Talk:Genesis flood narrative

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Disjointed narrative[edit]

OK so why not mention both the fact it seems to be contradictory and the fact some scholarship thinks it is a unified whole?Slatersteven (talk) 14:18, 2 September 2017 (UTC)


Hello, sorry for polluting everybody's inbox. I've never used the Talk page before, which is why I hesitated. Here is my dilemma, and I would like advice on how to proceed. I have found an error in this article. It's an obvious one, so it should be no trouble for anyone to identify. But the trouble is, the error is in a book that this article cites. The author makes an error in his conclusions. I know... far be it for a published book to contain a mistake! But here we are. Should I 1) remove the text from the article (after explaining the error), or 2) keep the text and provide an "alternate view" that shows how it is mistaken? I tried #1, but it was reverted (which I understand), and then, because I do value truth and I hate setting mistakes touted as truth on Wikipedia, I spent an hour or two going the route #2. But then that was reverted. So now I'm here to talk about it! How should I proceed? Forest51690 (talk) 16:20, 2 September 2017 (UTC)

That is unfortunate as on Wikipedia we only allow cites to RS, not our own conclusions. If you have an RS that actuary says the view that the flood story contradicts itself if wrong put that in. What you cannot do is use a source that does not explicitly say that.Slatersteven (talk) 16:59, 2 September 2017 (UTC)
In essence, the existing source (Cline) gives a interpretation of the text, and then identifies his interpretation as a self-contradiction. Can I give another source that interprets the text rightly, in order to show that with the right interpretation, there is no contradiction? (I don't need to mince words here. His reasoning is clearly and completely flawed on these points of supposed contradiction). If this page needs to share Cline's deeply flawed viewpoint on the interpretation of the text, then it should at least allow other competent viewpoints to be shared as well. Forest51690 (talk) 19:12, 2 September 2017 (UTC)
That Cline "got it wrong" is an opinion; while various apologetics found arguments to explain the various inconsistencies over time and justify the story or propose it as historical, progress like the documentary hypothesis, etc, provided more convincing explanations about why the narrative contradicts itself (not only for Noah's story). There is also evidence of influence from older (pre-Hebrew) traditions. More recently with the popularization of science, there is increased criticism based on highschool-level science explaining how many aspects of the story are impossible (or must all be miracles), other than geology and archaeology which also don't support it. This increased understanding is rather recent however. Not so long ago, there were flood archeologist adventurers digging and associating unrelated discoveries with Biblical stories. It is possible that a historical perspectives section could summarize 16th+ century views of notable commentators, including Jerome commentary, etc. But I don't think that we should use older material to finish each section claiming that these views were the correct ones. Someone I would be glad to get input from is PiCo who recently improved various Biblical articles. Thanks, —PaleoNeonate – 20:44, 2 September 2017 (UTC)
Thanks. It's my opinion. But how can I say anything that's not my opinion? I'm sure I'm right about this. But I get it; that means nothing to you because I'm just some random person. But I will show below with reasoning how these errors are not a matter of opinion but fact, unless logic is a matter of opinion. Then, once it's evident, it will be the opinion of everyone, and perhaps then you'll be more favorable to the idea of removing these errors.
Errors The propose of this section is to convince anyone it concerns, that the claimed contradictions are false, and to gain support for adding contents to the article that shows this clearly, so as to not mislead the readers with false information.
Cline claims there are contradictions. For the purposes of this discussion on the Genesis food story, a contradiction is an internal contradiction between two statements in the text, such that (in the context of a story) both statements in all their details could not have both happened. If the two statements could have happened, in all their details, then there is no contradiction. If anyone disagrees with this basic definition, let me know now.
  1. two pairs or seven pairs? Cline claims that Genesis 6:19 and 7:2 contradict themselves.
We can see that these verses are not statements about what animals were in the ark. They are statements telling God's words to Noah on two different occasions. The verses do not both describe the same event in time. Any disagreements so far? Comment if I have said anything less than absolute fact so far.
Given the above facts, this cannot be a contradiction of the text. At best, you may say that God contradicted himself. But even so, the text is a non-contradictory story about when God contradicted himself. Moreover, as mentioned before, the two verses are not referring to the same event, so therefore, they cannot by definition be contradictions, since both events may have happened in all their details, without the remotest possibility of one contradicting the other.
Comment now if you see an issue with my logic.
So, apparently Cline forgot what the definition of what a contradiction is when he wrote that part of his book. Being a professor doesn't make him less wrong.
This is one of the three contradictions he mentions. I will talk about the other two, but I want to get a consensus on this one first before I continue.— Preceding unsigned comment added by Forest51690 (talkcontribs) 22:55, 2 September 2017 (UTC)
This is not a forum to discus sources reliability. And cline is not the only RS that see's contradictions in Genesis.Slatersteven (talk) 17:08, 3 September 2017 (UTC)
"This is not a forum to discuss a source's reliability" How then do you determine it? Do you not judge the reliability of a source? If not, then do I have the right to use any source, reliable or unreliable? That would be detrimental thing. Then how do you determine it, besides discussing it here? For that is precisely the reason I was sent to this page before submitting a correction.— Preceding unsigned comment added by Forest51690 (talkcontribs) 19:01, 3 September 2017 (UTC)
Forgive me for not understanding Wikipedia's guidelines. I am currently reading up on them and I will find a better way to approach this. I would support it if a moderator removes these recent comments of mine from this talk page, to keep it clean. From now on I will make sure my comments are informed of the way Wikipedia operates, and what constitutes a reliable source. Slatersteven, I understand now that you perhaps meant to say "this is not a forum for evaluating the trueness of a source". So I misunderstood. I trust that the editors of this page do in fact strive to avoid errors in its contents. Thanks. Forest51690 (talk) 20:04, 3 September 2017 (UTC)
Here [[1]] is where we discus reliability of sources. Here [[2]] is where we discus fringe theories, and you seem to be saying that the view that genesis is contradictory is fringe. Frankly I already know what the answer is but you can try. And again Cline is nbot the only source for this, do we really need to have a huge list of sources?Slatersteven (talk) 09:37, 4 September 2017 (UTC)
  • Comment Mentioning "the fact some scholarship thinks it is a unified whole" is very dangerous, since the majority of modern scholars are perfectly capable of reading the bible as literature and treating the flood story as a fictional narrative that "works" as a single fictional narrative, or reading it in a way that emphasizes historical study of how Jews and Christians have traditionally interpreted the text, without being too concerned for what the text actually says. Both of these are perfectly valid ways for scholars to read the text, but the problem is that the majority of lay people who would like to quote those scholars, including on Wikipedia, are definitely more interested in quoting them to give the impression that "The text doesn't have contradictions and doublets! These scholars agree!", which is definitely not what they are saying. We should always make it clear that when scholars read the text as a unified whole, they are practicing a form of literary criticism that does not reject "the fact it seems to be contradictory". Hijiri 88 (やや) 00:44, 3 September 2017 (UTC)

