writing things down…

Archive for November, 2006

The Lost Sheep have returned, but not unscathed

Thanks to a fellow blogger and seemingly all around good guy, John Lyons, I have been able to re-post my lost blog submissions. There were five. Any comments are lost and the links are gone. I can’t do anything about the lost comments, but you can. Feel free to remark on these posts. I will try to go back through and recreate the original links within the posts. For now you can read (or re-read as the case may be) the posts:

1. NA27 with dictionary

2. Reflections on writing

3. Summary of Berlinerblau’s take on the SBL

4. One reaction to Berlinerblau’s article

5. The buzz about Berlinerblau


It’s nearly midnight in Washington D.C.  I’ve made it here for the annual SBL/AAR convention, the penultimate joint convention in fact.  I’ve got an early breakfast in the morning, but my body thinks it is not yet 9pm, so I am sitting the lobby of the Holiday Inn writing this blog post.  If my energy keeps up over the weekend I will report in to the blog about the daily events.  If not, I’ll be back to posting upon my return to LA.  For the record here’s what I am planning to attend:


  • The Use, Influence, and Impact of the Bible Consultation
  • Theological Hermeneutics of Christian Scripture Group


  • Christian Theology and the Bible Section
  • Theological Hermeneutics of Scripture Group


  • Christian Theology and the Bible Section
  • Theological Hermeneutics of Christian Scripture Group/Christian Theology and the Bible Section

Do you see a trend?

This is what happened!

I am quite upset, but I do not know if there is anything I can do about it. Any advice? Read the support ticket diaglogue below.

[Update #2: I received two more responses to my inquiry.  The first was just some tech thing saying that my site had been transferred to a new server, blah, blah.  The second was a short thank you for my patience and a free month’s subscription.  Neither of them looked to be responding to my specific note to Stanley (see Update #1).  In the end there is nothing I can do about it.  A few smaller changes and two of my longest posts to date are now gone.  Before I completely forget, I remember posting the following: 1) NA27 with dictionary; 2) Reflection on Writing; 3) Summary of Berlinerblau article on what is wrong with the SBL; 4) Reflection on Berlinerblau article; 5) Quick note about the buzz Berlinerblau’s article created.  Am I missing something?  Given my erratic posting schedule, those lost two weeks were some of my most productive.  I will certainly explore other server options once my contract with SiteGround runs out.  The sad thing is that I have been very happy with them up to this point.  They just happened to have screwed up when I was most active.]

[Update #1: I replied to Stanley of the SiteGround Support Team with the following: “Stanley, I am quite upset, as you can imagine. What is SiteGround’s response to the matter? I assume there are others like me who lost a good deal of information. I do not think it is good customer service to simply say you were unable to restore backups. It is not much, but I have lost two weeks worth of work, which I will not be able to duplicate, and I have and will lose a good deal of time trying to rectify the situation. I would feel better about my relationship with SiteGround if I knew they were doing more than saying ‘Oops!'”]

ID: 127260 Domain: dcspinks.com
Issue Date: 2006-11-15 01:43pm Owner:
Category: Service Related Problems->FTP related problems->My ftp service is down
Subject: My ftp service is down
Description: I have no idea if this is the right area within which to ask about this problem. I do not do anything with my site other than run a WordPress blog. Last night I noticed that everything I had done from Nov. 1 to Nov. 13 had disappeared – posts, new categories, etc.. I could see record of the posts on Technorati and other related sites, but linking to the post directly from these sites sent me to nothing. I’d like to know where these posts are. I suspect that something was lost in the recent server upgrade. Can these posts be recovered? Was there something that I did that could have led to their being lost? Like I said, I do nothing more than keep this blog on my siteground hosted site. Please help. I did not save copies of the posts on my hard drive. I assumed they would be safe with you. Thanks.
Replies: 2006-11-15 01:47pm by stanley Hello Chris,We are still working on migrating your account. Most of the information from the server has already been migrated on the new machine, however, it will take a few more hours before we complete the whole transfer.Once the transfer is completed, we will update the message in your Customer area – Get Support section – Server Status check. If you continue to experience any problems after the transfer is completed, please reopen this ticket so that we can assist you further.Please excuse us for this inconvenience.

If you need further help, please do not hesitate to consult our HelpDesk.

Best Regards,

Stanley Cooper
Support Team

2006-11-16 10:07am by dcspinks Thanks for your prompt reply. Unfortunately, although the Server Status Check reads that all is OK, I am still missing all changes made to my site in the first two weeks of November (1-13). Please advise.
2006-11-16 12:57pm by stanley Hello Chris,Unfortunately, due to the hardware failures we have experienced, we have restored the latest backup of your account, which we could find. Alas, the latest backups, were on one of the damaged hard drives and we were unable to restore most of the backups from it.If you need further help, please do not hesitate to consult our HelpDesk.Best Regards,

Stanley Cooper
Support Team

What happened?

