Saturday, December 29, 2007

Why Did Caesar Cross?

A break from the biblical. . .

It's frequently noted, in the spirit of Schweitzer, that the Quest of the Historical Jesus is not unlike looking into a deep well and seeing your own, somewhat distorted, face staring back at you. The same can be said of the "Quest of the Historical Julius Caesar" (if you use that phrase, I expect royalties).

There is a general tendency in biographies of Caesar to attribute to him great or noble causes in his civil war (or, as Caesar would have it, "civil disputes."). Caesar fought for the betterment of Rome, for justice, for liberty, to collapse the antiquated Senate. Which is why it's so refreshing to find the contrary spelled out in the opening pages of Christian Meier's Caesar: A Biography.

Meier forgoes such romanticism in favour of the obvious: Caesar fought for Caesar, and for Caesar alone. That is what our sources uniformly attest to. On the banks of the Rubicon Caesar weighed his own misfortune against the potential misfortune of all men, and decided it was best to avoid the former at the cost of the latter. It was swiftness of thought, not purity of heart, that made Caesar great.

To be sure, Caesar's war was not with "Rome," per se--it was, at least to him, always a matter between him and his enemies (hence his mandate that those not against him were his allies, which led to a pattern of clemency that helped him tremendously in his victory). He was not out to actively harm civilians, so long as they kept out of it. But he was not terribly concerned about the obvious fact that his actions would be to their detriment.

Caesar's cause was always to avert his own misfortune--there was no other crusade behind it. It is, I suppose, difficult to accept the conscious decision to harm the many for your own gain, which no doubt influences the tendency to exonerate Caesar of such a choice. But it is not without reason that Cicero opined that the civil war lacked nothing save a cause.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Quote of the Day - Jesus Was Not a Covenantal Nomist

For it is historically improbable that, after Easter, Jesus’ disciples carried on a mission to ’the lost sheep of the house of Israel’ (Mt. 10.6; 15.24) if Jesus himself never thought Israel was lost.


Dale C. Allison Jr., Jesus and the Covenant: A Response to E P Sanders, JSNT 9.57 (1987), p.74.

Allison here eloquently puts to rest Sanders' suggestion that Jesus was a covenantal nomist (eg Jesus and Judaism, p.336). The entire Christian movement is difficult to reconcile with a Jesus who accepted covenantal nomism (John the Baptist seems to have been considered as a forerunner in this regard--Matt.3.9 is a flat rejection of covenantal nomism, as Allison points out).

Sunday, December 23, 2007

What the. . .

Huh. According to Wikio, this is the 97th most influential blog related to. . .business? I'd recommend readers get their information from somebody other than Wikio, apparently.

Busy, busy December. More posting in January.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 07, 2007

Mini Biblical Studies Carnivalette

Over on MetaCatholic, Doug Chaplin gives us a "little unofficial Biblical Studies Carnivalette" in the absence of an official carnival appearing yet for November.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

As reported by James Davila and Jim West, John Strugnell, former editor-in-chief of the Dead Sea Scrolls, passed away November 30, at the age of 77.

For whatever his faults, Strugnell was nonetheless, to steal Davila's term, a giant.

RIP.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Quote of the Day

I am still left wondering what one has really gained by the application of the criteria of authenticity. If I apply these criteria to a given saying or deed, what assurance will it provide for me? Does it really anchor the idea in the historical person of Jesus? Can we really separate the authors from their traditions? Can we really distinguish the author’s historical point of view from the story they narrate? The fact is these criteria cannot be applied neutrally and will be affected by the one using them. Moreover, it is unrealistic to think that these criteria can act as a neutral arbiter between two competing views.


Joel Willitts, Presuppositions and Procedures in the Study of the ‘Historical Jesus’: Why I Decided Not to be an Historical Jesus Scholar, JSHJ 3.1, p.107

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Christmas still looks good, Q not so much. . .

