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Policies & Practices > Authors for sacred texts

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message 1: by Jessica (new)

Jessica (jessicareading) | 69 comments We recently had a request to change the author for the Book of Mormon from Joseph Smith to "Various authors." I also took a look at other sacred texts, such as the Bible and Koran, and found that authorship doesn't seem to follow any rhyme or reason. Various, anonymous, King James version, etc.

Librarians, please weigh in on what you think would be the most appropriate and informative way to handle these kinds of texts.

thanks!


message 2: by Miriam (new)

Miriam | 1 comments I would be hesitant to change it. OCLC lists Joseph Smith as the author. These types of books should probably be addressed on a case by case basis. Most seem to be listed as having editors or publishers and those, of course, should be noted.


message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

I agree with Miriam, as this should be addressed on a case by case basis. For Bibles, I think the safest bet would be to go with the names of the editors. If there are none, then it's a toss between "anonymous"/"various" or, my personal preference, the name of the publisher/the national/local bible society that was responsible for producing the version in view, especially in the case of modern non-English Bible translations.

I really don't know what to put as the author of old English versions like the KJV/AV :)


message 4: by John (new)

John (jfcannon) | 30 comments Certainly a case by case basis is the way to go. As for the Book of Mormon, since Joseph Smith only translated it, he shouldn't be listed as the author any more than Charles Wilbour, who translated Les Miserables, should be listed as the author of that work in place of Victor Hugo. Of course there are those who believe Joseph Smith wrote it instead of translating it as he claims, but I believe GR should avoid that kind of religious controversy and go with the stated claim of Joseph Smith. In the interest of full disclosure, I'm a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons), so my opinion could reasonably be considered biased.


message 5: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca (el_bec) | 6 comments I think this issue needs some more thought not only on the book of mormon issue but for all sacred texts. its really very confusing. i've read a few and its hard to compare ratings etc due to the difficulty in combining them. Perhaps some decision should be made to just ascribe MOST holy books 'various authors'


message 6: by mlady_rebecca (new)

mlady_rebecca | 593 comments I would prefer to have some standard text rather than just various or anonymous. Those terms seem to be catch-all categories for incorrectly or incompletely specified books.

Even using "sacred texts" as an author would at least separate them from other forms of various/anonymous.


message 7: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca (el_bec) | 6 comments that's a good idea actually!


message 8: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca (el_bec) | 6 comments perhaps it would be better if the author name feature was disabled in such cases, given that in many religions, sacred texts aren't considered to be the work of the prophet who spoke them but rather are considered the word/work of God. Plus it would offend athiests if we put the author as god, we obviously don't want to cause any controversy. At the moment, my copy of the Qoran has Arthur J. Arberry as the author, which is so inaccurate it's almost laughable and only 1 other edition.


message 9: by Carolyn (last edited May 19, 2009 07:22AM) (new)

Carolyn (seeford) | 579 comments I'm ok with using 'Various', or if we need a group standalone name, "Religious Text" or something (I'm not really in favor of using the term 'sacred' - I know people who shelve the Bible under 'Mythology' on GR. )

Is there a need to group all of the Bibles, Qurans, BOM, etc. under one author name? Will people of different faiths be ticked off if we group them all together?

Maybe the best thing would be to use the basic name of what it is as the primary 'author' (ie, Bible, Quran, Book of Mormon, Torah, etc.) and then the translator, editor, etc. would be listed in the secondary position, and so on. This would also help with combining.

The edition info, like "King James, 1857", or whatever, should be part of the title. This way GR stays entirely away from any determination of the 'author' of these works, and stays neutral in its description of them.


message 10: by vicki_girl (new)

vicki_girl | 2765 comments I am fine with any of the above solutions. I would just like to agree on something so we can get them cleaned up and properly combined.


message 11: by rivka, Librarian Moderator (new)

rivka | 45034 comments Mod
Having the author field disabled is not an option, given the way the database works. I've come to peace with the fact that "Various" is generally what is used -- for the holy texts of my religion and most others.


message 12: by rivka, Librarian Moderator (new)

rivka | 45034 comments Mod
Speaking as a believer, I dislike it. And I imagine many atheists would as well.


message 13: by Carolyn (last edited May 19, 2009 02:07PM) (new)

Carolyn (seeford) | 579 comments Mahammad wrote: "How about using the term "supernatural revelation" as an author? I guess this is accurate, flexible and wouldn't offend a believer or an atheist."

