Archives of Reception of the Bible

Past blogging in more ways than one.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Death of Brevard Childs

A number of bloggers had already mentioned the death of Brevard Childs over the weekend. Here is an official brief obituary on the Yale Dvinity School site.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Jesus Project

April Deconick has an interesting post on some of her concerns about the Jesus Project that she is involved with. It is apparently the successor to the Jesus Seminar, but with a rather different mix of folks involved; e.g. Bauckham and Brueggemann appear alongside the former members of the Jesus Seminar and many others. Alongside April, we also have the likes of James Crossley, and then a list of individuals whose credentials for the task are somewhat less clear to me, but who perhaps come from the range of disciplines implied by the following from the Intro: 'the Project will be limited to fifty scholars with credentials in biblical studies as well as in the crucial cognate disciplines of ancient history, mythography, archaeology, classical studies, anthropology, and social history'.

There is also a list of pre-task thoughts and aspirations, including rather predictably 'We believe the mixing of theological motives and historical inquiry is impermissible'. Since it seems to me rather 'inevitable', I think they are off to a bad start. Has ideological criticism really passed so many of us by?

The Intro concludes with the following statement. "Our aim, like Pilate’s (John 18:38), is to find the truth." Personally, I always doubted that John had such a high view of Pilate. But if the Project has already found the 'real Pilate' for us, then that should surely give us hope for the future :)

I'll certainly be fascinated to see what the outcome is, but I can't say I am waiting with baited breath. Given that I am making a good living from pondering the working and publications of the Jesus Seminar, however, maybe I should be more grateful for their efforts.

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

Student publishing 3

Angela Roskop Erisman writes: "I have to disagree with John Lyons. There are more than two options about what kind of scholar you want to be. I think you ought to take it VERY seriously, because at this point in your career you're forming a reputation. (I'm in this stage of my career, too, so I'm speaking from experience.) Take the time and put out the energy to make it a good one."

I doubt Angela and I really disagree here. My point is that to make a reputation at all you now seem to have to publish, and that taking the time out to do this 'well' (or even at all) means taking time out from working full-time on the PhD. By all means it should be good, even very good. But as Angela's example shows, you can wait a long time and still not be very good! Do it early if at all possible and use anyone you can to make it better, but don't wait for some mythological point when you will be good enough to publish. It could now, it could be never. Give it a try.

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Student publishing 2

In response to Shawn's reply (see comment 4)


I know what you mean about publication for publications sake, but sadly that too is part of our world at the moment. I hope your idealism lasts, but mine fled long ago. :) (Remember also this is a competitive game and not all the advice you will receive will be helpful to you. Back-stabbing has its place in academia too, I'm afraid.) I don't know if you've ever been to SBL or are planning to go, but I think you'll find conference papers are even worse. That said, we work in a very small over-worked field (compared to e.g. patristics or Early Church) so it can be difficult to be creative. It is a personal quirk, I know, but my definition of a contribution to discussion can include being deliberately provocative rather than being simply informative. (our teachers mark us and I blame Philip Davies for that particular trait).

Best wishes for your endeavours, wherever they take you (and don't let the *******S grind you down).


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Student publishing

In response to a post on Palimpsest.


It is naive of anyone in our discipline to discourage students from publishing at the earliest opportunity. Worse, it is potentially harmful. Jobs in many institutions nowadays require publications to even get through the door. This is especially the case in the UK (and may be the case elsewhere as well). With AHRC funding trying to get students to finish in three years, here is what happens. A student rushes through, finishes, and ends up with a dead fourth year when (a) there is no job til next year and (b) any publication submitted will take three to six months to go through a review process and 12-18 months to come out. If you are to get a job at the end of that fourth year, my advice to any student is to finish late and publish as early as possible.

Oh, and get to conferences, become visible. One thing that really messed me up before my viva was the need for an external referee, not an easy thing to acquire when you didn't do a master elsewhere.

Another point is that the review process is flawed for everyone, not just students. Sometimes major changes are required, sometimes stuff gets through that shouldn't. This is the case for all and shouldn't put students off submitting.

Two final comments. Any journal editor that rules out something because of the stage a person is at in their career is doing the discipline and their journal a disservice. How can a system be peer-reviewed properly when the journal editor censors the material submitted.

Finally (thank goodness, I hear you saying), don't worry about something published being there for all time. You have a choice to be two kinds of scholar. (1) The kind who never does anything incoherent and never changes his or her mind. Or you could be more playful and NOT take this so seriously. One of my lecturers once said to me that all work should be locked in a drawer for six months before publication. Her view was that most of it would be trashed. My view is that this just means you should be prepared to publish and change your mind later. Some great scholars have done this. As Emerson once said, consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds. Don't have a small mind, publish and then recant! After all, that's two publications for the price of one!!

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