First McGrath. Then Goodacre, and now back over on Exploring Our Matrix, James McGrath offers some more thoughts on how the differences make Q. I must disagree.

Why, for example, would we assume that Luke, once he'd decided to alter Matthew's genealogy, would bother to laboriously copy "more of the names" the same? That seems remarkably tedious to me, I probably couldn't be bothered were I him.

The reason for that is probably my biggest problem with McGrath's line of reasoning: It requires us to assume that Luke was naive. If Luke wasn't naive, he probably couldn't be bothered either.

Surely if Luke sat down with Matthew and Mark in front of him, fully intending to redact them in to something new, he would be fully aware that Matthew had done the same. The Exodus symbolism is patently obvious to us, for example, why should we assume that Luke missed it? And if he didn't, why would he regard it as authoritative in the sense that he does Mark?

If, continuing with the Exodus example, Luke rejects Jesus as the second Exodus--even symbolically--why would he wish to keep Matthew's infancy, knowing full well what Matthew has created? There doesn't seem to be much room in Luke's gospel for a second Moses--this would seem to be a reasonable position to take.

Even beyond Lukan sympathies, surely some of Luke's narrative was influenced by a knowledge of historical realities. While I have no pretenses about "Luke the Historian," it's easy to see, for example, why he might omit the slaughter of the innocents: He knew it wasn't true. If you were Luke, and realized that, how seriously would you take Matthew's narrative? How much authority would you grant it?

And there are points of similarity between the infancies. Perhaps most notably in the case of the virgin birth. The virgin birth fairly reeks of Matthean creation to me, so how does Luke know it? We might get around this by suggesting that Luke had received oral tradition that was shaped by Matthew, but now we've just moved the problem back. Surely Luke didn't hear only the virgin birth, so why did nothing else he received orally make the cut? Why did he revise that oral tradition? Q doesn't solve that difficulty. The differences don't make Q, Q just makes the differences somebody else's problem.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Blog Reading Level

Huh. Go figure.



I have to say, I'm more than a little skeptical of the results (NTGateway is apparently "College Undergrad," while Hypotyposeis is "High School." Man, those are some smart kids). But, skeptical or not, I'll let it feed my ego for today. At least until it gives me a complex wondering whether or not my blog is unaccessible. . .


ETA Apparently my most recent post made me smarter. Now I'm:



That I'll definitely let feed my ego.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Blomberg on the Synoptic Problem

Over on The Stuff of the Earth, Michael Pahl has an interesting post regarding Craig Blomberg and the shift toward the Farrer-Goulder hypothesis in solving the Synoptic problem (though, in the light of this shift, should we perhaps start calling it the Farrer-Goulder-Goodacre hypothesis instead?).

What's particularly neat about it isn't that the shift is occurring, so much as what should be attributed as its cause. Goulder has indicated in the past that he always achieved local success in persuading people against the 2SH. People he engaged were more likely to be persuaded by him, and the effect was diminished the farther one got away. This would seem to indicate that while it's ultimately Goodacre's (and Goulder's, and Farrer's, of course) argument that's winning the day, it's his presence online that opened up the battlefield. Yet another example of how the digital age is changing the playing field.

In a similar vein, I'd encourage readers to view Goodacre's post on synoptic problem terminology, particularly the comments by Frank McCoy. As one who thinks that John's copy of Luke wasn't much farther away than Luke's copy of Matthew, I definitely sympathize with McCoy's points.

Update Be sure to check out Hypotyposeis, where Stephen Carlson weighs in on the question of synoptic terminology

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Essential Reference Collection

I was asked recently "How many of these do you actually use?" referring to my numerous Bible Dictionaries, Encyclopedias and the like. While my answer, "All of them," was not dishonest, it might have been a little disingenuous--some of them get used an awful, awful lot more than the others. So today we honour those, with a list of the essential reference books for any dilettante exegete. Primary sources are a given, so won't be included in the list (if you don't have a hard or digital copy of the Nag Hammadi finds, or Josephus, you probably shouldn't be getting a Bible Dictionary yet anyway).

