me thinking: thinking encyclopedia, thinking ancient texts, thinking literature, then applying that to what I know of Genesis, and of scholastic commentary.

broad focus

I've dropped brief comments in at points of discussions above that Biblical cosmogony is found in later parts of Genesis and the Pentateuch, Psalms, Job and in the New Testament. That is an article worth having, but is that article the same as this one?

I've also noted that Ancient Near Eastern creation myths, a la Griswaldo's suggestion, is also a topic on which Genesis is both a secondary as well as a primary source. That is another article worth having.

narrow focus

But, as good as it would be to have those articles, and as good as it would be for them to take the weight of addressing particular kinds of questions, we are still left with the current article. Just precisely what is this article? I take it that it is not an article on Genesis, Genesis 1 or Genesis 2, ... Those articles already exist.

the present article in sharp focus?

I've also dropped comments in above, that point to the fact that scholars typically see Genesis 2 and 3 as being very closely related, indeed the text points to Genesis 2-4 being a unit. The Hebrew marker is toldot, in the NIV the relevant verses are:

  • Genesis 1:1 "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."
  • Genesis 2:4 "This is the account (toldot) of the heavens and the earth when they were created."
  • Genesis 5:1 "This is the written account (toldot) of Adam's line ..."
  • Genesis 6:9 "This is the account (toldot) of Noah ..."

I've included Gen 1:1 here because, although it doesn't use the toldot "formula", and although there is debate about whether this formula heads or closes sections, and finally, although it can be used against my own personal PoV, the fact remains that scholars take seriously the self-conscious division of Genesis by a late editor or the original author, authors or editors.

If these are all headings, then the real "story", "myth" or what-have-you begins with Gen 1:2 (and pre-existing matter). I told you I don't like that reading. There are ways to escape it, but this is besides the point. The point is that reliable sources see sections of Genesis, self-defined sections, which the commentators take seriously, but interpret differently.

Perhaps I need to discard my reference to the Genesis Prologue. It's awfully close to being well-defined, it's argued by many scholars flying quite different flags, that Gen 1:1-2:3 is a Prologue to Genesis, marked explicitly in the Hebrew of the text. But the problem is, only Gen 1:1-2:3 can fairly be called the Prologue.

By-the-by, Philo (1st C.), Augustine (4/5th C.) and Julius Wellhausen (the Bible's own Darwin) do not see the Prologue as myth, because it is poetic allegory. In other words, it has propositional content (can be proved true or false) but the propositions it affirms are derived from the tenor of the metaphors it uses rather than the literal vehicles of those metaphors. In ordinary English, "day" in Genesis 1 implies God worked within time in a rational manner, not that he delayed 24 hours between performing actions.

But as I said, that is by-the-by. What is more important is that Wellhausen denied Genesis 1 was myth, while affirming that Genesis 2ff were quite literally that, myth. My point is that Genesis 2-4 is the "myth" of the "heavens and the earth when they were created", per the text as seen by influential scholars ... all of those chapters, without us thinking we're smarter than them and cherry picking chapter 2 out of them.


To apply that to the current discussion: scholarship addresses a range of notable topics related to Genesis and creation. Several of these deserve articles, indeed require articles to cover the range of secondary source points of view adequately. We are gripped by a conflict that is partly due to confusing many feature of a topic into one mess of divergent opinions (I believe the word conflation became fashionable at Wiki in recent times, so I'll avoid it).

But despite all the confusion, it appears the thing people want addressed in a specialist article, and it might as well be this one, is "what Genesis says about creation".

I don't think people really care about Biblical cosmogony (what kind of waters were where and when they were), nor about Ancient Near Eastern creation myths (and the wierd and wonderful pantheon of superhumans and metaphysics they postulated). Some want to know what truth claims Genesis makes, so they can prove them false, and apply the term "myth" rightfully to what is known to be fiction. Others (not represented here) want to prove Genesis' truth claims in order to establish its divine inspiration. Most moderates, however, recognize, in accord with scholars, that Genesis 1-2 are not a serious attempt to make truth claims about the natural world in the way physics attempts. Those moderates may reject or accept the theological intentions of early Genesis, but at least they recognize it is not literal, making it poor material for experimental confirmation or refutation.

As a moderate (and a believer as well), I can actually cope with the word "myth", as a clumsy substitute for "allegory". Genesis is certainly not scientific observation or historical eyewitness narrative. "Story" is a good, and better word than "allegory", in that it is more widely understood, and actually implies less. But as a student of literature, and of scholars of literature, "myth" is ultimately part of the discussion of context of composition, only a small part of the subject, not the title.

If we want people to find the work we are doing here, isn't all we need the words "creation" and "Genesis" and as little else as possible? Alastair Haines (talk) 04:59, 1 April 2010 (UTC)

What do you mean by "clumsy substitute for allegory" ? Allegory for what? · CUSH · 01:15, 2 April 2010 (UTC)
The word myth (pure fiction) is a clumsy substitue for the word allegory (fiction making true points).
An analogy would be untruth (false statement) as a euphemism for lie (intent to deceive).
But I'm talking literary genre here. Genesis is allegory not myth on a literary level, there's plenty of sources that make that clear.
Use of the word myth is not restricted to literary studies, it is much more significant in anthropology, where it is very well-defined and well understood.
Myths are very active things anthropologically. They are a means by which our species work communally to attempt to understand and manage the world around them, including one another. Myths typically involve rituals, people participate actively in the world-view of their society, and those rituals are often believed to impact on forces outside the community.
Genesis 1 might just be stretched to anthropological myth status if we see Sabbath-keeping as a ritual participation in the myth of creation. It has historically served as a focal point for Jewish identity. However, Sabbath-keeping has another rationale in a later passage in the Bible. Also, instead of it being a way of controling the world, it is a way of surrendering control ... acknowledging the will of a Creator.
Myth does pick up some features of Genesis 1, but it is a very crude description, it fails to apply in many ways. That's probably why it's not particularly common in academic treatment of Genesis. Writers who used it too freely would look like they didn't understand what "myth" means, and would look like they didn't understand Genesis. They might also look rather like they had hang-ups about the exclusive religious school they attended.
Myth isn't a bad word and has its place in describing Genesis, but it's a casual general sort of usage, at least in the sources I've interacted with. I guess it's not too bad in books aimed at a popular market, and Wiki is certainly that.
But why use a sub-par term when we don't need to use any term at all? Alastair Haines (talk) 19:48, 2 April 2010 (UTC)
Allegory is not "fiction making true points". Allegory is using fiction to represent something else, especially something out of the real world. Fables are allegories (e.g. Aesop's Fables). Personifications of abstracta are allegories (e.g. Muses). The story of creation in Genesis is not an allegory. The elements of the story are no literary substitution to represent circumstances and interactions in human life. Genesis seeks to explain the actual creation of the world by the supernatural, it is no replacement of human action.
Creation myth is exactly what the opening chapters of Genesis are. · CUSH · 13:44, 3 April 2010 (UTC)
I agree that allegory is an imperfect description of Genesis, but a number of scholars would agree that it is less problematic and more informative than myth. One line on the current retitling discussion is that there are many good and workable designations of Genesis's literary genre, another is that there are no perfect designations of the genre, ultimately it just is whatever it is. The first of these observations suggests no-one should be dogmatic about insisting on a designator, the second suggests we might be best off avoiding one altogether. Alastair Haines (talk) 07:30, 7 April 2010 (UTC)


The term "cosmogony" is a perfect alternative to "myth". The former term is less distracting and more specific.
By contrast, "myth" is an awfully loaded term, similar in some ways to "cult". Yes, sociologists may use "cult" with a discreet specific neutral definition of the term, but the hoi polloi overwhelmingly use the word "cult" as a pejorative with which to demean an unpopular religion.
Per WP:WTA#Religion, Wikipedia already avoids "cult". Per WT:WTA#Myth and Legend, it seems advisable for us also to avoid "myth". The term "cosmogony" would allow us to do that.
A separate approach would be to continue the former "Creation according to..." nomenclature beyond the article concerning Genesis. It seems indisputable that such article names would be less likely to become distractions unto themselves. Consider:

Of course, my preference still involves the pithy term: [[Genesis cosmogony]]'''. --AuthorityTam (talk) 20:06, 2 April 2010 (UTC)

Don't forget "Creation in..." As a literary study we could have an article for "Creation in... the Silmarillion" just as easily as "Creation in... the Koran" or "Creation in... the Bible" or "Creation in... The Chronicles of Amber". "In" merely designates a portion of a piece of literature, and says nothing about truth or falsehood.EGMichaels (talk) 21:17, 2 April 2010 (UTC)
Cosmogony is a great designator, used by reliable sources and invites questions of comparative literature abundantly discussed in reliable sources. It invites discussion of myth and pre-extant matter and so on. I, for one, love it.
Silmarillion Cosmology and Qur'an (or Qur'anic) Cosmology might be a little cumbersome, but Cosmology permits both mythos and serious reflection like Science or Scientific Cosmology (which I spend happy hours learning about from online documentaries, and some quality Wiki articles).
Like EGM, though, my favourite remains the "less is more" Creation in Genesis. Creation, hijacked though the term has been, is a high probability of being a word used by readers seeking a page like this one.
BUT, thanks Tam (Tamara? love that name), fwiw I'm happy to submit to the clarity and authority of your proposal and cast my lot with Genesis Cosmology should Creation in Genesis go belly up. :)) Alastair Haines (talk) 05:33, 3 April 2010 (UTC)
After further thought, I like cosmogony even more. I don't think it is suitable for the title, because it is not WP:UCN. However, I think it is the WP:NPOV term of choice for the article text itself (after suitable definition, which is not hard, it means precisely what the Greek it is taken from means). It means "origin of the universe", no more, no less. The important thing is it does not commit Wikipedia to the assumption that there was a Creator or creators. Wikipedia can have no opinion on such a thing, it can only report from published sources of alternative PsOV, descriptively not evaluatively, from the WP:NPOV.
In dealing with Tolkien's Silmarillion, "creation" is less problematic because no one seriously claims the Silmarillion as containing truth-claims regarding the origins of the actual universe. On the other hand, Genesis is widely claimed to imply a truth claim about the origin of the universe--there was a Creator--however diverse the views regarding the literary form of expression in which this claim is presented.
Additionally, "cosmogony" allows use of "theogony", which is a common designator used for key parts of ANE traditions regarding the origins of the universe, and contrasted with Genesis. Indeed, it is probably the key difference in the opinion of most scholars who speak to questions of comparison (though I myself want to verify that from actual sources).
Again I thank AuthorityTam for her(?), imo, ideal choice of terminology. Alastair Haines (talk) 10:15, 3 April 2010 (UTC)
nice find! Yeah, I'd be happy with Cosmogony in Genesis or Cosmogony of Genesis. However, we should probably then seek out standardizing that naming convention for other creation story articles on WP:VPP, to avoid any semblance of favoritism. — The Hand That Feeds You:Bite 22:17, 3 April 2010 (UTC)
I agree. Cosmogony in Genesis would be acceptable. I also agree that all other articles having "creation myth" in their titles must be reviewed and renamed to match this new naming scheme. The only issue I see with this title is that it is unlikely that anybody would come to this article by typing "Genesis Cosmogony" in the search box... · CUSH · 22:25, 3 April 2010 (UTC)
You identified the problem with this new label yourself: it's quite arcane, and it too violates WP:TITLE. The phrase creation myth seems to be one of the few that is both widely recognized by the public and widely used by academics.UBER (talk) 22:47, 3 April 2010 (UTC)
I have two remarks: 1. Maybe the title should be "Biblical creation myth" instead of restricting it to Genesis (so references from other parts of the bible could be used). 2. Maybe there should be a distinction between Jewish and Christian interpretations, because in Christianity it is often assumed that the actual act of creation was performed by Jesus instead of Yahweh (Milton elaborates this in Paradise Lost). · CUSH · 22:56, 3 April 2010 (UTC)
I support Biblical creation myth because the article could be much broader in its coverage.UBER (talk) 23:01, 3 April 2010 (UTC)
Against Cosmogony in Genesis-there is more to the creation story than the cosmogony. It has very significant religious "moral and purpose" aspects as well. That said, it is not just a creation myth--unlike most myth, it's a scriptural theology also (more than one). The cosmogony is merely the "birth of the universe" aspect. The first passages in Genesis have many facets, chiefly myth, religious, scriptural theology, and cosmogony. The cosmogony, I'd argue, if not exactly of "lesser significance" than the rest would have relatively little content to focus on than some of these other elements. I think the article should address all these things, but it shouldn't lump them all under the one label "cosmogony". Professor marginalia (talk) 00:08, 4 April 2010 (UTC) -further comment. A cosmological myth is a type of creation myth, but the Big Bang and cosmological myths are types of cosmologies. The article on cosmology here (while it's in terrible shape at the moment) is supposedly intent to focus on scientific cosmologies. If Creation according to Genesis has been a source of irritation to science advocates, I doubt that Cosmology end up being more stable than Genesis creation myth or Creation according to Genesis. Professor marginalia (talk) 00:17, 4 April 2010 (UTC)
Which creation myth exactly is not a (scriptural) theology? The only distinction I can see is that in other creation myths humans are not at the center of divine purpose but are rather subject to the gods' capriciousness. · CUSH · 00:22, 4 April 2010 (UTC)
Most of them aren't. This is overstated some, but generally speaking the Scriptural theologies are in the Abrahamic religions. Most creation myths come from oral traditions-they aren't based on "holy books" or "holy scriptures". They are very different in character because there isn't a written text that demands exacting analysis to determine the "holy truths" contained in them. This is leads to a very different kind of relationship to the creation story than the ancient Greeks had to theirs, for example. Professor marginalia (talk) 01:15, 4 April 2010 (UTC)
What does it matter how a creation myth is passed from generation to generation? A theology does not rely on scripture but on the content of such scripture. It would be just as much a theology if it were not written down. BTW that is why the Catholic Church does not dwell so much on scripture but relies on ongoing interaction with the "divine". My point was that all myths contain some kind of theology. · CUSH · 14:14, 5 April 2010 (UTC)
Let keep it simple, obscure terms dont seem to cut it, if we got to have a note explaining what a word means then its probably to a good idea. lets not make the Reader work to understand the article. The average laymen wont understand what the word means thumbing through an article.Weaponbb7 (talk) 00:22, 4 April 2010 (UTC)

