There is a question regarding Abraham and Sarah's relationship, and the brother/sister story here: Why did Abraham lie to Pharaoh about Sarah being his sister in Gen 12?

I gave an answer which explains that there are some (including myself) who believe that Abraham and Sarah are related to the Hindu figures of Brahma and Saraiswati, a connection which is supported by the existence of Zoroastrainism, the Jewish Zohar meditative tradition, and the claimed history of the Hebrews in the bible, which derives their ancestry from the Iranian region. Further, Aristotle and others claim that the ancient Hebrews are ethnically Indian, and related to the Hindu scholars either by ethnicity or by belief.

These connections are not often made by traditional religious or secular scholars, but I have found some marginal folks who do make the connection. My answer was supported by substantive direct quotes from the three occurrences of the sister/wife story in Genesis, and explained the existing literature dispassionately. It is deleted, and this seems like a form of censorship rather than moderation.

I do not appreciate this, and I hope there is a good explanation.

EDIT: the answer in question

The Genesis text is widely believed by modern secular scholars to have been put together from various traditions, compiled in at least two major independent narratives, which were merged to produce the final text. The merger is very rough, so that the two narratives may be easily distinguished, because one consistently uses the sacred name "Yahweh" to refer to God, and the other uses the more generic identifier "Elohim"(God) in Genesis and the early parts of Exodus.

To those who doubt this idea, the textual boundaries are sometimes glaringly obvious, as in Exodus 3:14, where the first 14 verses are Elohist, and the rest a Yahweh tack-on. In Exodus 6:2, God says to Moses that he did not reveal his name "Yahweh" to Abraham Isaac and Jacob, only to Moses. But this is contradicted by the Yahwist narrative in Genesis, where all the patriarchs reference Yahweh several times by name. For a nice Genesis example, consider the entire chapter of Genesis 39, which is a lovely Yahwist narrative about Joseph's attempted seduction by his master's wife, which ends with Joseph in jail. This chapter throws off the rest of the narrative, because in the rest, Joseph seems to be Potiphar's servant throughout. The inconsistency is resolved in KJ by a stretched translation--- which claims that Potiphar who is "Rosh Ha-tabachim" is actually the head of the guard. These examples are just those I noticed, but the arguments about this division date back to the 19th century, and it is universally accepted by secular Bible scholars today.

The two narratives have different and recognizably consistent authorial voices, indicative of at least two separate authors, both excellent writers. By the end of Exodus and throughout Leviticus, there is a third much less inspired author writing, who uses a legalistic language, full of unnecessary repetitions and pedantic double-speak, and narration, when it comes, is jarringly bad (like the first verses of Leviticus 10). This author is referred to as "Priestly". Aside from J,E, and P, as the Yahwist, Elohist, and Priestly authors are called, I could not clearly distinguish any other voices, although the academics sometimes do.

The narrative in Genesis 20 is an Elohist narrative, and it is just repeating a different tradition regarding the narrative in Genesis 12, which is Yahwist. The two narratives come from the same tale, but they differ in a few details. The distinguishing details are revealing, since it is here that one learns the most about Abram's relation to Sarai. In the first narrative, Abraham tells pharaoh that he was lying about Sarai being his sister. In the second narrative, Abraham says that Sarah is his half-sister.

This is very strange, since incestuous ancestry is most often used in the pentateuch to indicate that a certain tribe is somehow cursed, or weakened, or inferior. Here, the implied incest is for the ancestors of the Hebrews, so it is really very striking--- it suggests that there was a deep rooted tradition for Abram/Sarai being both brother/sister and husband/wife, a tradition that was able to survive transmutation through many retellings, even with the strong incest taboo that is evident in other parts of Genesis (Gen 35:21 & 49:4 , 19:30-38)

On the internet, one finds a possible explanation. Abraham/Abram and Sarah/Sarai have a very striking parallel in Hindu mythology in the couple Brahma and Saraiswati, who are both brother and sister and husband and wife. The narrative parallel here has led some of the internet folks to suggest that the origin of the Hebrew religion is as a monotheistic offshoot of Hinduism. According to this book, http://books.google.com/books?id=1qBTNVydxCAC&pg=PA872&lpg=PA872&dq=brahma+saraiswati&source=bl&ots=RTd0X0kfWD&sig=fg1l6TnkSxN1U-m95oTdDBGIGP0&hl=en&sa=X&ei=dtQHT7_MKMXs0gHh-LCxAg&sqi=2&ved=0CFkQ6AEwBg#v=onepage&q=brahma%20saraiswati&f=false , Jesuits suggested the connection.

There is another monotheistic tradition which comes from the Persian region which is identified as Abraham's birthplace, which is Zoroastrianism. The existence of different monotheistic traditions claiming to come from the same place suggests a common ancestry, and it could be a monotheistic Brahma cult. If you google "Brahma Saraiswati" you find lots of websites.

The sister/wife story is repeated a third time, with Isaac and Rebekah as the couple. This third repetition is in Genesis 26:7 and thereabouts. The third repetition is not as salient as the other two, but it suggests that different tribes assigned the same stories to different patriarchs. This uses Yahweh as God's identifier.