1) The Anchor Bible Dictionary One of the priciest tomes on the list. Six volumes, 350 bucks, worth every penny. It's not the best because it's popular, it's popular because it's the best. Do yourself a favor and buy the digital version from Logos.

2) The IVP Dictionaries Yeah, yeah, I'm sneaking three books in here, but only because they're a series. The Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, The Dictionary Of Jesus and the Gospels and The Dictionary of the Later New Testament and its Development. There's also some OT volumes, which I don't have, so can't really comment on.

3) The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible I debated whether or not this one should appear, for two reasons. Firstly, it's a primary source, which I said I'd neglect at the outset. But it's not one most people have (or think to get), so it passed that test. The second is that how valuable one finds it depends on how sectarian one views the creation of the texts: It's more difficult to view it as a very valuable witness if we consider it being created in isolation. Since I tend against this view, it finds its way here.

4) Oxford Dictionaries of. . . I have half a dozen of these, so I'm sneaking a bunch in again. While not as thorough as some of the other volumes named here, the Oxford Dictionaries nonetheless provide a quick, useful overview of their entries (Oxford Dictionary of the Bible, Oxford Dictionary of Classical Myth and Religion, Oxford Dictionary of People and Places in the Bible, etc.)

5) The IVP Bible Background Commentary (OT & NT) Snuck two in again. I'm crafty like that. A normative commentary will help you see how someone else has understood it. These "Bible Background" commentaries will help you understand it yourself.

6) Harper's Bible Dictionary This, the Anchor Bible Dictionary, and Eerdman's Bible Dictionary almost go without saying. . .

7) Eerdman's Bible Dictionary . . .But I'll say it anyway.

8) Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (NT) A collection of ancient citations and applications of Biblical passages. You'll need to take out a second mortgage to buy it, but it'll be worth every penny. Peter Kirby's e-catena provides something similar, but it's nowhere near as exhaustive. The OT volumes aren't quite finished yet (I believe 3 still remain), but I can't justify the purchase for the OT anyway, being somewhat outside of my area of interest. Do yourself a favor again: Get it from Logos. Also available on Accordance for you Mac cultists :P

Friday, November 02, 2007

Free Access to Sage Journals For the Month of November

Wow. This jaw-droppingly good news was just passed on to the XTalk list. Free registration is required, and all things considered, a small price to pay.

https://online.sagepub.com/

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Bibliobloggers at Eisenbrauns

Eisenbrauns sale for Nov. 2007 features a selection from the Biblioblogosphere. I'll probably take the opportunity to pick up a new copy of The Case Against Q, since my daughter has taken to ripping pages out of my existing one. Other must reads for anyone looking for a good deal, Carlson's The Gospel Hoax and Crossley's The Date of Mark's Gospel (though the cover displayed is for the wrong book). While I haven't yet read April DeConick's The Thirteenth Apostle, at 15 bucks I shall have soon--one really can't go wrong at that price.

Biblical Studies Carnival

Time for the obligatory mention of this month's Biblical Studies Carnival (the 23rd), over on Ancient Hebrew Poetry.

He also includes a post script, calling for more atheist or Jewish bibliobloggers. While I wouldn't deny the heavy presence of evangelical bibliobloggers (and the frequent debates pertinent only to them), I think his overall sentiment might reflect more what's on his blogroll than what's in the blogosphere. In many cases, I'd think the reason that so few non-Christians partake in some of the discussions isn't so much that we aren't here, or don't have a voice, it's that we simply don't care--that's not a dig at those who do, it's just that the subject matter of the "monologues" frequently isn't of interest to us (for an easy example, it doesn't matter how many times the Good Doc West mentions Zwingli, I'm still not going to read him).

Does Hobbins' sentiment, "It bothers me when Bible blogdom becomes a monologue among like-minded Christians," really hold to blogs such as The NT Gateway? The Forbidden Gospels? Hypotyposeis? The Busybody? The answer to all of these seems to be a resounding "no."