edit break

With due deference to my educated friends, while I understand the word "cosmogony" (and can even translate it into plain English) it would never occur to me to look for an article on Genesis creation using that term. In the same way, it would never occur to me to look for an article on Genesis creation using the term "myth." Look, folks, we ALREADY know that Genesis creation myth is insufficient because we need Creation according to Genesis in order to pull in readers! Why insist on titles no reader would think to look for? We can make ourselves feel very important and academic, to be sure, but if we don't pull in any readers, what's the point? It's like Exegetegical soteriological hermeneutics of Saul of Tarsus -- while maybe more "academic" than Salvation in Paul's letters, the latter title is certainly more prone to be FOUND by someone looking for the subject!EGMichaels (talk) 00:39, 4 April 2010 (UTC)

Don't start all over again, dude. How is "Genesis creation myth" insufficient? Genesis certainly is a myth. Otherwise you need to come up with reliable and verifiable sources that feature solid evidence for Genesis being an accurate account of anything (heck, even the non-creation parts lack any scientific archaeological and historical basis). And Genesis is certainly a creation myth, because it is a narrative of the creation and organization of the world as understood in a particular tradition, and it involves the supernatural.
Now the question how readers will access the page is a completely different consideration. You cannot allow unsubstantiated claims being introduced into the title just to lure more readers. · CUSH · 00:51, 4 April 2010 (UTC)
Oh good grief -- for the bazillionth time, I believe Genesis contains a "creation myth" in the first two chapters. Heck, I also see it as blending Egyptian ex nihilo and Babylonian chaos motifs. My point has nothing to do with the veracity of the title, but with its lack of simplicity. While true, it's a crappy title. I don't have theological concerns but rather editorial concerns.
"Creation in Genesis" is no more an "unsubstantiated claim" than"Creation in the Silmarillion" or "Creation in the Poetic Edda." It's simply a subject in a piece of literature, and a title that readers can FIND. And if you can't see that, you have some idealogical blinder on.EGMichaels (talk) 01:10, 4 April 2010 (UTC)
Taking pause to note that whether or not it is a "myth" has little to do with there being "solid evidence" for it. This is the very misunderstanding that many have expressed being worried about with this title -the confusion between "myth" and "something that is widely believed but not true".Professor marginalia (talk) 01:23, 4 April 2010 (UTC)
I am well aware that the word myth as such carries no judgment of the veracity of its content (it's just the greek word for story, with a little specialized meaning added in english). However, for the ordinary visitor of WP it does. Throughout the discussion on this talk page we have been told that many many times. Of course Genesis is a myth in that sense as well. For all we know everything that is narrated in Genesis has no veracity whatsoever. It may hold theological truths, but certainly not historical truths. Once you get rid of the myth part in the title veracity or evaluation of veracity moves into the article's scope. · CUSH · 01:38, 4 April 2010 (UTC)
Then call it "Biblical Creation". · CUSH · 01:20, 4 April 2010 (UTC)
Cush, i think this is a First.... its not bad title in the least Weaponbb7 (talk) 01:31, 4 April 2010 (UTC)
My preference would be Genesis creation account because it is one, more commonly referred to that way than any other alternative and we can move on to focus on content rather than edit wars. I could live with Bible creation too. Cosmology I don't like much, or Creation according to Genesis, but honestly nobody in academia writing about this is as obsessed over what to "call it" than the bunch of wikipedia editors who've spent literally hundreds of hours on this one issue.Professor marginalia (talk) 01:31, 4 April 2010 (UTC)
You know, Cush, Biblical Creation ain't bad.EGMichaels (talk) 01:34, 4 April 2010 (UTC)
Well, the adjective "Biblical" conveys the complete context of the Creation at issue, externally as well as internally. And it can exist without the term "myth" which is so controversial around here. · CUSH · 01:46, 4 April 2010 (UTC)
I would support this compromise if and only if we make it clear immediately, right after the original title, that the subject is "also known as the Biblical creation myth" or the "Genesis creation myth."UBER (talk) 01:50, 4 April 2010 (UTC)
Biblical Creation opens it up to items in various prophetic books, as well as Psalms. Let's keep it limited to Genesis. Just because one person thinks that "account" means an account of something that actually happened doesn't mean that the word implies any such thing. "Story" is fine as well. If anything, it leans towards "just a story", but I don't think anyone would have a problem with Genesis creation story. It's by far the most middle-of-the-road name out there. - Lisa (talk - contribs) 01:52, 4 April 2010 (UTC)
What's the problem with removing the restriction to Genesis? If I recall right there are numerous references throughout the Tanakh that amend Genesis (although I don't remember particular verse numbers). Why would you force that outside the scope of the article? After all, this article was supposed to deal with the Judeochristian concept of creation, not just with the text of the opening chapters of Gensis as such. · CUSH · 01:57, 4 April 2010 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Since it was proposed, I'm also fine with Genesis creation story. It gets about the same point across as Genesis creation myth without being (allegedly) offensive.UBER (talk) 02:02, 4 April 2010 (UTC)

"Story" is possibly the worst pick because of its etymology. Even worse than "account". · CUSH · 02:23, 4 April 2010 (UTC)
WHAT?!?!?!?! Are you serious? - Lisa (talk - contribs) 02:54, 4 April 2010 (UTC)
Most authorities will use "story" or "account" unselfconsciously even while describing it as a myth. But if "Biblical creation" or "Genesis creation" is apt too, what say we agree to it and we move on? Professor marginalia (talk) 03:20, 4 April 2010 (UTC)
Agreed. I suggest "Biblical Creation". · CUSH · 03:27, 4 April 2010 (UTC)
Fwiw, I like lots of the suggestions above. Since this article is about what the Bible says, and the Bible's cosmogonic allegory is given as a story of Creator and creation, in the case of this particular article, Cush's Biblical creation has the benefit of being clear and to the point. I'd be happier with Creation in the Bible, or Biblical creation story, perhaps. Narrowing things to Genesis is fine too, perhaps preferable, because Bible raises the thorny issue that Christians (and English) mean this differently to Jewish usage. But that's not as big a deal as it seems, 'cause Christian additions can be "tacked on" to the article, or the title narrowed to Hebrew Bible if absolutely necessary. Hebrew and Bible are good search terms too.
To be honest, I think there are a lot of good titles: it's much easier to settle that "myth" is not ideal than it is to settle on which of many possible good alternative titles should replace it.
The only question I can think to ask to help is: are we more interested in details of what the Bible says about creation (or origins) or more interested in what Genesis says about whatever? I'm not entirely sure that everyone is on the same page there. Alastair Haines (talk) 03:22, 4 April 2010 (UTC)
I prefer Biblical Creation, because it not only refers to the purely textual context but to the conceptual context. · CUSH · 03:29, 4 April 2010 (UTC)
I like Cush's Biblical Creation and also Alastair's Creation in the Bible. ─AFA Prof01 (talk) 04:14, 4 April 2010 (UTC)
Some Google results to add to our possibilities:
  1. Bible story of creation
  2. Biblical cosmogony
  3. Biblical creation (Cush, AFA Prof01)
  4. Creation and Genesis
  5. Creation in the Bible (Alastair, AFA Prof01)
  6. Creation in Genesis
  7. Genesis cosmogony
  8. Genesis creation
  9. Genesis creation texts
  10. Genesis in the beginning
  11. Genesis: The Beginnings
My first choice remains "Creation according to Genesis". ─AFA Prof01 (talk) 04:14, 4 April 2010 (UTC)
Me, too. Like I said, "story" implies fiction, at least a little bit. "Creation according to Genesis" has always been the appropriate title for this article. - Lisa (talk - contribs) 05:11, 4 April 2010 (UTC)
"Creation according to Genesis" implies reality. Of course you like that endorsement.· CUSH · 10:16, 4 April 2010 (UTC)
CUSH, I continue to be confused and surprised at your insistence that "according to" implies reality, hence endorsement. It all depends on the reader's or hearer's opinion of (confidence in) the object of the preposition. "According to Genesis" carries with it a sense of endorsement only for those who already have confidence in the authority and veracity of Genesis. It therefore carries a negative veracity to those who don't believe Genesis is authoritative. To those who have confidence in CUSH, saying "According to CUSH..." adds credibility to what you say or write. To those who never heard of AFA Prof01, or who have but haven't found that editor's edits to be credible, "According to AFA Prof01..." would serve to defuse any presumed credence. unfamiliar, but I've have never ever heard that "according to" maybe in your culture. According to several dictionaries, "According to" means nothing more than "as stated or attested by. So, "Creation as stated by Genesis" or "Creation as reported by Genesis" and "Creation according to Genesis" are synonymous, aren't they" ─AFA Prof01 (talk) 04:20, 6 April 2010 (UTC)
I think I have said that elsewhere before: all these sentences suggest that the issue is real and only the description varies. "Creation according to ... A, B, or C" implies that Creation is certain and that different sources describe it. · CUSH · 02:44, 7 April 2010 (UTC)

edit break

Eh, I'd have to side with Cush here... slightly... on the grounds that "Creation according to the Silmarillion" has an odd connotation. To do a Silmarillion sanity check on Afa Prof's google results would give some good and some bad results:

  • Tolkien story of creation
  • Silmarillion creation (implies the history of Tolkien's writing process)
  • Creation and the Silmarillion
  • Creation in the Silmarillion (functional)
  • Creation according to the Silmarillion (strikes the reader as geekish -- much like this list)
  • Silmarillion cosmogony (oddly goes together because they are both weird words)
  • Silmarillion creation
  • Silmarillion creation texts
  • Silmarillion in the beginning
  • Silmarillion: The Beginnings

In that list, Creation in the Silmarillion, Silmarillion cosmogony, and Silmarillion creation myth are the most functional, with the first choice the most accessible as a search choice. But, as Cush noted, Creation according to the Silmarillion really does imply that there's something real about it.EGMichaels (talk) 11:34, 4 April 2010 (UTC)

Support "Creation in..." nomenclature. Consider:

--AuthorityTam (talk) 02:21, 6 April 2010 (UTC)

Support "Creation in..." nomenclature. Also any of the following:

  • Creation according to Genesis
  • Creation as reported by (or in) Genesis
  • Creation pursuant to Genesis
  • Creation described in Genesis

AFA Prof01 (talk) 04:20, 6 April 2010 (UTC)

Support' with suggested change to "Creation according to Genesis 1-2"(in order to define how much of Genesis is being considered - Genesis 3 onward doesn't deal with creation)PiCo (talk) 04:54, 6 April 2010 (UTC)

Comment: I'm not against either wide scope--Bible--or narrow scope--Genesis 1. I am rather nervous about dividing Genesis 2 and 3. Admittedly, Adam and Eve (though nothing else) are created in Genesis 2. Arguably, though, the cherubim of the last verse of Genesis 3 might have been created at this point in the text. Alternatively, they, like the other people we find Cain referring to in Genesis 4, might have already been in existence in earlier chapters ... or even prior to Chapter 1! (Perhaps the cherubim were included in "Let us make ...".) Since scholars regularly draw material from chapters 3 and 4 to elucidate chapters 1 and 2, I'd be more comfortable with narrow scope being restricted to one of: the Prologue to Genesis (1:1-2:4), the Prologue plus the "generations of Adam", or the whole Primeval History (i.e. everything prior to the Abraham Cycle--chapter 12 et seqq.). These are the kinds of divisions of the text typical in scholastic sources. Alastair Haines (talk) 05:54, 6 April 2010 (UTC)

Support "Creation in ..." nomenclature. Alastair Haines (talk) 05:59, 6 April 2010 (UTC)

Oppose Sorry I'm late to the game. I've been taking a bit of a Wikibreak while planning for a PCT Thru Hike. I'm not particularly fond using Cosmogony over Creation myth for the following reasons:

Genesis 1-2 puts more focus on the creation of life than the creation of the universe and said creation is done by a diety. Can we all agree this is a true statement?