Ummmm...no.
Concept of an atheist is that they don't believe there is anything 'supernatural' to give anyone any 'revelations'. Thus this cannot be an author.


message 14: by rivka, Librarian Moderator (new)

rivka | 45034 comments Mod
I'm still voting for the compromise of "Various".


message 15: by Carolyn (new)

Carolyn (seeford) | 579 comments I'll go with Various.


message 16: by vicki_girl (new)

vicki_girl | 2765 comments According to Wikipedia:

Islam holds that the Qur’an was revealed to Muhammad by the angel Jibrīl (Gabriel) from 610 CE to his death in 632 CE. Followers of Islam further believe that the Qur’an was written down by Muhammad's companions while he was alive, although the prime method of transmission was oral. It is maintained that in 633 CE, the written text was compiled, and in 653 CE it was standardized, distributed in the Islamic empire and produced in large numbers. The present form of the Qur’an is regarded as God's revelation to Muhammad by Muslim believers. Academic scholars often consider it the original version authored or dictated by Muhammad. Muslim tradition agrees that it was fixed in writing shortly after Muhammad's death by order of Umar and Abu Bakr.

Seems like various would still fit to me. Then again, I don't care who we credit, as long as we are consistent for each text, e.g.

Bible - Various
Koran - Various (or Muhammad)
Book of Mormon - Joseph Smith, Jr.
Tanakh, Torah, etc. - Various


message 17: by Carolyn (new)

Carolyn (seeford) | 579 comments With issues as to who to credit and how to word it, I still think the best thing would be to use the basic name of what it is in the primary 'author' spot (ie, Bible, Quran, Book of Mormon, Torah, etc.) and then the translator, editor, etc. would be listed in the secondary position, and so on. This would also help with combining.

The edition info, like "King James, 1857", or whatever, should be part of the title. This way GR stays entirely away from any determination of the 'author' of these works, and stays neutral in its description of them. (reposted from #10 above)


message 18: by Cait (new)

Cait (tigercait) | 5005 comments Carolyn wrote: "With issues as to who to credit and how to word it, I still think the best thing would be to use the basic name of what it is in the primary 'author' spot (ie, Bible, Quran, Book of Mormon, Torah, ..."

Carolyn, I like this idea, but I'm not sure how it would work in multiple languages.


message 19: by This Is Not The Michael You're Looking For (last edited May 19, 2009 09:38AM) (new)

This Is Not The Michael You're Looking For | 949 comments Rebecca wrote: "...we obviously don't want to cause any controversy."

LOL. I agree, we obviously don't want to cause any controversy. But there is NO solution which will not be controversial in some sense.

Instead of "Various" what about "Unknown". It feels seem slightly more accurate to me.

I'm not convinced Carolyn's solution of using the basic name as the author will work. It's an interesting idea, but I think we'd really need to come up with uncontroversial and unambiguous "names" and you'll find that more difficult than you imagine. For example, what do you mean by "Bible"? New Testament? Old Testament? The Torah is not synonymous with the the Old Testament since it only comprises a fraction of the Old Testament.


message 20: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) How about 'Religion Religion' for the author of each. That gives a first & last name for searching.

One man's religion is another's belly laugh. No way you're going to please everyone, so treat them all the same unless there is a perfectly clear author to attribute the text to.


message 21: by Carolyn (last edited May 19, 2009 09:55AM) (new)

Carolyn (seeford) | 579 comments You get into the same kibosh with using 'Unkown' - since plenty of people "know" that Muhammed wrote the Quran and that John Smith wrote the Book of Mormon.

As for 'Bible' and 'Torah', they pretty much self-select. If the title says it is a Torah, it is. If it says it is the Bible, it is. I think that books just on the New Testament or the Old Testament would be largely academic (with a valid author), but those can be listed as the title of it says - New Testament or Old Testament, if it isn't an academic work.

I think that's plenty of differentiation, without necessarily needing to combine everything into one listing (for the Bible, for example.)


message 22: by rivka, Librarian Moderator (new)

rivka | 45034 comments Mod
Speaking for myself alone (not for Goodreads, not for theists, and definitely not for Orthodox Jews, who everyone knows cannot agree on anything ;) ), I strongly dislike the notion of using the book's title as the author. It bothers me both from a religious and a cataloger's perspective.

Unknown may or may not be better than Various; I find either an acceptable compromise. I'm also fine with N/A (although we've been trying to clean up that author!)


message 23: by mlady_rebecca (new)

mlady_rebecca | 593 comments I like either Jim's "religion religion" suggestion or Carolyn's suggestion of using the name of the book itself (ie, Bible, Quran, Book of Mormon, Torah, etc.).

Or a generic "religious texts".

Or breaking them down by religion like "Christian religious texts" or plain "Christianity".