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Ten Best. . .

Since my percocet prescription has left me too messed up to even follow most blog posts, much less comment on them, even less come up with anything substantial myself, we'll continue the lighter, tech-geeky vein from two days ago. Today I give you the ten best things to ever hit cyberspace:

10) Winamp If you ever used a media player before Winamp you understand exactly why it's here. It's not the best media player anymore. But it was a pioneer.

9) Steve Jobs Man, what a showman. Nobody, nobody, in the tech world does better PR than Apple's ringmaster.

8) Creative Commons "We use private rights to create public goods: creative works set free for certain uses. Like the free software and open-source movements, our ends are cooperative and community-minded, but our means are voluntary and libertarian. We work to offer creators a best-of-both-worlds way to protect their works while encouraging certain uses of them — to declare 'some rights reserved.'"

7) Firefox It fails the Acid2 test miserably. While it's generally less likely to be exploited than IE, there's nothing that really makes it inherently more secure, and IE blows it out of the water so thoroughly on virtually any benchmark that its claim to be "faster" is almost comedic. But this open source darling gets the nod anyway. Firstly, for changing what users demand from a browser, secondly for creating arguably the most successful grass roots movement of any tech product ever.

6) IRC Yeah, Bittorrent is better for file sharing. Yep, most IM clients are better for chat. Without IRC, neither would exist. Between PacketNews, XDCCSpy and IRCSpy, it's become a bit of a slum. How I long for the disorganized jungle of yesteryear.

5) Slashdot News for nerds. Stuff that matters.

4) Bittorrent Has it killed the piracy scene? Sure has. Any idiot can now upload their DVDShrink copy to the same place as the 9 Pass CCE scene release. But that's not the point. Bittorrent accounts for some 35% of worldwide bandwidth usage, making it easy to distribute anything from Linux distros, to pirated movies, to clips that have gone down to the Slashdot effect.

3) Linux The first time I installed Linux, it took me a week to figure out how to get everything set up properly. And even then it was half-assed. Earlier this month I set up Gutsy Gibbon, start to finish, in two hours. I assure you that isn't a testament to my improvement, it's a testament to the improvement of Linux. Between Shuttleworth's billions, and the best user community in the world, Linux has become a legitimate contender for the desktop.

2) Open Sourced Software Talk is cheap, show me the code!

1) Google Larry and Sergei, the de facto mayors of the global village. Blogger, GMail, Google Earth, Google Maps, YouTube. . .they used to do one thing, and do it well. Now they've got their fingers in every pie. With a stock price of over $690 and a market cap of some $214B, Google is a juggernaut. They're taking over the world, and I, for one, welcome our new overlords.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Spontaneous Pneumothorax

So I'm minding my own business, a little bit of a sore back (I get a sore back a lot, so thought nothing of it), when I turn and feel the sore back shift around my lung to become a sore chest. Another turn sends it back again. I knew what it was immediately, the shifting is air, which should be inside my lung, but isn't. Mostly because my lung has collapsed--the titular "spontaneous pneumothorax." Good times.

I was sent home in the hope that it'll resolve itself, but have to go for daily X-Rays at the hospital--if it doesn't we get out the old fashioned vacuum tube, cut a hole in my chest, and suck the air out gently for a few days. Which, I can tell you from experience, hurts. A lot.

On a positive note, I've officially quit smoking effective immediately. Plus I get to spend some time with my good friend Percocet. Which makes everything better :-D

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Ten Worst. . .

We've always had room for the tech-geeky here at The Dilettante Exegete (by "we" I mean "me"), so today something a little on the lighter side, the ten worst things to happen to cyberspace:

10) LOLCats What's better than pictures of cats with all-caps spelling out their thoughts in Pidgin English, with ten thousand variations of "I CAN HAS CHEEZBURGER?" No cats at all, that's what.

