According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

Friday, March 10, 2017

Pete Enns - Why "Original Author" [Theory] is Overrated




The Bible: Why "Original Author" [Theory] is Overrated
http://www.peteenns.com/the-bible-its-sort-of-like-a-viral-internet-joke-or-why-original-author-is-overrated/

by PeteEnns
[*any edits or emendations mine - r.e. slater]
March 6, 2017
Topical Section: Nature of the Bible32

If you know how Wikipedia works, you have a good idea of how the authorship of biblical books went down: an anonymous text is added to over time, but none of the additions are screaming for individual recognition.

Benjamin Sommer explains the phenomenon this way:

"As Walter Jackson Bate and Harold Bloom have shown, poets since the romantic era [sic] have attempted to cover up the extent to which they are indebted to their predecessors. Ancient and medieval authors, however, saw their writings as valuable only if they contributed to a mighty stream that predated and transcended them. Where a modern author (to borrow language from T. S. Eliot) emphasizes individual talent, the ancients found meaning in tradition. They believed in all sincerity that anything of merit in their writing was the product of insight they culled from earlier authorities and of skills they learned from their masters. (Revelation and Authority, p. 139, my emphasis; see also here and here and here)."

Modern notions of “authorship” value individual talent and creativity. In antiquity, “authors” were valued by being seen as part of a greater whole, as standing in a tradition.

The modern obsession with individual authorship of biblical texts is the very thing that the Old Testament “authors” seem determined to obscure.

Consider the book of Psalms. Over time, David came to be associated with the book as a whole, which included “authoring” psalms that stem from a much later time. Why? Because these later authors and compilers saw themselves not as individual authors, but as purveyors of a tradition.

Likewise, the book of Proverbs is associated with Solomon, but the book as a whole is a compilation of proverbial sayings that span a great length of time.

This same notion can be applied to Isaiah. All but a very few scholars agree that the book of Isaiah, though rooted in the 8th c. BCE, is added to until the postexilic period (late 6th and into the 5th centuries BCE) where it reached the form as we know it. These later authors, however, continued to attribute the book as a whole [to] the 8th century prophet Isaiah—not in an attempt to fool anyone, but because their notion of “[traditional] authorship” demanded it.

And of course, we have the Pentateuch—that diverse collection of laws and narratives that did not reach it’s final form until well after the return from Babylonian exile (539 BCE), though all of it claims to be rooted in the time of Moses.

The “late” authorship of biblical books—which is so central to modern biblical scholarship and yet so problematic, even heretical, to others—makes perfect sense if we adopt ancient notions of “authorship” rather than modern ones.

Adding one’s voice to an ancient tradition without acknowledging it isn’t “lying” or “showing disrespect for God’s word.” It is how ancient authorship works—it is how the truth is told and how one shows respect for the tradition.

Modern assumptions of how authorship “should” work need to be set aside if we want to “take seriously” the biblical text.

Sommer uses a well-known internet joke to explain further how ancient authorship works: “Why God Could Not Get Tenure at a University.” The [email comments he found read like this]:

  • He only has one publication;
  • it has no footnotes;
  • it is in Hebrew;
  • when one experiment went amiss, He tried to cover it up by drowning all the subjects;
  • some doubt He even wrote it Himself.
  • [a fuller Internet list can be found below - res]

A real knee-slapper, of course, but Sommer noticed that none of the forwarded emails contained precisely the same list. Some of the reasons remained constant, but the exact wording was tweaked and the number of reasons given varied. (I might also add that the joke exists with at least one alternate name, “Why God Couldn’t Get a PhD,” or some other variation).

Sommer explains:

"Because anyone who forwards an email can alter the text, various people (whether my friends, or the people who sent them, or some unknown person in the chain before that) had introduced small modifications, additions, and subtractions. Some people must have said to themselves, “It would be even funnier if I rephrase this one a little,” “Here’s a good one I thought of myself,” “I can take a joke as well as the next guy, but this one’s just sacrilegious.” Even though it was clear that people who passed the lists on often intervened in the text, I never saw anyone’s name attached to a list as author, even as partial author. It would have been ridiculous for someone who made a minor alteration to claim that status."