"universal" flood myth[edit]

It is simply not true that the flood myth is categorically universal. There are cultures which do not have a flood myth. This adjective should be removed.

jps (talk) 15:34, 3 September 2017 (UTC)

Caveated, we should point out which RS have said this is not true.Slatersteven (talk) 15:42, 3 September 2017 (UTC)
Actually, to the contrary, there is not a single RS which has said it is true, that I can find. The source cited does not contend that the flood myth is categorically universal. jps (talk) 15:59, 3 September 2017 (UTC)
The universal flood myth is a pretty old and widely held belief. I have no issue with also saying who has said it is true.Slatersteven (talk) 16:03, 3 September 2017 (UTC)
I think you don't understand what I'm saying. The adjective "universal" is not a stand-in for "global" but rather can be read that the myth is held in common across all cultures... in much the same way we would say "language is a cultural universal". Since there are cultures which do not have a flood myth, the flood myth is not universal. jps (talk) 16:41, 4 September 2017 (UTC)
I agree that we shouldn't call it the universal flood myth. We also have Flood myth which is more general and might be a better place to address this belief. —PaleoNeonate – 16:58, 4 September 2017 (UTC)
Problem is it is sourced,so we need sources to challenge it,and then to have a section on the debate. What we should not do is remove sourced content just because we do not like it.Slatersteven (talk) 18:15, 5 September 2017 (UTC)
What we have is a source that refers to "the universal flood myth". It never states "every culture has a flood myth". It's a situation where the literal meaning of the phrase does not match how an academic has actually used it, although we also have no idea what Leeming had in mind when he wrote that line. Heck, maybe he does think every culture has one. I don't see a problem with just shortening it to what our article is actually titled. Someguy1221 (talk) 00:32, 6 September 2017 (UTC)
Also, The Myth of the Universal Flood Myth. Someguy1221 (talk) 00:34, 6 September 2017 (UTC)
There's the double meaning, both would be erroneous: 1) flood which covered all the earth 2) myth common to all cultures... This myth is however indeed about a world-wide flood (even if that never occurred), so in that sense it could be a correct (but unclear) description. —PaleoNeonate – 00:51, 6 September 2017 (UTC)
And "global" would probably have been used for #1... —PaleoNeonate – 01:16, 6 September 2017 (UTC)
It is also ("the Hebrew version of the universal flood myth") Practically a direct quote from the source.Slatersteven (talk) 07:40, 6 September 2017 (UTC)
I don't quite get what the problem is. I would read "the Hebrew version of the universal flood myth" as referring to a myth about a universal flood, not a universal myth about a flood. Yes, jps is right that not every culture has a version of this myth, and yes, a number of people (including the authors of a large number of "reliable sources") mistwkenly beliebe this not to be the case, but do we really need to watch our wording so much that we can't describe a myth about a universal flood with the words "universal flood myth". Hijiri 88 (やや) 09:01, 6 September 2017 (UTC)
Sorry. Didn't notice the wikilink on "flood myth", making it unambiguously claim that the flood myth is universal. Hijiri 88 (やや) 09:28, 6 September 2017 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── @Slatersteven: Yes. So there are a few possibilities, while still avoiding OR:

  • The lead does not need to be sourced if it simply faithfully summarizes the article content, it would not need to present it as "universal".
  • Add a sentence and a source questioning "universal" in the lead, but I don't think it would be the right place for this
  • Multiple sources could be used in the body which both support and criticize the use of "universal", if necessary; the lead would just summarize that (alternatively, that could be done at Flood Myth, or not be necessary, if we go with the following solution)
  • Omit quoting "universal" from the source and keep it as-is
  • Select another source (there are various encyclopedias and dictionaries to quote a short definition from other than the current source)
  • Keep it as-is (preserve the status-quo, potentially eventually resulting in the same discussion in the future).

PaleoNeonate – 11:36, 6 September 2017 (UTC)

Or add a caveat.Slatersteven (talk) 13:38, 6 September 2017 (UTC)
It's vastly better to just leave "universal" out. RS and V are not suicide pacts - the fact that a reliable source got something wrong doesn't mean we have to repeat it. Discussion of the myth of the universal flood myth belongs at Flood myth. Someguy1221 (talk) 23:08, 6 September 2017 (UTC)
@Someguy1221: They're not suicide pacts, but in fact one of them covers this exact type of situation. Per WP:EXTRAORDINARY, no source, no matter how reputable it is for other kinds of information, is a reliable source for an extraordinary claim about which it is almost certainly wrong.
As an aside, I found this thread a little difficult to read, and while punning on the dual meanings of both "universal" and "myth" is fine for a talk page, I would avoid referring to the common misconception that the flood myth is "universal" as a "myth" in the article space, especially in the context of the phrase "universal flood myth", which as it has been used in this thread could mean any of (a) a common misconception that all world cultures have a flood myth, (b) a myth about a global/universal flood, or (c) a flood myth that is held by all world cultures. (This is the same reason I honestly think Myth of the flat Earth should be retitled, but that's another matter.)
Hijiri 88 (やや) 03:56, 10 September 2017 (UTC)

Incorrect interpretation of Cline[edit]

Hello, I'm suggesting a minor edit. The article contains this text:

many details are contradictory, such as ... how many animals were on board the ark

(emphasis mine) with a citation to page 20 of Cline's book. However, the book says something different:

And how many animals was Noah told to take into the ark?

(emphasis mine). The article text is saying something different than the source. How many animals were aboard the ark is a different point of topic than how many Noah was told to take into the ark. To say that these are the same requires an assumption that Noah obeyed his instructions. This assumption is not started in the source. Adding assumptions is Original Research and therefore inappropriate. I propose changing the article to read thus: "how many animals was Noah told to take into the ark". Please comment if you disagree, otherwise I will proceed with this edit later today.

Forest51690 (talk) 17:39, 4 September 2017 (UTC) As a side remark, I must note that according to the text in Genesis, Noah was given two instructions (120 years apart). Even though these instructions are different, it is not a textual contradiction because they are two separate events. Two descriptions of separate events can in no way contradict. Statements must overlap in order to contradict. In the text it may describe God contradicting himself, but a recording of God's contradiction is not in itself a contradiction. I make this note here to make it plain that Cline is wrong on this point, when he says this is a textual contradiction. Therefore with this understanding I hope to receive support when I find a Reliable Source that is adequate to point out this error. Can anyone suggest a source I can use? Forest51690 (talk) 17:39, 4 September 2017 (UTC)