9) Internet Explorer I'm sure you all thought I'd rate this one higher (lower?). I hate IE. 'Nuff said.

8) Realplayer & Quicktime (tie) It's not only bloated, it also thinks it should be the default media player for, well, everything. A poor quality product that thinks it should be your first choice for all your multimedia needs. That ceaselessly provides you with useless news, and prompts you to upgrade to the "pro" version hourly. Guess which one I'm talking about? That's right, both of them.

7) Windows Server XXXX. Because as any geek will tell you, a server running Windows is a glorified workstation.

6) Apple That's right you disturbing cultists, I said it. Their proprietary architectures are worthy of mention all by themselves Sure, sure Windows ripped you off. True enough. But the fall of the Mac is the fault of Apple and Apple alone. Closed standards never win. As if that isn't enough, they're the original love slaves of DRM, putting the rights of providers over that of consumers. Steve Jobs, you're a genius and a brilliant showman. Apple, you annoy the hell out of me.

5) Steve Ballmer. Who can forget gems like "Linux is a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches" or "Google's not a real company. It's a house of cards." Ballmer, you're an idiot.

4) Bonzi Buddy You remember this irritating purple monkey? It used to pop up everywhere promising to increase search speeds, help you shop, check your email! In the days before Realplayer disclosed it's spyware practices, Bonzi Buddy found an eager audience in naive netizens. If you know anyone who downloaded it, punch them for me. It's their fault it spread.

3) MySpace What's worse than letting anyone who is so inclined create a homepage from a web designer's bad dreams? Making it easy for them to add the mind-numbing sounds of Hawthorne Heights to their bad poetry. Extra points? No screening process lets any pedophile sign up! If you don't hate Murdoch for Fox News, hate him for this.

2) DRM How do I hate thee. Here in Soviet Canuckistan, we pay a levy on blank media, on the assumption that we're going to make a copy of something we own. DRM says I can't do that, I should pay the levy and pay for the copy. You've gotta be kidding me.

1) AOL By some estimates, over a billion free trial CDs for AOL have been produced. More than enough for every person in the world with web access to have one. Almost all distributed in North America. More CDs were made than there are people to use them. You've all gotten one, with their garish colors and loud proclamations (NOW NO CREDIT CARD NEEDED!). Someday, AOL, you'll pay.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Some disheartening news

Some disappointing news in the latest issue of Science (apparently, at least. I'll have to make my way to the library to read the paper later).


ARCHAEOLOGY:
University Suppresses Report on Provenance of Iraqi Antiquities

Michael Balter

University College London has become embroiled in a dispute over its handling of a large collection of religious artifacts that may have been part of the illicit trade in archaeological relics from Iraq in recent years.


In a field already severely tarnished by the likes of Oded Golan, this type of thing is inexcusable.

Science

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Academic Imperialism

Over on The Forbidden Gospels Blog, April DeConick thunders against National Geographic for what appears to be a Qumran-esque case of Academic Imperialism. Be sure and have a read:

http://forbiddengospels.blogspot.com/2007/10/deconick-wants-to-know-what-is-going-on.html
http://forbiddengospels.blogspot.com/2007/10/equal-access-to-tchacos-codex-is-needed.html
http://forbiddengospels.blogspot.com/2007/10/what-is-in-ohio-fragments.html
http://forbiddengospels.blogspot.com/2007/10/has-national-geographic-violated-sbl.html

Quote of the Day

Bear in mind as you read this sweetheart that it was delivered in a lecture given immediately following the lectures of Crossan and Borg. Zing!

We cannot "domesticate" Jesus into a person with whom we can be entirely comfortable. It is, unfortunately, also necessarily an unfinished portrait. One this is sure: I would be very suspicious of my own method it I came up with a Jesus who was not particularly Jewish but looked a lot like a professor of religion of the late twentieth century--even if I could put a name such as Cynic philosopher upon that portrait.


