The Debate: The Value of Peer Review, Accreditation, and the Battle for Academia

The title is a bit long-winded for this post.  As with all my posts recently, this will have to be kept short. I have been tied up with editing work for book projects, school work, and attempting to maintain some semblance of a life through it all.  As a result, my blogging has suffered.

However, the title does illuminate the issues currently under (heated) debate, in academia, relating to Biblical and Theological studies.  On the one hand, there are those who foresee (or hope to see) the fall of the “Industry of Accreditation” and a change in the process of Peer Review.  Jim West recent wrote an article for Bible and Interpretation about the problems associated with Accreditation and Robert Cargill wrote on the change he sees coming regarding the process of Peer Review.

Hector Avalos came to the rescue of accreditation and, in response to Cargill, J. Edward Wright sought to defend the process of Peer Review.  As someone who has undergone a shift in perspective on these subjects over the past few years, I would have to side with Avalos and Wright who, I believe, make a compelling and reasoned argument for their positions.  However, Cargill and West both open up the debate at the right time.  The internet has made it incredibly easy for individuals to pass along false or inaccurate information about a variety of subjects which are concerned with the field of Biblical Studies.  As someone who has risen above that horizon myself (before I finally recognized the folly of my actions), I can attest to the challenges posed to academia today; challenges which are represented by both the media and the convergence culture in which we live.   While I believe in the value of accreditation and Peer Review, I also accept that convergence will ultimately change the way the current process is undertaken from within the academe.

This debate is the starting point, I believe, for a discussion that needed to happen.  I can only hope some good comes from it.  After all, biblioblogging has, itself, become a part of modern academia; whose to say that at some point, in the future, one won’t see biblioblogs appearing in said Peer Reviewed journals?  As much as that thought troubles me, it may be an imminent part of our future.

Whose Bones are they Anyway?

A colleague of mine, James Tabor, recently came under some polemic attacks concerning some of his interpretations.  While James and I come from different backgrounds, hold different epistemological beliefs, and have different interpretations of this so-called “Biblical history” in which many still cling (in regards to this, I must say I tend to find Joe Zias’ analysis of the evidence compelling and generally accurate), we nevertheless respect each other and I have always appreciated his sincerity and his caring personality.  I find James to be a very competent scholar who deserves to be treated with respect and, it is here especially, this trait of his really shows in his response to Joe Zias:

Joe Zias just posted an article at the Web site Bible and Interpretation in which he puts for his revised interpretation of the human skeletal remains found in the southern caves at the desert fortress of Masada in October, 1963, during the opening season of the archaeological expedition led by Yigal Yadin. Zias has written on this subject before but here offers his latest interpretation, set in the wider context of the ways in which anthropology, and archeology more generally, contribute to controversies over Jewish identity. Along the way, about half the article is devoted a sarcastic and slanderous critique of me and my work, my colleague Kathy Reichs and her novel Cross Bones, and even my department of Religious Studies, of which I am chair–and by extension UNC Charlotte and our former Chancellor.

The Bible says two wise but purposely contradictory things: “Do not answer a fool, according to his folly, lest you be like him”; and “Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes” (Proverbs 26:4-5). In the case of Joe Zias I have tried my best to live by the former and have declined to respond to, or in any way mention, here in this blog or elsewhere, the many slanderous things he has said and written about me over the past four years.

Read on here:

Joe Zias’ article is here:

James’ response can be found here:

I want to thank the editors of Bible and Interpretation for the opportunity to offer a response to Joe Zias’s rather fascinating contribution on Masada. This response does not imply that I find no merit in what Zias presents, in fact I find myself agreeing with several of his more substantive points on Jewish identity and related issues. However, his piece does contain some serious errors, as well as some rather negative comments about me personally. I will divide my comments into two parts, first the substantive and then, very briefly, the personal.

Read on, if you so choose.

Ancient Nubians Drank Beer Laced with Antibiotics

Interesting article on MSNBC today:

People have been using antibiotics for nearly 2,000 years, suggests a new study, which found large doses of tetracycline embedded in the bones of ancient African mummies.

What’s more, they probably got it through beer, and just about everyone appears to have drank it consistently throughout their lifetimes, beginning early in childhood.

While the modern age of antibiotics began in 1928 with the discovery of penicillin, the new findings suggest that people knew how to fight infections much earlier than that — even if they didn’t actually know what bacteria were.

Some of the first people to use antibiotics, according to the research, may have lived along the shores of the Nile in Sudanese Nubia, which spans the border of modern Egypt and Sudan.

Read on:

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