Quote of the Day – Mark Goodacre

I was explaining to Mark that I had recently been asked to reinput Greek text from the unicode (which I had supplied) to SPIonic because this individual could not see the unicode script.  For those who don’t know, SPIonic is a Greek font that was put out by SBL’s publishing wing (now defunct) known as Scholars Press (hence the ‘SP’), but this was over 12 years ago.  It can still be obtained (for free, though God knows why anyone would want it, here).

Here is Gal. 4.8-9 in SPIonic:

Alla_ to/te me\n ou0k ei0do/tej qeo\n e0douleu/sate toi=j fu/sei mh\ ou]sin qeoi=j: nu=n de\ gno/ntej qeo/n, ma~llon de\ gnwsqe/ntej u9po\ qeou=, pw~j e0pistre/fete pa&lin e0pi\ ta_ a)sqenh= kai\ ptwxa_ stoixei=a oi[j pa&lin a!nwqen douleu/ein qe/lete

And here it is in unicode:

Ἀλλὰ τότε μὲν οὐκ εἰδότες θεὸν ἐδουλεύσατε τοῖς φύσει μὴ οὖσι θεοῖς νῦν δὲ γνὸντες θεόν, μᾶλλον δὲ γνωσθέντες ὑπὸ θεοῦ, πῶς ἐπιστρέφετε πάλιν ἐπὶ τὰ ἀσθενῆ καὶ πτωχα στοιχεῖα, οἶς πάλιν ἄνωθεν δουλεῦσαι θέλετε

If you cannot see the Greek text (should resemble the unicode above, but look slightly different in style) and only see a bunch of garbled words, that is because (a) you don’t have the font (follow the link above to obtain it, and do so at your own risk to your sanity) and (b) because it is a pain to use and completely unruly.  Unicode works so much better overall and is much more useful.   I was explaining my frustration towards this, to which Mark replied:

 SPIonic is a nightmare….  It’s like being asked to take something from a flashdrive and transfer it to VHS!

So true.  So true.

Rolad Boer: ‘The Unbearable Idealism of Biblical Scholarship’

Roland raises some very important concerns about idealism in the Academy in a new article on Bible and Interpretation.  I have to admit, I’m an idealist (and an optimist–a deadly combination!), and I often find myself self-reflecting on the value of my own research.  This part of his op-ed struck me as important:

The problem is that idealism seems such a natural position, especially for intellectuals like biblical scholars. Indeed, biblical scholars are by default idealists. Why? We work with texts and opinions and arguments all the time. We read, teach, write, speak, and persuade. We have been trained long and hard to believe that what we think and say and write will change people, or at least change the accepted opinion concerning the understanding of a text. We hold that the interpretation, say, of Aaron’s rod, or of the daughters of Zelophehad, or of Elisha’s floating axe, or of Ezekiel’s smelly loin-cloth, or of Paul’s remarkable ability to resist snakebite, or whether Paul communed in the seventh heaven with Philo or the Stoics, or of the advisability of a little wine with our dinner, is absolutely vital. And we spend inordinate amounts of time analyzing the texts themselves, checking what others have written about these texts, and arguing endlessly about them. Ideas are our stock and trade, so we assume that the world operates in the same way.

We also like to think that we are far more important than we really are.

via The Bible and Interpretation – The Unbearable Idealism of Biblical Scholarship.

A lot of scholarship is about the scholar presenting the past.  In other words it is egocentric.  The presenter portrays the past as they understand it, as they interpret the data.  But that doesn’t mean that they are wrong; simply that a lot of the author or the lecturer will inevitably be interconnected with the past they are presenting.   And this sort of interconnection is dangerous indeed; when that history is challenged, how can the historian or Biblical scholar not feel immediately attacked?  After all, an attack on their presentation will also be an attack upon themselves.

Roland has a great way of getting his reader to challenge their own preconceptions about themselves.  Here, too, he has accomplished this.  Please read the whole thing.

Artifacts and the Media: Lead Codices and the Public Portrayal of History

I have a new article published at Bible and Interpretation.  Here are some snippets:

Two months ago an article hit the media streams hard and fast, announcing that new artifacts had been discovered by a Bedouin containing the earliest known Christian writings, possibly even the words of the figure of Jesus himself.1 With a headline like that, anyone with even a modicum of academic interest in the historicity of the figure of Jesus would have looked over the article for any mention of a peer reviewed journal where they could read about the discovery, any translations of the script, or any dating methods used. To their dismay, they would have found nothing of the sort.

More scandalous is the complete lack of journalistic integrity, honest research, and thorough fact-checking. These codices might never have been heard of if the authors of the reports for BBC and Fox News (among others) had just checked with the academic community before publishing the “find”. At the very least, the journalists might have used less authoritative language, expressed more caution, and exposed the controversy rather than simply stating, as if doing so made it fact, that these codices were “the earliest Christian texts” and that they held “early images of Jesus.”

via The Bible and Interpretation – Artifacts and the Media: Lead Codices and the Public Portrayal of History.

Many thanks to those involved in the email group for their useful contributions not only to this article but to the investigation into these lead codices as well.  Everyone dedicated a lot of time and effort over the past few months and it has definitely paid off.

Timaeus…of Copenhagen?

Timaeus, it seems, was an early minimalist!

Timaeus says that the greatest fault in history is want of truth;and he accordingly advises all, whom he may have convicted of making false statements in their writings, to find some other name for their books, and to call them anything they like except history. . . .