Is there anybody out there that can explain why everything that I have done on the blog in the month of November would suddenly disappear?

I am at a complete loss.

Berlinerblau and the SBL: The Buzz

Apparently Berlinerblau’s article has hit a nerve with several bloggers. I’ve bookmarked a few here (my del.icio.us). See even more here (technorati search) or here (google search).

Is Jacques Berlinerblau sick?: Edginess and Relevance

Sorry, Jacques. I recognize that the title of the post is a little cheeky. [For links and my summary of Jacques Berlinerblau’s article in the November 10 issue of the Chronicle Review see yesterday’s post.]

In an attempt to follow Scot McKnight’s advice and work on shorter pieces, I have decided to take Berlinerblau’s article in pieces. Today’s question: “Does an academician or an academic society have to be edgy and controversial to be relevant?”

Berlinerblau, as you may recall, diagnosed the SBL as allergic to thinking critically about itself. One of the presenting symptoms was that it was not edgy, controversial or even relevant. Underneath this diagnosis is an image of what the SBL should be. I get the sense that Berlinerblau would like to see the SBL become a society for “a field of broad sociology or political theory” (thanks to an unnamed mentor for this phrase). Whether this is true or not, I wonder how an academic society with the sort of variety found in the SBL can, as a society, be edgy or controversial. I think by its very existence it promotes scholarship that can be and often is relevant. One need only watch the History channel long enough to see that the media does in fact turn to SBL members for “queries and concerns about Scripture”. One does not need to be on the NY Times bestsellers list to be relevant. I am not so sure the SBL can speak with a univocal voice on edgy and controversial issues. There are too many voices. Maybe that is the problem for Berlinerblau. If it is, then he really would like to see the SBL become something quite different than what it is. It is not clear to me how else the SBL could be edgy or controversial. And, it is not clear that it needs to be in order for it and its members to be relevant. I think it is better to talk about the members of the society being edgy, controversial and relevant. I have observed members that fit into all of these categories. I have also witnessed some who are “unthreatening and placid”. What is wrong with a society that makes space and gives forums for all sorts of scholars to get together and talk about all sorts of biblical issues? The society ought to encourage members to be edgy, controversial, unthreatening and placid, as long as they are relevant. And, on this issue of relevance, I think Berlinerblau’s observations are challenging. I just don’t think the society itself is the one responsible for being relevant. It is the responsibility of its members. Berlinerblau is an SBL member. Let him write and speak on relevant subjects. I am sure he has and will. But, he wonders if heretical appraisals are not given room to emerge frequently enough. Would they be heretical appraisals if they did emerge frequently? Isn’t it the nature of heresy to be over against the majority perspective? I do not see that heretical appraisals are failing to emerge in the SBL. Maybe they are not emerging enough for Berlinerblau. But how frequently can they emerge and still be heretical? Berlinerblau rightly reminds us “that some of the very best thinking in the history of biblical scholarship has come forth precisely from heretics.” I would want to remind Berlinerblau that an equal amount of the best thinking (if not more) has come from non-heretical scholars. Good scholarship does not have to “trespass upon dogmatic boundaries”. Furthermore, sometimes good scholarship comes from within those boundaries and challenges them to be moved. When Berlinerblau says “[trespassing on dogmatic boundaries is] what scholars do,” I think he is not being fair. It should be “what SOME scholars do.” And, he is right, trespassing on boundaries is “hard to do, or dangerous to do, down at the seminary.” But, isn’t it equally difficult for some scholars to purposefully stay within the boundaries down at the university? Won’t they be branded as naive, narrow-minded fundamentalists? Just a thought. Not completely sure if I have refuted Berlinerblau. I more wanted to raise questions about his observations. I’d like to hear what you have to say about edginess and relevance.

Future considerations:

  1. Is the SBL too confessional or even too evangelical? Are “non-believers” being shut out? Do graduates of theological seminaries have an advantage? [I wish!] And more broadly, is it fair to speak on the whole about evangelicals, fundamentalists, neo-evanglicals, and neo-fundamentalists as one group?
  2. Is the SBL too specialized? Does it thwart interdisciplinary interpretation? Are the specialized articles of the JBL a fair representation of the SBL membership?
  3. Is the SBL abandoning the issue of of the Bible “outside the temporal frame of antiquity”?