  • That is actually a fascinating and well-told account. Thanks for the information.
    – TRiG
    Feb 29, 2012 at 12:07
  • Hi Ron. Just to say that I've quoted you on my blog.
    – TRiG
    Oct 14, 2012 at 0:07

6 Answers 6


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Your answer already had 2 delete votes from the community (high rep members of the community can vote to delete negatively scored answers), Caleb cast the third, but that vote had the same effect a vote from a normal high rep user's delete vote would have had (it only takes 3 votes for answers).

Thus this was hardly a moderator acting unilaterally this was the community saying "this is bad." That isn't censorship, that is the community governing itself.

Answers can be undeleted by the community as well with the same rep requirements.

  • 4
    Of course it is censorship. I don't mind downvotes, but deletion is a whole different matter. Deleting ideas which are not present in other answers, which took some thinking to write, is counterproductive to the open exchange of ideas which stackexchange is meant to foster. I know this doesn't come naturally to religious people, but you really have to be careful to not exclude ideas that conflict with your own internal prejudices. Otherwise, you will get trapped in obsolete ancient dogma (but I doubt someone who is trapped in obsolete ancient dogma would understand why this is sinful).
    – Ron Maimon
    Feb 17, 2012 at 15:36
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    @RonMaimon open exchange of ideas? where is that mentioned? SE exists to ask questions and get answers. This isn't America this is Stack Exchange.
    – wax eagle
    Feb 17, 2012 at 15:39
  • The free exchange is the purpose of all the internet sites. I am aware that this is not natural for religious folks, since their stuff can only survive in a closed environment where people are prevented by repression and violence from hearing and speaking the truth.
    – Ron Maimon
    Feb 17, 2012 at 15:41
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    @RonMaimon that's a bit condescending don't you think?
    – wax eagle
    Feb 17, 2012 at 15:52
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    "The free exchange is the purpose of all internet sites." Ha! That's the funniest thing I've read in a long time. And I'm not saying that to be adversarial... I honestly think that's a pretty funny notion.
    – Flimzy
    Feb 18, 2012 at 9:34
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    @Ron: Keep in mind that "deletion" on a StackExchange site does not mean "erasure". Your answer is still there, and you are still able to see it, and more importantly, to edit it. If an answer is deleted, it's because people that the community trusts have decided that your answer is not contributing anything useful to our community. If you edit the answer, you can flag it for moderator review and one of us can undelete it if it meets our guidelines.
    – Mason Wheeler Mod
    Feb 18, 2012 at 21:12
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    As an addendum to Mason's comment users can also undelete content thus if you can get some support in chat or elsewhere from high rep users...
    – wax eagle
    Feb 18, 2012 at 21:51

Not being able to see the answer, I'd say that it sounds like a good answer if the question had been asked on "neutral turf", such as the Biblical Hermeneutics site. (We do have some more variety of interpretation over there, but your particular viewpoint is not represented yet.) The rules over there require questions and answers to focus on the texts themselves, which seems like what you've done.

But here answers need to have their roots in a Christian tradition. As far as I know, the connections you make are not claimed by any Christian scholars or denomination. Maybe it's a Gnostic idea? So I think if you provide an answer like that, you'd need to back it up with some sort of "Christian credentials". (And it's possible the community here will tolerate it. I don't know.)

You may call it censorship (though that is needlessly inflammatory), but I'd suggest it goes back to the original definition of Censor: monitoring the pulse of public sentiment and enforcing community values. Here's how Cicero described the office:

The Censors are to determine the generations, origins, families, and properties of the people; they are to (watch over/protect) the city's temples, roads, waters, treasury, and taxes; they are to divide the people into three parts; next, they are to (allow/approve) the properties, generations, and ranks [of the people]; they are to describe the offspring of knights and footsoldiers; they are to forbid being unmarried; they are to guide the behavior of the people; they are not to overlook abuse in the Senate.

Every community must have values and those values must be enforced if the community is to hang together. Stack Exchange site are relatively democratic, but the rules are enforced with more direct action than other places on the Internet. Personally, I disagree with deletion for the same reasons you do, but I understand the purpose and I don't (often) fight the losing battle. You must always be prepared for content to be changed or deleted if you post here. I'm afraid if you disagree you'll need to take it up with Meta.SO.

Update after reading the answer

Thank you for including the answer itself. The relevant sentence from the book used as a source is:

The identity of Abraham and Sara with Brahma and Saraiswati was first pointed out by the Jesuit missionaries.

Unfortunately, the missionaries aren't mentioned by name, so we can't know if they drew the same conclusion about the similarities of the names as you did. My guess is that they drew the arrow in the opposite direction: Abraham and Sara became Brahma and Saraiswati. Therefore, I don't actually see any Christian tradition reflected in the answer.

The JEPD hypothesis would certainly find a home on the right Hermeneutics.SE question, but I think you'd want to find more credible sources for the Hinduism angle.

