The Unnamable Archaeologist at the Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities

His unnamableness, the archaeologist from the down the hall here at the University of Lethbridge is avoiding the weekly (and very ancient) RITE OF OPENING THE MOUTH at the GOOD FRIDAY celebrations today at the Zoo (student union bar on campus) to go do something “academic” at the Calgary Chapter of the Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities. Shame on him!

The Unnameable One is unnamable because he is teaching an archaeology course on ancient Israel in the same semester as I’m teaching my intro the Hebrew Bible. And he has more students than me.

Anyway, here is his talk:

Ancient Egypt in the Nineteenth Century: Egypt in Victorian Popular Culture and the Emergence of Egyptology

Kevin M. McGeough Ph.D. Kevin McGeough [Not his real name. Honest, would I lie to you?] is an Associate Professor of archaeology at the University of Lethbridge. A specialist in the Late Bronze Age city of Ugarit, McGeough has excavated at many sites throughout the Near East, including the Middle Kingdom town at Abydos.

McGeough will discuss how ancient Egypt was represented in Victorian-era popular culture and how these representations influenced the emergence of Egyptology as an academic discipline. By exploring how Egypt appeared in diverse media (such as adventure fiction, periodicals, theatre, world’s fairs, and the rites of secret societies), McGeough will illustrate the important role of ancient Egypt in Victorian thought and society.

The CCSSEA (which I did not know existed until today when his anonymousness declined the invite for REAL academics in the Zoo.

Next month they have another speaker lined up:

Date: 2011 May 6

Title: Dakhleh Oasis Project

Speaker: Dr. Mary McDonald

Mary will talk about her recent work with the Dakhleh Oasis Project (DOP), and the Kharga Oasis Prehistoric Project (KOPP).


On Secular Antiquarianism

Duane Smith, the abnormally interesting blogger has posted some comments about his experiences at the Pacific Coast Regional meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature. He reports that some folks there appeared to use the term “antiquarian interests” as a negative reference to some scholarly pursuits. He said it was used ” a couple of times as if it were a synonym for prurient interests or maybe worse”. He adds,

Scholars who are also people of faith (no not all of them) used this expression while worrying about the question of secular scholarship within the SBL and worrying about those, like me, who think a secular Biblical Studies section at the SBL would be a useful counterpoint to some of the rather obvious sectarian goings on at the national meeting.

Duane’s response is that his “antiquarianism” is hardly disconnected from his interest in the modern world since the Bible is is a major factor in our culture.

If you study the Hebrew Bible, the Christian New Testament, the Rabbinic literature, Homer, the Qur’an, the writings of Plato, Aristotle, Virgil, Augustine, Luther, Aquinas, Hobbes, Kant, or the host of other formative literatures with an eye to understanding what your civilization and culture is and how it got to be what it is, your interests can not fairly be defined as antiquarian. And the same is true if your abnormal interest is the formative literatures of someone else’s civilization or culture.

If we wouldn’t think a mathematical logician perverse for studying the Skolem normal form theorem, why would we think a secular study of King Omri of Israel somehow perverse?

I heartily agree. The attempt by some to dismiss the championing of secularism as an academic principle within the SBL by marking it as implying an irrelevant antiquarianism is something of a strawman. Examination of the use of the Bible in the modern world is a secular discipline (as opposed to advocating for the Bible’s use in modern ethics, politics, etc). Nothing antiquarian there.

For the secular historian (and no historian in the SBL should be doing anything other than secular history) the past does not exist in and of itself. One interests always relate in some way to the historian’s own world as Duane implies. Even if this subjectivity is held largely in check, the study of the ancient world in which the biblical materials were produced is no less important to the world of academia. Indeed, it is more relevant than non-secular historical scholarship.  To imply otherwise is to diminish the fundamental root of all academia: curiosity at the world and how it works, be that in subjects labelled “natural science”, “social science” or the “humanities”.

The study of ancient religions is important because it opens a window on the larger issue of human propensity to be “religious”. The secular study of ancient Judah and its writings is one part of that giant puzzle and an important one since those writings still play into religious lives to this day.

Had the University of Alberta had a Sanskrit and early Hindusim teacher instead of two great Hebrew Bible scholars (Ehud Ben Zvi and Francis Landy) when I started my undergrad degree, I would be to my neck in the Vedas and Upanishads. I guess I do have “antiquarian” interests because I like ancient stuff. That being said, I also want to understand the complexities of human religiosity in all of its myriad of forms through the millennia.

Here is an observation, not supported by real research: it seems to me that scholars of non-Palestinian or even non-ANE ancient religions are more likely to have a more diverse interest in global religious phenomena, theory and methods than those who do are interested in ancient Israel and its neighbours.  The ancient Sanskritists are more likely to read Durkehim, Geertz, etc etc. than are folks in the SBL.