I’ve just realized that I have framed all of these questions in the yes/no mold. This is in direct opposition to what I try to get my students to do when they construct research questions. Yes/no questions cut conversation short. In my defense, I am taking observations made by Berlinerblau and asking if they are fair observations. In that sense I am asking yes/no questions. I just wish I would have framed them differently now. They are too leading and combative. I’ll have to work on that as I try to develop this habit of writing.

Is the SBL sick?

In the most recent Chronicle Review (November 10, 2006), Jacques Berlinerblau insists that the Society of Biblical Literature suffers from an allergy. He states that the SBL “is allergic to even thinking clearly and critically about itself, or listening to the concerns of its members.” Berlinerblau makes this diagnosis based on several presenting symptoms.

The most glaring symptom that Berlinerblau notices in his patient is that it is “unthreatening and placid”. This is striking to Berlinerblau since the Bible in America today is “soaring”. He wonders “why biblical scholarship isn’t sharing in all of this good fortune.” It is puzzling to Berlinerblau why the SBL does not have more “cultural cachet”. He believes his patient should be the one to whom the media and others turn when there is a question concerning the Bible. He goes so far as to state, “The SBL should be to the Bible what FIFA is to soccer.”

Berlinerblau lists other related issues to drive home the point that the SBL lacks relevance: no widely discussed books written by biblicists, biblical studies as a college major is in decline and usually housed in religious studies departments, many universities do not even have a biblical scholar on faculty, and there is no biblical scholar who has emerged as a public intellectual. Why, he asks, do so few in America listen to biblical scholars?

Berlinerblau recognizes that these symptoms are caused by several ills, but the one that stands out the most is the antipathy of the SBL to a vision. He claims the SBL “does not understand itself, or its membership, or its anomalous position in the comity of academic disciplines. It can’t have a vision until it sees itself for what it really is.”

For the sake of brevity, let me get right to Berlinerblau’s prognosis: too much confessional influence either by the context or the education of most SBL members. And so, “if nearly all biblical scholarship takes place within an explicit or implicit theological framework,” Berlenerblau claims, “then the discipline itself will flounder.” Given the variety of confessions within the SBL, it has done a commendable job of promoting interfaith dialogue. The problem with this, according to Berlinerblau, is that “[i]n a field whose operating principle is ecumenical banter, there is little place, or tolerance, for the heretic,” and “some of the very best thinking in the history of biblical scholarship has come forth precisely from heretics.”

Before giving his suggestion for treatment, Berlinerblau notes one last symptom of the allergy from which the SBL suffers. It encourages scholarly specialization, favoring “philology and archaeology, all the while avoiding the more capacious domain of hermeneutics.” Hermenutics, Berlinerblau rightly claims, “forces one to be a generalist. It is a diachronic enterprise through and through.” “So any attempt to study its continued interpretation must be interdisciplinary,” he writes, “and the scholar in question will have to step outside of well-defined fields of inquiry.” I have reserved commentary up to this point, and in fact I won’t offer much until tomorrow (or some other day) in a reflection on Berlinerblau’s comments, wherein I anticipate disagreeing with him at several points. However, on this last problem, I think Berlinerblau is spot on with regard to the nature of hermeneutics. I am just not sure the SBL’s umbrella is not big enough to fit both the specialists and the generalists, and I am not sure there is not a healthy dose of hermeneutical discussion already going on in the SBL. Of course, it may be of a more confessional nature and therefore ruled out on principle by Berlinerblau. I will say more later.

Berlinerblau’s plan for treatment: the SBL should 1) learn better its constituency; 2) learn better how to connect with lay audiences; 3) “devote thought and resources to the creation of a form of biblical scholarship that goes beyond theology and ecumenical dialogue.” He offers several specific suggestions about how the SBL might implement such treatment. These suggestions include 1) surveying the SBL membership, especially in order to find out how “evangelical” they are; 2) adopt a goal for creating 100 new positions in secular universities; 3) include more accessible titles in its publication series; 4) create a panel of SBL members to investigate disputes regarding alleged infringements of scholarly freedom; 5) suspend or abandon the ecumenical model.

Ultimately, it seems to me, what Berlinerblau wants is an SBL that is secular through and through. It’s an argument we’ve heard before. It’s just has not caught hold and I do not think it ever will. And I don’t think it’s because biblical scholars are a bunch of narrow-minded confessionalists.

