PHD Comics: Draft dodging

How true this is.  PHD Comics: Draft dodging.

Some Calvin and Hobbes to Brighten Your Monday

This one reminds me so much of my younger days,… oh the principals office.  That, and how relevant is this to the current situation with the pledge?

Calvin and Hobbes

This is often how I thought about the world when I was 6.

Calvin and Hobbes

This is how most people still see the world (unfortunately):

Calvin and Hobbes

How I feel most Monday mornings:

Calvin and Hobbes

How Jim West feels today:

Calvin and Hobbes

True story:

Calvin and Hobbes

Election Day issues:

Calvin and Hobbes

My feelings about the modern public/private school system for grades 1-12:

Calvin and Hobbes

Self explanatory:

Calvin and Hobbes

Why do Academics Write? (via University of Venus)

Hat-tip to James McGrath for calling this to my attention. What an excellent piece and one that follows nicely with the current debate over accreditation, legitimacy in academia, and the usefulness of biblioblogs in the world of the Academe. Mary Churchill writes:

An academic monograph does not reach a large audience. This type of writing is necessary for tenure and promotion, for legitimacy within an elite group. It takes years to publish our work in the form of a book. We are often required to eliminate the most ground-breaking parts of our work and what we do write is often outdated by the time it is published. More and more, it seems that our books are written for tenure and promotion rather than for making a difference and/or changing the way people think.

We all know that printed books (even journals, newspapers, magazines, etc) are nearing some kind of end and that the world of readers is not waiting for the world of publishers. (see rise in free digital book downloads, self-publishing, blogs, print on demand, etc.)

Print on Demand is a rising way for academics to print.  More recently, Richard Carrier published his book on Lulu, but he was not the first.  James McGrath, Jim West, and other scholars have found Print on Demand to be quite an effectual tool to get out their perspectives; quite clearly there must be a reason for this shift and Mary seems to hit the nail on the head.  Online journals like Bible and Interpretation are ways for scholars to get our pre-release information on their books, write reviews, publish articles, and so forth, for free, to the lay audience (see my links).

Why Do Academics Write? I met one of my fellow writers from University of Venus for coffee yesterday. She has a book release party later this month (yay!) and we started talking about writing and the differences between writing for a narrow academic group within your discipline and writing for the readership of this blog.  We talked about how writing for University of Venus has really forced us to think about accessibility … Read More

via University of Venus.  Anyway, do read on.

“Before Whose Eyes” and Gal. 3

I realize this is a little late, seeing as this post was written over a month ago, but it was so interesting I felt the need to reblog it.  Stephen Carlson wrote up an excellent (yet brief) analysis of the Greek in Gal. 3.1 where Paul writes “Ὦ ἀνόητι Γαλάται, τίς ὑμᾶς ἐβάσκανεν, οἷς κατ’ ὀφθαλμοὺς Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς προεγράφη ἐσταυρωμένος” where the NIV translates as “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.”  He writes:

If I have any complaint about the translation as a translation, it would be over its lack of originality. Is “before whose/your eyes” really the best way to express Paul’s diction in Gal 3:1? Have translators really been exercising independent judgment about this phrase, or have they fallen into a kind of translational inertia in rendering Paul’s Greek?

Well worth a look if you find the time.

Anonymity, Cyberbullying, and Accountability on the Internet

Some recent posts by Jim West (as well as other news stories) have caused me to consider something; how and in what way does ‘Freedom of Speech’ apply to the internet?  When it comes down to it, most people who utilize Freed of Speech are utilizing it by taking responsibility for their words; there is clear accountability.  On the internet where anonymous posters and commenters reign supreme, where people are bullied to extensive proportions (and where such attacks are permanent and readily available)—driving some to commit suicide (not a case of anonymous comments, but still a similar effect where permanent statements about someone online drove them to do this).  If a bully in school were doing this, a student could report the harassment to an authority and, more often than not, there would be direct disciplinary repercussions for the bully’s actions.    On the internet, which is worldwide, with no definable boundaries or jurisdictions, where anyone with a modicum of skill with computers can figure out how to change their IP addresses, get around firewalls, or worse, it is much more difficult to prosecute an individual who harasses or bullies another.