There is something of an intellectual wall around the guild of biblical and ancient Israel studies, a legacy of biblical studies’ origins and continued involvement in modern religious discourses. The wall keeps the “barbarians” who would treat the bible as a scholar would treat any other collection of religious writings at a distance while admitting any approach that helps to preserve the Bible’s cultural prestige and many scholars’ perception of the Bible as deserving of special treatment because of its “uniqueness”. The wall is not as impenetrable as it once was, but it should not exist at all. Societies like the SBL that subscribe to humanistic and social scientific values should be interested in tearing it down.  Dismissive labels like “antiquarian interests” for concern over such issues are another cheap attempt at reinforcing the ramparts.

Its Bibliobloggers Carnival Time!

Over at Darrell Pursiful’s blog, Dr. Platypus! Lots of good stuff

Darrell had this to say:

“By far, however, the most exciting battle” was the dust up between me, the SBL and John Hobbins, and a host of other (mostly in the comments made on one of Scott Bailey’s posts on the issue of secularism

Jim Linville wrote When an Academic Society Does the Church’s Work. Can Elephants in the University be Academic? James McGrath countered with The SBL, the Academy, and the Church. Jim followed up with a swipe at a comment from John Hobbins in Just How Badly Can Someone Miss the Point? This was followed by rejoinders by Scott BaileyJohn Hobbins, and another by Jim.

I expect to resume posting on this in the near future! And the Lolcat Jim West contest got mentioned to0 (for better or worse).

Needless to say there was a lot of posts on the lead Jesus books with contributions by  Jim DavilaJohn Byron, and Doug Chaplin and  April DeConick among others.

In other news, Jim West is again the Top Biblioblogger based on Alexa rankings. Of course, his cause is helped by his frequent posting of total depravity such as the image below.

I would NEVER stoop to that sort of thing. My own ranking went up a little to #30 but it has NOTHING to do with such depravity.

And yours truly will be hosting the April Carnival on this very blog! Please send in links and suggestions to

happilyunchurched [at] gmail [dot] com.

Atheism IS a Religion!

In the same way that Barack Obama is a Muslim from Kenya.

In the same way that “Off” is a TV channel.

Know any more clever versions on this? Add a comment and lets see how long of a list can be made!



You can’t make this crap up! Political Party Platform Fail!

I was just going through the list of the registered Canadian political parties and thinking of posting on the losers. Not that the election is over and any votes have been cast to count, but I mean the REAL losers, the parties whose policies are so reactionary, vague, single-issued, and which, if they get  8 votes (providing they can find a candidate) would be overjoyed since the candidate only has 6 friends, family members and party co-workers.

And then I stumbled on an old website of the Western Block Party the “brain” child of a certain Doug Christie, a lawyer infamous for defending various anti-semites and who ran in a B. C. riding a few years ago.

See if you can spot the FAIL!


Who He Is

  • He has practised law in Victoria for 38 years, specializing in free speech and individual rights cases across Canada
  • He is the founder of the Western Canada Concept (1980) and the Western Block Party (2002)
  • He has been President of the Saanich Water Polo School for 10 years
  • He is a long-time local taxpayer and advocate for tax reduction

Where He Stands

  • On Sewage

Now that’s what I call a platform!

Canadian Technology Years Ahead of the Pack

Some astounding scientific news:

After having dug to a depth of 10 feet last year, British scientists found traces of copper wire dating back 200 years and came to the conclusion thattheir ancestors already had a telephone network more than 150 years ago.

Not to be outdone by the Brits, in the weeks that followed, an American archaeologist dug to a depth of 20 feet, and shortly after, a story published in the New York Times:

“American archaeologists, finding traces of 250-year-old copper wire, have concluded that their ancestors already had an advanced high-tech communications network 50 years earlier than the British”.

One week later, Canadian Dept of Mines and Resources in Northern Canada  reported the following:

“After digging as deep as 30 feet in Northern Canada in the Ontario region of Thunder Bay Jack Lucknow, a self-taught archaeologist, reported that he found absolutely fuck all.

Jack has therefore concluded that 250 years ago, Canada  had already gone wireless.

Thanks to Howard V. for the news tip.

President Roosevelt on his first official tour of Canada learns about high speed public transportation.

The Selective Biblical Principles Party Prepares for the Impending Election

In a news conference held at the Tim Hortons across the road from his house in East Armpit, Alberta, Rev. Dr. Hermann Newticks, leader of the new Selective Biblical Principles Party Of Canada, stated that the party has hit the ground sojourning.

