Personally, I do not believe in Joel Watts, and believe that his blog is part myth, legend, and ANE (American Neo-Electronic) folklore, redacted daily for hit-count and Alexa-ratings agendas.
Posted on October 23, 2009 at 11:01 am by Dr. Jim
Personally, I do not believe in Joel Watts, and believe that his blog is part myth, legend, and ANE (American Neo-Electronic) folklore, redacted daily for hit-count and Alexa-ratings agendas.
Posted on October 23, 2009 at 7:49 am by Dr. Jim
It’s been around the blogosphere ten times already, but what the hell, being late for the party is better than staying home.
The Conservative Bible Project is an attempt to produce a Bible for Conservative (i.e., very far right wing) American Christians. It is championed by Andrew Schafly, the bright light behind Conservapedia.
The idea is to rid the Christian scriptures of foreign “liberal bias” according to ten Conservative guidelines:
Needless to say, professional biblical scholars, translators, committed Christians, bloggers and many more think the whole project is, well, stupid. Or evil. Or both.
Wiggins has a podcast about it and you can listen in to see how good his Tina Turner impression is.
James McGrath gets it right (except for a wee little bit, but that can wait for a few paragraphs).
Don’t get me wrong: “rewriting” the Bible has a long and illustrious heritage. Chronicles retelling the story in the Former Prophets (or Deuteronomistic History, if you prefer). One Gospel retelling the story found in another. Midrashes and commentaries and Diatessarons and Targums and all sorts of other things. The only thing that bothers me is when people set about to rewrite the Bible but call it translation, or deny that rewriting the Bible is what they are really doing.
Beyond McGrath’s point about translation, I don’t have a quibble with the CBP. Not even ateensy little quibble. And even then, I’m not sure it is a quibble at all. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
On the one hand, as a liberal secularist who would hate to live under a CBP theocracy, one might think I would be worried about this project. But I’m not. I don’t really care one way or the other if the Conservapeople actually manage to pull this “translation” scheme off or not. Despite the huge Left-Right polarization in America (and increasingly in Canada), I don’t thing the CBP will be able to capture and retain a huge segment of the Christian Bible market.
Maybe I’m a bit of a naive optimist, but I think too many Christians across most of the theological spectrum of Christendom would not want to lose their church’s teachings on social justice that would be among the first things the CBP tries to excise. It’s not that all of the meek and the downtrodden will finally inherit the earth or find lasting comfort, but the message that people should work towards that ideal is not likely to die. And I’m happy about that. It’s a good ideal, regardless of where it comes from. In the end the CPB will fizzle although a relatively small group might canonize their Bible. And that is the interesting thing and brings us to the other hand.
Let me just say here that I think the Conservative Bible Project is wonderful from a purely academic standpoint. It is a great object lesson in how flexible a fixed canon actually can be to some people, and how revisionist programs are understood by their proponents as restorative actions. I assume the heroes of the “Conservative Reformation” actually believe in what they are doing, just as Martin Luther did when he wanted some slight emendations to the canon list of the church he “restored” to its original pristine purity. He apparently wanted Esther removed from the Old Testament and the Epistle of James from the New. He didn’t get his way but he tried.
As someone very interested in the hows and whys behind writings that become sacred, the CBP is a fascinating example of tendentious redaction (or is it “reduction”?). If my area of expertise was the history of modern biblical interoperation or modern religious/political discourses, I would be in the market for a new anthropologist’s hat and sending letters to the Project’s managers asking if I could sit in on their board meetings, just to see the process in action.
For as much as people want to discount and discredit the project (and on purely academic grounds as a scholarly “translation” it can be critiqued any which way you like), as an exercise in religious thought and action it stands above academic judgments of professional translators and scholars.
I think for Schafly and his people “translate” is as much a symbolic, mystified, religious concept as it is a purely linguistic one. Outsiders should not take its use in this context quite so literally, and this is my little wee quibble with McGrath. “Translation” for the CBP is the cargo-cultish production of an effigy bible intended to provide legitimacy for a religious viewpoint on the defensive by attempting to “fight fire with fire”. For the true believers, the end result will be regarded as faithful English rendition of what this group thinks are the authentic biblical texts. In that sense, it will be a translation to them, and not an emended KJV.
The project’s planners have a right to their religion, and scholars seeking to understand the religions that exist in the world have no right to tell these people what their religion should be.
“Sacred” texts have human origins, just like any other text. “Sacred” is a quality given by a person or a community to a book or other item. It is not a quality intrinsic to and inseparable from those objects. For thousands of years people have been inventing and reinventing religions, gods, myths and “sacred” writings. This is no different, except it is happening before our eyes. Cool.