I just dislike all the catch all categories being used - unknown, anonymous, various, n/a. They all seem like categories which should eventually be cleaned up.


message 24: by rivka, Librarian Moderator (new)

rivka | 45034 comments Mod
mlady_rebecca wrote: "They all seem like categories which should eventually be cleaned up."

While this is true, leaving aside religious texts for the moment, there are many legitimate "Anonymous" and "Unknown" books.


message 25: by rivka, Librarian Moderator (new)

rivka | 45034 comments Mod
Mahammad wrote: "no atheist would take offense at this"

False. By having that as the author, it states that there is such a thing.


message 26: by Carolyn (new)

Carolyn (seeford) | 579 comments Mahammad wrote: "Well, I second myself :] for the "supernatural revelation" suggestion, no atheist would take offense at this; for them there is no such a thing as "supernatural" and it would be as good as "mythological."

Actually the opposite, an atheist would have an issue with naming the author as 'supernatural revelation'.

'Mythological' was not suggested as an author name, but an example of how the texts are not best described as author = 'sacred', since they are not for everyone. Also, there are also secular humanists and agnostics using GR (not everyone is lumped into the term 'atheist'), so you might consider that more than just atheists don't consider these texts to be 'supernatural revelations'.


This Is Not The Michael You're Looking For | 949 comments As far as I can tell from a quick search and skim, the Library of Congress is inconsistent. For many versions, it does not list an author in the primary author field (it's database allows for this), but often lists secondary editors and such in the title of the book. For other versions, what appears to be a translator is listed as the author. If it's a version with commentary, the commentator appears to be listed in some cases.


message 28: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca (el_bec) | 6 comments wow, you go to bed and the next morning the topic has grown huge! ah the joy of discussions! looking at all the suggestions perhaps NA is more to the point. It will offend the least amount of people. but something really has to be done, religious texts are in a bit of a messy situation at the moment.


message 29: by Carolyn (new)

Carolyn (seeford) | 579 comments I'd prefer if it were Various, rather than N/A - after all, someone wrote them down, and is thus the author, so it is applicable.


message 30: by Jessica (new)

Jessica | 963 comments I'm with Various too. Even if you believe that the Bible is God's word, you'd have to concede that many hands went into it (the writing down, the translation, etc).


message 31: by rivka, Librarian Moderator (last edited May 20, 2009 10:22AM) (new)

rivka | 45034 comments Mod
I think perhaps a poll is in order.

Ok, I think I got all the options in there. I also told it to sort them randomly for each person (hey, cool feature!) and to let people vote anonymously. I'm giving it until May 28 to run.


message 32: by rivka, Librarian Moderator (new)

rivka | 45034 comments Mod
Otis wrote: "We could consider just listing the editor/publisher of the book in the primary author spot, with an "(editor)" role."

I added that as an option on the poll.


message 33: by Carolyn (new)

Carolyn (seeford) | 579 comments Otis wrote: "We could consider just listing the editor/publisher of the book in the primary author spot, with an "(editor)" role."

If we do choose that option, then we will not be combining the various translations, editions, etc. with each other, as they would have different names in the primary author position.
Just sayin' = )



message 34: by rivka, Librarian Moderator (new)

rivka | 45034 comments Mod
I'm not sure the poll is helping much. Too many of the options getting very close numbers of votes.

Well, still have until the middle of next week. ;)


message 35: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth | 11 comments Wow this is a thorny situation.
I have a degree in Religious Studies so this is my opinion based on my education and contact with nearly every major faith and most of the minor ones.

Various, Unknown, and Anonymous are all unsatisfactory for a variety of reasons. Not all of these texts could be considered to have "various" authors. Anonymous doesn't work since most people "know" who wrote the texts and the same applies to "Unknown". They can work but I think we all agree that religious texts are different from other books which may objectively fall into one of those three catergories rather than based on subjective opinion.

Therefor I am going to vote for "Religious Texts" to be listed as the author. Additional roles for tranlation, transcribing, editing, etc... can aways be added but I think "Religious Texts" neatly sidesteps the issue.


message 36: by This Is Not The Michael You're Looking For (last edited May 21, 2009 10:28AM) (new)

This Is Not The Michael You're Looking For | 949 comments Does that mean that all religious texts should be put under that author, even if the author is specifically know? (e.g., L. Ron Hubbard and Dianetics).

Who gets to decide what constitutes a religious text and what doesn't? If there are disagreements, who is the final arbiter? Does The Principia Discordia count? What about Stranger in a Strange Land?

Even better, what about The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster? It should have equal rights to be counted in a category of "religious texts" as anything else.

