Vridar Housekeeping

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by Neil Godfrey

I’m making some sort of progress towards some consistency in the blog’s categories and tags (well into the categories right now having reduced them from around 50 million to a tenth of a million; but have yet to start seriously on eliminating overlaps in the tags). Here are some questions that are bugging me at the moment and maybe some readers may like to comment on them. (I’m too close to it all to think afresh at the moment, I think.)  . . . .

On the Ancient Literature category:

Original intention was to include here all non-Jewish works. Should this separation stand? What of Ezekiel the Tragedian or Artapanus of Alexandria and other similar Jewish authors in a “secular/Hellenistic” world? Is the subsequent breakdown into child categories justified?

On the Levant (Mesopotamia, Canaan…) child category:

Not the best name for this category. Alternative? Refers to all literature from Mesopotamia, Asia Minor, Syria, Phoenecia-Canaan/Palestine, Egypt. Includes works about this literature.

On the Novels and Fables child category:

Should this be renamed, simply, Fiction? Refers to Greco-Roman works of fiction, normally in prose. Includes works about these authors and genres.

On the Philosophy child category:

Works by and about authors of ancient philosophical works (Plato, Cicero, etc.) Keep in mind that ancient philosophy often included what we would consider to be ideas of a religious dimension.

— Should this category include Philo or should there be a separate category for Jewish authors?)
— Should this category be extended to include authors of technical, medical, etc works?

On the Poetry and epics (Greco-Roman) child category:

Works by and about authors like Homer, Virgil, Pindar, etc.

Should it rather be, Poetry and Drama?

On the Ancient Religious Culture category:

“Religious culture” is used instead of “Religion” because our concept of religion does not match what was often the thinking and practices in ancient cultures. This category includes temple and priestly practices as well as mythical ideas related to gods and the supernatural. Jewish religious culture is placed under Biblical Studies.

On the Biblical Studies category:

Should this category include the ancient history of Palestine-Judea, including second temple era and Bar Kochba rebellion and rise of rabbinic culture? If so, should Biblical Studies itself be renamed in some way?

On the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha child category:

Jewish and Christian (OT and NT) works included here. Where should Philo and Pseudo-Philo be placed?

On the Biblical Scholars child category:

Prominent and not-so-prominent scholars of the Bible. Should this category be restricted to individuals with discussions of scholars collectively to be included within Biblical Scholarship? Scholars of the Bible should include persons who produce scholarly quality works even if not a member of a biblical studies academy or department (e.g. classicist like John Moles; historian like Richard Carrier). Technically I also think Earl Doherty and Rene Salm should be part of this category but would their inclusion raise problems? If so, in what category should such persons be included? What of Acharya S and others of questionable scholarly standards? Perhaps better to keep names like these within a Category related to discussions of the Christ Myth Hypothesis.

On the Church Fathers child category:

See the list of Church Fathers at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_Fathers#Great_Fathers But where does Eusebius fit? And Dionysius the Areopagite? Note that these names extend beyond the reference range of Biblical Studies. Where do Biblical Studies end and Christian (and rabbinical) history begin?

On the Dead Sea Scrolls child category:

Rename this category to show inclusion of discussions of Essenes? Or should both DSS and Essenes each be made tags? Should they be included in Intertestamental period?

On the Martyrs and Martyrdom child category:

Another to be made a tag? The idea was to include here Jewish martyrs of the Maccabean era along with Christian martyrs. Include biblical martyrs, e.g. in Daniel and Acts.

On the New Testament child category:

Mostly straightforward but still some questions arise. Where does New Testament end and Church history and question of Christian origins, also certain roles of Marcion, begin? (Marcion’s argued influence on NT should be included here; also evidence of early readings found in Fathers like Tertullian.) Relevant manuscript discoveries and analysis belong here, including histories of their later copying.

On the Old Testament child category:

Should there be another child category to sit alongside NT and OT and cover Intertestamental period? Should that include Philo? What effect will that have on the child category Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha?

