Aug 26th 2008 Links

Here are some things I found interesting in the last few weeks. Some of it is as old as last month, but that doesn’t make it outdated! I am actually having quite a problem keeping up with things these days. So many interesting things to do! I have a number of other things I need to show some link love to, but for now I need to go to bed. I do have to work tomorrow, you know...

Classical Stuff

  1. Huge Status of Marcus Aurelius Found

Greek Stuff

  1. Greek Student: Quo Vadis?
  2. Searching Ancient Greek Literature

New Blogs Or Blogs That Are New to Me


Education, Scholarship, and Such

  1. Bock and Wallace on Religious Intolerance in the Academy
  2. On Confessional and Secular Biblical Scholarship
  3. Faith and Reason in the Academy
  4. Should we call for biblical studies to be reformed? I’ve had this one on my "to read" list for several weeks. The post made some good points and I enjoyed it, but I was expecting more from the comments. I found the following statement in the comments to be quite a hoot: "The physical sciences are an example of this; it affects all other scholarly investigation on some level. It would be utter folly to deny basic conclusions of physics, chemistry and the like. And, simply said, they allow no space for the miraculous." Since when did science decide it had it all figured out? I am losing my faith in science. When it can go beyond proving things that are and proves things that could not possibly be (all based on theoretical constructs that it has no mechanism to actually observe), then perhaps that statement could be true.


  2. Some online editions of papyri




The Militant Pacifist 2008-08-28 05:24:39

Wow! That one, "Greek Student: Quo Vadis?" - well, it’s "convicting."

Eric 2008-08-28 05:27:42

Hit those books!

Roger Pearse 2008-08-28 11:37:51

Thank you for the comment on reforming biblical studies. Yes, the comments disappointed me; all of them from amateurs, all of them atheists as far as I could tell. Not the audience I really wanted!

The most amusing thing about all that exaggerated praise of ‘science’ is that I hold a science degree myself! Indeed it is the *lack* of rigour that I was rather worrying about. Science, after all, doesn’t start out by deciding what it will find.

Eric 2008-08-28 03:24:56

When I read anything that I may not agree with (which is most things) I always employ something I use for movies, and that is a willing suspension of unbelief. If you watch a great movie like the latest Batman and every time you see something that would not likely happen in real life and think "well this just isn’t real" over and over you are not likely to enjoy the movie. And since you are busy tearing the movie apart you are not likely to understand much of it.

This principle makes sense in the context of reading texts and in the field of ideas in general. Read them, understand them, enjoy them (if you can) on their own terms. Then poke holes in them if there are holes to be poked. You’ll be better at it anyway if you really understand the work or idea you are dealing with.

Of course I don’t think that is signficantly different from what you said. There is more to comment on in your post. Here is one more, and the rest will have to wait for a post of its own (if I can find the time to do it!):

What measures would convince the academy at large that biblical studies is a genuine, objective discipline, and not merely an excuse for peddling religion (or, in fear of that accusation, its reverse)?

A few months back I spent some time listening to some atheistic humanist podcasts. It was interesting. Perhaps the most interesting thing about it for me was not the content but the hubris. They were all quite convinced that modern man is so advanced that he has figured so much out and that religion is just stupid, harmful, etc. What really cracks me up about that is the complete lack of unanimity in philosophical thinking since the enlightenment. If we were SO good at objective thinking, why did we not figure out this whole philosophy thing earlier and why have opinions changed? If people cannot really be perfect, detached, objective thinkers, then there needs to be a reason for it. And someone can’t just say "religion" because there are atheistic philosophies change as well. We need to get off our own mental pedestals and learn a little intellectual humility (something hard to find in any field of study).

So how do we get biblical studies to a position where it is recognized as a genuine, objective discipline? I wish I knew. There are some things we could do that would improve this generally, but in some cases it means tweaks for individual intellectual sub-cultures. For some it is a popping of their hubris-balloon. For some it will be the removing of certain rhetoric around foundational presuppositions (I will leave that purposely vague for now :) ). For some it will mean explicitly teaching "it is okay to think thoughts and explore ideas that are not conservative". For others it will mean saying "it is okay to think thoughts and explore ideas that are not believed by the liberals". For most it will mean the reworking of how we do education. But that’s a long conversation to have that will likely only have limited success. And there are too many things in my own mind educationally that I’m trying to work out at the moment, so I’m of questionable use for that anyway :)

Roger Pearse 2008-08-29 08:08:33

I suspect that biblical studies is suffering from a subset of a problem that affects all of the humanities. It’s just too easy to treat opinion as fact, and there are no *structural* methods to separate the two.

Perhaps the answer is to refuse to stray very far from the data, and to make everything data-driven? This has its risks, but it would tend to eliminate much of the rubbishy scholarship one reads.

Hubris is indeed a problem, I agree. Some of it is probably defensive, tho.

Eric 2008-09-02 10:51:32

The only problem with that is that many far-fetched theories can be beneficial. At the very least they help us look at the data in a different way then we are used to. That creative process can be great. What would be beneficial is a greater rubbish cleanup process as most (all?) far-fetched theories should be trashed quickly. And having a data-driven cleanup process would do just that, as many of the ideas floating around clearly don’t come from the data but rather from someone’s fancy.

Strangely enough, I was reading some Heraclitus fragments this morning that are oddly applicable. Here is one applicable for many theories (fragment 109):

Κρύπτειν ἀμαθίην κρέσσον ἢ ἐς τὸ μέσον φέρειν.

Stupidity is better kept a secret than displayed.

I believe there is a proverb to the same affect. Here is another (fragment 92):

Διὸ δεῖ ἕπεσθαι τῷ ξυνῷ. τοῦ λόγου δ᾿ ἐόντος ξυνοῦ, ζώουσι οἱ πολλοὶ ὡς ἰδίην ἔχοντες φρόνησιν.

Although we need the Word to keep things known in common, people still treat specialists as if their nonsense were a form of wisdom.

I picked up a nice diglot version of some of the fragments of Heraclitus last night, and those were from that. The translation is by Brooks Haxton. There were more relevant ones, but since there were only about 120 fragments, if I quote too many I might be violating copyright :)

Roger Pearse 2008-09-03 08:21:49

Yes, a better "rubbish clearup method" is exactly what the humanities in general needs, without stifling out-of-the-box thinking. At the moment I suspect the latter is always stifled if it happens to be something the establishment doesn’t want to hear! -- (e.g.) Suggest that the Didache is a medieval forgery and no-one will murmur. Suggest that it was written in 50 AD and prepare to be laughed at (I witnessed just this at a conference a few years ago).

The hyperscepticism of the 19th century was too arbitrary, but it did produce real progress in clearing away some of the clutter.

Fragments of Heraclitus... from where? I’ve been looking at late-antique/medieval gnomologia recently (collectings of wit and wisdom), including the Corpus Parisinum. This draws attention to the fact that these collections tend to get mined for collections of fragments. But the nature of such collections -- like modern ones -- is that sayings gravitate to famous names. If so, some of our collections are not as good as we think.

Eric 2008-09-04 12:21:30

Well, he mentions that he keeps the ordering and numbering of Fragments from Bywater’s 19th century arrangement, but I am not familiar with him, so it does not tell me much. If you want to know what volume I have, you can find it here. It has, at the very least, an incredibly attractive dust jacket :)

It is funny, and sometimes seemingly quite arbitrary, what options we find permissible to discuss and which ones we won’t give the time of day. That’s a problem that I encounter in myself. Sometimes I have to make a point of taking something seriously (because I am frequently wrong) just to make sure I am not ignoring decent evidence for something. Sometimes it sucks to be human.