Tomorrow I hope to comment on some of Berlinerblau’s thoughts. Initially, I am struck by the seeming opposite directions secularists and confessionalists are headed. On the one hand, we have people like Berlinerblau and Davies wanting to take the Bible out of the Church, at least for academic purposes. While on the other hand, we have a whole slew of very qualified and competent biblical scholars calling for better bridges between biblical scholarship and theology. The first group claims the second group does not understand academic scholarship, or if they do understand it they mistreat it. The second group claims the first group does not understand the nature of the texts to which their scholarship is directed, or if they do understand it they mistreat it. I am more inclined to throw my hat in with the second group. The first group seems more intent on preserving an ideal academician. The second group seems more intent on treating the subject matter for what it is.


Scot McKnight has recently written a nice blog post about writing. I am at once inspired and conflicted. First the inspiration:

Scot writes, “writing is a lifestyle, a way of life, a way of being, a modus operandi, a way of breathing and eating and drinking. Better yet, writing is a way of learning, a way of coming to know what someone wants to know, a way of discovering.” Later he notes, “writing isn’t done on the side. It’s in the soul, it’s a way of being…”

I want to develop this sort of lifestyle. I dream of writing articles and reviews. At the very least, I dream of writing more consistently on the blog. And so the conflict sets in. Scot offers sage advice for “young professors”. Or, rather, he points out a couple of mistakes “young professors” make.

The first and biggest mistake, Scot says, “is the (almost always) mistaken notion that they will write during the summer break full-time or they’ll wait until the Christmas break or over the Spring Break.” The second mistake is that young professors too often begin by trying to write a book instead of beginning with smaller pieces (articles, reviews, even blog posts!). The smaller pieces allow the young professors to develop a habit of writing.

I have several difficulties with these “mistakes”. On the one hand, I am keen to try to avoid them. But, while I am relatively young, I am only an adjunct professor, which means I must either be married to someone making enough money to support us, living in fairly extreme poverty with no insurance, or holding down a “real” job elsewhere. I have chosen the latter. So, most quarters I teach a class or two (only at night and/or online) and work full time in an assistant administrative position. Time outside of the 40-hour-per-week job is usually taken up with class prep and grading, not to mention the recent season of job hunting. I also try to make space for family, church and social activities. Where does writing fit into this? Maybe a blog post every 7-10 days–substantive posts are even further apart!

But, I think I must begin with these smallest of pieces. When I find the time (or make the time, as the case may be), I would like to write more formal pieces. I’ve mentioned before that I would like to write a formal review article on the two theological commentaries. I am just not sure when that will be. I want to avoid the mistake of saying I will wait for a break, but I really do need a break!
In addition to the conflict of time, I am also conflicted by couple of other things Scot brings up. First, Scot differentiates between writers who write about what they know (ex. F. F. Bruce) and those who write about what they don’t know (ex. Jimmy Dunn). The former produce textbooks; the latter suggestions, innovations, explorations, and experiments. Which of these am I? It is still too early to know. I really don’t know a whole lot, so I do not fit into the former category. There is a lot that I don’t know, ans so, I suppose writing about those things might be good. However, I think that one must know a good deal before one can write well about what one does not know. It is easier, though, to begin writing about what I don’t know. It could be that I simply write about the things as I learn them myself. Or, it could be that I write about things as I would enter a conversation–ask questions when I am confused and offer opinions when I have something to add.

Second, Scot ends his post with the following: “[writing is] not for everyone. It’s a scribbler’s itch to get it down.” Do I have this itch? What if I don’t? Am I doomed before I even get to the “young professor” stage? Are there ways other than writing that one can “begin the day in the mind wondering how best to express a thought”?

The conflict about time is really a conflict of priorities. What do I value enough to fill my time with it? There are some adjustments I can make, but in the end at this point I don’t have the time I would like to have to write. I think Scot’s advice to start small is sound practical advice for me. Even with little time, habits of writing can be developed. The other conflicts are conflicts about me, who I am. Do I have a writer’s itch, and if I do what sort of writer might I be? I am not aware of an overwhelming writer’s itch. I do have a sense that I want to be a part of some very interesting conversations, and in that way there may be an itch that I need to scratch. I am also not aware of what sort of writer I may be. Am I better at dissemination of stored knowledge? Or, am I better at analysis, critique, questioning, suggesting, etc? I do not think these two styles are necessarily exclusive of one another. Scot’s advice about starting small is once again sound. This time it is sound not so much for practical reasons but for stylistic reasons. With smaller pieces writers can begin to develop or nurture the style that is theirs.

Now the question is, what do I write about?

Where have I been?

I must have missed something somewhere. I did not know that the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graeca 27th Edition was available with a Concise Greek-English Dictionary. I’ve always known that the UBS 4th revised edition was available with a dictionary, but not the NA 27th. Now I know!