Alan F. Segal, Jesus in First Century Judaism in Jesus at 2000, Marcus J. Borg (ed), p.69

Friday, May 04, 2007

Free Book Update

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I'd won a free book from Eisenbrauns. My book arrived yesterday,Kiwoong Son's monograph on Hebrews 12:18-24, Zion Symbolism in Hebrews: Hebrews 12:18-24 as a Hermeneutical Key to the Epistle. Big thanks to the folks at Eisenbrauns!

URL Updated to reflect James Spinti's notice in the comments

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Peter Kirby has Re-entered the Blogosphere

The title says it all. Peter's new 'blog is called The Darkling Thrush

From it's maiden post:

A good prototype is rapidly developed and then thrown away, as an experiment intended to reveal what would go into the actual construction of the eventual design. This is a blog that is not left as being "indefinite" in its duration, but will go on only until I feel the experimental writing activity undertaken here has enabled me to throw it away and begin the real task of constructing a philosophy and a faith. This may be weeks or months, but the end is always imminent for this blog.


And from another shortly after:

The subject of this blog is my faith. It is therefore a personal endeavor, in addition to being a social endeavor, because it affects me personally. I will have opportunities to talk about the forces at work here, the issues at stake, and perhaps--just maybe--a little bit of insight into the questions with which we all wrestle.


While his new 'blog is clearly more theological and personal than "biblioblogger" in bent, I'd still encourage readers to have a look.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

That was the Damnedest Thing. . .

For a couple of weeks now, Blogger wouldn't let me log in to my account! Which was extremely odd, since I could log in to all other Google services, using exactly the same account, without issue. It seems to be rectified now, at any rate. So we'll resume your regularly scheduled dilettantism shortly.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Doubting Thomas Pericope as Interpolation

I've mentioned previously on here my suspicion that the Doubting Thomas pericope is interpolated. I'm heavily indebted to Gregory J. Riley's Resurrection Reconsidered here. Unfortunately, I lost my copy somewhere or other some time ago, so can't provide specific references. I'll update at some later date with those in mind. Without further ado, Four Reasons to Doubt the Authenticity of the Doubting Thomas Pericope

1. There is no hint in the preceding pericope that Thomas is not present. Not only that, the qualifier that begins the pericope (20.24) that "Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came," betrays an author's awareness that there is no such hint. It makes the most sense to view this as a qualifier to an existing section, not as part of a flowing narrative.

2. 20.23 moves smoothly into 20.31. All of the promises have been fulfilled, the commission has been given. The DT pericope sits oddly in the midst of that.

3. It's redundant. Nothing is said of whether or not Thomas actually touches Jesus (though the tradition that he did is very early indeed), and the conclusion has nothing to do with touching--"You have seen and believed." But why is the DT pericope necessary to that end? Couldn't "You have seen. . .blessed are those who have not. . ." have flown from 20.20? The other disciples needed to see, the same as Thomas did.

4. Following from point 3, the implication that Thomas isn't blessed (like those who have not seen and believed) from 20.29 makes no sense in the light of 20.20. Surely the other disciples are blessed, yet they needed to see to believe as well.

For posterity's sake, a pair of arguments that it's authentic:

1. Thomas has three dialogues, all of which pertain to the resurrection (11.16, 14.5, 20.24-29)

2. 20.28 fulfills 5.23 "all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father"

Monday, April 02, 2007

Biblical Studies Carnival XVI

Well, I'm a day late and a dollar short, but Biblical Studies Carnival XVI is up on Novum Testamentum. Be sure and check out the best of the biblioblogs!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Free Books!

Eisenbrauns recently announced on their RSS feeds that they would soon be giving away free books to subscribers. Their first such offer was posted yesterday, available to the first 30 respondents. Since I didn't make it until last night, I was quite certain I'd missed it. Good news, I did no such thing! And thus a free book is on the way.

Shamelessly shilling for free books, I encourage the biblioblogosphere to subscribe to one of said feeds and hopefully catch them next time (or, I suppose, possibly this time, depending on if they've had 30 respondents yet. . .)