On the Early Christianities category:

Where should the possibility of pre-Christian Jewish gnosticism fit? Where should we place the dividing line between events inferred from Acts/gospels/epistles on the one hand and accounts derived from Pliny the Younger, Tacitus, Suetonius on the other? Should they all be included in Biblical Studies? If so, at what point do we break off that area and begin second century sources, then those of late antiquity? Marcion is second century but has an influence on biblical works. But how can we justify all of early Christianity into late antiquity and beyond being part of Biblical Studies? Ebionites are assigned to near apostolic times but are only found in late antiquity documents. Do we need a dividing line? Where do we put documents like Odes of Solomon that are seen by some to be pre-Christian but related to what emerged as more recognizable Christianity?

On the Gnosticism child category:

This category should almost certainly be placed under “Early Christianities” but see there for issues raised. What of non-Christian (i.e. Jewish) gnosticism?

On the History and Methods category:

A broad church. Initially included Historiography in the name. Is “History” too broad and potentially misleading? This category includes discussions of research methods by historians as well as philosophical discussions about both the nature of history and the nature of the writing of history. Includes the problematic methods of biblical scholars. Or should the latter be moved to Biblical Studies as incompatible with the former? (Compare the difference between astronomy and astrology.) Does not include the methods of research and narrating history by ancient authors. See under Ancient Literature.

On the Messiahs and messianism category:

How can this category be brought within both Biblical Studies and (non-biblical) history of Judea-Israel?

On the Politics and Society category:

At present this includes posts on history of Zionism and modern Israel and Palestine as well as current events. Continue this setup? What of other histories? Adjust name of category? Currently includes Islamism (distinct from Islam) as an ideology of terrorism. Also currently includes Islamophobia and hostile denunciations of Islam — but see the question on Islam in Religion and Atheism.

On the Religion and Atheism category:

Distinct from Biblical Studies. Includes studies in origins and nature of religious ideas; posts on religions in history and contemporary world (e.g. Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism.) Should this include post-biblical Christianity and rabbinical Judaism of late antiquity, the direct outgrowths of Second Temple era? Also includes various types of Christianity (e.g. fundamentalism) and debates with atheists. Posts on atheism and atheist world views per se are also included, of course. It does not include Islamism as the matrix of terrorism — that goes into Politics and Society. But here we get into a grey area. Compare social attitudes towards and criticisms of Islam related to Islamism and terrorism.



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24 thoughts on “Vridar Housekeeping”

  1. Well, if you’re doing tags, where a given post can have multiple tags, I’d may go for something more like:

    Ancient history
    Modern history
    Current events

    Other Religion

    (Or perhaps:
    Philosophical Literature
    Scientific Literature
    Fictional Literature
    Historical Literature
    Religious Literature)


    Biblical Studies

    New Testament
    Jewish Scriptures


    Book Review

    Maybe some others.

    A post on Philo would then likely be tagged with something like: [Ancient History], [Judaism], [Literature], [Philosophy]

    1. • IMO, categories should embrace all of the tags, i.e. every category term should have a duplicate tag term.

      When using a URL to display all posts with similar taxonomies while using the “AND”, “OR” operators with other relevant tags. Both “category” and “tag” cannot be searched/displayed at the same time.

      1. That’s as it should be. We don’t need the broader term once we have the narrower one we are looking for.

        My concern about maintaining some connection between tags and categories is not the url search function you mention but I’m thinking of other systems to which I would like whatever setup I have here to be transferable. I mentioned Topic Maps earlier, and I still have a notion of wanting to ensure the material here is transferrable to some sort of RDA (research description and access) model, with each data point being connected to another through the subject-predicate-object model. Everything needs to have some justifiable connection to something else. (Now I’m starting to reveal the inner guts of my concerns and my metadata background is showing. Am I behind the times here?.)

