Addition of [Bible] as special purpose artist

I’ve been working through a fair number of Bach cantatas and am noticing that, for movements based on biblical texts, editors variously use [unknown] or [anonymous] as the lyricist. Neither is quite accurate and I’m wondering whether it might make sense to add a special purpose artist for [Bible] to be used as a lyricist. For frequently set texts like the Psalms, might also make sense to create works for that artist. Thoughts?

[anonymous] seems entirely accurate as the author of the bible. I don’t see a problem with it, though I agree that standardizing on anonymous vs. unknown would be good.


I would say [anonymous] too, but I wouldn’t oppose using [Bible] as a relationship credit. Or even [Psalm XX] or [Mark 23:10] or whatever where relevant.


I would definitely use those as credits for anon or even for 'Bible ’

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It seems to me that [Psalm XX] or [Mark 23:10] don’t fit because those are works, not people. And the credit is a reference to a person. I would think that creating a work called “Bible” with sub works for the various books and chapters might be worthwhile. Having said that, I’d prefer a special purpose artist called [Bible] since I think it communicates the intent best without straying into theological discussions about who wrote what contained in that work. So, for example, for the first movement of the Chichester Psalms, I’d prefer the lyrics to be attributed to [Bible] and with a reference to the work: “Psalm 100”.

[anonymous] is perhaps correct, but excludes significant information. That is to say, identifying the librettist as [Bible] conveys significantly more information than identifying the librettist as [anonymous] without getting into the theological discussions that dukeja mentioned. The creation of works could deal with this to some degree, but creating a separate work for every random snippet of biblical text seems destined to create an unholy (pun absolutely intended) mess. My thought was that a special purpose artist might offer the best way of maximizing both information content and simplicity.

I agree with the probability of creating a mess in the works area.

This is straying from the original topic some: Is it feasible to reference works using an external, but well known, reference system? The Bible isn’t the only work that has a well established reference system; although it is probably the one most people are familiar with. If the work reference could indicate that it is using the “Bible” reference system then other tools could easily employ online resources to link to the referenced text.

Hence the option of using relationship credits. As suggested by Style / Unknown and untitled / Special purpose artist - MusicBrainz the desire is to have less separate special purpose artists, not more - the Bible is clearly a subset of [anonymous] so we should deal with it as such. Keep in mind some of the subsets listed are still currently separate artists, but none should be.


Since [anonymous] is defined as “The track artist is both unknown and unknowable” in the style guide; I think that many people would strenuously disagree with using a term with that meaning to be applied to biblical references. Just sayin’. Personally I don’t want to make a big deal about it. Just pointing out that when you attempt to define the “Bible” or aspects of the bible, as is the case with any religious text, you’re swimming in dangerous waters.

I think we can all agree to use an appropriate Work link.

Doesn’t (in the belief of Christians) the Bible come from God, which is unknown and unknowable?

I’m with @reosarevok in trying to reduce the number of special-purpose artists.

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My point is that the statement “unknown and unknowable” is not universally held as true (shall I quote scripture to counter your point?). But that is entirely my point. That statement “unknown and unknowable” is a theological question and one we don’t want to get into here.

However, I too am in agreement (mostly) with @reosarevok and think we should reduce special purpose artists. Regarding Biblical references I would prefer some kind of external reference field that uses well established reference notations. So we could have a couple fields that say reference: "Mark 23:10, reference_type: BIBLE_REFERENCE_SYSTEM; or something like that.

But I also believe that Biblical references and other references of ancient canonical works are inadequately represented in the data model. So I’m sure we haven’t heard the last of this.

Or we could just add the corresponding work to refer to a psalm or to a mark when it is needed.

Just speaking for myself. Asking myself what I would do in that situation:

  • Would I put [anonymous]? No - because I believe it is wrong to put that down.
  • Would I put [unknown]? No - because we do know.

At this point - the only response I have is to put nothing.

I would be comfortable with [anonymous] if the definition allowed for: “or those who wish to remain unknown - or whose identity is controversial”

Do tell? Are you going for the “word of God” angle?

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As I understand it, MusicBrainz is a project of secular scholarship and archiving. In that context, if you’re not comfortable attributing sacred texts to [anonymous] et al, then I agree that putting nothing is the best option.

If it’s feasible to create a relevant work, that would be great, maybe using the “partial performance” attribute.

I really like how Wikipedia does it here, linking to specific passages (although it seems weird that language/version isn’t mentioned). I wonder if that approach could be adapted for use in MB.

What I meant by that is that Biblical references are well known. That is not to say that the author(s) of the Bible is(are) well known. That, to put it mildly, is far from a settled matter and will probably be debated to the end of time.

But to your “word of God” angle comment. Personally - I do come from a word of God angle. But my preference for a service such as MusicBrainz is to not put anyone in a position of supporting things they disagree with. These attributes are supposed to be statements of fact. Dispassionate and verifiable. Categorizing scripture as anonymous or unknown will put many into a position of supporting data they don’t believe to be facts. I’m sure the number of people in that category is a very small minority.

But that is the fundamental reason why I would prefer a construct which avoids the issue entirely. I would prefer to not have to say [anonymous] or [unknown]. But something else. That something else should not be something that other people also find trouble with. But perhaps that cannot be.

From that perspective I prefer [unknown] of the existing choices because I find it the least objectionable.

OK, that is my opinion as well. To me the authors of the bible would be the lyricists of a work which quoted biblical text. It would seem very strange and wrong to say that the bible itself is the lyricist for any work.

From that perspective, “the author(s) of the Bible is(are) [not] well known”, it seems most correct to use “anonymous” – we don’t know the authors now and there doesn’t seem to be any useful way to find that out in the foreseeable future.

To me the thing to do would be to used the “based on” and “part of” work relationships to say “[song] is based on [Biblical reference] which is part of [the Bible]”.


Let me put in a vote for [traditional]. I think it is better than [unknown] for the author of lyrics consisting of Bible verses.

Guideline Style / Unknown and untitled / Special purpose artist says, “[traditional] - Used for writer/composer (and related) credits when the work in question pre-dates any written or recorded version(s), having originally been passed down from musician to musician. Rather than being attributable to one [anonymous] or [unknown] artist/collaboration, this work is better described as having emerged from a musical tradition.”

“Work pre-dates written version”, “passed down from musician to musician”, “emerged from a tradition” all pretty much sum up the origin of Biblical verses as musical lyrics, at least in Western classical music.