Updated to fix URL as per James Spinti's info in the comments
Eisenbrauns RSS Feeds

Wikipedia and Web 2.0

Over on the NT Gateway Weblog, Mark Goodacre recently offered a Defence of Wikipedia, Jim West soon thundered his reply. Not surprising to any long time reader of the good Doc West's blog, his reply was overwhelmingly negative. So who's right? Longtime readers of my blog will not be surprised that my Linux loving, Web 2.0 embracing heart falls solidly on Goodacre's side.

Let's take a look at two points Goodacre raises, and West's comments on them. (Goodacre in Red, West in Green, to make for easier reading):

Fear of Wikipedia will eventually catch up on critical academics in the same way that fear of "the internet" caught up with academics who were complaining about it ten years ago. In due course, broadsides against Wikipedia may look as absurd as broadsides against "the internet" now look.


West replies:

I don’t think it’s fear that causes many to disdain Wiki. It’s disdain. Disdain because Wiki are “edit-able” by any Tom, Dick, or Harry who may, or may not, know what the devil they are talking about. Disdain, further, of having to debunk even more student minded nonsense than they must already.


West has missed the fundamental point of Goodacre's post--he must have, else he wouldn't be expressing precisely the concern Goodacre was condemning. Yes, any "Tom, Dick or Harry" can edit a page. It is, without question, important to underline that potential hole in any Wikipedia article. But most Toms, Dicks and Harrys don't do so. Most edit only articles they feel they have something to offer on, and when they have over-estimated the value of their contribution, most articles are editted accordingly. Stephen Colbert might still save the elephant from time to time, but he never saves it for long.

This isn't to say that Wikipedia is perfect, or that mistakes aren't going to slip through. Most of those mistakes are actually errors made by people who don't know better. They're never going to know better if you don't show them. If the Jim Wests of the world invested as much time sharing their expertise on projects like Wikipedia as they do deriding it, Wikipedia's value would increase exponentially. Not only would it, it routinely does. To be sure, other errors are the product of people poisoning the drinking water, spewing whatever nonsense they'd like. Dismissing the process because of the few seems patently absurd to me.

Also neglected is the importance of crowd dynamics in information. One person will not accurately guess the weight of a cow. The median of 1000 guesses is usually pretty close. Group generated information is usually self-correcting. The economy of the entire Western world is based on that point. To be sure, there are times when the group fails--the crowd becomes a lynch mob--but that doesn't undermine the fundamental point of it. Wikipedia institutes checks against that (locking pages, for example), the same way the stock market does (trade shutoffs). And just as the market is usually a pretty good assessment of a company's worth, the Wikipedia community usually provides a pretty good resource. There will be failures, of course, but those will result in further checks and balances, which will further increase its value.

On this point--crowd dynamics--Wikipedia slaughters conventional encyclopedias in terms of value. Wikipedia articles--particularly those that have undergone extensive revision (the one's with more "Toms, Dicks and Harrys"), will give you a more balanced view than Brittanica. Brittanica reflects the views of one author, and try as he might, anyone who thinks that their presentation is freed from their own biases is only fooling themselves. Wikipedia provides a means for those biases to balance each other.

But West is nonetheless fundamentally correct on one point: Wikipedia shouldn't be a source anymore than a Google results page should. But it will point you to sources.

(2) One of the strengths of Wikipedia is that it is much more up-to-date than its print counterparts. Regularly, almost always, students will find much fresher material in Wikipedia than they will in the Encyclopaedia Britannica. It is also, of course, becoming ever more comprehensive.


“Up to date” misinformation is worse than, or at least as bad as, out of date good information. Either way, both are misinforming.


West isn't simply wrong on this point, he's dead wrong. The most up to date information on Wikipedia is almost always fuelled by current events, or recent publications, and almost always accurate. Not universally, but usually. For an easy example, once Deep Throat was exposed, Wikipedia had the information on its entry on Deep Throat within hours. Brittanica users would wait another year.