Or are we really trying to call this "Religious Texts whose Author(s) are Known to Believers but Who Otherwise Do Not Have a Singular Acceptable Name for Cataloging Purposes"


message 37: by rivka, Librarian Moderator (new)

rivka | 45034 comments Mod
This Is Not The Michael You're Looking For wrote: "Or are we really trying to call this 'Religious Texts whose Author(s) are Known to Believers but Who Otherwise Do Not Have a Singular Acceptable Name for Cataloging Purposes'"

Pretty much. ;)


This Is Not The Michael You're Looking For | 949 comments And that is why Religious Text is misleading. It doesn't mean Religious Text...it means Religious Text with Authorship Issues.

In my opinion this is the LEAST favored option (I prefer almost every other suggestion), so naturally it's the one getting the most votes.


message 39: by Elizabeth (last edited May 21, 2009 11:34AM) (new)

Elizabeth | 11 comments This Is Not The Michael You're Looking For wrote: "Does that mean that all religious texts should be put under that author, even if the author is specifically know? (e.g., L. Ron Hubbard and Dianetics).

Who gets to decide what constitutes a religi..."


I thought we were discussing books whom believers claim are divinely authored and skeptics denounce.

If the book is published with an author then this isn't an issue "(e.g., L. Ron Hubbard and Dianetics)."

as for the flying spaghetti monster if there is a book believers claim was written by his noodly appendages than it would be "Religious Text".

I hope that clarifies my opinion.


message 40: by rivka, Librarian Moderator (last edited May 21, 2009 11:12AM) (new)

rivka | 45034 comments Mod
This Is Not The Michael You're Looking For wrote: "In my opinion this is the LEAST favored option (I prefer almost every other suggestion), so naturally it's the one getting the most votes."

I agree entirely. Although the last I checked, it was pretty close.

EDIT: Wow! I take that back.


This Is Not The Michael You're Looking For | 949 comments I thought we were discussing books whom believers claim are divinely authored and skeptics denounce.

Except that if I see the author "Religious Text" I view that as a broader label and do not automatically think of that as being "only those religious texts which believers believe are divinely authored and skeptics denounce". "Religious Text" is a type label, not an explanation of authorship.

"Divinely Authored" would be more accurate with respect to the meaning, although quite a bit more controversial as well. You're trying to come up with a term that simultaneously implies something is divinely authored (so believers are happy) without actually stating so (so non-believers are happy). I don't think "Religious Text" succeeds as this because I view it is a label of type rather than a label of authorship.


message 42: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth | 11 comments This Is Not The Michael You're Looking For wrote: "I thought we were discussing books whom believers claim are divinely authored and skeptics denounce.

Except that if I see the author "Religious Text" I view that as a broader label and do not auto..."


agreed. maybe we should just go with "controversial" and be done with it.



message 43: by rivka, Librarian Moderator (new)

rivka | 45034 comments Mod
Elizabeth wrote: "maybe we should just go with "controversial" and be done with it."

Ick. (Sorry.)


message 44: by Elizabeth (last edited May 21, 2009 06:46PM) (new)

Elizabeth | 11 comments rivka wrote: "Elizabeth wrote: "maybe we should just go with "controversial" and be done with it."

Ick. (Sorry.)"


well it was tongue-in-cheek. Not Applicable would be my second choice of those listed. but "Not Applicable" not "N/A"

EDIT** When the poll closes maybe do a second poll of the top three.


message 45: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Vegan (lisavegan) | 2413 comments EDIT** When the poll closes maybe do a second poll of the top three.

That's a good idea.

I'd also be satisfied if the handful or two of Goodreads staff decided and sent us the decision. After all, only a small percentage of current Goodreads members are participating in this poll and there will hopefully be many more new Goodreads members as the years go by, and they will have had no say in this.


message 46: by rivka, Librarian Moderator (last edited May 21, 2009 10:51PM) (new)

rivka | 45034 comments Mod
Yeah, a second poll of the top three sounds like a plan.

Although people can also change their votes up to the time the poll closes.


message 47: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Vegan (lisavegan) | 2413 comments Otis, I have no objection to Anonymous. Unless this discussion continues with compelling arguments, I'm happy to have that be the author for these books.


message 48: by rivka, Librarian Moderator (new)

rivka | 45034 comments Mod
Otis wrote: "Let's do "Anonymous". Unless someone can make a compelling argument against it."

Works for me. I'll close the poll.


message 49: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth | 11 comments I don't like Anonymous but I don't have a compelling argument either.


message 50: by Carolyn (new)

Carolyn (seeford) | 579 comments I don't have an issue with Anonymous.

Glad this is now resolved.



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