  • 1
    I should note that since sites in beta (Christianity and BH.SE) are still forming there is a bit more room for values and culture to change. However, the best time to help shape a site's culture is very early on in the beta. BH is a bit younger than this site, so it's probably a touch more open to new viewpoints. (This isn't a condemnation of Christianity.SE, which has come a long, long way and I now have come to enjoy. Part of what I see as a positive is this site's enforcement of its identity.) Feb 17, 2012 at 17:25
  • The Jesuits noted that the two are similar, and would be historically silly if they drew the arrow the other way, since Hinduism predates Judaism by millenia. They believed the stories were related by virtue of being the same figures.
    – Ron Maimon
    Feb 27, 2012 at 16:42
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    @Ron: Jesuits have been known to do silly things. ;-) Feb 27, 2012 at 17:04

As wax_eagle noted, this is not an issue of moderation but of community. I actually specifcally waited until I was the third vote rather than the first or second so that the diamond next to my name wouldn't make my vote hold any more weight than that of any other high-rep community member.

  1. As one of three community members that voted: my point was to remove an answer that did not directly address the question raised by the OP. You can also read my general response to your complaints on your other related meta post. TL;DR By community consensus, answers must directly answer the question and follow suit as far as whatever specific tradition or doctrine the OP is targeting. They must also generally be representative of Christianity or specific traditions within it. This is note a debate forum where personal philosophies are debated in a quest for absolute truth. Besides doing my part as a community member, there are times when these guidelines are blatantly violated that stepping in as a moderator to handle these exceptions is called for.

  2. StackExchage != The Internet

    The free exchange is the purpose of all the internet sites. I am aware that this is not natural for religious folks, since their stuff can only survive in a closed environment where people are prevented by repression and violence from hearing and speaking the truth.

    The purpose of the internet does not translate to the purpose of StackExchange. Insisting that we sticking to focused questions and answers on a site whose mission in the world is focused, topical Q&A does not translate to "violence and repression".

    Outside the context of StackExchange, the internet is a (relatively) free place. If you care to start your own site, you will be free to post whatever content from whatever point of view on whatever subject matter you feel is important in whatever way you think is valuable.

  • 1
    Somebody asks: why are Abraham/Sarah claiming to be brother and sister twice in two different episodes? My answer: because they are two different copies of the same story, both derived from Hinduism (like Noah's flood). The answer moots the question, and it is supported by any scholar, Christian or not, because it is obviously what happened to the text. Whether you believe in the divinity of Christ should not affect your interpretation of the history of texts. Further, although the answer is doctrine neutral, the Jesuit missionaries to India were the ones who suggested Abraham=Brahma.
    – Ron Maimon
    Feb 26, 2012 at 3:25

Here are my suggestions for improving the answer:

  • State explicitly that you don't have an answer for, or don't want to speculate about Why did he lie? (the primary question) but that you have an answer for Why was it repeated? (the secondary question).
  • If you want to discuss parallels between Abraham/Sarah and Brahma/Saraswati, show how the Brahma stories can shed light on the Abraham stories—and leave it at that. (e.g. Show parallels or similarities and differences between the two traditions, and explain how that can improve our understanding of this passage.) But speculation about whether Judaism is derived from Hinduism is out of scope for this question (and probably for this site).

I wasn't involved in the deletion, but:

Firstly, I think it was a very interesting answer, which did look at the scriptural background - I don't think it was vastly off-topic to the site. However, one thing has to be said: it doesn't actually answer the question:

It says that Abraham feared for his life (Gen 12:12). Does this mean Abraham didn't trust God in spite of the NT view that Abraham was a man of faith (Heb 11:8-12, Gal 3:9)?

Why is the repeated mistake with Abimilech then recorded in Gen 20?

I actually think it could be a really valuable answer, but to a slightly different question.

Suggestion to the community: perhaps this answer would be acceptable with a caveat/intro "as an interesting perspective in parallel to this question"? Alternatively, I can also see that this is, in part, a hermeneutics answer. However - I genuinely believe the answer has value to the reader of this site.

Alternative suggestion: if the answer can be edited in a way that brings the content back to address the original question (or make it more explicit if this is already the case), that would be good too.

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    @Jon it more concerned itself with origins of the text Feb 19, 2012 at 10:38
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    While I was explaining that the two incidents of the story can be interpreted as the same story in two different narratives, (and a third time, if you count the Isaac/Rebekah version as the same story). This moots the question of why Abraham would make the same mistake twice--- he didn't! Further, the whole thing is probably derived from Hinduism, like Noah's flood. This serves to answer the question, and is consistent with Jesuit missionary identification of Brahma with Abraham (cited and referenced in the original answer, along with the relevant biblical passages).
    – Ron Maimon
    Feb 26, 2012 at 3:28

The real issue with the answer is that it combined well-researched, well-established biblical research - i.e. the difference between Yahwist and Elohist narratives, with some high speculative stuff about the relationship of Abraham and Sarah to Hindu mythology. If you have put only the Yahwist/Elohist explanation in it would probably have stayed. But then it wouldn't have been an answer to the question.

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