The RATE project's statistical determination of genre of Genesis 1:1-2:3

Has anyone taken a serious look at this particular part of the RATE project’s work at all? In addition to their work on radiometric dating they had a theologian try to come up with a way of proving statistically that Genesis 1 should be read as strict historical narrative rather than as poetry.

Now I’m no linguist and I’ve no training in textual criticism, but his approach looks downright weird to me. He takes a single metric—the ratio of preterites to finite verbs—and on the basis of that one metric alone, concludes that Genesis 1 must be historical narrative rather than poetry, akin to the accounts in 1 & 2 Kings, for example. This looks like a Texas sharp-shooter fallacy to me: there must be dozens of other metrics by which we could analyse the respective texts, and I’m pretty sure they would be all over the map. Besides, he doesn’t seem to give any attention to how it compares to other genres, such as apocalyptic literature for example.

Would I be right in saying that his approach here is wildly off-base and even somewhat absurd?

Yes it’s absurd and patently a motivated reading. However that’s not to say that even if Genesis 1 is all poetry, it isn’t speaking of any historical events. It’s a cosmogony, and a cosmogony always speaks of events which took place in actual history, regardless of how they’re conveyed. The real point is that the manner in which they’re conveyed in Genesis 1 tells us that the YEC reading (and any other strong concordist reading), is completely wrong.


What I found amazing about the study is how much they repeated the very same kinds of blunders they made in their better known “research”. They presume to tackle and to know how to do better what they actually know very little about. And they appear to make precious little effort to learn from the stylometric research of published computational linguists appearing in the peer-reviewed literature. (Sound at all familiar?)

Yet, what amazes me most is how they go to such into such technical theatrics while side-stepping just plain common-sense. You identified some of those common-sense expectations in your post.

Definitely. And isn’t it amazing that their research always supports the presupposition they originally set out to prove? Yes, the RATE team tells us that readers of Genesis must read the pericope as literal history!

I’m a bit frustrated because I would like to refer to my own research on these topics and take you through examples of stylometric analysis in various Biblical genres, but I don’t want to create backlash against an upcoming Bible reference book by “outing” myself as an ex-YEC. That would harm my co-author, and he shouldn’t see his royalties and life’s work diminished just because I get condemned as a “liberal” for not believing the earth is 6,000 years old. That wouldn’t be fair to him.


It is clear that the ancient world believed that the Genesis creation story was literal history, since they had no other explanation for how the world came into being.

Saying that a non-literal interpretation of Genesis invalidates the entire Bible is like judging a book based on the content of a forward written by someone other than the author.


When I first saw the post, I thought it was satire. Life is sometimes stranger than fiction.


Yes, the only thing missing from the RATE article is invoking a miracle to address all of the evidence which doesn’t fit the math. [For those readers who might not get the reference, the RATE project acknowledges that they have no explanation for how the massive heat produced by their claimed events could have been unevenly removed from the planet without boiling away all of the water. I like to call it the “multiply both sides of the equation by zero” solution.]


The RATE project poignantly illustrates there is a fundamental difference between ‘sound science’ and what ‘sounds scientific’.


Behold, two Hebrew men were fighting, and [Moses] said to the one who did the wrong, “Why are you striking your companion?” Then he said, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you intend to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” So Moses feared and said, “Surely this thing is known!" - Exodus 2:13-15, NKJV

Since when can statistical analysis tell us anything about genre? Math and Grammar are two separate classes in high school and beyond for a reason…

1 Like

It might be able to if you can show that a certain measure is able to reliably distinguish between different genres. However, the RATE methodology is highly suspect because it assumes that the only two classifications available for Genesis 1:1 - 2:3 are “narrative” and “poetry.” However, it could be a third genre such as "exalted prose narrative." Or it could be a framework.

Also, why would you exclude Genesis 2:4 - Genesis 3 (all) from the analysis?

Math and linguistics are not that far apart in certain subfields. Computational linguistics relies on statistical analysis and formal semantics relies on discrete math like set theory and formal logic. Discourse analysis, not so much.

This topic was automatically closed 6 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

This is a place for gracious dialogue about science and faith. Please read our FAQ/Guidelines before posting.