        1. We don’t need the broader term once we have the narrower one we are looking for.within

          • 2445 posts are returned for the super-category: biblical-studies

          • 570 posts are returned for the sub-category: biblical-scholars @ https://vridar.org/category/biblical-studies/biblical-scholars/

          570 posts are narrower than 2445 posts, but I do not see a simple way to then tag search within this narrower group (e.g. james-mcgrath+richard-carrier)

          I understand that only 10 posts are returned for tag search @ https://vridar.org/tag/james-mcgrath+richard-carrier/

          • But that is not the point, rather it is that 4 of the 10 returned posts are not in the narrower category of interest —biblical-scholars.


          Side note: I used the tag search (carrier+bayes to find some posts to copy (CC4 attribution) to “Draft:On the Historicity of Jesus”. RationalWiki.

          1. (Sorry, I was speaking theoretically, of the principle.)

            Yes, much more work yet needs to be done. I’m still in the early stages. It’s been a big enough job just trying to narrow down some categories — and I expect even there there will be more changes as I get deeper into it and check more of the posts against them. I have scarcely touched the tags yet. I have inherited an enormous mess from years of lack of planning.

          2. Excuse me but I’m a bit all over the shop with this business at the moment and am not clear on what’s what. Are those 4 posts still not found in the Biblical Scholars category?

            But a more important question for me at the moment is What should the Biblical Scholars category contain? Should it be restricted to scholars whose formal qualifications are directly related to biblical studies (inc theology and divinity degrees)? Or should it include any scholar who has written works dedicated to biblical studies? And if so, should it include both amateur and professional scholars (e.g. Doherty and Carrier)? My feeling is that we are going beyond what is expected generally under a heading “Biblical Scholars” if we go beyond anyone who does not have formal qualifications in an area directly related to biblical studies.

  2. While the association of Essenes and the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls is almost universally accepted among scrolls scholars, it is, nevertheless, a scholarly construct. I for one do not see a significant relationship between Essenes (who only became briefly significant under Herod the Great) and the Dead Sea Scrolls (most of which are Sadducean or Maccabean and substantially earlier in my opinion). The only significant relationship between the Essenes as described the Josephus and the scrolls is 1QS (the Community Rule), whereas there are important differences between the Essenes and the halachic literature from Qumran that emanated from the early Sadducees.

    1. These are the little quirks that obsess those of us who have been buried for years in a profession that treats authorized subject lists and classification systems as holy writ. (And like holy writ they are subject to redactions over the years and in different locales, but not easily.) I acknowledge that much of my difficulty here is that the blog format brings advantages but also some losses compared with systems and authorities that were originally designed for print or hard copy media. (I would love to know the current state of the Library of Congress’s assigning web links to each subject entry and who/how those links are being used.)

      With the Essenes, one can justify including Essenes within the broader category of Qumran or DSS on the grounds that it is a generally accepted scholarly construct. (But one may still have some doubts as indicated in the post.) It is no real issue if there are naysayers. They are part of a debate that is still headed under Qumran/DSS (a book arguing against astrology would still be shelved with the astrology section — not a strict analogy but maybe close enough if we are in more woolly thinker mode) – unless one is working on a much broader system of information in which case Essenes would be bracketed with Judean sectarians. I wish I could start with a totally clean slate in my head but that’s really impossible. I’m open to new ideas (at least I like to think so); it may take me a while, maybe years sometimes, to appreciate the ones I should, but that’s how it goes.

      (sigh! — I have done this more or less sort of thing before with the development of new specialist cultural collections but that was always for pay and I had a team to do lots of the leg-work.)

      1. I’m reminded of a librarian I once worked with (way, way back) who insisted on classifying — and hence shelving — the Bible with “spurious knowledge”, UFOs, Bigfoot, astrology, palmistry etc. 🙂

        1. LOL!! Very very funny!

          But that is how lots of us do it… we might want to look up “Bigfoot” on the internet and then could come across a “real” “Bigfoot” , like when when I was a very young boy my Mom took me to a “freak” show that was passing through in the 60’s in Wpg. and I swear that I saw a lot of really freaky stuff…I think they have banned such things now, but that is how they made money to live… But I did see what I thought was the biggest Bigfoot on a normal man I had ever seen or could have imagined… And that is all people came to do…was to see “Bigfoot!! This guy was born with it and I guess it just kept on growing and growing… It “freaked” me out…and I would freak out if I actually saw a “Bigfoot”.. One can really get off the beaten path without specificity as to what one is looking for!!

