For those of you interested in biblical studies (and I think I can safely assume that this includes most of you if you’re reading this site) here are a few sites that may interest you:
Eikon–A database of images that relate to biblical studies, brought to you by Yale
Bible Research–More links to helpful biblical studies sites
Codex Blogspot–A blog on biblical studies
Best of God Blogs–Get a summary of what’s happening on Christan blogs
deinde–Discussion and resources for biblical scholars
In his new book, *How to Read the Bible*, Stephen McKenzie discusses the role of prophecy in the Bible. He states that contrary to the popular view, prophecy is not predictive, rather, it is aimed at correcting social ills of the day:
Christian readers typically misunderstand prophecy in the Bible because they assume that its primary intent is to foretell the future. This chapter will show that the intent of the genre of prophecy in the Hebrew Bible was not primarily to predict the future–certainly not hundreds of years in advance–but rather to address specific social, political, and religious circumstances in ancient Israel and Judah. This means that there is no prediction of Christ in the Hebrew Bible (67).
I certainly agree with McKenzie that prophecy does not only refer to the predicting of future events–I might even say with him that the primary intention of the Old Testament prophets–at the time of their prophecy–was to right the wrongs that they saw in the society around them. But, to say that there was no predictive element in certain prophecies (not all of what we call prophecy is predictive, some prophecy is forthtelling instead of foretelling) whatsoever is going too far and is not philosophically consistent.
Stephen McKenzie seems to have written this volume with an eye to communities of faith; the subtitle reads: History, Prophecy, Literature–Why Modern Readers Need to Know the Difference, and What It Means for Faith Today. If one begins with with a theistic assumption (I don’t know if McKenzie does or how consistently he does) then it is not a problem for God to break into the world and give messages concerning future events to his agents. If one is a theist there is no reason to be a methodological athiest or deist when reading the biblcial text–other than the overwhelming desire to gain the recognition of other scholars and fit into the clique.
True scholarship shouldn’t be so focused on winning a popularity contest because instead of making bold, new insights, the same old party line is reiterated and regurgitated so that the status quo is not upset and one’s place in the pecking order is not disturbed. The insights that are termed new and bold just appeal to the drift of the clique and don’t constructively move the field forward. At awilum.com we’re interested in letting research run its course regardles of what the clique thinks (and the clique can be so fickle at times that it’s not wise to live for its acceptance). So, in regards to McKenzie’s claim–yes, there is a lot more to prophecy than mere prediction, but, there still is prediction.
An article in Business 2.0 states that online MBAs are no longer differentiated from campus-based programs in the eyes of corporate recruiters (accept for investment banks and the likes). Alan Fisher of Intel says:
Our perception is that an online education from a reputable college or university is as valuable as the degree offered on-ground. We don’t differentiate between the two.
Some MBA programs, such as Indiana University, even customize their offerings for specific companies.
Like it or not (and most people in academic positions don’t like it) the business community often blazes the paths that the rest of us eventually follow. While I still believe that on-campus programs yield greater benefits to students than online only programs, those of us who are teaching or want to teach had better be thinking of how to integrate our strengths into a web-based learning environment. As Alan Fisher adds, “[A]nybody who says online MBAs don’t work is just fooling themselves.” We are fooling ourselves if we don’t integrate online education for Bible and ancient Near East.
What do you think?
What would you do if someone gave you hundreds of millions of dollars to start a cutting-edge engineering school from scratch? Your college might look a little like Olin College. Here’s a selection from the President’s statement about the college:
You might ask why we’re starting a new college when there are already more than 300 engineering programs in the United States. The answer is simple: We want to change the way students learn about engineering. And by creating a college from scratch, we can approach education in a whole new way — a way that will best serve the engineers of the new millennium.
Olin will always be bold, innovative, flexible, and creative — just like the students we have attracted. Our curriculum emphasizes an interdisciplinary approach, teamwork, hands-on design, business, creativity and communication. Our faculty members came from prominent institutions across the nation with a wealth of accomplishments that enable them to inspire as they teach.
I love it! Sometimes you just have to start from scratch to form something great. People become stuck in ruts (especially when they have tenure–see previous post), ideas stagnate, and we rest on the diminishing returns of past accomplishments instead of pursuing future achievements.
Another thing I love about this statement–the leadership at Olin leads by example. They attract bold and creative students because the leadership is bold and creative. At one time an organization’s leadership could be lazy but mandate that their subordinates work to the bone. No longer. Society is so mobile that if your leadership doesn’t inspire me–I’ll just move somewhere else where it does.
Last observation: Olin actually teaches and inspires their students! Wow, how radical–a school that teaches. Before you laugh, unfortunately this is radical. So many schools (and school are only a collection of individual professors) have lost sight of this. Professors view their time in the classroom as a distraction that takes them away from research. Many professors are unispiring either because of their personality traits, apathy, or lack of effort. Olin has not innovated something new here–they’ve just gone back to the original goal of teaching that countless institutions have forgotten (but isn’t this still a form of innovation?).
Check out Olin’s web page and tell me what you think. How do we apply this stuff to teaching Bible and/or ancient Near East?
The tenure system is a relic of the past and should not be used in the new millenium.