And even if you have a blog or website, block that person from posting there, creating a new, anonymous blog is quite easy.  In fact it is not just easy to slander or harass someone, but it is just as easy to impersonate someone (see the recent trial–ending in a conviction, thankfully–involving Raphael Golb, for example).  If one were deplorable enough, depraved enough, they could go to some hate site and create an account and impersonate the person they are bullying, posting all sorts of things in their name, and often that person would never know until they Google-searched themselves or someone else did for them—often a potential employer or worse, and there is no way to prove it wasn’t you unless you got a court order to do so.  Even if a case went to court, it takes time to build a case, and all the time that goes by is just more time for those words to remain up for others to find and read and react.  Plus, you will have to pay, eventually—whether it is for the time off from work to meet court dates or paying a lawyer—just to remove the slanderous content!  It’s pretty scary to think about; insidious people exist everywhere, and certainly this has already happened.

All of this leads back to the initial question: Should ‘Freedom of Speech’ protect anonymous slander, harassment, people who speak with no accountability because they can hide behind faux names and identities (or someone else’s)?   To be clear, I am not saying people should be censored; that isn’t it at all.  People should say what they want to say and I don’t think that there is any need to limit that freedom.  But I do believe that there should be accountability.  Right now there really isn’t any of which to speak.

Note: I do certainly appreciate the fact that, due to anonymity, people are more inclined to say how they feel.  That is respectable, but there is seemingly more negative, if not dark, comments and reactions that come along with anonymity than there are positive ones.  The fact that the internet is so permanent and so easily available around the world, there is no escape from the negative comments–short of moving to a secluded island where the inhabitants are without electricity, or to Amish country.   So, in my mind, there are only a few options: remove anonymity online all together or create new laws which allow for easier prosecution of bullies online, along with ways to remove, without cashed data, all the defamatory remarks.

James McGrath on Web Sources and Students

James has always had interesting things to say about the interwebs and its relationship with the Academe.  I found a recent blog post of his, posted today, to be rather insightful.

When students turn to the internet for information, and end up using material that isn’t scholarly in their essays, who is to blame? If the students have been given guidance about where to look, and in particular using databases and scholarly sources, then they must shoulder some, even much, of the blame. But I wonder whether those who present their claims as facts around the web, without sources or citations, without evidence, without acknowledgment of opposing views except perhaps to dismiss and mischaracterize them, ever think about the students whose grades they are likely to harm. I certainly hope that students will write to the people behind some of these sites and complain, when they realize they have been duped, and have as a result received a lower grade than they otherwise might have.

via Exploring Our Matrix: Web Sources and Students.

A few semesters ago, in one of my classes, a fellow student would copy, verbatim (link and all), straight from wikipedia and paste in a word document, and submit that as their homework.  When such an easy ruse was spotted by the professor, she turned to other websites.  I recall at one point, during a discussion on the Roman Republic, for one assignment she had copied, paragraphs at a time (with only slight modifications here and there), a paper on the Roman Empire without even recognizing that there was a difference in the content.  We all had a good laugh at her misfortune (if you are that incompetent where you can’t even read the cliffnotes version of the assignment to know which period in history is under discussion, you deserve the ridicule).  But this expresses the ease with which information is available.

There are websites where, for a relatively small fee, you can find essays, readily written, for the taking.  Students, like the one above, are able to buy homework, at clearly without any concern for the content.  What does that say about the state of society?  Of our school systems?  In this instance, the blame does fall mainly on the student who is taking a short cut to avoid having to learn (which makes no sense since they’re paying, in one fashion of another, for the education…what a waste of money!); but doesn’t the blame also rest on the educators?  I believe it does.