What is going through Schafly’s head? Well, what was going through Joseph Smith’s head when he was “translating” the Book of Mormon? Can a secular scholar think anything other than Smith’s efforts bear a striking resemblance to “composition”? So how aware was Smith of the deceptions he was weaving as to the book’s purported miraculous origins? Did he come to believe his own story? I don’t know, but I suspect Schafly truly believes that he is restoring and not rewriting. And that is how scholars should approach the project. How much do political agendas influence religious belief? Apparently quite a lot in some cases.
Is religion really a phenomenon separate from politics? Many people would say that ideally it should be. But historically, it has not been and that, I think, is not likely to change any time soon.
It is easy to denounce the deliberate production of purportedly sacred or inspired documents, but let’s face it, the ancient literature now contained the various bibles of Christendom and Judaism probably had as mundane of origins. People just writing what they believed or what they wanted others to believe. Some were great poet, some were boring hacks and some may well have been total jerks.
Many biblical scholars maintain that the book of Jeremiah was once edited by people with an pronounced ideological affection for the ideas and terminology found in the book of Deuteronomy. If this so-called “deuteronomistic redaction” occurred it changed the overall character of the book of Jeremiah which would be, in a number of sections, rather different if those allegedly “dtr” passages are excised. If Schafly is a crackpot, then why not the “deuteronomists”?
How do human made books (the only kind there is) get canonized? There is often no evidence. But will Schafly manage to get his Bible canonized (in some sense) in some churches? Perhaps. But will it be because of intrinsic qualities of the product or the sales job its producers undertake? Were there dtr spin doctors and pitch men?
Religions are always innovating, changing and evolving (I just had to get that word in!). Humans create them, consume then and then fiddle with them to make them better suited to their changing needs. Yet, religions are often portrayed as timeless. A novelty quickly becomes the way one has always done things. Innovate like hell and do it conservatively. Nothing unusual there, Mr. Schafly. Carry on.
Posted on October 22, 2009 at 5:52 pm by Dr. Jim
New reviews have been added to the Review of Biblical Literature and listed on the RBL blog (http://rblnewsletter.blogspot.com/). That means its time for the Lolcat book awards, in which I award a custom made lolcat to the three books I most want our library to buy!
Here are the winners:
Prophecy and Propaganda: Images of Enemies in the Book of Isaiah
Reviewed by Maire Byrne
Isaiah contains a rich variety of enemy images from a time span covering at least four centuries. Eidevall’s textual analysis in Prophecy and Propaganda focuses on the characterization of the enemy, the rhetorical strategy adopted, the text’s function in its historical context(s), and the ideology of the author(s) and/or editor(s). The main part of the study begins with textual analyses of passages dealing with the hostile empires of Assyria, Babylon, and Egypt. It then turns to Judah’s northern neighbors, Ephraim/Israel and Aram, formed another hostile alliance against Judah, and how oracles directed against Samaria took on new significance in the postexilic era, due to the emerging schism between Samaritans and other Jews. The portrait of Moab is intriguingly ambiguous, but the picture of Edom is uncompromisingly negative. Finally, the study investigates anonymous enemies of various kinds, who are often characterized as rebels deserving severe punishment. The final editors of Isaiah wanted to discourage a wide range of actions and attitudes that, according to their standards, amounted to opposition to YHWH by YHWH worshipers themselves.
Palestine in Late Antiquity
Reviewed by Steven Fine
Hagith Sivan offers an unconventional study of one corner of the Roman Empire in late antiquity, weaving around the theme of conflict strands of distinct histories, and of peoples and places, highlighting Palestine’s polyethnicity, and cultural, topographical, architectural, and religious diversity. During the period 300-650 CE the fortunes of the ‘east’ and the ‘west’ were intimately linked. Thousands of westerners in the guise of pilgrims, pious monks, soldiers, and civilians flocked to what became a Christian holy land. This is the era that witnessed the transformation of Jerusalem from a sleepy Roman town built on the ruins of spectacular Herodian Jerusalem into an international centre of Christianity and ultimately into a centre of Islamic worship. It was also a period of unparalleled prosperity for the frontier zones, and a time when religious experts were actively engaged in guiding their communities while contesting each other’s rights to the Bible and its interpretation.