So which term fits best?

COSMOGONY: any theory concerning the coming into existence or origin of the universe, or about how reality came to be. CREATION MYTH: a supernatural story or explanation that describes the beginnings of humanity, earth, life, and the universe.

Nefariousski (talk) 20:31, 6 April 2010 (UTC)

Oppose Rename - Cosmogony is not too bad, but it is a very rare word that would not be helpful to readers of the encyclopedia. Personally, I confuse "cosmogony" with "cosmology". The current title is accurate and understandable; but more important: the current title helps organize and distinguish the various articles about Genesis. --Noleander (talk) 20:35, 6 April 2010 (UTC)

Thanks Nef and Nol for reminding us that there are still people holding out for the "creation myth" title.
This thread, if I'm not mistaken, is intended to build consensus for the best possible alternative.
People who think "reation myth" is the best option are very welcome, but what would help us most is what you think would be the second best title.
It would be rather unusual if there was only one possible title for this topic. The question is, if it's not the current one, what else would be best. The current title is not admissable as an option, obviously. Alastair Haines (talk) 03:00, 7 April 2010 (UTC)
I'd say it's more that those who consider the current title not to be a problem have mainly been bored to death by the endless special pleading. Academic sources fall into two categories, as far as I can see: neutral sources which discuss the creation myths of various religions, and religious sources which discuss creation according to their own sacred texts. Guy (Help!) 18:19, 7 April 2010 (UTC)
Indeed. · CUSH · 18:23, 7 April 2010 (UTC)

I haven't seen any special pleading here. Those advocating a non-myth title rather consistently favor non-myth titles for other living religions. Also, they favor non-myth titles for creation epics relative to specific books -- such as Völuspá, Enuma_elish, etc. Further, the academic sources lack the extreme bipolarity you suggested, with even Christian sources often using the term "creation myth" regarding their own narrative. As I pointed out above, while it's in good taste to call your own religious creation narrative a "creation myth" it is in bad taste to call someone else's creation narrative by that term. To do so betrays a so-called "non-academic" bias. I've noted that while Alastair and I (and apparently Deadtotruth) are capable of using the term "myth" affirmatively for our own views (as a "symbolic narrative") I was unable to get agreement from the "myth" title advocates to tweak the Words to Avoid guide to include the phrase "symbolic literary structure." This consistent refusal to use an academic phrase in the Wikipedia definition, coupled with an insistence on only using it for someone else's belief and not their own, betrays a bias that is unworthy of representation in the title of the present article. Alastair has simply asked for folks to do the same thing that I asked them to do in February: come up with a second best term. Cush has come up with quite a good term for possibly intriguing reasons -- if I understand him correctly "biblical" is so synonymous with "mythical" that it's an acceptable term in the title. As I've noted in the past, Cush is an extremely consistent editor.
So, then, there is no special pleading on the part of those open to a non-myth title. Rather, if anything, special pleading is on the part of those who refuse any other option: they don't believe in the text, and demand the use for those reasons.EGMichaels (talk) 18:33, 7 April 2010 (UTC)
Actually, the "myth" and "creation myth" faction does plead for this title exactly to avoid special treatment for Judeochristian traditions in the face of all the other creation myths enumerated many times on this page. · CUSH · 18:45, 7 April 2010 (UTC)
Cush, that's easily disproved by the fact that they don't want ANY living religion to be branded as "myth." That's not special pleading, but consistent good editorial taste. While "creation myth" is included in academic works, it is not EXCLUSIVELY used in those works. We can use equally academic terms such as "epic" or "narrative" or a host of other terms (or no term at all, as in your own "biblical creation" or Alastair's "creation in genesis"). While we are bound to follow academic sources, those sources themselves give us a flexibility beyond an exclusive use of "myth."EGMichaels (talk) 19:07, 7 April 2010 (UTC)
There was only one editor who didn't want ANY living religion to be branded as "myth". And really, that is no criterion anyways. The opening chapters of Genesis are structurally, theologically, and in quite a number of other aspects a creation myth par excellence. There is no substantial difference between what YHWH does and, say, what ENKI does. Only such "academics" classify the Genesis material as "unmythological" who judge the stuff from within the religion itself. Genesis 1-2 is a creation myth is a creation myth is a creation myth. · CUSH · 20:50, 7 April 2010 (UTC)

R E Friedman

Friedman believes and writes (The Bible With Sources Revealed)that the second section of the creation section (written by J in Judah between 922 - 722 BCE) and is older than the first section which he attributes to P. When the edit block is lifted that view should be added to the one stating it was written during the Babylonian exile.Nitpyck (talk) 00:19, 5 April 2010 (UTC)

Friedman didn't invent that view, it's the documentary hypothesis and dates from the late 19th century. It still has followers (e.g. Friedman, but also others such as E.A. Speiser, who wrote a fairly recent commentary on Genesis for the Anchor series), but the more common view today is that the Priestly material (Genesis 1 etc) is an edit by a single author or school of authors based on a great deal of fairly disparate material called J or EJ, with D standing somewhat distinct from both these. PiCo (talk) 08:27, 5 April 2010 (UTC)
Either way the J theory should be contrasted with the current opposite view: Chronologically it was written after the experiences of the Babylonian exile. It is considered far more modern for its time than the polytheistic cosmogonies of Mesopotamia could have been, and introduces a far more restrictive use of the name Yahweh than the common use of the name in Amorite culture[22]. The second narrative represents a partial demythologizing of nature, interpreting both nature and myth differently. Its presentation uses imagery reflective of the pastoral tradition of Israel that is difficult to interpret today: the world of the shepherd.[23] The Eden narrative addresses the creation of the first man and woman: (talk) 23:51, 5 April 2010 (UTC)
We need to beware citing any one scholar regarding a definitive and final answer to a question.
We even need to beware citing any single scholar regarding a claim of conensus of scholarship in favour of her own opinion.
Any wikipedia editor who claims (without multiple citations) to know what the consensus of scholarship is, can certainly be ignored.
Any scholar's personal PoV can be boldly added to articles, and scholars who disagree can also be boldly added, of course.
Ultimately though, we will be providing a literature review of the earliest and/or best representatives of all PsoV.
No lower standard is acceptable in the long run, though it takes time to get there and all contributions help.
In the review below, you will see that the Documentary Hypothesis, which remains no more than a hypothesis, is particularly associated with approaching Genesis from the German tradition of Redaktionskritic. That's a great thing to do, because until the mid 20th century, Germans were the prime movers in biblical and theological scholarship.
However, more recent approaches to biblical scholarship are based on advances in linguistics, and a good deal of this work has been published in English.
Keep up this great work of collecting sources for various PsoV, please! I'm posting just as a gentle reminder that there are hundreds of thousands of reliable sources on Genesis, and millions on the Bible, from thousands of non-neutral points of view: the atheist point of view, the Islamic point of view, the reformed Jewish point of view, the Mormon point of view, the Marxist point of view, the feminist point of view, the Jehovah's Witness point of view and so on. Oh! And scholastic treatment of Genesis by orthodox Jewish and conservative Christian academics is also naturally permissable. Devotional treatments are, of course, not admissable, unless we're contrasting evaluative rather than descriptive material regarding texts.
I'm sure nothing is new here, just serving as a reminder. Alastair Haines (talk) 04:48, 6 April 2010 (UTC)

"the common use of the name [Yahweh] in Amorite culture." Eh? PiCo (talk) 05:12, 6 April 2010 (UTC)

Good catch PiCo! Reliably sourced on Wikipedia, citing Peter Watson, citing HWF Saggs. Alastair Haines (talk) 05:33, 6 April 2010 (UTC)
Yes, I was proud of that little Easter egg :-). Makes me want to read Saggs, though. Watson was covering so much territory that I'd prefer hunting down the horse's mouth.EGMichaels (talk) 00:14, 7 April 2010 (UTC)
You might like:
He discusses visual and oral paronomasia: visual—gematria, atbash, acrostic, notrikon, acronymy,anastrophe, epanastrophe; oral—equivocal, metaphony, parasonance, farrago, assonance, onomatopoeia, antanclasis.
Alastair Haines (talk) 02:22, 7 April 2010 (UTC)
Getting back to Documentary hypothesis J...The oldest source, concerned with narratives, making up half of Genesis and half of Exodus, plus fragments of Numbers. J describes a human-like God, called Yahweh (or rather YHWH) throughout, and has a special interest in the Kingdom of Judah and individuals connected with Judah... Originally composed c. 950 BCE Is different from this article's Chronologically it was written after the experiences of the Babylonian exile. by about 350 years. Are the quote and cite 22 in the wrong section since they seem more appropriate to P? Nitpyck (talk) 23:39, 7 April 2010 (UTC)
The passage you quote (from the wiki article documentary hypothesis) is describing the "classical" DH put forward by Wellhausen in the late C.19th. This was pretty much the standard interpretation until the last quarter of the C.20th, but since then new interpretations have gained wide popularity. In particular, it's now quite common to hear the Torah described as the work of a P editor or school working on a mass of non-P material - the division, in other words, is seen as being between P and non-P rather than between J/E/P (D still stands). At the same time the date of composition has been brought down - non-P may include some material from the 10th century, but not much. All in all the field is pretty much in flux these days, with no consensus. The people to google for more information would be Van Seters and Rendsberg.PiCo (talk) 09:18, 8 April 2010 (UTC)
But it is still reasonable to include the idea that the J section of Genesis predates the Babylonian exile and is written in an earlier form of Hebrew along with the theories now in this article that the section still generally associated with J was written during the exile. The fact that some small group rejects J does not mean it is still not accepted and taught by many. Now first I mention a current figure who accepts J and a modified DH, and I'm told no use DH, then I mention DH and I'm told look at Van Seters et al. All I'm saying is Many accept that J wrote the man out of clay (with the pun) version and that fact certainly should be included in this section. Two major theories 1- Moses did it, 2- DH. The rest are variations of DH which have received more or less acceptance. If your source says DH is blown out of the water and is no longer accepted by any group of Biblical scholars I'll accept this and would hope you add it to the DH article also.
Van Seters WP article says one of three theories on who wrote Genesis. The footnotes for this section do not come from any Biblical Scholarly source and the theory propounded is not even identified. They are from a general history of ideas and a book about Genesis and Modern Science. Nitpyck (talk) 04:27, 8 April 2010 (UTC)

(Undent) At a personal guess, I'd say that the most popular theory in America might be the documentary hypothesis, and the most popular in Europe might be the theory that P is an editor working with non-P material (you can refer to non-P as J within this theory provided you're clear that it doesn't mean a single document). Van Seters championed a rather different theory, which is that J was an author working with older material - again, no complete documents (those belong to the documentary hypothesis), and Van Seters doesn't mean by J the same thing that the doumentary hypothesis people mean. I don't think you'll find any of this explained properly in Wikipedia - you'll need to go to Google, or better still, a library. (The Mosaic authorship idea, by the way, is held by only a tiny minority of ultra-conservative and religiously-motivated scholars). PiCo (talk) 09:38, 8 April 2010 (UTC)

Please see my comment in next section (below).EGMichaels (talk) 10:42, 8 April 2010 (UTC)

The meaning of myth in Greek

We all know the common use of the word myth in English is "pure fiction" (Oxford English Dictionary); and some of us know the word can also be used in collocation with creation to indicate a "symbolic narrative" (Encyclopaedia Britannica). It has been claimed on this page that the latter technical sense of myth is just the Greek usage of the word. So I'm offering a reliable source on Greek usage: Liddell & Scott. This source is available online at the Perseus Project, and here is a link to its entry on mythos.

