It’s great to see that René Salm still adds to his website. His latest is a response to arguments that the passage in Josephus’s Antiquities about John the Baptist is part of the original Josephan text:
Further, I have added more chapters to the Bruno Bauer page. Interesting thoughts that arise:
1. The temptations of Jesus in the wilderness are actually the temptations of the Church;
2. It makes little sense for a great founder or teacher to be declaring that a “greater” is following him — the founder is necessarily the greater one;
3. Contrary to what we read about the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, no teacher has ever started out by calling for a team of disciples. Disciples must always follow after the work of teaching has been underway for some time and making an impact.
Thank you for keeping Vridar on your reading list.
I’ve been too much out of touch with Vridar for some weeks now with a series of hospitalizing mishaps (ranging from illness to accidents (plural) to acts of the thunder god Zeus (yes, he does exist) blowing out various power and internet connections) and various family responsibilities (including assisting with help for my 93 year old mother some distance from where I normally live). Here’s hoping I have served as the scapegoat for Vridar readers so may none of these misfortunes fall upon any of you in 2020.
And thanks to Tim, too, for the tech work in putting the blog on a more reliable server to eliminate those outage times. And thanks, too, for those who have assisted financially to maintain a more reliable online presence.
Now that I am almost two-thirds of the way through the first round (of 3 to 4) of categorizing and tagging my 3700+ posts here it has become painfully apparent to me that a blog is not the appropriate storage area for many types of posts.
The blog allows for labelling content by categories and tags. Categories are broad conceptual terms while tags are for the many details. I have come to see that this classification system is designed to show readers what sorts of content is mostly found on a blog. That’s all very fine for some purposes, I am sure, but it is not what I want. My problem is that I have an “information science” background and I want to have a system that allows users to see fairly easily and quickly if there is a post here that might be of use to them. The categories and tagging system does not serve that purpose. It only (more or less) tells viewers the main biases of broad conceptual content that dominates a blog. Not the same thing by a long shot.
Categories and tags are fine for alerting web crawlers to what’s what when comparing or harvesting info from different sites, but they are not very useful for alerting viewers if there is something here that is of particular interest to them.
Some people have urged me in the past to separate my political content from my biblical posts so that I run two blogs. Ironically, it is the political side that lends itself more easily to the categories and tagging controls. A political blog focuses more on regular updates and is the sort of thing a blog is designed for. Though I also like to do background research posts on certain political issues and once again those sorts of posts are not ideally placed on a blog.
I am beginning to think that I ought to move, copy or somehow at least link the bulk of my and Tim’s posts to a static website instead — at least one which opens with a clear table of contents that narrows down to multiple indices.
I did have in mind a Topic Map (TAO) — I thought that would be ideal: it would, I thought, enable all sorts of cross-searching of terms, linking concepts, drawing out all sorts of answers along with related possible spin-off options. But I see that Topic Map technology has passed me by and is no longer a bee’s knees thing. I am out of touch and must catch up to see if there is a stable replacement yet available.
But that’s not going to happen before next week, maybe more than a year, even. My first task is to complete the first round of doing a “rough and ready” classification of posts with a crude category and tagging system. It will have many overlapping and grey areas but those will be refined in future iterations and refinements. Going on to 4000 posts is a lot for one person to sort through, but it has to be done, and no point putting it off any longer — as I have been doing for too long already.
We loved one another when we met. I had left religion behind but still had an intellectual passion to understand the origins of the Bible and Christianity. I loved joining your company in online forums and you excited me a little each time you indicated some appreciation for any small contribution I could make. There was Mahlon Smith, Stevan Davies, Mark Goodacre. . . Even when James McGrath and I first met over his little volume The Burial of Jesus we expressed sincere appreciation for the opportunity to have had our thought-provoking exchanges. The main motivation for starting this blog was to share the fascinating things I was learning from specialist scholars. One of the first books I read and loved was John Shelby Spong’s Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism. If only I had known years ago what I now knew after reading his book how much saner and less tortured my life could have been. I had the opportunity to meet Spong in the flesh one year and thank him for the doors he had opened for me. Then there was Marlene Winell’s Leaving the Fold. I loved the opportunity to share what I was learning from scholars about my past experiences, and my new understanding of the real nature of the Bible.
So what happened? Why, now, do we find ourselves being scorned and dismissed with contempt by the James McGraths, the Jim Wests, the Roger Pearses, the Larry Hurtados, the James Crossleys? Anthony Le Donne loved what he read on this blog until one of his colleagues tapped him on the shoulder and took him aside for a private talk. The list goes on. Fortunately there are also scholars, some in the field of biblical studies, who I have met and who continue to express appreciation for what Tim and I are doing here, and I sometimes think that without them as sanity checks I might have given up well before now. One well respected academic asked that I keep our correspondence confidential and I have respected that with all who have offered a supportive word. It really is too easy to arouse a hostile environment in some parts of the academy.