I also think this is quite relevant to the current discussion we’ve been having over the redefinition of mythicism.  With so much data available, the layperson that lacks the background in history will be unable to sift through all the content, will be limited in the way they judge its validity.  Especially when there are other forms of media, like certain programs on the History Channel, which hand out ‘expert’ placards like they were giving candy to children on Halloween.   How is the average layman able to determine who is really qualified to speak on a subject?  (This might also have some relevance to the debate about accreditation that has been ongoing.)

These questions, along with the answers, have some serious implications which need to be evaluated and discussed by educators and students alike.

Why Biblical Studies Are Necessary – NP Lemche

Article by Niels Peter Lemche discussing Hector Avalos’ opinion that Biblical Studies should end.  I agree whole-heartedly with NP’s conclusions.  I also agree that things should not be ignored in scholarship; if we don’t like it, the correct way to handle it is to discuss it.

It is obvious that Avalos’ mistake is a fundamental one. It is absolutely clear that he writes for members of the academy. Avalos’ world is the academy which long ago emerged from the dark jungle of biblical superstition. It is the world of Wissenschaft, including both science and humanities as is normal in universities formed according to the European “universitas” tradition which speaks of a unity of sciences. At the moment, Avalos identifies his world as the world of the Bible today; he is severely mistaken. He represents a minority, indeed a very small one, consisting of university people, scientists, and scholars in humanistic disciplines — in short Wissenschaftler. And he is correct when he argues that this group has many reservations when it comes to the mechanics of biblical studies (not to mention theology which to most is a discipline that has little affinity with the ideals of the academy). However, this minority represents only a small group within western society (and here it is not necessary to speak of other competing societies).

The overwhelming majority has never left the “jungle” of superstition. The Bible is important to this majority, not because it is intellectually obsolete, but because for them it represents a defense against modernity (not to mention what followed after modernity). In recent times, the jungle has even tried to overgrow the academy in order to stifle any critical occupation with the Bible. While we, on the one hand, have always had the sensational discoveries of Noah’s ark, the grave of Jesus, or splinters from the holy cross or the different endeavors to promote alternatives to modern science as it developed after Darwin, on the other hand, we find the intrusion from so-called conservative scholarship a pretension that it is a kind of critical scholarship, which it certainly is not. I dealt with that subject some years ago on this site4 and at length in an article in The Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament.5 An answer was later published here by V. Philip Long,6 probably the leading spokesperson of a group of conservative scholars attempting to gain acceptance by critical scholars.7 Long’s answer demonstrates precisely the tactics conservatives employed to gain credibility (which I reviewed in my article in the Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament). There is no reason to repeat that argument here. Creationism and various forms of dispensationalism do not gain credibility because of the support of conservative scholars. On this Avalos and I are in total agreement. The academy does not need this type of scholarship.

3) However, because of its continuing popularity among the religiously-inspired laity, we cannot dispense with biblical studies. On the contrary, the present situation calls for a truly critical engagement with the Bible, bringing the study of the Bible back to the beginning of critical biblical scholarship, and sifting from it all those directions which have no really critical basis but are still solidly embedded within the jungle of pre-scientific theory. So far I do not think that one Nobel laureate has ever spoken in favor of creationism.

Read on here:

Defining Mythicism: My Struggle with the Question of the Historicity of the Figure of Jesus

Over the last four years, I have called myself a mythicist.  However, according to the current, if not outmoded, accepted vernacular definition of the term, I have not really been a mythicist for the last two of those four years at least.  I do not ascribe to any of the current popular mythicist theories.  I think the movie Zeitgeist is a work akin to shows where aliens are portrayed as the builders of the pyramids, I think authors like Acharya S are shoddy in their scholarship and often make hyperbolic or indefensible arguments, and, perhaps only with the exception of Earl Doherty (but I have not read his new book, so I am not certain how much his arguments have improved since his last book), there is no suitable book on the position that I find remotely accurate enough to support.  And here is my dilemma.