μῦθος, ὁ
definition II
  1. tale, story, narrative, Od.3.94, 4.324, S.Ant.11, etc.: in Hom. like the later λόγος, without distinction of true or false, μ. παιδός of or about him, Od.11.492: so in Trag., ἀκούσει μῦθον ἐν βραχεῖ λόγῳ (χρόνῳ cod. M.) A.Pers.713; μύθων τῶν Λιβυστικῶν Id.Fr.139.1: in Prose, τὸν εἰκότα μ. the likely story, likelihood, Pl.Ti.29d: prov., μ. ἀπώλετο, either of a story which never comes to an end, or of one told to those who do not listen, Cratin.59, Crates Com.21, Pl.Tht. 164d, cf. R.621b, Lg.645b, Phlb.14a; μ. ἐσώθη 'that's the end of the story', Phot.
  2. fiction (opp. λόγος, historic truth), Pi.O.1.29 (pl.), N.7.23 (pl.), Pl.Phd.61b, Prt.320c, 324d, etc.
  3. generally, fiction, μ. ἴδιοι Phld.Po.5.5; legend, myth, Hdt.2.45, Pl.R.330d, Lg. 636c, etc.; ὁ περὶ θεῶν μ. Epicur.Ep.3p.65U.; τοὺς μ. τοὺς ἐπιχωρίους γέγραφεν SIG382.7 (Delos, iii B.C.).
  4. professed work of fiction, children's story, fable, Pl.R.377a; of Aesop's fables, Arist. Mete.356b11.
  5. plot of a comedy or tragedy, Id.Po.1449b5, 1450a4, 1451a16.

I note the English technical use purports to be the first, Homeric usage. Of particular note, however, is the second definition, which is found in complementary distribution opposed to logos (λόγος, "historic truth"). The third definition is my favourite, though, because of its attestation in the phrase mythoi idioi (so close to mythoi idiotōn). Alastair Haines (talk) 03:50, 8 April 2010 (UTC)

BDAG, Third edition, agrees with the usage given on the Perseus project. One example is translated "not some contrived tale [mythos], but a true account [logos]." (Brackets are supplied, and I reverted to the lexical form to make it easier for folks).EGMichaels (talk) 04:11, 8 April 2010 (UTC)
The Bauer lexicon is perfect for the Greek (Septuagint) version of the subject of the article. I felt the "big little" was more apt for the meta-discussion. Thanks for the "ping", please consider yourself "pong"-ed. ;) Alastair Haines (talk) 05:39, 8 April 2010 (UTC)
Is it really ping pong if you agree with each other? ;-)EGMichaels (talk) 10:24, 8 April 2010 (UTC)

Another thought provoking "blast from the past"

The more things change the more they stay the same, or so they say. Alastair Haines (talk) 12:03, 8 April 2010 (UTC)

  • "His [Lucian of Samosata's] hypothesis, if admitted, only exhibits still more glaring proof how universally throughout the pagan world a system of gross physics prevailed, and the earth was adored instead of the Creator.
I am still, however, inclined to the opinion of other mythologists who consider this celebrated deity [Ishtar] in the most extensive veiw of her character, as universal nature herself, which includes not only the earth, but the whole circle of being."
Thomas Maurice, Indian Antiquities, volume 5, (Royal Exchange, London: William Richardson, 1794), p. 915.

Ah, thanks for this, Alastair. It's fascinating to see the tug of war between primordial matriarchalism and patriarchalism. All life comes from woman, so the Creator is female. No, wait, men have a role, so the woman is but the earth... I was reading the love poetry of Innana the other day, and even in this earliest reference to the goddess, she calls to her lover to plow her wet ground. If this is the earliest and it was already patriarchal, how can we even reconstruct the matriarchal?EGMichaels (talk) 13:14, 8 April 2010 (UTC)

Yes, Inana expresses rather full and frank desire in comparison to other virgin goddesses, doesn't she? Alastair Haines (talk) 03:25, 9 April 2010 (UTC)

Tweaking the Lede

I've attempted to use everyone's terminology and viewpoint in the first few lines of the article. Hopefully I didn't err too badly.EGMichaels (talk) 13:37, 8 April 2010 (UTC)

I'm sorry, but no. The proper thing to do is put things in chronological order. Not theoretical chronological order, but actual chronological order. The earliest sources which speak about the text of Genesis 1-2 (i.e., secondary sources) are those in rabbinic texts, and they maintain that the Torah was dictated by God to Moses. Next, chronologically, come Christian sources (church fathers, etc.), which say whatever they say. Finally, we reach more recent schools of thought, which have not superseded their predecessors, but exist in addition to them, which maintain that the Genesis account was cribbed from Mesopotamian source material.
You can't have the lede say that it's cribbed from Mesopotamian sources, and -- oh, yeah -- some people think otherwise. That's putting the horse before the cart. - Lisa (talk - contribs) 13:46, 8 April 2010 (UTC)
Lisa, I was actually constructing in a "yes, but" format. "Yes, I'd like to come to the party, BUT..." The second half gets the emphasis. It's near universal that the text either borrowed from earlier sources (a liberal view) or repudiated them (a conservative one). I think it's fair to word the lede that way and only gave this edit as a way to get there. But can we stop warring and try to tweak it? We can always revert back if we can't get to common ground here.EGMichaels (talk) 13:50, 8 April 2010 (UTC)
Sure. Let's work on it here, in talk. And then move an agreed upon version into the lede. Why do you have a problem with that? And no, I don't think it's fair to word it that way, because the conservative view is not that the text is a reaction to Mesopotamian myths; it's that Mesopotamian myths were mythological versions of the actual events which are recorded in Genesis. - Lisa (talk - contribs) 13:56, 8 April 2010 (UTC)

Traditionally viewed by Jews (and still viewed that way by Orthodox Jews) as having been authored by God, it was later adopted by Christians as well. The Genesis creation narratives have had an exceptionally long and complex history of interpretation. Until the latter half of the 19th century, they were seen as one continuous, uniform story with Genesis 1:1–2:3 outlining the world's origin, and 2:4–2:25 carefully painting a more detailed picture of the creation of humanity. However, recent scholarship opines that there are two unique accounts of creation, persuaded by the use of two different names for God the creator, two different emphases (physical vs. moral issues), and a different order of creation (plants before humans, plants after humans). Today, it is nearly universally accepted that Genesis contains two distinct creation narratives, written many years apart by two different sources, each of which experienced a distinct historical climate.[1]

Here's that paragraph as it stands now. Let's discuss it. - Lisa (talk - contribs) 13:58, 8 April 2010 (UTC)

Originally written within a context of ancient near eastern myths, including those of Egypt, Sumer, and Babylon, the text itself was constructed to form the basis of a uniquely Jewish world view which was later adopted by Christians. Although modern scholarship has attempted to reconstruct underlying linguistic and textual sources for the canonical text, traditional Jews and Christians see the final product as either divinely inspired or even (in Orthodox Jewish thought) dictated by God. The Genesis creation narratives have had an exceptionally long and complex history of interpretation. Until the latter half of the 19th century, they were seen as one continuous, uniform story with Genesis 1:1–2:3 outlining the world's origin, and 2:4–2:25 carefully painting a more detailed picture of the creation of humanity. However, recent scholarship opines that there are two unique accounts of creation, persuaded by the use of two different names for God the creator, two different emphases (physical vs. moral issues), and a different order of creation (plants before humans, plants after humans). Today, it is nearly universally accepted that Genesis contains two distinct creation narratives, written many years apart by two different sources, each of which experienced a distinct historical climate.[2]

And here's the version you're proposing. To start with, there's part of the version I reverted to that I disagree with as well. "Today, it is nearly universally accepted that Genesis contains two distinct creation narratives, written many years apart by two different sources, each of which experienced a distinct historical climate." That's nowhere near true. It would be better to say something like "The predominant academic view of the Genesis account is that it, like the rest of the Bible, is comprised of multiple sources." Because that's true. And it's appropriate to put it in context of the larger view that the whole Bible is a patchwork. Because nobody who doesn't start from the patchwork hypothesis thinks that Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 were written at different times. - Lisa (talk - contribs) 14:04, 8 April 2010 (UTC)

Lisa, this is way too much overhead for a simple consensus concatenation -- which is what I attempted. My edit did NOT say that it was written either to copy or repudiate ANE myths, but that it was written in a geographic and temporal "context" that included those myths. We can leave the copy/repudiation idea later on. Please note that my edit ALSO leaves open the idea that those ANE myths mythologized the actual events remembered in Genesis. That's allowed in the inclusive wording I created. Right now I have a colicky newborn in my lap and I can't engage in a huge battle for what should be noncontraversial edits. If somehow my wording EXCLUDED the "hey they copied our real events" possibility, then please tweak it accordingly and reinsert, but I worked really hard to get everyone's views included in that wording, including your own.EGMichaels (talk) 15:28, 8 April 2010 (UTC)

Decide first sentence, then title?

This is just one of many possible topic sentences for this article. Perhaps if we got a topic sentence together first, the title would fall out naturally. I'll provide an example of how the article might begin, alternatives would be really appreciated. Alastair Haines (talk) 05:17, 6 April 2010 (UTC)

Biblical creation
In the Bible, the origin of the whole universe, as it was then known, is presented as a unilateral creative work of the Jewish God, Yahweh. The biblical text appears to include assumptions drawn from earlier cosmogonies in its region, yet also contrasts with these and various creation myths from around the world, not only in its monotheism, but also by giving no explanation for the origin of its God (compare Theogony).
I'm not too sure Alastair. That seems a bit long and detailed IMO. The best practice in first sentences is to have the article title mentioned at the beginning, or as close to as possible - "Henry James was a British-American author," "Hydrogen is element number whatever," etc. So if the article is to be called "Biblical creation," I'd like to see the lead sentence start with "Biblical creation is/refers to..." whatever. (I'd avoid the word "universe" - the ANE concept of the universe was so different from ours that I think this would inevitably give a false colour to the sentence). PiCo (talk) 02:26, 7 April 2010 (UTC)
1. The word "universe" should be avoided, since that is a concept outside the scope of the bible. Call it "world".
2. "appears to include" is a weasel phrase. Since there are sources for the recycling of earlier ideas, there is no need for the cautious wording. "The biblical text includes assumptions drawn from earlier cosmogonies".
3. The contrast with myths from "around the world" is somewhat stretching the context. It is better to only look at the Ancient Near East the religions/traditions of which Judaism has copied and altered. · CUSH · 02:35, 7 April 2010 (UTC)
Agree with Cush's points. Alternative suggestion: "Biblical creationdepicts creation as the work of the single god (hyperlink monotheism) of Israel." Then maybe a bit more about the Divine Council (Yahweh didn't do it quite alone), relevant bible books/chapters/verses, and whatever else seems relevant. PiCo (talk) 03:01, 7 April 2010 (UTC)
Thanks heaps for the comments.
I agree with you PiCo, the style leaves a lot to be desired.
I like Cush's idea of keeping close to words and concepts of the text itself "heavens and earth" might be a good phrase to use. It is, however, usually considered a merism, but sources could help us settle on a final word or phrase.
I'd also be happy to drop the "appears to". In fact, I'd be happy to replace "appears to include assumptions drawn from" with "reworks ideas drawn from".
And finally, I like Cush's point that Genesis can't simply be compared with just any and every creation myth, it is different and special, and our treatment needs to recognize those things that sources consider make it different: ANE provenance for a start.
PiCo's alternative suggestion goes right to the heart of things, I think, and the Divine Council is an excellent caveat.
I note that all three of us are really sticking to Genesis as we try to define Biblical creation, which isn't surprising. Alastair Haines (talk) 07:17, 7 April 2010 (UTC)
The divine council is certainly an interesting subject, but we also need to remember that some of the midrash regarding a council could be a polemic against the Christian take of God being his own council. The "let us make" could be 1) a royal plural (which is almost certainly an mere anachronism), 2) a council of other beings (a Jewish view to counter the Christian pluri-unity), 3) God himself (the Christian view), 4) God and man (man being unique as a being who co-creates his own destiny).
I like to use 4 to get people to think responsibly about themselves, but that's more homeletics than exegesis. In any case, the potential parallels of a divine council with ANE writings would be more fruitful than the other options (most of which are well sourced and should be included).EGMichaels (talk) 09:27, 7 April 2010 (UTC)
I don't quite understand - so far as I know, the term "Divine Council" was invented by modern, 20th century, scholars to describe a feature of Uguritic religion, namely the way El and his sons join together to form a council. There are clear signs of this concept (a "council" of gods headed by El) behind certain passages in the Hebrew Bible. Some of these are very oblique, including the use of the pronoun "us" at several points in Genesis 1-11 ("Let us make mankind," "lest he become like one of us," etc), but far more strongly elsewhere, perhaps most notably at the passage in Deuteronomy where it's stated that God (called Elohim) has divided the peoples of the earth between his sons and given Israel to Yahweh (separate from Elohim). There's also one of the Psalms which has Yahweh standing in the council of the gods to argue with them. So, I can't quite see what the midrash, let alone the Christians, have to do with it. PiCo (talk) 04:40, 8 April 2010 (UTC)
You have to keep in mind that Ugarit is only of cautious importance. They were separated by Phoenecia (which unfortunately didn't leave a literary legacy), and the Israelites were at war with them both militarily and culturally. While the Hebrews would have had some things in common because of the similarity of language (clearly the most important aspect of Ugarit), a hypothetical similarity of religion because of a similar phraseology is more problematic. We really have multiple variables going on here: 1) synchronic linguistics separated by culture (Ugarit vs Israel), and 2) diachronic religious ideas joined by culture (Hebrews of different times -- spilling over into Christianity). The truth is that there ARE no perfect parallels. We can only approximate ranges of possibilities.
What's more, while lower criticism (which I do real work in) is often based on subjective judgments (i.e. we favor this reading because we think it's harder), higher critism is even worse. Don't get me wrong -- higher (redactive) critism is loads of fun, and you come up with all kinds of exciting ideas, but it does not have a good track record when dealing with actual reproducible histories. I believe it was C. S. Lewis who used critics' reproduction of his own writing process to show how wide off the mark such criticism is when you can actually double check.
We positively should show these fascinating hypotheses, but few documentary hypotheses could ever graduate into actual theory, and none have so far on biblical recreations.EGMichaels (talk) 10:38, 8 April 2010 (UTC)
I suggest you read some of the more important contemporary books/scholars on the subject: you could start with Mark Smith's "The Origins of Biblical Monotheism: Israel’s Polytheistic Background and the Ugaritic Texts" (OUP, 2001), and his "The Early History of God" (Eerdmans, 2002); also essential is John Day's "Yahweh and the Gods and Goddesses of Canaan" (Sheffield Academic Press, 2002), and of course the "Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible" (second edition, Eerdmans, 1999) edited by Karel Van Der Torn. PiCo (talk) 06:09, 9 April 2010 (UTC)