The situation of biblical scribes, mutatis mutandis, was similar. A scribe who added a line, even rephrased a sentence, or combined two texts did not regard himself as the author, and no one person is the “real” author. As a desire to attribute texts to particular authors became more common over time in ancient Israel, scribes connected texts with specicific figure, but putting their own name on texts they were transmitting would have been grossly inappropriate. In such a situation, attribution to a respected symbolic figure from the past was culturally sensible. (p. 141, reformatted, emphasis added)

Wikipedia, emails, and the Internet as a whole are helpful analogies for understanding what the Bible is—a living, moving, dynamic, tradition.

The “word of God written,” as some describe the Bible, is itself complex and dynamic, a back-and-forth between respect for tradition and the need to continue transforming it. That much seems crystal clear to me.

The question we need to be asking, however, is as it has always been for Christians:

  • does reading the Bible faithfully mean continuing that “transformative” trajectory, or shutting it down?
  • Does the biblical “canon” function as a closed book of rules or as a [more open] model for a necessarily continuing theological process?

I think these are viable questions raised by paying attention to the Bible itself—both within the Old Testament and in how the New Testament authors appropriate it.

- PE


* * * * * * * * * * *




Why God Didn't Get Tenure

Dear Mr. Dean,

At your request, the Tenure Evaluation Committee has once more re-evaluated Mr. God's application. [But] we regret to inform you that after careful analysis the Committee unanimously resolved to uphold the original recommendation. We repeat below the reasons that led us to this decision --- including several points which, in a misguided attempt to preserve academic decorum and the Candidate's reputation, we had chosen to omit from the original report.
  1. He had only one major publication.
  2. It wasn't written in English.
  3. It wasn't published in a referred journal,
  4. ... it has no references,
  5. ... it lacks a review of previous work,
  6. ... and does not even mention alternative approaches to the problem.
  7. Its many sweeping claims were not backed by formal proofs.
  8. There is evidence that some parts of the text were plagiarized.
  9. Some even doubt that He wrote it Himself.
  10. He performed His chief experiment only once, with no control experiments.
  11. It is still not clear whether His experiment succeeded at all.
  12. Some of His acts caused extensive environmental damage and major property loss.
  13. He neglected to keep a lab notebook.
  14. He did not provide any error analysis or confidence intervals.
  15. He did not use standard metric units.
  16. His description of the experiment omitted essential details.
  17. He cheated by deleting any subjects whose behavior did not fit His model.
  18. The scientific community had a hard time replicating His results.
  19. He encouraged, and apparently enjoyed, the pointless cruel sacrifice of animals.
  20. He experimented with human subjects without Ethics Board's approval.
  21. He was idle for many years, and only started working one week before the deadline.
  22. He did not get any government or industrial support for His project.
  23. In fact, he has never written a single grant proposal.
  24. He never served on any committees, and never attended a faculty meeting.
  25. He was never awarded a doctoral degree, not even an honorary one.
  26. He would not tolerate criticism or discordant opinions.
  27. His difficult personality has prevented effective collaboration with His peers.
  28. He had His first two grad students expelled, for sheer professional jealously.
  29. Since that incident, He couldn't or wouldn't recruit any new grad students.
  30. His research lab has been deserted and inactive for ages.
  31. Throughout His entire career, He taught only one course...
  32. ... whose syllabus can be reduced to ten trivial rules-of-thumb.
  33. In fact, after the first lecture He hardly showed up in class.
  34. There are reports that He once sent His Son to teach the class.
  35. His lectures were lots of high-sounding talk with little technical substance.
  36. His practical demos were often too dangerous to students.
  37. Students were forced to use His own textbook, which is quite old and lacks exercises.
  38. Most students felt that His grading was too harsh and unfair.
  39. He was a slow grader and often wouldn't give students any feedback until it was too late.
  40. He insisted on using only pass/fail grades instead of the standard A-F system.
  41. He would not grade on a curve, and once He flunked all of His students but one ...
  42. ... to whom He had previously revealed the exam's content.
  43. He didn't keep a homepage and didn't read His email.
  44. His office hours were infrequent and were often held in inconvenient locations.
  45. He violated the honor system by being omnipresent even during examinations.
  46. He made some rude and demeaning remarks about students who failed His tests.
  47. He used obsolete teaching methods, such as peer pressure and guilt manipulation.
  48. He even resorted to physical punishment.
  49. His controversial views on race and sex could have harmed the university's image.
  50. He showed some creativity once, it's true; but what has He done since then?
Respectfully yours,

(original signed by TEC Chairman)
Last edited on 2004-01-06 16:29:04 by stolfi