“We are the only pro-life, pro-choice party” the leader declared. “We base our lives on the best chosen of all the myriad of biblical principles. Let it be done in politics as it is on the pews.” When asked by a reporter why his party is selective and does not base itself on all biblical principles, Newticks said “I dare anyone to try. You can’t balance all that good, god stuff all at once let alone deal with the kind of questions that arise in the dirty political world. The last politician to try barely got a vote from his own church, and the media kept hounding him about perceived contradictions in his platform. The poor guy went mad and is currently trying to evangelize Monton NB with a sign that says “God, I have FAQs”.

“The Selective Biblical Principles Party is the right choice for selective Canadians because we have the best selection of biblical principles.” Newticks said. The party fully supports the teaching of biblical creationism in the classroom. Rather than just take the standard Genesis 1 and/or 2 option, Newticks said they have selected the God vs. Leviathan theme found in Psalm 74  and Isaiah 27. “It’s more of Made in Canada option since we have so many dragon fossils that keep turning up in Alberta.

When asked whether he thought the SBPP would split the Christian vote that would otherwise go to the Christian Heritage Party, Newticks said “They’re real Christians? Could have fooled me!”

“Canadians, as Christians, need to be more socially attuned”, said Newticks. He described the CHP as “more rightwing than right-hearted and their right hand doesn’t know what their left behind is doing, but not in the biblical, Matthew 6:3 sense, either”.

Rather than trust “that den of thieves, big business” to cure poverty, Newticks says his party has already selected appropriate biblical principles to address the problem. For example, land owning Israelites were forbidden were o harvest all of their crops but required to leave some in the corners so the poor could glean it (Leviticus 19:9-10). Newticks said that this is infinitely more fair and reinforces the values of self-motivation and reliance. Citing the biblical story of Ruth, a tale of a poor woman who finds romance and a lawful wedding while gleaning, and whose grandson from this union was King David, Newticks said that such a program in Canada is the only way out of our current predicament.

“People have been asking for a sign”, said Newticks. “And if they contact our campaign office, we will give them one! They can put it on their lawn or place of business.” As an object lesson in “biblical principle selection” The party leader cautioned about wearing the sign as a frontlet between the eyes. “It pretty big and it would be able to see where you are going.”


Woot! Dr. Jim’s has a new home!

Yes, I’m back after a few hours in limbo-land. Dr. Jim’s has vacated the free WordPress site for my own slice of the internet. Thanks to Mary for doing the actual work.

Sadly, I’ve lost all my site stats in the process so I’m back to 0, but this move should be good. I can have lots of plugins for various in-pluggy purposes.

And comments have been turned back on for your commenting pleasure!

Dr. Jim’s Undergoing Repairs.

I will have to turn off comments for a little while so that Mary, Dr. Jim’s deary sweetie love can move whatever the heck this is to a new home on the internet. All should be up and running in a day or so!



Dr. Jim

Student Conference Shaping Up!

This year’s Research in Religious Studies conference to be held here at the University of Lethbridge April 30 and May 1, is starting to look like it will be another success!

The conference is for undergraduate and MA students (or PhD candidates in the very early years of their programs) in any field of the academic study of religion.

The paper submissions are starting to come in, although we don’t really expect a lot until closer to the deadline. Still, we have already accepted contributions from St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, John Carroll University in Ohio, and Trinity Western University in British Columbia, not to mention a number from Alberta and elsewhere!

The paper topics already span the iconography of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha,  a comparison of the mystical philosophies of Sankara and Ibn Arabi (and another paper on the latter), Kali, Kerouac’s Buddhism, and exogamous marriages in Ezra and Nehemiah.

Go here to submit your paper proposal. All we need is a title for the paper and a 200-300 abstract (summary) of the paper. You don’t need to submit the whole thing. For more information, including tips on presenting papers, writing abstracts, and the like, to to our conference blog: Research in Religious Studies.

Our keynote speaker for the banquet on Saturday May 1 is Marco Hilgersom from Lethbridge College, who is one of the most engaging and entertaining speakers we have heard. He formerly taught Buddhism and other courses here at the University of Lethbridge and will be talking about the  many religious studies students: what the heck good is religious studies anyway?

Religious Studies Rules!
Marko Hilgersom

Are you tired of responding to “What are you going to do with that?” or “Are you going to become a pastor?” when you tell people you are a Religious Studies Major? There is a simple reason for devoting your life to a religious studies ma-jor. Religious Studies Rules! Religious studies will not only make you a fantastic dinner guest and more attractive to the opposite sex but it provides the key to a successful life. Where else can you find such a varied approach to knowl-edge? Religious Studies is parts history, philosophy, anthro-pology, psychology, literature, sociology, and fine arts. It is truly the most liberal of the Liberal Arts and the most human of the Humanities. Religious studies majors of the world, unite! All you have to lose is your shame.