I will not allow Cush to unilaterally decide that Orthodox Jewish scholarship is not scholarship, but merely "doctrine". Cush, get yourself under control. - Lisa (talk - contribs) 12:14, 8 April 2010 (UTC)

Relax, Lisa. None of us really make unilateral decisions here, and certainly not in discussion. Cush can believe and say what he likes. Sources will demonstrate to other editors not already familiar with the issues that doctrine is always scholarship (or unworthy of the name "doctrine"), though scholarship is not always doctrine.
I have been taught a good deal of military doctrine, and political doctrine is something anyone familiar with party-politics knows well. Cush has a distaste for the conclusions of some religious doctrines, though no problem with most other forms of doctrine.
Doctrine is just teaching, the end result of scholarship.
Wikipedia frequently produces editorial disputes because people wish to keep article content to statements of doctrine, without the scholarship behind those doctrines. The people who proposed the current title for this article wanted precisely the same thing: answers, short and sweet.
It's hard for people to grasp that an encyclopedia like Wikipedia can only document arguments (with conclusions being merely the "full stop" at the end). This is Wikipedia, not Wiki-answers. The former is scholarship, the latter is doctrine. Alastair Haines (talk) 12:30, 8 April 2010 (UTC)

Frankly Lisa, i am siding with cush on this one

"Originally written by Jewish authors, it was later adopted by Christians as well. The traditional view in Judaism (and still viewed that way by Orthodox Jews) is that it has been authored by God himself."

Seems Perfectly fine Weaponbb7 (talk) 12:39, 8 April 2010 (UTC)

Lisa cannot just remove references to the actual authorship of the text to replace it with some weird divine authorship claim held by groups within Judaism and Christianity. This amounts to proselytization. This is not the school board of Texas · CUSH · 12:44, 8 April 2010 (UTC)
Cush — can you please tell me where you see "proselytization?" Bus stop (talk) 17:31, 8 April 2010 (UTC)
Cush, it is perfectly encyclopedic to say that Orthodox Judaism views the Torah as dictated by God. In fact, it is unencyclopedic to exclude it. Can we say that God dictated it? No. Can we say that Jews teach that God dictated it? Absolutely.EGMichaels (talk) 13:17, 8 April 2010 (UTC)
But it is very very unencyclopedic to insert such information instead of naming the actual authorship. As I said, this means inserting doctrine in a place of historical and literary information. · CUSH · 14:01, 8 April 2010 (UTC)

Weaponbb7, you can't say that it was written by Jewish authors as a point of fact, because that's only one POV. Nor, EGM, can you state that the text was derived from Mesopotamian myths, as a point of fact, because that's also only one POV. - Lisa (talk - contribs) 13:40, 8 April 2010 (UTC)

Lisa -- I wasn't attempting to say that it was derived from Mesopotamian myths, but that it was written in a cultural setting which included those myths. The text either borrowed from those myths (a liberal view) or repudiated them (a conservative view) -- but it seems universal that the writer of Genesis was aware of that cultural setting.EGMichaels (talk) 13:44, 8 April 2010 (UTC)
It isn't universal. You know that. It may be universal in that subset of views that claim the text was written by people, but that isn't universal. - Lisa (talk - contribs) 13:52, 8 April 2010 (UTC)
Lisa At the very least it was copied down by Jewish scribes at somepoint lacking the original document authored by god. so i am comfortable with this critical commentary in the way it is presented here. To me its all about how topics and commentary is presented. Weaponbb7 (talk) 14:55, 8 April 2010 (UTC)

The answer to the question "who wrote Genesis" is not " the religionists say 'god did it' ". What kind of encyclopedic understanding would that be? Are you serious?? Do we now allow circular reasoning into articles??? Lisa has shifted the information content of the sentence from "written by jews" to "jews say 'goddidit'". That's the stereotypical religionist approach. That's by far too far out. · CUSH · 23:12, 8 April 2010 (UTC)

Again i state i agree with what Cush is saying, i think his logic is impeccable here even if i dont agree with how he is stating it Weaponbb7 (talk) 23:41, 8 April 2010 (UTC)
Cush, Weapon, could you please give me feedback on my proposed changes to the lede? Thanks.EGMichaels (talk) 00:00, 9 April 2010 (UTC)
The text has been attributed for centuries to Moses. Only very recently (as compared to the age of the text) has this been called into question, and it is still held by a very significant scholarly minority (non-secular). This can be backed up by scores of reliable sources. (see for instance, Martin's Stylistic criteria and the analysis of the Pentateuch, or Waltke's Genesis: a commentary, or Hamilton's Handbook on the Pentateuch.) It has also been attributed to God (through human agency). This can also be backed up by scores of reliable sources. There are plenty of internal references where Mosaic authorship is claimed and/or assumed. It shouldn't be hard to pick out some of the more prominent ones (see for instance Deuteronomy 31). These are significant alternate POVs that should be included. It is in no way universally acknowledged, much less conclusively proven, that it was written by Jews as a post-exilic redaction. Without original autographs (or divine intervention), there is no earthly way to make that kind of definitive assertion. Ἀλήθεια 00:33, 9 April 2010 (UTC)
Exodus 17:14 — Then the LORD said to Moses, "Write this in a book as a memorial and recite it to Joshua"
If I'm not mistaken, the view of believers, orthodox Jews setting the example, has always been that Yahweh spoke directly to Moses, who passed on the Lord's commands to the people. Yahweh also commanded Moses to write a considerable part of this down, which, in orthodox belief, is the Torah, no more and no less. It is of some considerable importance that not all of what Yahweh is held to said to Moses by way of Law was documented. There was Law which was entrusted to the Levitical community, which was passed on orally, and by following the example of actions as they were performed by earlier generations.
Now there are three points to make:
  1. orthodox belief sees Moses as amenuensis for Yahweh;
  2. the written Law of the Torah was supplemented by orally transmitted Law; and
  3. Wikipedia has no option but to document the orthodox view, and criticisms of it, it cannot censor either PoV, and neither can be asserted as absolute fact.
Alastair Haines (talk) 02:08, 9 April 2010 (UTC)

Some years ago I provided a bunch of sources for the scholarly opinion that Moses authored this text by inspiration of God:

I thought maybe the list would come in handy in this discussion? HokieRNB 03:31, 9 April 2010 (UTC)

You star! Thanks Hokie. Encyclopedias are all about bibliographies. I bet you've even read a fair few of these sources. :)) Alastair Haines (talk) 03:42, 9 April 2010 (UTC)
The point talk is making is being lost: she states, quite correctly, that the claim that Genesis "was written by people" is only a subset of views; her larger point is that there is a substantial group of people, including Jewish and Christian scholars such as Henry M. Morris, who say that it was written by God himself, through Moses - this is utterly different to what I think Alastair says about Moses being "inspired" by God - poets claim to be inspired by the Muses, but taking down God's direct word is something fundamentally different. If we can't disprove the claim that Moses wrote the exact words of God - and we can't - then we have to put this pov in the lead. This is what Wikipedia is all about. PiCo (talk) 10:22, 9 April 2010 (UTC)

Proposed Lede, with comments

The biblical book of Genesis begins with a symbolic narrative of origins in the genre of creation myth.[note 1][3] It is considered a sacred narrative[4]:p.9 in Judaism, and Christianity.

Originally written within a context of ancient near eastern myths, including those of Egypt, Sumer, and Babylon, the text itself was constructed to form the basis of a uniquely Jewish world view which was later adopted by Christians. Although modern scholarship has attempted to reconstruct underlying linguistic and textual sources for the canonical text, traditional Jews and Christians see the final product as either divinely inspired or even (in Orthodox Jewish thought) dictated by God.

Comment 1 -- The biblical book of Genesis begins with a symbolic narrative of origins in the genre of creation myth. This change is intended to weave the academic meaning of "myth" into the actual sentence, and include all aspects of proposed wording:
  1. The terms "Genesis" and "creation myth" are retained.
  2. The terms "biblical" and "creation" are retained.
  3. The terms "Genesis" and "creation" are retained.
  4. The academic meaning of "symbolic narrative" is included.
  5. The fact that this is part of a genre of "creation myth" is worded so that the reader knows to look for other creation myths.
Comment 2 -- Originally written within a context of ancient near eastern myths, including those of Egypt, Sumer, and Babylon, the text itself was constructed to form the basis of a uniquely Jewish world view which was later adopted by Christians. This change is intended to place the Genesis narrative in a geographic and historic context of other ancient near eastern accounts. By using the term "context" as well as the previously designated "genre" we can discuss the Genesis narrative in literary terms, rather than in absolute terms. In other words, we aren't saying "this is myth" but that this is in a genre of "creation myth". We aren't saying "this is based on other creation myths" but rather "this is in a context of ancient near eastern myths." There are a number of POVs the article will address: 1) Genesis borrowed from other accounts, 2) other accounts mythologized the real history that is recorded in Genesis (per Lisa's sources), 3) Genesis repudiated other myths in a demythologizing polemic (per Alastair's sources, and Wenham). This sentence does not say WHICH of these are true, and does not eliminate any of these. It merely places it in "context". Finally, the uniqueness of this narrative is address with "the text... was constructed to form the basis of a uniquely Jewish world view..." This could be said for ANY creation myth. All narratives warranting their own article should have something unique about them, or they don't deserve their own article.
Comment 3 -- Although modern scholarship has attempted to reconstruct underlying linguistic and textual sources for the canonical text, traditional Jews and Christians see the final product as either divinely inspired or even (in Orthodox Jewish thought) dictated by God. This is intended to bridge the gap between the previous sentence of ancient near eastern context and genre, with the traditional view of verbal-plenary inspiration. The flow of wording starts along the lines of previous sentences and takes us to the traditional, rather than gapping to the traditional and gapping back to the previous sentences. Also, there is a third alternative intimated in the wording, rather than directly stated. We all know the two extremes: 1) all of it is borrowed, or 2) all of it is new. But there is a third alternative of 3) older things were constructed into something new. It's like taking a car and a mini van and fusing them into a truck. Even using previously existing letters (from the Phoenicians) and grammar (from the Canaanites) and even mythological origin assumptions (from Egyptians and Babylonians) the writer could either by inspiration or mere motivation create a new message. One could take the language of chaos and begin with ex nihilo, for instance. The proposed wording is the best attempt I can make for the near mythical shangrila of agnositicism we Wikipedia editors are supposed to assume.
Summary -- there is nothing controversial in these proposed edits. Rather, I'm merely trying to weave in everyone's proposed interests in a format that leaves the door open for Pico, Lisa, Cush, Ben, Nefarious, Tedious, Alastair, Weapon, Professor, etc. etc. etc. Unless someone can show me how my wording excludes any of these POVs, I'd like to see it restored to the article.EGMichaels (talk) 20:16, 8 April 2010 (UTC)
Looks good Weaponbb7 (talk) 00:05, 9 April 2010 (UTC)
I'm willing to go with your proposed lede if we kill the first sentence. I don't think it adds anything, and I think it gives some wrong impressions. - Lisa (talk - contribs) 00:23, 9 April 2010 (UTC)
Very accommodating of you Lisa. I wouldn't throw out the first sentence, though, it is very well phrased. I think Lisa is right, though. Given Wellhausen et al., it would be better to start with a caveat: "As literature, the biblical book of Genesis begins with a symbolic narrative of origins in the genre of creation myth". It is very far from the case that all scholars so classify it, and those who don't so classify it are neither a WP:undue minority, nor even all alike in the reasons they consider such a classification to be inappropriate. Dawkins, like Darwin, thinks Genesis 1 is simply false history. Nearly all the Wiki editors opposing the name change also mean myth in the common usage sense. Too many people believe Genesis to be a myth in the sense of false history to exclude their opinion. Alastair Haines (talk) 03:20, 9 April 2010 (UTC)

Okay... how about...