At a recent lecture a few weeks ago when someone brought books out during the Q&A session by Freke and Gandy I immediately denounced them and expressed caution and concern towards trusting anything in them without extensive further investigation and research. One member at the lecture informed me that by distancing myself from these books, I was committing character-suicide within the freethought and humanist communities because there are so many individuals who accept these books and media as fact, to which I responded that my concern was not my image so much as it has been fighting misinformation.  If anything, I would add now in retrospect, books like these and movies like Zeitgeist continue to earn negative reception in the academic community and with good reason.  If anything, accepting the current mythicist media is really akin to committing career suicide, especially if you work (or have plans to one day work) in any field of Biblical studies or religious studies.

That is my point.  I have given up mythicism as it is currently defended and defined; to be blunt, I find myself wondering if it is not time that we reexamine the definition currently in use and come up with more acceptable definitions that conform to the modern state of academia.  However I stress that I don’t want to work against modern scholarship to achieve this end.  Instead, I would like to work with them, including one of the main detractors of mythicism, James McGrath (indeed, I have an open invitation to him requesting a new bloggersation about this very issue).  The goal is to come to an understanding with historicists, to come up with an adequate definition which will, for better or for worse, be acceptable to the Academe.  James has already suggested we establish a definition that differentiates those positions which are better expressed by Jesus agnosticism and minimalism.  After some consideration, I agree, and the best way to distinguish between these elements is to first have a better grasp of ‘Mythicism proper’.  And the first order of business, in my opinion, is to break it down and start with clearly defining what ‘myth’ means.  So my next blog on this subject will follow with how I feel myth is currently defined, how it relates to New Testament, and what implications it has towards redefining and understanding mythicism in a new and more useful way.


UPDATE: James McGrath posted a few remarks here:

Who Pays the Piper? Tim Bulkeley on Academic Journals and Secrecy

What a great article.  I am uncertain if I completely agree with it yet; this is not the first time such a conversation has come up, however.  Here is a brief excerpt from the piece:

This form of “publication,” the norm and gold standard of scholarship, has ensured that fewer people read and interact with the ideas expressed in the articles. The word “publication” therefore can only be used ironically in this context, for in fact it suggests rather keeping private than making public!

There is a further irony: One might ask who paid for this writing? Who employed the scholars who composed these articles? Who paid the scholars who did most of the editorial work? In both cases the answer is: “Not the publisher.” Often the answer is taxpayers and/or church members, usually assisted by a contribution (known as fees) from students. In short, and for want of a more specific general term, the public. This public, who have borne most of the costs involved in the production of the articles may only read them if they pay again!…

…The “Gold Standard” of twentieth-century scholarship is in conflict with the aims and goals of scholarship in the twenty-first. It is time we changed the rules of the academic game!

via The Bible and Interpretation.  Read on here:

This comes back to accreditation and the debate over the old elitism of the Academe.  The debate is, clearly, still hot and pressing.

‘The End(s) of Historical Criticism’ by Michael C. Legaspi

I realize I’m a little late in posting this.  Quite an excellent article overall.  I especially enjoyed this bit (also, I agree with and support it, as should you!):

Biblical studies is, at present, still a cultural and social project, one that exists principally as an alternative to traditional and confessional modes of biblical interpretation. John Collins of Yale, the eminent historical critic, has made precisely this point. In a presidential address to the Society of Biblical Literature, he suggested that biblical critics can help stem religious violence by “noting the diversity of viewpoints in the Bible” in order to “relativize the more problematic ones.”4 In doing so, scholars prevent readers from adopting any settled convictions about what the Bible actually says. In this way, the critic can demonstrate to any true believers ready to take up the sword that “certitude” about the meaning of the Bible is merely an “illusion.”

via The Bible and Interpretation.  Read on here:


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