hiatus, hopes, reflections

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by Neil Godfrey

I’ve been having a break from real blogging since the past week. Need a breather and time for real life responsibilities. But when I return to the serious stuff that interests me most I want to address

  • Roger Parvus’s latest three posts on the “Ignatian” letters,
  • complete what I started with the study of George Athas’s arguments re Tel Dan,
  • have a closer look at that Nazarene word, especially in light of Rene Salm’s recent articles and translations,
  • finish notes from Horsley’s history of messianic movements up to the outbreak of the Jewish war,
  • return to studying Herodotus and the Primary History of Israel and the relationship between the two,
  • outline the evidence for the Persian and Hellenistic era provenance of the OT writings,
  • catch up on some publications about Marcion and Paul’s letters,
  • do more on the Lévi-Strauss model of myths and its application to Old and New Testament narratives,
  • continue doing chapters of Earl Doherty’s book,
  • try to finish my posts on midrash (if I can — I contacted one of the authors of one of the books I have been using to ask for clarification on a particular point I was about to address and have come away with more than I expected to think about),
  • and a whole lot more in the back of my head that escape me at the moment.

Hence my lazy off-the-top-of-my-head reflections on things I’ve covered a million times before and that still seem to bug  the arrogant and ignorant.

I was reading Richard Carrier’s comments that Dr McGrath pointed to recently and note him saying that a PhD is the equivalent of 10,000 hours of training. I wish I had the time and opportunity for that (my circumstances did not permit me to take up an invitation for higher studies at the end of my post grad educational studies degree) since I painfully aware of my limitations as an amateur hobbyist in the area of biblical studies. I know I often present a slapdash argument or statement assuming that what I have said somewhere else a week or more ago is on any other reader’s minds, too. And I look back and am embarrassed at how often I have presented a point very badly.

I get a lot out of reading many formal scholarly works from a range of disciplines, and Doherty’s works, and it’s not always the raw content — often I’m studying the argumentation, the logic, the presentation and structure of the argument, etc. (And yes, this is where I find a lot of historical Jesus works a very mixed bag of flashes of brilliant insights and absurdly baseless circular and incredibly blinkered arguments.)

Anyway, before I get back to what I love to blog about the most, I have at hand some notes I hope to do up soon – one on the way a historian of relatively modern history uses myths and legends as sources in his historical inquiries, and another on how a historian uses certain kinds of analysis of ancient inscriptions in order to reconstruct historical events. I believe both illustrations demonstrate the point I have made for some time now about the different approaches of New Testament historians (I hope that’s a valid term — I copy it from Dr McGrath after he chastised me for using the term “biblical historians”) to the Gospels for their inquiries into the historical Jesus and the way other historians handle material that is mythical or in need of close literary analysis to decipher its meaning.

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Neil Godfrey

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0 thoughts on “hiatus, hopes, reflections”

  1. Dr Carrier claims the “10,000-hour rule” is universal, but I suppose that, here too, the divide between the humanities and the natural sciences expresses itself in a number of ways. (Unfortunately, my own PhD is related to engineering, and my view is limited.) There is ongoing discussion in Germany whether the “habilitation” required to teach at a German university should be abolished. The reason is that world-class scientists who cannot afford the time to write a second doctoral thesis find themselves barred from lecturing German students, which is clearly absurd. This shows that the number of hours you spend being “supervised by an expert” is not always a relevant criterion. Your practical achievements may be relevant as well; cf. Thomas Alva Edison, who had no formal education to speak of. (This is a truism, of course.)

    Oral exams, according to Dr Carrier, serve to verify that scholars are “sane, well-read, knowledgeable, critical,” and “aware of the arguments and merits on all sides of a debate,” and that they are “using the methodologies sanctioned by the field and not using methods repudiated by the field.” One aspect missing here is, in my opinion, the ability to question consensus views without fear of social disapproval. The case of Gerd Lüdemann has shown that theologians, however “sane and well-read,” are not free to go where they please.


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