I fixed the bit about taken vs asked to take. Cline is saying, as others have said, that there are two stories woven together and that this results in a contradiction - which of course is a textual contradiction. Two sets of instructions at different times can certainly contradict each other. Doug Weller talk 18:26, 4 September 2017 (UTC)
@Doug Weller: Thank you for making the edit. To address your comment: "Two sets of instructions at different times can certainly contradict each other." -- yes, they most certainly can. But you seem to equate the instructions with the record of the instructions. The instructions contradict themselves, sure, but the recording of them simply tells the words as they were spoken.
Please consider this example. If a text contains this story: "Henry said to his wife, 'I went to the store on Monday'. Later on, he told his son, 'I did not go to the store on Monday.'" The text tells a story of Henry contradicting himself. But if the text tells Henry's words accurately, then how can it have a textual contradiction? A contradiction is in the form "A, and not A", where both As must refer to the same thing (or event). Therefore, in this example, Henry's words are a contradiction where A = "I was at the store", and "A and not A" = "I was at the store and I was not at the store". The story itself does not have two As; it has A and B, where A = "On one occasion, Henry said this", and B = "On another occasion, Henry said that". A and B are not the same thing or the same event, (and moreover they are both true!) so they do not conform to the definition of a contradiction.
So yes, "Two sets of instructions at different times can certainly contradict each other", but a text that records those separate statements does not contradict, but simply records the words. Or if you still disagree, then what definition of "textual contradiction" are you using? By your definition, is it possible for a text to contradict itself and still record all events accurately? (I would ask that you please answer this question if you still disagree. I presume you will say no, but I want to make sure).
Forest51690 (talk) 17:53, 5 September 2017 (UTC)
None of which matters as it is OR,we say what RS say.Slatersteven (talk) 17:59, 5 September 2017 (UTC)
(edit conflict) I am not answering for Doug and also welcome his answer. However: "By your definition, is it possible for a text to contradict itself and still record all events accurately?" We let expert scholars do their research and we just report it, otherwise we would be inserting our own original research in articles (WP:OR). —PaleoNeonate – 17:59, 5 September 2017 (UTC)
Paleo is of course correct, but I also think that this is a case of Begging the question. It works if you assume that this is one narrative, but Cline is arguing that it is two narratives that contradict each other. Two texts, in other words. Not that I have the same problem you do with the term. Doug Weller talk 18:21, 5 September 2017 (UTC)
Yes Paleo is correct, this is OR, and I have no intention of putting my OR in this article. Even if I tried, it would not pass the eyes of this stringent group of editors. In my root post I wasn't as clear as I intended to be -- I'm discussing this not to get my opinions added to the article, but to persuade you that the error is indeed an error, so that when I find RS that says the same I will not meet undue opposition.
@Doug Weller: I am trying to understand how I have begged the question (which is, to assume one's own conclusion as a premise in order to prove the conclusion). Because, I have not used the conclusion (i.e. "this is not a contradiction") in my argument in order to prove it. You seem to be saying that I am begging the question since I assume it is one narrative. But I am not assuming that, nor does my reasoning relying on that. It matters little whether the text is comprised of one source or multiple sources; the fact is, the text as it is does not contradict with itself. I can understand Cline's reasoning if he thinks that the two sources were different than what is contained in Genesis. Perhaps they initially referred to the same event, and that through the process of weaving them together, Genesis represents them as two separate events. In that case, the two sources would contradict because they tell of the same event, whereas Genesis would not contradict because it tells of two separate events. I don't know whether this is what Cline was thinking or not; the fact is, Cline does not argue his conclusion -- he does not provide facts and logic to argue it -- he only states it. I wish that Cline would have exposed the evidence and reasoning behind his conclusion, rather than giving the conclusion on merely his own authority. Authority does not persuade a skeptic. Along these lines, it's better that this article include better sources for this claim (@Slatersteven said he knows of other sources) -- sources that do more than state the author's personal conclusion.Forest51690 (talk) 22:40, 5 September 2017 (UTC)
The assumption I've assumed that you are making is that this is one narrative, not two. In any case, this is more of a semantic argument about what seems to be a commonly used concept. Doug Weller talk 09:05, 6 September 2017 (UTC)
(edit conflict) We are not here to discuss biblical inerrancy, or to discuss random issues even if they are related to the topic. By questioning whether Genesis could "still record all events accurately", you are implying that you wish to insert your own OR in the article, since you are not allowed discuss those issues here unless you are proposing a change to the article. I could respond to your question by pointing out that no, of course Genesis doesn't record "all events" accurately: even if everything in Genesis was recorded accurately, that still would not be "all events". What did Noah have for breakfast on his fifty-second birthday? Where did he get it? Did he get indigestion afterward? Forget Noah -- what about Gilgamesh's uncle Schmilgamesh? He would have been living during the timespan covered in Genesis, but he isn't even mentioned. This is semantics, and is nonsense, of course, but it still answers your question. But none of it helps improve this Wikipedia article, so this is not the place to discuss it. Hijiri 88 (やや) 09:17, 6 September 2017 (UTC)
@Hijiri88: Thanks for referring me to that policy. I was not aware of it until now. So I will not continue this discussion any further. Thank you to all who contributed their point of view; I appreciate it. Forest51690 (talk) 13:10, 7 September 2017 (UTC)