As literature, the biblical book of Genesis begins with a symbolic narrative of origins in the genre of creation myth.[note 1][5] It is considered a sacred narrative[6]:p.9 in Judaism, and Christianity.

Originally written within a context of ancient near eastern myths, including those of Egypt, Sumer, and Babylon, the text itself was constructed to form the basis of a uniquely Jewish world view which was later adopted by Christians. Although modern scholarship has attempted to reconstruct underlying linguistic and textual sources for the canonical text, traditional Jews and Christians see the final product as either divinely inspired or even (in Orthodox Jewish thought) dictated by God. EGMichaels (talk) 12:33, 9 April 2010 (UTC)

The sentence I'm objecting to is an argument, and not a statement. It's a view, and deserves to be in the article, but it does not merit being stated as fact. There are substantial views that the text was given by God, which would mean it was not "written within a context of ancient near eastern myths".
Further, the new "As literature" sentence gives the reader the impression that it is literature. Which, again, is a view, and is one of the ways in which the text can be treated. But it would be better to start by noting the various ways in which the text can be viewed (revealed, inspired literature, compiled literature, etc.) and only then talk discuss the text within each of those viewpoints. - Lisa (talk - contribs) 13:33, 9 April 2010 (UTC)
Again I agree with both Lisa's points. When there are several points of view, they need to be listed, something has to go first: chronologically, logically, best known, most supported.
Perhaps EGM could work some magic like: "As literature, Genesis is seen by most scholars as ... As literature sacred to Jews and adopted by Christians, Genesis is seen by conservative believers as the very words of the God it introduces as the one and only Creator."
The parallel works well for the reader, suggests fair treatment and, practically speaking, turns a list into prose.
There are a lot of PsoV left out, and the views are not mutually exclusive. But clarifying that can be left to the body of the text.
What do you think guys?
PS if the topic is Biblical creation, this first sentence is too narrow. We'll have to outline Jewish views of creation, Christian views of creation, then secualar criticism of Jewish and Christian views. Eventually we'll get to Genesis. Alastair Haines (talk) 15:54, 9 April 2010 (UTC)

No scholastic consensus

Friends, we need to get a couple of basics right here. Any editor claiming that scholars have consensus regarding the composition of Genesis is inadmissable as evidence WP:OR. Scholars claiming consensus for their own view are admissable, but skepticism regarding such a claim is absolutely reasonable doubt. But we can do even better, at least one scholar, in a review of 20th century scholarship of all traditions, tells us that there is no scholastic consensus. Or at least in 1996 there wasn't. A post 1996 reliable source that claims scholastic consensus could be falsified by counterexamples, and would have great value if no counterexamples could be found. It would be such an extraordinary thing if this had eventuated (and I don't know of it), that extraordinary evidence would be needed, but would also be present.

  • On the face of it, the study of the Pentateuch is in ferment. New interpretations of narrative and law are constantly being proposed in journal articles, and large tomes keep appearing which challenge or reaffirm conventional hypotheses about the composition of the Pentateuch. But this only underlines the fact that no new paradigm or scholarly consensus has emerged to displace the old theories.
  • But in the 1970s [a] cosy consensus began to be disturbed. The dating of the sources was questioned, the historicity of the narratives was disputed, even the principles underlying source division were challenged. This debate has been in full swing now for twenty years and shows no signs of subsiding. Much of the argument is convoluted and depends on assumptions that are not universally shared.
  • Gordon Wenham, "Pentateuchal Studies Today", Themelios 22 (1996): 3–13. [Emphasis added.]

This article has no choice but to record the opinion of the documentary hypothesis, because we are an encyclopedia covering the history of scholastic debate: all PsoV from the NPoV. We are not in the business of providing answers. Even if scholars have actually reached consensus on a topic we document that "scholars all agree that X is the case". We do not document that "X is the case", which would be to offer a PoV and lose neutrality. Wiki should never be wrong. And it will never be wrong if all it claims is knowledge of what people say (de dicto) rather than knowledge of the actual things they talk about (de re).

1 + 1 = 2 will probably always be held by a consensus of scholars. If Wiki says 1 + 1 = 2, it is always shorthand for "either no scholars or only a WP:UNDUE minority dispute what is being claimed".

Can it be claimed that only a WP:UNDUE minority of scholars believe "God exists"? Unfortunately for atheists, tens of thousands of academics, and more than a billion ordinary people believe God exists. On the other hand, can it be claimed that only a WP:UNDUE minority of scholars believe "God doesn't exist"? Unfortunately for theists, tens of thousands of academics, and more than a billion ordinary people believe God doesn't exist.

There is a neutral point of view regarding God, or any gods for that matter, it is known as agnosticism. That is Wikipedia's stance. The unstated foundation of Wikipedia is the ignorance of its editors. Wiki editors are always writing as people who know nothing except what reliable sources have said. That is as true regarding the question of God's existence as it is regarding nuclear physics.

To be agnostic is to be scientific. To be atheist is a leap of faith, based on evidence and arguments from silence, to be sure, but still a leap of faith. Wikipedia does not preach a gospel of faith that God cannot be known because he doesn't exist. Evangelists for atheism are welcome to document reliable sources of their point of view, but they are not welcome to censor reliable sources of points of view which contradict their faith in their doctrine that there is no God.

Atheists, speak now or forever hold your peace. Alastair Haines (talk) 02:43, 9 April 2010 (UTC)

What does this later stuff have to do with this article, or anything? And why aren't theists invited to speak? Ben (talk) 07:52, 9 April 2010 (UTC)
When was Genesis written, Ben? Why should theists be offered an invitation? Alastair Haines (talk) 08:00, 9 April 2010 (UTC)
Alastair, what are you talking about here? Which part of the article are you addressing? PiCo (talk) 10:25, 9 April 2010 (UTC) (Ok, I think I've got it: you're saying that Wenham says that there's no longer a consensus on how the Torah got written, post-Seters/Whybray. Death of the Documentary Hypothesis and all that. Sure, true, but there are still a few things that the vast majority of scholars agree on: the Torah was written by several people, it shows evidence of several different schools of theology, and it's still valid to talk about Gen.1 and Gen.s as two different creation accounts, whether you call them P and J or P and non-P. Don't get carried away by the "ferment", it's not really all that bubbly). PiCo (talk) 10:31, 9 April 2010 (UTC)
Alastair is simply saying that Wikipedia is not supposed to say "thus and so" but rather "xyz sources say thus and abc sources say so". We should step back and let the sources beat each other up.EGMichaels (talk) 12:29, 9 April 2010 (UTC)
Yes, well said PiCo. I actually think you say it better than Wenham.
And yes, EGM, that's exactly what I was saying.
We don't need to fight about which source we put in the article, we put the best sources we know of for all PsoV.
The pure DH might be dead, but it's not forgotten.
It has assisted in shaping some of the best current scholarship, which can't be understood without it. Alastair Haines (talk) 15:13, 9 April 2010 (UTC)


The title subject in the lead should reflect the title of the article. I don't care what you think the article should be called. Whatever it's called, that label has to be appear in the lead, hence the the reason for placing "myth" back in there. If the article's title changes, then you can change the lead as well.UBER (talk) 04:26, 10 April 2010 (UTC)

Good point. "Myth" is a PoV, should not be in the first sentence, and so should not be in the title. (See also my suggestion above that we get the lead worked out, only after that decide on the title.) Alastair Haines (talk) 05:56, 10 April 2010 (UTC)
Agreed -- I'll table my suggested edits until we agree on the title and scope.EGMichaels (talk) 01:21, 11 April 2010 (UTC)

But again I notice that someone changed it under the guise of neutrality. People let's get something straight here: this has nothing to do with bias or neutrality. It's an issue of style. If we lost our collective sanity and decided to call this article TigerClaw Xtreme, the lead should start off saying:

TigerClaw Xtreme is the biblical account of the beginnings of the Earth, life, and humanity as found in the first two chapters of the biblical Book of Genesis.

This is not difficult to understand.UBER (talk) 01:50, 11 April 2010 (UTC)

Not just this talk page ...

Apparently the same "myth" argument creeps up from time-to-time in the real world too, in this case a school board in the US. Although two of the reviewers, comprising a principal, a biology teacher, a parent, a student, and others, thought it might be a bit sensational, the reviewers immediately deduced what myth meant and ultimately did not deem the material questionable. Should I add this high school-level textbook and review to the list of references affirming the current article title? Since we now have experts affirming what is mainstream, generally accessible reference works like Encyclopedia Britannica and Oxford's long list of specialist dictionaries, school board reviews, high school-level textbooks, children's books and countless academic works all describing this material as a creation myth, which easily discounts any claims sensationalising, and only a small cohort of editors here opposing the current title, I think we can safely bed this article title issue for a year and instead focus on other parts of the article. Cheers, Ben (talk) 07:20, 10 April 2010 (UTC)

Please feel free to add sources for the usage of "creation myth". It doesn't hurt, but no-one has contested that the "creation myth" PoV can be reliably sourced. What you need to find is a source that says "creation myth" is the only uncontested designation of the Genesis cosmogony. But you can save yourself time, since sources have been provided that do contest it, or render it an oversimplification. Charles Darwin thought Genesis 1 a "demonstrably false history", Julius Wellhausen thought Genesis 1 a "sober reflection" as opposed to Genesis 2 which is "marvel and myth", Gerhard von Rad thought Genesis 1 "anti-mythological" and "demythologizing", very many scholars have considered Genesis 1 to be "polemical" in regard to ANE creation myths, Northrop Frye considered Genesis 1 to be an "artificial creation myth", i.e. not a genuine creation myth. Darwin is not an acknowledged expert on the Bible, despite his theology degree, so perhaps he doesn't count as a reliable source, but the others are gold-standard scholars of biblical literature (and none of them are conservatives, not that it matters).
Ben, I'm puzzled, could you explain the idea of WP:NPoV in your own words for us please? Perhaps we understand it differently. Alastair Haines (talk) 07:48, 10 April 2010 (UTC)
First, let me say thank-you for writing so much more clearly. Perhaps we do have a different understanding of the NPOV policy, especially with demands like [w]hat you need to find is a source that says "creation myth" is the only uncontested designation of the Genesis cosmogony. I'm not going to rewrite or even summarise the NPOV policy in my own words for you though, but if you have specific questions then I'll try and answer them as I have time. If they're not directly relevant to this article though it might be best to discuss it somewhere else. Ben (talk) 08:24, 10 April 2010 (UTC)
Well allow me to repeat my unclear definition of my understanding of the policy: encyclopedic treatment requires all reliable, verifiable points of view to be documented, without evaluation of their relative merits, but also without giving WP:UNDUE attention to minority or fringe points of view.
Since you seem to find the application of that idea to the current title unclear, let me spell it out again as some more questions. Does the title Genesis creation myth serve as a description for all reliable, verifiable points of view in the history of scholarship regarding Genesis? Is it the consensus position of all recently published points of view regarding the Genesis cosmogony? Do you consider Charles Darwin, who thought Genesis to be history not myth, to be a non-notable, fringe point of view, not worth being covered by selection of the title?
If you do believe these things, then we agree about WP:NPOV, it's just that you've not yet verified the reliable sources that have been provided to demonstrate that the three questions above must all be answered "no". Alastair Haines (talk) 11:00, 10 April 2010 (UTC)

