The Reallexikon der Assyriologie und Vorderasiatischen Archaologie is one of the most helpful resources in ancient Near Eastern studies.Â If you are familiar with the Anchor Bible Dictionary, the RlA is in many ways the ABD of ANE studies.Â The RlA now has a website.Â Unfortunately, it does not have any articles, but it does have a history of the project, lists of abbreviations, and some other interesting stuff.
Within the faith community, it is commonly understood that like vegetables and fruit, proper theology makes a difference.Â It is good for you.
–HUCA 76 (2005), “Jewish Biblical Theology: Whence? Why? And Whither?,” 289-340.
I just added a link to a website devoted to the ancient Hurrian city of Urkesh.Â Right now the website has an overview of the history of Urkesh as well as a bibliography compiled by Giorgio Buccelati.Â If you are interested in Urkesh or Hurrians in general the site is a great place to start.
Do you ever have trouble getting started writing?Â How about when you are in the middle of an essay or a book–ever have a hard time getting through to the end?Â If you have a few difficulties at various stages of writing, you’re not alone.Â Most of us find writing challenging at some point along the way.
A recent interview on NPR addressed this very thing–although the author that was interviewed, Walter Mosley, addressed writing a fictional novel.Â Even though novels are not exactly academic writing (although at times it seems that some of the “scholarly” stuff I read more properly belongs in the fiction section) many of the principles still apply.
One of the most important things that Mosley stressed, and that I think applies to academic writing as well, is the necessity of writing at least something every day.Â This will help you overcome the feeling of intimidation that faces us when first tackling a project.Â Furthermore, it keeps you moving.Â You will never finish an article if you don’t start.Â And once you’ve started, you won’t finish unless you write one sentence after another.Â Do even a little bit each day, and in fairly short order you will have an article.
I hope you enjoy the interview and that you find it helpful.Â What tips do you have for academic writing?
Tired of looking at pirated video and amature home movies on YouTube?Â Want something a bit more stimulating for your brain?Â Check out FORA.tv.Â It’s very similar to YouTube except their videos are more academically minded lectures.Â You won’t find 10,000 clips of Mentos and Diet Coke fountains, but you will find Marcus Borg talking about mysticism.Â They don’t yet have much that is within the fields of Bible and ancient Near East, but they’re still in beta version so hopefully there is more to come.
The above link is a pdf version of a short review of mine that appeared in Archiv Orientalni, vol. 74, 2006.Â The book which I reviewed is a compilation of essays intended to provide an overview of the cult image within the major cultural/geographic areas of the ancient Near East.
NPR ran an interview with Walter Isaacson who has authored a recent biography of Albert Einstein.Â One of the many interesting topics brought up during the course of this interview was the fact that Einstein came up with almost all of his most famous and field-changing ideas during the early part of his career while he was working as a clerk in the Swiss patent office.Â Previous to this interview I just assumed that these ideas were born during Einstein’s appointment to formal teaching positions in which immersion in the academic life would have supported and helped generate his work.
However, instead of the university, the catalysts for Einstein’s breakthroughs were his 6-day a week job in the patent office in which he was exposed to many innovative ideas that landed on his desk (mainly having to do with watches–this was SwitzerlandÂ after all).Â Furthermore, his office was above a train station that fascinated and amused Einstein.Â Lastly, on the way to work Einstein would walk with his good friend that helped him land the patent office job and the two of them would talk about Einstein’s ideas.Â This gave Einstein encouragement and critique.
Here are my take away ideas for modern scholarship:
- Always maintain broad interests and stimulus, a focus that is too narrow will impede innovation and break through ideas.
- Have at least one good friend of which you can bounce ideas.
- If you don’t get a formal teaching position right after graduation you are in good company.Â Don’t get discouraged, this might be the most productive part of your career.
What are your thoughts?
According to Chuck Jones, the Oriental Institute, the publisher of the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary and the Chicago Hittite Dictionary among other works, will offer their publications in pdf format free of charge.Â Currently only a few of the latest publications are available but eventually all are scheduled for open access.Â Here is the link to the electronic publications catalog.
When he has collected all or most of the facts let him first make them into a series of notes, a body of material as yet with no beauty or continuity.Â Then, after arranging them into order, let him give it beauty and enhance it with the charms of expression, figure, and rhythm (Quomodo historia conscribenda sit 48).
One of the most neglected aspects of modern scholarship is beauty.Â While many writings do a great job gathering and presenting data, few take the time to put this data into a compelling and beautiful package.Â According to Lucian, we’re not finished writing when we have assembled our notes in order.Â Instead, this is where the craft of beauty begins.
I suspect that there is a certain amount of resistance to beauty within the academy.Â To a large degree we are trained to reduce arguments into their constituent pieces and then analyze them.Â Essays that do not efficiently facilitate this process are not preferred.Â However, a work of beauty can still efficiently present your arguments, but this takes more time and thoughtfulness and might reduce your output.Â But, this is not necessarily bad.Â I think fewer works of greater beauty are more valuable than more publications of lesser quality.Â This approach might take courage because many tenure review processes give greater weight to quantity than relative quality.
What do you think?Â How do you think beauty and scholarly writing (should) interact?
Just in time for Pesach the New York Times ran a story yesterday in which they discuss the lack of evidence of the exodus event recorded in the Old Testament.Â Furthermore, the author also states that there is only one archaeological find that suggests that Jews were in Egypt:
But archaeologists who have worked here have never turned up evidence to support the account in the Bible, and there is only one archaeological find that even suggests the Jews were ever in Egypt. Books have been written on the topic, but the discussion has, for the most part, remained low-key as the empirically minded have tried not to incite the spiritually minded.
On the whole I found this piece lacking in any degree of specification–the supposedly only site that suggests Jews were in Egypt is not even named.Â There is more evidence of at least Semites in Egypt, but this is not even discussed.Â The piece alludes to various books written on these subjects but again, nothing is specified (to use the methodology presented in this article, because of the author’s lack of citation of almost any substantial fact or reference that has to do with this topic, I am starting to doubt whether the author knows anything about the subject matter).
This article brings up a very interesting issue: at what point does a perceived lack of evidence cause one to form a position that denies the reality of a certain event or person?Â On the one hand, a lack of evidence doesn’t provide positive proof of a hypothesis.Â But when we would expect an abundance of evidence for an ancient event or person and this evidence is lacking, should we at least be a bit skeptical?Â What do you think?