Archives of Reception of the Bible

Past blogging in more ways than one.

Friday, March 16, 2007

The problem of secularist rhetoric

Hi Colin (see comment on previous post),

It is in theory not about ‘objectivity’. That is commonly said to be beyond us and no secularist I am aware of wants to appear openly as ‘positivistic’.

DeConick’s beef appears quite specific. Christians privilege the NT Canon as historical sources in a way that is inappropriate in one who is claiming to talk about Christian origins. Fair enough, some are no doubt guilty of this. But others seem quite capable of working with a wide variety of sources and may still end up privileging the canonical sources as a result of their studies. That seems quite different to me. Others might even end up preferring other texts (e.g. Jesus Seminar members are often practicing Christians and yet they love Thomas as a source). But my problem is that the rhetoric appears to exclude these from the discussion as well.

If this was all just about a group going into a huddle, then hell, I agree with you, let them. But it is not. What do we make of DeConick’s claim about the ‘impossibility’ of doing historical criticism as a believer? Surely the claim about the new list – taken in the same vein - is that only the list is doing serious ‘possible’ work. Others cannot even begin to approach their clarity. And it is here that that old chestnut ‘objectivity’ rears its ugly head. Whatever the claim to the contrary, a hint of positivism then emerges that is rather distasteful to me. No doubt we could ignore them because it is not what we are interested in anyway (as you say). But Christianity has a historical core that will always draw our attention. Can we really withdraw totally from that discussion? I don’t think so. And that is why I object to DeConick’s project.

As I’ve said elsewhere, I do not think dividing academia up is a very useful way to go. The philosophical underpinnings of all this are science-based and pretty dodgy. Positivism is long dead and we should stop bowing down to it. We need to take each other seriously in other ways now, and not try to rule each other out on the basis of some increasingly questionable ideology. I can see why DeConick is embarrassed to meet historians who won’t take her seriously. But frankly, I think that is primarily their problem and not hers.


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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Christian Origins list - Don't do it!

I really don't get it. Here we have a new discussion list which is avowedly sectarian. Only those with certain views are acceptable as participants and they even have their own creed to assent to - one rather unfortunately couched in religious terms. I must admit to wondering if the likes of Philip Esler would qualify here. I know I don't (though I reject the terms this is all put in - to me a belief in God does not oppose a belief in criticism except in the more fundamentalistic expressions of Christianity).

But won't the participants in the list one day have to come out of their conclave and expose their ideas to the rest of the academic world (which is still religious and won't have gone away in the meantime). At which point, a truly full and academic discussion can take place. Of course, if you think that religious commitment of any kind makes historical criticism 'impossible' as April DeConick would have it, then perhaps such exposure to criticism won't even be necessary because it is per se bad criticism.

Give me a break. I'll stay out here in the big, bad world with everyone in it, open to question for my every assertion. Why don't you all do the same? Please.

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Friday, March 09, 2007

Journal of Theological Interpretation

I was reading about this new journal (Eisenbraun's Journal of Theological Interpretation) with some degree of interest anyway (since theological exegesis is one of my interests) when I noticed that the list of contributions that the editors are explicitly interested included the following:

  • theological exegesis of selected biblical texts
  • concerns of theological method and the role of Scripture in theology and ethics
  • the history of reception or history of interpretation of biblical texts
  • major review essays interacting with key books, contemporary or classical
  • hermeneutical challenges in theological exegesis
Obviously the theological interest restricts the type of reception issues that could be tackled, but this is a welcome addition to the outlets for this kind of work.

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Friday, March 02, 2007

Permissions to reproduce

One of the additional complications about writing about modern interpreters, specifically authors of artistic compositions, is that reproducing their work generally involves the need to get specific permission to do this. This has proved difficult for the Johnny Cash paper, not least because I have had trouble finding out just who to ask. Always in the back of my mind was the thought that perhaps I shouldn't reproduce the whole of the song, 'The Man Comes Around", in print. So I decided to ask Michael Gilmour, of Providence College, Manitoba, for some advice. For those of you who don't know, Michael has produced a fine volume on Dylan and Scripture (Tangled up in the Bible: Dylan and Scripture [Continuum, 2004]). The fact that Dylan is still alive adds a further complication since libel may be an issue in some circumstances. He writes:

"When I was working on Dylan I contacted his company Special Rider Music about this issue. They advised keeping citations as brief as possible so they would fall under the 'fair use' clause of copyright law (whatever that is). Anything more than a few lines gets complicated and yes, there are costs involved. If you are wanting to include lyrics of a full song you might want to track down the copyright owner (it may or may not be Cash's estate). The formula they use to calculate costs involves number of copies of the book or article being published. That being said, academic books and articles are not mass produced so it's probably not a major expense. I would recommend describing lyrics and themes as much as possible without quoting often from the songs themselves."

I think this will be my line. After all, one section of the work refers specifically to different texts for one line of the song on various lyric web-sites, so people can easily look up the whole thing themselves.

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