Comment: It is not surprising that those opposed to discussing a change in the article title keep on rehashing this particular discussion while they ignore all the other arguments as much as possible. Clearly there are religious editors involved in this discussion who are harping on the POV issue and who would probably like to see the word "myth" eradicated from the entire article for those reasons (I do not agree with them in that regard one iota). Those editors are not in the majority amongst those who oppose the current title, however. So why do the myth title supporters keep on dredging up this particular argument in some kind of culture wars microcosm? If you ask this observer it is exactly because it plays upon culture war motifs. People should remember that the real actors in the culture wars are very vocal minorities. This particular discussion is like the more general discourse of the culture wars in that it hijacks reasonable dialog in favor of divisive arguments that have no solution and are in fact out of touch with the beliefs of the majority on both supposed sides of the debate. Consider that a vast majority of Christians (in the United States at the very least) have absolutely no problem accepting biological evolution while still believing wholeheartedly in their monotheistic God and the scriptural stories about this God and his/her relationship with humanity. Similarly a great deal of people here have no issue at all with the discussion of this passage as a creation myth but simply do not agree that the current title is a good one. I have as little sympathy for those who want to eradicate "creation myth" entirely from the content of the entry as I have for those who actually want "creationism" taught in schools, but thankfully these individuals are in the minority. I suggest not rehashing this dialog because that's what Ben, and others seem to want. Maybe, instead Ben can deal with any number of other problems presented above that are not handicapped by this ludicrous culture wars rendition of the debate.Griswaldo (talk) 11:35, 10 April 2010 (UTC)

Well said. too many editors here are caught in a petty culture wars microcosm. They cannot let others write an intelligent article about the actual topic apparently because they cannot conceive that anything could be more important or interesting that their culture war. At Wikipedia, we cannot change the world, or the way people think, but we need efficient means to route around such time-wasters. But you need to recognize, Griswaldo that the culture wars has two camps. It isn't just stupid religionists against reason. It is idiotic theism pitted against idiotic atheism. Intelligent voices on either side are simply shouted down because, hey, who needs intelligence when we can have a good old-fashioned primate poo-flinging match. --dab (𒁳) 11:43, 10 April 2010 (UTC)
I agree 100%, and wish I had been clearer about the coeval nature of this extremism. Like I said before, I believe there are many editors here who are willing to do real work and are also willing to discuss the title and the content outside of this context. To those editors I say stop letting the culture wars nonsense hijack the discussion.Griswaldo (talk) 14:20, 10 April 2010 (UTC)
With other voices articulating things so accurately and clearly, I have no need to add anything. Thank you for your contributions Dieter and Griswaldo. Alastair Haines (talk) 15:09, 10 April 2010 (UTC)
Agreed -- my compliments to Dieter and Griswaldo.EGMichaels (talk) 02:30, 11 April 2010 (UTC)

Genesis 3 should be in scope

After some thinking and research (including reading some Sumerian creation material), I think Genesis 3 should be in scope. This isn't merely creation of existence, but creation of the present world. The world in which we live is a post Genesis 3 world, and the fall is how we get there. Further, there are additional parallels that are in the Mesopotamian creation accounts themselves, including Inanna's hullupu tree (=tree of knowledge or life?) guarded by a serpent and a dark maiden named Lilith! Granted, Lilith is a Genesis creation myth rather than the Genesis creation narrative, but given the present title she's certainly within scope.

In any case, Genesis 3 continues the parallels with the other creation narratives and describes the progression to the present world, and should therefore be included.EGMichaels (talk) 00:22, 7 April 2010 (UTC)

As I've hinted in various places above, I agree. Scholars beyond counting observe that it is mankind's estrangement from Yahweh that the text, as we have it, drives towards. Genesis 4 is less "sexy" and not so obviously wed to its prior context; but, without pushing so far as Noah, it would seem wise to let scholars lead us beyond Genesis 1 and Genesis 2, as their various points of view would have it. Alastair Haines (talk) 02:14, 7 April 2010 (UTC)
How can you say that Genesis 4 is less "sexy"? It is the story of the contrast between nomadism and sedentary lifestyle, and how YHWH rejects the latter and agriculture. · CUSH · 02:25, 7 April 2010 (UTC)
Genesis 3 is about the creation of the moral world rather than the physical world - nothing is actually created in Gen.3. Also, if you include Gen.3, where you do you stop? You'd have to keep going to the Fall at least, and probably to the Flood, which represents a new Creation. Actually that could make quite an interesting article. PiCo (talk) 02:30, 7 April 2010 (UTC)
There are no morals in Gen 3, just an unjust deity. From where do you drag morals?
As for the scope: I would stop at the loss of Eden. Tops. · CUSH · 02:38, 7 April 2010 (UTC)
It's pretty universally accepted in the scholarly literature that the Adam&Eve story (the Fall) is about the need for mankind to be in obedience with God as the source of the moral order - God tells primal man that he cannot have knowledge of "ëverything" (this is the meaning of "good and evil") but he/they disobey, causing expulsion from God's presence. Only the most wild-eyed fundies would think it's a story about a real garden and a real fruit.PiCo (talk) 02:56, 7 April 2010 (UTC)
My fault, I was referring to the wrong chapter. It's Gen 4 with the unjust deity...
Gen 3 is of course crystal clear to me, I have just finished Paradise Lost as a john book :-) · CUSH · 03:02, 7 April 2010 (UTC)
Amen brother Pico!
Flood and re-creation would make it a very interesting article: creation, fall, redemption (re-creation) is a very standard thematic treatment of early Genesis (and the whole Bible). I'm nervous about going that far, though. But I'm not sure I have good reasons for that.
Sorry, Cush, I don't find the distinction between nomadic and sedentary life a particularly "sexy" dramatic tension. Fratricide and polygamy have a certain "sexiness" about them, though, at least to me. (Perhaps I should see a therapist about that.) Alastair Haines (talk) 03:08, 7 April 2010 (UTC)
How can you say that? :-) In the history of the Middle East and humanity itself the neolithic revolution is of core interest. · CUSH · 03:20, 7 April 2010 (UTC)
You might want to avoid the word universe -- but you can't limit it to just "world." The sun, moon, and stars... I think "universe" is fine. we may understand more of what they did, but we're certainly talking about the same thing. think about 1000 years from now -- they'll certainly know more than us, yet we do refer to a universe today. (talk) 03:12, 7 April 2010 (UTC)
World does not equal earth. World includes everything in the immediate perception of humans. The directly observable part of the universe. Hence also the wrong conclusions drawn from these observations. The concept of universe comes only into existence with some basic physical understanding of at least the solar system (even though also here for a long time the wrong conclusions were drawn.).
And please stop hiding behind an IP and get a user name. Otherwise we must assume you are someone else's sock puppet. · CUSH · 03:18, 7 April 2010 (UTC)
I hear you Professor IP Address, perhaps it's a multiverse, and they're certainly looking into that possibility. Alastair Haines (talk) 03:20, 7 April 2010 (UTC)
Multiverse Great now we are Talking We can have divergent point here before anyone thought about changing the name (extra points I had never heard of Glenn Beck or met that now ex-girlfriend.) We could have a whole bunch of realities where everybody had their own CORRECT version of this article. Oh IP is so Sad i so badly want to Open an SPI on you. Seeing as you have implied you a sock... Or may be since the username is used from that ip we are actually talking to the master.Weaponbb7 (talk) 03:43, 7 April 2010 (UTC)
The ISP editor says that Genesis 1 is talking about "the same thing" as we mean by the term Universe. I don't think so. The universe of Genesis 1 is a flat, probably circular Earth floating in a sea of fresh water (tehom, the Deep, cognate with Babylonian Tiamat), circled by a ring of salt-water ocean (Yam, the sea), with a solid but transparent lid to keep the waters out. This isn't remotely like our concept of the Universe. PiCo (talk) 03:57, 7 April 2010 (UTC)
PiCo's absolutely right. We're certainly discussing something dealt with in the sources. The writer of Genesis refers both to parts of the universe as then observable, but also to things that were incorrectly inferred to lie beyond observation, but within the scope of the visible universe.
Genesis did not attempt to challenge the "science" (inferences about the natural world) of its day. It assumed them. But it most certainly presented a challenge as to how the whole box and dice were perceived to have originated. As far as explaining origins goes, it wields Occam's Razor with almighty gusto!
Now port that thinking to our own day. Would the writer of Genesis accept current scientific cosmology? I don't see why not. (Though I'm quizzing myself for sources that say this.) Would he still have a challenge to put to us? I rather think he would.
I doubt he'd change any of the first three Hebrew words: "In-beginning created God ..."
Alastair Haines (talk) 06:48, 7 April 2010 (UTC)
I have Wenham quoted in a footnote saying that "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" is basically "In the beginning God created everything." BTW, somewhere in this mess I think the Professor said something about ex nihilo in the Vulgate. That's not in Genesis 1. The Vulgate reads "In principio creavit Deus caelum et terram" (Gen 1:1 VUL).EGMichaels (talk) 16:06, 7 April 2010 (UTC)
However, our understanding of universe, or even that of the ancient Greeks, is different from the world view of the biblical authors as well as audience. The heaven and earth was "everything" to Jews, even if they were backwards backwards when the Bible was written. Jews during the Babylonian Captivity took (then already out-of-use) Sumerian tradition and world view and made it their own, ignoring that general knowledge had already developed past that cosmology.
Btw I have no trouble including Gen 3, after all humans are the focus of the biblical Creation, so it is interesting to include how the aim of Creation plays out. · CUSH · 16:18, 7 April 2010 (UTC)
I'm buying two additional books to use for sources here: Civilization Before Greece and Rome (Saggs), and Old Testament Parallels (Matthews and Benjamin). However, I'll be taking intensive job training over the next five weeks and may not be able to participate much during that time. I noted in the contents of the Parallels book that there were some Egyptian entries, which is what I was hoping for to supplement the ANE parallels. Might not be until May that these are in the article, but I'll try to get them in there.EGMichaels (talk) 16:54, 7 April 2010 (UTC)
if that's how "world" is used in cush's comment, then fine. but notice that even pico can't stop using the word "universe" as he describes "The universe of Genesis 1." just saying. my point is that Genesis claims much more than just this earth as being created and we need to interact with that. sure they saw it as a flat disc with a roof, etc, but they claimed it as being created by Yahweh. (sorry weaponbb7, i don't understand what you are saying, if you are talking to me) (talk) 12:48, 7 April 2010 (UTC)
I note that Cush is not against Genesis 3 being part of the portion of text we're looking at. That's particularly good, because it strengthens the possibility of explaining how early Genesis is true symbolism, rather than false history.
An extremely common understanding in scholarship is that Genesis 1-3 provide a context for an explanation of the problem of evil. From chapter 4 onwards, humanity is both outside and excluded from returning to Eden. Problems in this world stem from this exclusion, and the blame is laid on us, rather than on God: we broke a command, and are suffering consequences.
People like myself who take this point seriously wonder just how else the idea might otherwise have been presented in the ancient near eastern context, and why the manner of presentation that has survived was actually chosen. It's not particularly unusual for abstractions like, in this case sin, to be presented using symbols, metaphors, stories, allegory. Alastair Haines (talk) 03:38, 9 April 2010 (UTC)

note on possible existing content fork

Adam and Eve Covers 3 rather well, can we just do a summary of the existing article in a section and have "for further information see Adam and Eve" Weaponbb7 (talk) 03:47, 9 April 2010 (UTC)

We can't entirely rely on other articles, but yes, I think this article would not need to go into all the detail regarding Adam and Eve, just direct people there. However, where relevant to Genesis 2, Genesis 3 needs to enter this article.
Genesis 2 introduces a tree and a command for a narrative purpose only seen in chapter 3. Chapter 3 places these at the centre of an explanation of the origin of sin, which has effects as described in chapter 4. And so the scholars take it. That makes a good (I think persuasive) case for there being a kind of mythology there, running from chapter 2 through to chapter 4.
Additionally, chapter 5 begins by recapitualating the story so far. It starts with the toldot formula of Genesis. The Noah story focusses on God's intervention against sin outside Eden: the very elements Genesis 2-4 established as context.
The Noah cycle is actually more than passingly relevant because this too is debated as being mythology drawn from surrounding cultures. Conceptually, it is taken as a "reversal of creation" followed by a re-creation. The recreation is followed by a bridge placing Abraham in context.
From chapter 12 (Abraham), considerations of borrowed mythology largely vanish.
This synopsis is very standard, and all bears on the question of mythology. The unit of text 1-11 is almost universally acknoweldged, and frequently termed the Primeval History. Alastair Haines (talk) 06:10, 12 April 2010 (UTC)

Should we mention traditional Jewish beliefs on authorship?