I am a PhD student hoping to secure a teaching position once I have finished my degree, but my dreams don’t include tenure. Some point to the benefits of tenure as: freeing a scholar from fear of reprisal for his or her ideas and creating an environment of security where pet projects can be explored (for more on the tenure system see the wikipedia entry, in case you scoff at me for citing wikipedia, see a report on the accuracy of wikipedia in the journal Nature. But, I think the negative consequences of tenure outweight the positives.
Tenure promotes an academic “underclass.” The priviledged few that secure tenured teaching positions jealously hold onto them in some cases well beyond reasonable retirement and consume a department’s limited resources which forces the department to rely on adjunct professors that are paid not even a part-time salary without benefits. More importantly, instead of encouraging good scholarship tenure subsidizes laziness and the pursuit of incredibly archane and uberspecialized research that is unhelpful to the rest of society.
Furthermore, in order to secure tenure hopeful professors must produce a list of publications just at the time in their career when they should be focusing on sharpening their teaching skills and learning their field. Young scholars fresh out of PhD school should not really be publishing a lot anyway. People need time to attain a fuller understanding of the field before they start throwing out their new ideas in publications. Forcing early publication just produces a lot of half-baked theories or ultra specialized treatments of trivial subjects because 1) the young scholar must find something new to write about and most of the good topics are already taken 2) the young scholar must choose a topic that he or she can adequately understand 3) the young scholar must not pick a topic that will politically jeopardize his or her chance at guaranteed lifetime employment.
Furthermore, tenure isolates professors even further from “real life;” afterall, besides professors, who has a guaranteed job anymore. This encourages even more trivial scholarship from out-of-touch people. Also, tenure makes it hard for institutions to get rid of professors that have no business in the classroom and who really should be fired.
Tenure takes away the incentive to produce really great teaching and research. I agree that productivity declines when people are constantly on the hot seat and their jobs are perpetually in peril, but there should be something between the constant hot seat and guaranteed lifetime employment. How about rolling contracts with periodic review? These contracts could span 3-5 years and include a buyout option for the school–similar to what universities already have with athletic coaches.
Finally, is it any wonder that one of the most innovative engineering schools has a rule that it doesn’t grant tenure? See the Wall Street Journal article about the school and come back to awilum.com soon to hear more about it.
What do you think about this?
The term propaganda is commonly used in Near Eastern studies to indicate the genre of certain texts. But, is this a term that we should be using? According to the propaganda entry in wikipedia, propaganda can have either a positive or negative (and in some cases neutral) connotation depending on the cultural context. As for its usage in North America I think it has a decidedly negative connotation and therefore should not be used to describe ancient texts. The activity of trying to change the behavior or ideas of an intended audience is not necessarily negative.
Historians in the ancient Near East were not as concerned as modern scholars about presenting a so-called objective portrayal of events (as if modern scholars are capable of this anyway). Instead, ancient scribes tended to record events for other purposes. Instead of denigrating these purposes by labeling them “propaganda” and thereby marginalizing these documents, we should instead respect these motives enough to understand them. In many cases (if not most) the motives of influencing behavior and/or thoughts is more beneficial than providing a so-called objective history.
What do you think?
The New York Times has a review of the newest English translation of the Gilgamesh Epic by Stephen Mitchell. Mitchell’s volume is very readable, as the NYT comments:
Yet here is a flowing, unbroken version that reads as effortlessly as a novel, where despite the alien landscape of gods and monsters we can discover startlingly familiar hopes, fears and lusts.
The reason why Mitchell’s volume is so readable is because he his not translating from Akkadian. In fact, when he encounters a break in the text, even large breaks, Mitchell supplies his own material. Again the NYT:
Gone are the brackets and dots that signify the presence of gaps and disputed interpretations in the sources. When he can, Mitchell spackles the standard Akkadian version with verses in other languages, from other traditions; when none are available, he supplies his own.
I have looked through the volume myself and I agree that it is very readable, but at many places its reading is far from the meaning of the Akkadian. Mitchell admits that he does not know Akkadian himself. He consulted several of the standard scholarly translations, and tried to form his own version of the story into beautiful literature. I have no problem with this effort–Mitchell is trying to make Gilgamesh accessible to the average reader and he is transparent concerning his translation skills and methodology. If you are looking for a flowing literary rendition of Gilgamesh, this volume is for you. But, if you want to read something that sticks close to the Akkadian, try the volumes by Benjamin Foster, Stephanie Dalley, or Andrew George.
In Memoriam Hayim Tadmor d. December 11, 2005.
Ed Cook provides a picture, transliteration, and translation of a new piece of the aramaic version of the book of Tobit. Though it doesn’t reveal a lot of new insights, it is still interesting nonetheless.
If you have nothing to tell us other than that one Barbarian succeeded another Barbarian on the banks of Oxus or Iaxartes, of what use are you to the public?
The unpardonable crime in the exposition of the history of ideas is dullness, the failure to recognize and communicate the existential challenge of the past to the present. It can be avoided only by those who are vitally concerned with history because they are alive to the urgent questions of their own day.
–A. Richardson, History Sacred and Profane, page 256