But its not only currency where Wikipedia has a clear advantage, it's also breadth. Compare Wikipedia's entry on The New Perspective on Paul with Brittanica's. Wikipedia's is accurate, to the point, and provides solid reference material and additional reading in the close. It is the ideal encyclopedia article. Comparison to Brittanica is easy: It has no entry. Brittanica will probably continue to have no entry, Wikipedia's will probably continue to get better.

Wikipedia is the quintessential example of the information age in general, and Web 2.0 in particular. Embracing it and engaging will inherently affect its course. Digging your heels in and proclaiming your disdain for it will accomplish nothing. Those like West will come around, or they'll fade into obsolecence, or worse, irrelevance. The good doc's a smart guy, I'm sure he'll see the light before that happens.

Update
Goodacre returns fire and Loren Rosson enters the fray.

Update Redux
Jim West accepts Goodacre's challenge

Further Update
Duane Smith gets in on the act over on Abnormal Interests

Monday, March 26, 2007

Duelling Quotes of the Day

A pair of divergent quotes from a pair of Norm's today, both on the "curse of the Law" in Galatians (is there a verse in Galatians that isn't disputed?)

I'll have to mull the two essays over and post more on this in the very near future. Particularly challenging is the question of whether or not Paul is addressing Judaizers (I'd tend towards "yes," but it really depends on what Peter is supposed to analogue at Antioch).

Likewise whether or not Paul is offering an apologia for his own gospel. Contrary to what I'd take to be the norm (though I've not read enough commentary on Galatians to affirm it to be a consensus), I'd tend toward rejecting that suggestion.

More on this later. . .

The key to an adequate interpretation lies in placing the passage firmly within the unfolding argument in the letter as a whole, always keeping in mind the situation facing the Galatian churches. In Gal.3.10-14, as well as in the ltter as a whole, Paul is not addressing his Judaizing opponents, nor is he aiming his arguments at Jews generally. Rather, the apostle seeks to dissuade those members of the Christian community who are being tempted to abandon the gospel as he had preached it for a derivative gospel based on a deficient appreciation of the consequences flowing from God's eschatological initiative in the death and resurrection of Jesus. . .The argument on the curse of the law is designed to show that, in espousing the other gospel, the Galatians would in the end be counterwitnessing to the truth of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen.


Bonneau, Normand; The Logic of Paul's Argument on the Curse of the Law in Galatians 3:10-14; Novum Testamentum, Vol. 39, Fasc. 1. (Jan., 1997), p. 80.

From this it becomes clear that Gal. 3:10-14 is as much Paul's defense of his own position as it is a polemic against the Judaizer's view. Paul is here addressing the charge that his gospel promoted transgression and thus placed his Gentile converts under the curse of the law. Paul agrees with the Judaizers that those who belong to the Sinai covenant are obliged to fulfill all its demands. If such persons did not do so, he admits, they would invite the curse of the law. What Paul disputes is that those who live by faith in Christ come under the jurisdiction of the Sinai covenantal arrangement. Since those of faith are outside Sinai's jurisdiction, Paul's failure to circumcise his Gentile converts does not place them under the curse of the law. The death of Christ has brought the original promise to Abraham into play, and this has introduced a new salvific era within the covenant community.


Young, Norman H; Who's Cursed: And Why? (Galatians 3:10-14); Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 117, No. 1. (Spring, 1998), pp. 91-92.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Quote of the Day

Several months later, having learned many valuable lessons about just how much work babies are, it's time to resurrect this blog. So we'll start off small, with a quote of the day, and proceed to more studious dillentatism in the coming days. So, without further ado, a quote of the day on the Galileo complex so often seen in the fringe theories that permeate online:

But a man does not attain the status of Galileo merely because he is persecuted; he must also be right.


Stephen Jay Gould, Ever Since Darwin: Reflections in Natural History, New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1977, p 154.