Some apparently devoutly religious editors would like us to mention in the article their belief that the Torah is the exact Word of God (or Yahweh, or YHWH). Just to be clear here: the traditional Jewish belief is that the Torah wasn't just inspired by God, but dictated by him. So should we mention this? Personally, I'd say not: it's very much a fringe belief, one that no biblical scholar follows to the best of my knowledge, and not even one that a great many Christians or Jews would really believe. In short, it represents undue weight. Comments? PiCo (talk) 09:00, 10 April 2010 (UTC)

It is important to theology in my own tradition, that the New Testament claims quite a different conception of divine revelation. However, how can we deny such a well-attested Jewish tradition exists? Does it take long to state it? Are many subtle arguments put forward to recommend the view? It's a very natural position to take, if one believes in God, but not the only one held even by believers. I would have thought it was a natural and straight-forward position to document.
Naturally the article can't be written from the point of view of this Jewish tradition, assuming its truth. But then again, the article can't be written from any other point of view asserted by any sources, reliable or not, that assume the Jewish tradition is false either.
It's not hard to verify the Jewish tradition for a reader from reliable sources. Indeed, we can provide a clear example from a reliable Jewish primary source, making precisely the claim this article would be asserting constitutes their PoV. That trumps any secondary source for verification, but it is adequate to provide a secondary source claiming that this is the traditional Jewish understanding.
I don't think we should feel responsible that we could be leading readers astray into believing the traditional Jewish understanding, that's really the reader's own business. I don't think we should assume that readers are familiar with this Jewish traditional understanding either.
This question is not close to my heart, though it might be a great way to "start on the right foot", for non-Jewish editors to document the Jewish view sufficiently well that a Jewish editor could say, "Yup! That's exactly what we say!" Alastair Haines (talk) 10:43, 10 April 2010 (UTC)
Of course it gets included. And of course it isn't "fringe". It was the unanimous view of Judaism for centuries, if not millennia, and it's still the view among Orthodox Jews. As such, it has a very extensive pedigree. Excluding it would be highly POV. - Lisa (talk - contribs) 01:42, 11 April 2010 (UTC)
Small correction: it has also been, and continues to be, a Christian view as well. Christians believe the Bible is God-inspired to one degree or another. It falls under the theological topic "Inspiration." The term comes from Latin and English translations of the Greek word theopneustos (used in 2 Timothy 3:16. The KJV renders it "inspiration", while the RSV translates it "inspired of God". However, the word literally means "God-breathed" (theo+pneustos). But for whoever ends up writing about it in the article, good luck: there are four main theories of biblical inspiration:
  • Dictation (not popular but prevalent within some conservative Christian circles)
  • Limited inspiration: God guided the writers, yet also allowed them the freedom to express their own thoughts regarding history and experiences they had, allowing for the possibility of historical errors, but divinely protected against any doctrinal error.
  • Plenary verbal inspiration: God inspired the complete Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, including both historical and doctrinal details. This very conservative view recognizes both the human and divine element within Scripture, but with more "degrees of freedom" than the dictation theory.
  • Neo-orthodox: Proponents of neo-orthodoxy believe the Word of God is God himself, and thus the Bible is a witness to the Word of God; God is not the Bible. This view recognizes that the writers were finite and sinful, thus being capable of error in their writings. While the writers of both the Old and New Testaments recorded their experiences and witness to revelation, their writings may contain errors. This is the most liberal view of inspiration. This view conflicts directly with the NT claims that Scripture is God's Word (2 Tim 3:16) and that its writers were inspired by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet 1:20-21). ─AFA Prof01 (talk) 04:34, 11 April 2010 (UTC)
Pico, it is not undue weight by any means. It's a notable historic POV, and also commonly confused with the verbal-plenary POV. Both should be stated so that they can be differentiated.EGMichaels (talk) 02:36, 11 April 2010 (UTC)
To add to what Afaprof wrote, the main distinction between verbal-plenary and dictation is that dictation is a single parent (God), while verbal-plenary has dual parentage (divine and human). The product of verbal-plenary is written with human idiosyncracies, but remains exact what God wanted because God used those human agencies, and chose those agencies including their idiosyncracies to accomplish exactly what he meant to say. Mark and Luke could write in very different syntax and style but say exactly what God wanted, even down to the individual letter. Per dictation there shouldn't be identifiable differences in the syntax of the writers.EGMichaels (talk) 04:55, 11 April 2010 (UTC)
To set out my argument again and answer some of the points made here, I'm arguing that this should be an article describing the major scholarly views on Creation in Genesis (or whatever this article is eventually named). The view that God dictated it to Moses isn't such a view - you'll never see it seriously considered in the journals (JBS etc), or in scholarly books, or indeed anywhere, except, of course, as a part of the historical background. It should be, and is, talked about in the article on Torah and the article on Mosaic authorship, but it's a digression in articles like this. The great think about Wikipedia is the hyperlinks - by all means let's have a hyperlink to the more relevant articles, but it's highly misleading to suggest to readers that modern scholars think that Genesis 1 might represent the actual words of God. PiCo (talk) 09:21, 11 April 2010 (UTC)
Even rejection of a view is note of that view. It is notable and can be reliably sourced.EGMichaels (talk) 09:52, 11 April 2010 (UTC)

Of course we should mention traditional Jewish beliefs on authorship. However, that does mean that we replace information on authorship as determined by historical research by such a doctrine of a particular belief system. · CUSH · 12:29, 11 April 2010 (UTC)

PiCo is setting up a "no real Scotsman" criterion. Any scholarship which holds that God dictated the Torah isn't "real" scholarship to him, so there can be no scholarship which says such a thing. But there is a wealth of Jewish scholarship that says just that. And we aren't going to exclude that. It is the relevant scholarship in the field of Jewish studies. Not just "doctrine". - Lisa (talk - contribs) 14:04, 11 April 2010 (UTC)
For what it's worth, I'm a real Scottsman -- of the Sutherland clan.EGMichaels (talk) 22:03, 11 April 2010 (UTC)
Jewish scholarship that claims divine authorship is bollocks. And no source that requires belief in the supernatural as a precondition is a reliable source. You can have a section that says that some Jews believe in divine authorship, but you cannot use that to replace information about who actually wrote the text and included it in the biblical canon. · CUSH · 18:40, 11 April 2010 (UTC)
I have a novel idea — why not use sourced material? If a source says that Jews — some Jews, many Jews — we might want to adhere to wording used by reliable sources — "claim divine authorship," then we put that in our article with a little "reference" after it. Please pardon my sarcasm. Bus stop (talk) 18:51, 11 April 2010 (UTC)
(No sacasm intended at all) that's exactly what we are supposed to do :-). EGMichaels (talk) 18:53, 11 April 2010 (UTC)
Dear Cush,
"you cannot use [orthodox Jewish scholarship] to replace information" — no one is proposing replacement, some are proposing inadmissability of Jewish scholarship
"source that requires belief in the supernatural" — being Jewish does not require orthodox belief, some Jewish scholars have pursuaded themselves of orthodoxy and explain that for others to consider
I became a Christian when I was 24, because when I read the New Testament as an adult, it made sense of things. Now I am 44 and a baby Christian scholar, I have to think even harder about a lot of questions. Perhaps next year they'll excavate the bones of Jesus of Nazareth, and I'll have to admit I've been wrong all along. My Christian conviction is based mostly on facts, but with enough "benefit of the doubt", that I know I could be wrong.
I'm very impressed by the perfect faith of atheists, though, who have absolutely no doubts, they know they can't be wrong. Amazingly impressive, not scientific, but amazing faith, I salute you! :) Alastair Haines (talk) 03:48, 12 April 2010 (UTC)
Alastair -- several side points: They'll never turn up the bones of Jesus any more than they'll turn up most other people's bones. At best he was buried in someone else's grave and you could find someone labelled Joseph of Arimathea. Fine -- but then... would that be Joseph, Jesus, or someone else? Presumably if Jesus rose from the dead then someone else would have been buried there later. It was only centuries later that people started looking for a grave. And even if they turned up bones definitely labelled "Jesus of Nazareth, son of Mary and Joseph, brother to Yaakov and Judah, crucified under Pontius Pilate" THEN it would be too perfect and appear to be staged.
Short point is that faith is faith. Even as Genesis remains rock solid even after uniformity and evolution, then the resurrection would remain even if you had "proof" otherwise.
That's not only as it is -- but also as it should be. Faith is lovely, as long as it recognizes itself.EGMichaels (talk) 04:38, 12 April 2010 (UTC)
Good points. I guess what I really mean is faith contrary to evidence is unscientific and irritating, I guess we'd all agree. If only we can all agree that evidence regarding some questions is incomplete. Reliable sources are good at doing that. Alastair Haines (talk) 04:45, 12 April 2010 (UTC)
I'm feeling the need to support PiCo here, because he is asking the right sort of questions, and doing things the right sort of way.
What PiCo says is true, and the good professor hints that it extends to Christianity as well, while EGM notes there is well documented confusion regarding the issues.
The confusion is "dictation" versus "inspiration". Going into those details here does strike me as undue attention, they ought to be covered elsewhere at Wiki. If they're not, they might as well be covered here and then merged where they properly belong.
Where "dictation" v. "inspiration" intersects with this article is in the relationship between Genesis and earlier ANE material.
I'm an inspiration guy, that is, I agree with the many scholars who hold to inspiration and are perfectly comfortable with the idea that the final editor of Genesis (who doesn't have to be Moses), presented her ideas in a literary form that engaged with the worldviews current in her time and place.
My opinion is irrelevant, what's relevant is that it coincides with a large number of highly regarded scholars (who are generally Christian, but also include some awesome Jewish professors).
There are far more Christian professors with this view than Jewish ones, because there are far more Christians. But the Jewish professors are all the more important, from the Christian perspective, because they represent a somewhat independent tradition supporting the findings of the Christians.
Likewise, there are many (but not a majority) of scholars of the Bible who write from outside communities of faith. When this group also confirm certain readings or theories regarding the Bible, we have yet another important independent tradition supporting conclusions derived by the others.
Sometimes the groups divide along party lines. Of course they do! The scholars are genuinely representatives of the groups that employ them! Other times, it's all very confusing, because disagreements are genuine scholastic thorny questions, not ideological matters of opinion, or there's a horrible mix of ideology along with difficult technical questions.
But back to PiCo and supporting him. If we ignore secular scholars, even then, "dictation" type scholars are very rare, but they do exist. I think PiCo is right, they are a minority, and their conviction regarding dictation means they don't address a lot of questions they believe to be settled already.
Yet, ultimately, I can't go with PiCo on this one for three reasons:
  1. we don't need to silence the group, because they simply don't speak on a number of issues that don't interest them (they're no threat)
  2. when they do speak, they are important, because they are the skeptics who need persuading, sure some can be too stubborn, but sometimes they keep us real about just how much we've actually demonstrated
  3. finally, sometimes even the most orthodox start conceding long cherished assumptions, and if we want the power of that to be felt, we need to be fair, and acknowledge their place in the dialogue at other times also
To conclude, I really commend PiCo for asking the right questions in the right way. I commend others for refining the issues and defending the voice of orthodox Jewish scholars.
As for those who try the old chessnut—"Jane only says X because she believes X, therefore ignore her"—I would dearly love for them to apply Kant's categorical imperative, and only say things they don't believe, or be silent. Alastair Haines (talk) 04:45, 12 April 2010 (UTC)

Wikipedia:Requests for mediation/Genesis Creation Myth

Everyone involved since "archive 4" Should have gotten notified on their talk page, If i miss you please add yourselfWeaponbb7 (talk) 00:12, 12 April 2010 (UTC)

Thanks for doing all this hard work Weapon. Almost single handed you're pushing us all to really embrace the very best parts of Wikipedia policy. Keep cool, but keep going! :) Alastair Haines (talk) 03:33, 12 April 2010 (UTC)

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