So what happened to bring this blog into . . . “controversy” seems too mild a word. It is clear that some of the most spiteful critics have never read or attempted to engage with the posts here. Maybe at best they skimmed (fast enough to avoid contamination) a few lines with hostile intent.
Now I’m having a hard time suggesting appropriate posts he might like to add. Readers who have suggestions of anything that might be appropriate for readers without some of the controversial background we are used to in English are welcome to add them here in comments.
I have reset the spreadsheet in my previous post to ensure the stats are fully visible. Meanwhile I was thinking of doing the same sort of analysis on Tim O’Neill’s recent post but the tone of that one does not even rise to the level of double digits and it is Tim once again exercising his unenviable talent for insult and slander. He’s about as low in the gutter as one can go but somehow I suspect a number of scholars opposed to mythicism will be thankful for his contribution. No thank you. Where is the memory of Philip Davies when we need him?
I am painfully aware of the number of series I have started on Vridar and that are still not complete. The most recent one is my series of posts examining the arguments for and against the term “rulers of this age” in 1 Corinthians 2:6-8 meaning spiritual powers as opposed to earthly authorities (in particular Herod, Caiaphas, Pilate) or even the combination of earthly and demonic powers.
The reason for this waywardness is that as I go through an article or chapter point by point I always come across citations (or recollections in my own mind) that alert me to either an alternative explanation or a supportive collection of evidence. It is my habit, or is it a compulsion, to follow those citations, recollections, alternatives or contradictions, supportive or related information. And as I follow those side-tracks I often come across something that reminded me of a point I posted a while ago and that could be augmented further.
The additional information I want is often delayed in arriving because sometimes I can only access some sources by inter-library loan or an online purchase of a second hand book somewhere. Even if I can access a source sooner it still takes me time to read it and follow up further important-looking citations.
So do forgive me my out-of-control meandering through the many tributaries of information that deflect me from my original intention to finish a series within a handful of posts within a week or no more.
I do “promise” (fingers crossed behind my back) to finish at least the “rulers of this age” post this week. (Unless something I ordered online yesterday arrives sooner than I expected and opens up a whole new perspective that in itself needs further….. )
I should say to myself, No excuses. Just finish one job at a time as if I am a student with a deadline that has to be met or fail!
The first thing that surprised me was that a Reddit discussion would even raise my name as a topic. I have no idea who the poster is but I would be interested to know his associations with anyone I have crossed swords with in the past.
He says Vridar fails to rely(?) ”
almost solely on academic sources” (that’s news to me)
posts “opinion pieces” (is there any discussion or argument that is not an expression of opinion?)
“avoids original research” (well, I am an amateur and my interests and purposes are all set out in the “About Vridar” sections of this blog)
Further, Vridar is said to “evoke a scholarly feel” with “bombast language and numerous citations”. To my mind bombast language by definition cannot evoke any sort of scholarly feel. I used to provide very few citations but since partnering with Tim I have learned to lift my game in that respect.
But there is further criticism. Tim and I are said to “consistently downplay our armchair status”! Oh. Well, I don’t know how we could have made it any clearer that we are just a couple of amateurs as we have pointed out several times in our posts and as we make very clear in our “About Vridar/Author profile” sections. And as is surely clear from some of the commendations of this blog that we have posted.
And despite all the posts where we favourably cite scholarly arguments, because we do present reasons we believe other scholarly arguments are flawed, now that seems to be the real “no-no” and reason we are not to be trusted.
And from there the discussion proceeds.
I’d like to comment myself but don’t seem to be able to access that forum for some reason. Meanwhile, perhaps some sympathetic readers might like to add their own comments there.
By now 2018 has surely arrived for all of you. Thanks for your interest, both critical and positive. I’m looking forward to exploring new ideas and old ideas more deeply this coming year. No doubt Tim is, too.
Warning. I know many readers don’t like everything we write but I will but I do hope to be writing more posts again like the one I have begun recently on Olivier Roy’s Jihad and Death. Feel free to engage critically with the posts you don’t like. The name Vridar was taken from the main character in Vardis Fisher’s quasi-autobiographical novel, Orphans of Gethsemane. Vridar emerged out of a Mormon upbringing to find a new identity and exploratory understandings not only of religion but of humanity itself. At one point he opined
The human animal was a terrible thing, not only in its lack of capacity to change-itself, but in its contentedness with what it was.
The irony was that Vridar did demonstrate a capacity to change and to refuse to be contented with what he was, and that he made contact with many other Vridars along his journey. Here’s to whatever challenges and opportunities 2018 brings and hoping all goes well with you, too.