    2. Hi again, Mr. Gmirkin,

      I was wondering in this connection re: The Qumran Covenanters (a term I think seems to fit well what I have read of the Scrolls..) vs. Essenes… perhaps you are aware of Israel Knoll’s book The Messiah Before Jesus… and his particular penchant towards using “Essene” ..I hope I have not misunderstood him on that, and even more still I would be embarrassed asking for your thoughts if you have already given them on this site…please forgive me if so… and I know Neil did discuss this stuff,,, and I didn’t finish it all… I am trying to go back to all the entries myself……they are just too valuable to ignore , no matter how far ones goes back…

      It points out the problem of classifications…. so important to observe ..and it is relevant to what has been going on at this site and in Neil’s project…

      If you have more input it would be great…but I know you are busy man with your research, etc.



  3. Some small changes perhaps re: these

    It might be better to change the category “Biblical” Studies to “Ancient Scripture Studies” rather than the narrow term “Biblical” — so should be broader than just the Bible as we know it.

    Also instead of the singular “Religious Culture’ use a plural “Cultures”

    Instead of simply “Church Fathers” precede it by the technical word “Patristics”-

    Also a broader category “Intertestamental History and Thought” and then this can have subcategories… eg. Apocryphal Literature, Oumran Studies (Dead Sea Scrolls)

    Pseudopigraphal Literature

    Perhaps a section on “Ancient Talmudic Literature.”

    Definitely a section on “Ancient Scriptural Languages” Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, Coptic, etc. Resources

    Hope this might help.


    Ps. I am amazed Neil with your incredible talents expressed throughout these years…

    Keep up the good work. I have learned and benefited so much from it all. And I wish you better health and more success in all that you put your hand to.

    1. • The following XML tags are inside “pre” tags, so hopefully it displays correctly.

      And consider adding a static taxonomy string at the bottom of each post, e.g. this post would be:

      “Vridar blog””Vridar”

      NB: Theoretically this could be accomplished dynamically so that the terms in the string are updated if the post taxonomy is modified.

        1. • OK, the above XML string is now correctly displayed

          When converted into an ini file it looks like:

          term=”Vridar blog”


          • So why am I proposing that an ugly XML string should be appended to the bottom of each post?
          1. It will always be available if the post is downloaded as HTML, thus the post taxonomy is available to rebuild an index and TOC. And XML strings are easy to parse for programs.
          2. I can readily see the post taxonomy and manually create (ad hoc) a URL to display all posts with similar taxonomies while using the “AND”, “OR” operators with other relevant tags.

    2. A link you meant to post is not there?

      One way of listing the posts that I have liked is at the Archives by Topic, Annotated, (https://vridar.org/series-index/) page in the right column. Each of the links there opens up to a page listing posts on a topic along with brief notes on what to expect in each post. But that archive is hidden from easy view, in my opinion. Maybe there’s another way to make such a page more noticeable. Or maybe there’s something else I haven’t considered yet to make that sort of listing more prominent.

      1. Neil, are you up to date on the following?

        Given the following two tags:

        • james-mcgrath
        • richard-carrier

        Get posts with all of the tags (i.e. via the “AND” operator) by passing tag parameters via the URL.


        By passing parameters via the URL, WordPress will create pages for the intersections of multiple tags. This means we can get posts with any of the tags by separating terms with a comma, like so: /?tag=onetag,anothertag. That is to say a post must have one but need not have all of the tags to qualify.

        Conversely, we can get posts with all of the tags by separating terms with a plus, like so: /?tag=onetag+anothertag. This will return only posts that have every tag.

        NB: Categories can also be similarly displayed.

        1. Thanks. I’ll need to set aside some time to step back and have a more comprehensive look at options. Look forward to my IT partner here being free to help out — he’s preoccupied with real life at the moment.

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