Guy G. Stroumsa
The End of Sacrifice: Religious Transformations in Late Antiquity
Reviewed by Joshua Schwartz
The religious transformations that marked late antiquity represent an enigma that has challenged some of the West’s greatest thinkers. But, according to Guy G. Stroumsa, the oppositions between paganism and Christianity that characterize prevailing theories have endured for too long. Instead of describing this epochal change as an evolution within the Greco-Roman world from polytheism to monotheism, he argues that the cause for this shift can be found not so much around the Mediterranean as in the Near East. “The End of Sacrifice” points to the role of Judaism, particularly its inventions of new religious life following the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. The end of animal sacrifice gave rise to new forms of worship, with a concern for personal salvation, scriptural study, rituals like praying and fasting, and the rise of religious communities and monasticism. It is what Christianity learned from Judaism about texts, death, and, above all, sacrifice that allowed it to supersede Greco-Roman religions and, Stroumsa argues, transform religion itself. A concise and original approach to a much-studied moment in religious history, “The End of Sacrifice” will be heralded by all scholars of late antiquity.
~~~~~THE OTHER REVIEWS BELOW THE BREAK~~~~~
Posted on October 21, 2009 at 7:18 pm by Dr. Jim
Posted on October 21, 2009 at 6:49 pm by Dr. Jim
I received the following notice about a couple of interesting cost-free lectures in Calgary in a few weeks time.
The Chair of Christian Thought
at the University of Calgary
The Lebel Lectures in Christian Ethics
Professor Doris Bergen
Chancellor Rose and Ray Wolfe Chair in Holocaust Studies
University of Toronto
“Christian Churches in the Third Reich”
Tuesday, November 3, 2009 at 12:00 noon
Evans Room, Rozsa Centre
University of Calgary
Response by Dr. Kyle T. Jantzen
Associate Professor of History,
Ambrose University College, Calgary, Alberta
“The Sword of the Lord: Hitler’s Chaplains”
Tuesday, November 3, 2009 at 7:30pm
First Assembly Church
6031 Elbow Dr SW, Calgary
Here is the poster in pdf.
Posted on October 20, 2009 at 5:38 pm by Dr. Jim
[picapp src=”6/c/c/7/Notting_Hill_Carnival_58a9.jpg?adImageId=6139765&imageId=6261352″ width=”500″ height=”750″ /]
Right off the bat we have A scientificalist post on cloning, at the Chromosome Chronicles. You can’t bring granny back, but you can clone a Unicorn! WOOT!! AND THEY’RE BIBLICAL!
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And you can answer the Bible pushing missionaries who bore you with tales of the most powerful force in the universe with this handy Argument from Gravity! See it over at Tech Skeptic.
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The Evolving Mind thanks God for nothing, which is pretty much the level of divine involvement in things.
[picapp src=”0/7/0/e/Annual_Viareggio_Carnival_322c.jpg?adImageId=6140494&imageId=2301316″ width=”500″ height=”325″ /]
The Atheist Revolution ponders the existential question of atheist identity, and again brings up the matter of unicorns (and the lack thereof).
[picapp src=”2/a/f/b/Carnival_Celebrations_in_fe93.jpg?adImageId=6140636&imageId=6177203″ width=”464″ height=”594″ /]
Anyway, there are all sorts there, go check ‘em out!
Posted on October 19, 2009 at 7:19 pm by Dr. Jim
A few people have noticed that the Thinking Shop has been sporting a “Secular Bible Blog” badge the past few days. Some wanted one. Some stole it.
It was made by my friend Tom Robinson from a photo we found of a DSS. Well, the rough draft has been refined and Tom sent me two more prototypes. We tried getting text onto the scroll but it didn’t look so good when the image was shrunk to badge size (the images above are not quite square, 199×207 pixels).
This is the one I’m going for: it is just easier to read.
If you have a secular blog and sometimes try to write something reasonably educated (higher degrees NOT necessary) about the Bible, biblical scholarship, the history or religion of ancient Israel (and cognate disciplines), please feel free to use the badge, but just let me know.
DON’T FALL FOR CHEAP RIP OFFS!
GET YOUR AUTHENTIC, GENUINE
SECULAR BIBLE BLOG BADGE
AND JOIN THE RANKS OF THE CLEVER!
CLICK THE BADGE TO SEE THE FULL LIST !
Posted on October 19, 2009 at 7:25 am by Dr. Jim
Posted on October 18, 2009 at 3:36 pm by Dr. Jim
1Minion’sOpinion has already blogged on the stupidly early start to the playing of Christmas music in stores. Hell, around here, some stores already have big displays of Christmas crap for sale (Costco, you are jerks).
Well, that only goes to show, you can’t beat tradition. So, since its the holiday season, its time to start the war on Christmas. So let’s fight fire with fire.
Here are a couple of traditional Canadian carols sung by the Arrogant Worms. Sorry, no real video, just silly animations and cartoons.