For example, in the case of a carpenter’s rule, though it may be too short or too narrow for your purpose, yet if it have the essential feature of a rule, that of straightness, you may still call it a rule; but if it has not this quality, and deviates from the straight line, you may call it anything you like except a rule. “On the same principle,” says he, “historical writings may fail in style or treatment or other details; yet if they hold fast to truth, such books may claim the title of history, but if they swerve from that, they ought no longer to be called history.” Well, I quite agree that in such writings truth should be the first consideration: and, in fact, somewhere in the course of my work I have said “that as in a living body, when the eyes are out, the whole is rendered useless, so if you take truth from history what is left is but an idle tale.”

via Polybius, Histories, book 12, Timaeus On Divination.

Best Article on the Net?

Somebody hit the ‘submit’ button a bit too early, methinks.  Came across this brilliant piece on MSNBC’s website this morning:

Beards, Scholarship, and Trustworthiness

Listening to the radio this morning (93.3 WMMR Philadelphia, the Preston and Steve Show!), they were talking about the trustworthiness of men with beards verses men who are clean-shaven.  The study is not new, though; it is from a year ago.  According to the study found in the Journal of Marketing Communications:

The study showed participants pictures of men endorsing certain products. In some photos, the men were clean-shaven. In others, the same men had beards. Participants thought the men with beards had greater expertise and were significantly more trustworthy when they were endorsing products like cell phones and toothpaste.

But, oddly, men with beards were slightly less effective than smooth-cheeked fellows in underwear advertisements. Apparently we don’t want Zach Galifianakis selling us boxers.

But this is something we, in the academic community, have instinctively known to be true.  Any academic who has ever worked on an peer-reviewed paper, a thesis, has edited a collection of essays, or has written a monograph, can tell you about the monstrosity known as the ‘thesis beard‘ (which goes along with the a ‘thesis gut’).  The thesis beard is a sudden and rapid growth of facial hair over the course of your paper-writing, thesis-research/writing, volume-editing, grading (essentially any academic activity–I have a theory that this thesis beard grows even while in the process of giving a lecture) which starts sometime during your enrollment into undergrad programs and continues throughout the rest of your career.  This process is a result of spending long hours at a computer, time be damned.

And it appears that this process does not stop.  PhD Comics has a theory that hair actually migrates the longer you’re a professor, well into tenure status!

You see, the longer one is in the position of authority in the academy, the beard remains.  It is a symbol of their dominion over facts (those pesky things): ‘I am trustworthy, buy my new book on (such and such a subject that only a few select specialists will understand and appreciate), and believe whatever I say!’  And people will, as it turns out, since people with beards prove to be more trustworthy than those without.  This is why scholars are ‘experts’ and ‘specialists’.  It has nothing to do with their research, their language prowess, their grasp of postmodern concepts.  It is based solely on their beards.   And so it is; another dark academic secret revealed!

Richard Carrier on the Ending of Mark

It’s an excellent and thoroughly-researched contribution to scholarship.  And the best part is, it is available for free on ErrancyWiki!  Check it out here!  Below I’ve included a snippet:

Honest Bibles will tell you (in a footnote at least) that in the Gospel according to Mark all the verses after 16:8 are not found in “some of the oldest manuscripts.” In fact, it is now the near unanimous agreement of experts that all those verses were either forged, or composed by some other author and inserted well after the original author composed the Gospel (I’ll call that original author “Mark,” though we aren’t in fact certain of his name). The evidence is persuasive, both internal and external. In fact, this is one of the clearest examples of Christians meddling with the manuscripts of the canonical Bible, inserting what they wanted their books to have said (and possibly even subtracting what they didn’t want it to have said, although I won’t explore that possibility here). For the conclusion that those final verses were composed by a different author and added to Mark is more than reasonably certain.

If Mark did not write verses 16:9-20, but some anonymous person(s) later added those verses, pretending (or erroneously believing) that Mark wrote them (as in fact they must have), then this Gospel, and thus the Bible as a whole, cannot be regarded as inerrant, or even consistently reliable. Were those words intended by God, he would have inspired Mark to write them in the first place. That he didn’t entails those words were not inspired by God, and therefore the Bible we have is flawed, tainted by sinful human forgery or fallibility. Even the astonishing attempt to claim the forger was inspired by God cannot gain credit.1 For it is so inherently probable as to be effectively certain that a real God would have inspired Mark in the first place and not waited to inspire a later forger. The alternative is simply unbelievable. And in any case, a lie cannot be inspired, nor can a manifest error, yet this material is presented as among that which is “according to Mark,” which is either a lie or an error.

via Legends2 – Errancy Wiki.

He has also blogged about it here: Mark 16:9-20.  From the blog:

A good long while ago I completed a contract job to produce a thoroughly researched and argued case against the authenticity of the verses in Mark 16:9-20, which the mainstream consensus has long since rejected as an interpolation but fundamentalists keep trying to rescue. The final product has now finally been published at Errancy Wiki (which years ago also published a concise summary of my case for the historical contradiction regarding the date of Jesus’ birth in Matthew and Luke: Luke vs. Matthew on the Year of Christ’s Birth).

The new article is: Mark 16:9-20 as Forgery or Fabrication. Like the earlier article, which decisively proves the bible historically errant, this article decisively proves the bible textually errant. It’s the most egregious and appalling case of doctoring the text of the New Testament on record. You may have often heard references to scholars having proved that the ending of Mark is an interpolation from manuscript and stylistic evidence. Well, if you are wondering exactly what that evidence is and how well it holds up, especially against any competent attempts to argue the contrary, this new article is for you. It is now the definitive treatment of the ending of Mark, being the most comprehensive summary of the evidence that I know. In fact when combined with the scholarship in its bibliography, it is the most complete treatment you’ll ever find.

Read what he has to say.  It’s quite astute, indeed.

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