And for all my international fan(s), here are the Worms with the Canadian national anthem (Alberta style. Apologies to Minion, out in Saskatchewan)
Posted on October 18, 2009 at 6:05 am by Dr. Jim
The latest Review of Biblical Literature edition is up on the RBL blog (http://rblnewsletter.blogspot.com/):
As is the custom here at the Thinking Shop, I award three of the reviewed books the venerable LOLCAT AWARD for being relevant to my interests.
Yes, indeed, the three books that I most want my university to buy for its library gets a custom made lolcat!
What could be a higher honor?
(The awards go for the content of the book, not how good the reviewer thought it was). So, who are the lucky three this time around?
Billie Jean Collins
The Hittites and Their World
Reviewed by Dirk Paul Mielke
Description: Lost to history for millennia, the Hittites have regained their position among the great civilizations of the Late Bronze Age Near East, thanks to a century of archaeological discovery and philological investigation. The Hittites and Their World provides a concise, current, and engaging introduction to the history, society, and religion of this Anatolian empire, taking the reader from its beginnings in the period of the Assyrian Colonies in the nineteenth century B.C.E. to the eclipse of the Neo-Hittite cities at the end of the eighth century B.C.E. The numerous analogues with the biblical world featured throughout the volume together represent a comprehensive and up-to-date survey of the varied and signicant contributions of Hittite studies to biblical interpretation.
Sin at Sinai: Early Judaism Encounters Exodus 32
Reviewed by James N. Rhodes
Description: Sin at Sinai is a study in the interpretive life of the biblical drama played out around the golden calf at the foot of Mount Sinai. In the course of the history of post-biblical Jewish reception the episode – which may not be the climax of the entire pentateuchal story, but due to its narrative setting is at the core of the Covenant theology – rises into a position of a central junction. It troubles authors and sages of post-biblical Judaism throughout the centuries: a controversial incident, a portrait of an archetypal rebellion, which compels the commentators to seek the truth beyond obscure words and turns of the intrigue. This study illuminates the questions of how early Judaism rewrites the story, how it reacts to it, and why it does so in the way it does. The book sheds new light over the controversies inside Judaism as well as between it and the gentile world. It also contributes to an increased understanding of the Jewish-Christian controversy during the first centuries.
Nicola Laneri, ed.
Performing Death: Social Analyses of Funerary Traditions in the Ancient Near East and Mediterranean
Reviewed by Aren Maeir
Description: This volume represents a collection of contributions presented by the authors during the Second Annual University of Chicago Oriental Institute Seminar “Performing Death: Social Analyses of Funerary Traditions in the Ancient Mediterranean,” held at the Oriental Institute, February 17-18, 2006. The principal aim of the two-day seminar was to interpret the social relevance resulting from the enactment of funerary rituals within the broad-reaching Mediterranean basin from prehistoric periods to the Roman age. Efforts were concentrated on creating a panel composed of scholars with diverse backgrounds — anthropologists, historians, archaeologists, art historians, and philologists — and the knowledge and expertise to enrich the discussion through the presentation of case-studies linked to both textual and archaeological evidences from the Mediterranean region. Fundamental to the successful realization of this research process was the active dialogue between scholars of different backgrounds. These communicative exchanges provided the opportunity to integrate different approaches and interpretations concerning the role played by the performance of ancient funerary rituals within a given society and, as a result, helped in defining a coherent outcome towards the interpretation of ancient communities’ behaviors.
The Runners Up:
We Have Heard That God Is with You: Preaching the Old Testament
Reviewed by Jordan M. Scheetz
The Church’s Guide for Reading Paul: The Canonical Shaping of the Pauline Corpus
Reviewed by Paul E. Trainor
Pistis and the Righteous One: A Study of Romans 1:17 against the Background of Scripture and Second Temple Jewish Literature
Reviewed by Lars Kierspel
Der Herr der Träume: Eine Studie zur Funktion des Traumes in der Josefsgeschichte der Hebräischen Bibel
Reviewed by Bart J. Koet
The Three Gospels: New Testament History Introduced by the Synoptic Problem
Reviewed by Pheme Perkins
The Conclusion of Luke-Acts: The Significance of Acts 28:16-31
Reviewed by Deborah Thompson Prince
Huub van de Sandt and Jürgen Zangenberg, eds.
Matthew, James, and Didache: Three Related Documents in Their Jewish and Christian Settings
Reviewed by William Varner
Das Buch Jeremia: Kapitel 1-20
Reviewed by Wilhelm J. Wessels
Herman J. Selderhuis
Calvin’s Theology of the Psalms
Reviewed by Randall McKinion
At Home in a Strange Land: Using the Old Testament in Christian Ethics
Reviewed by Andrew Davies
Reviewed by Joel F. Williams
One Lord, One People: The Unity of the Church in Acts in Its Literary Setting
Reviewed by Bobby Kelly