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Rules of the Game (on THIS blog site)

September 17, 2014

In view of some recent comments I think it well to draw attention (again) to the nature of this blog site, and the “rules of the game” for comments.  This isn’t at all intended to deter readers or comments, simply to reiterate some guidelines.

First, this isn’t a community bulletin-board, or a talking shop for any and all to air their pet theories.  You’ll find that sort of site elsewhere.  This is essentially a public space where I post on matters pertaining to my own field of established expertise, the NT and Christian Origins, reflecting my own research and the work of others that I find interesting.  I’m not a dedicated cruiser of blog sites myself, not a self-taught amateur in the field of NT/Christian Origins, and this site isn’t a hobby.  I don’t blog as a substitute for serious scholarly publication. I blog to communicate the results of scholarship for a wider public.  I’m a scholar in the field, and I do this simply to open a window for the wider public on what I find to be the fascinating subject to which I’ve devoted some 40 yrs of professional study.

Comments are welcome on the topic of the posts, and I discourage efforts to redirect discussion into other issues.  One commentor recently has been greatly exercised over my failure to post several of his comments, accusing me of censorship.  Nothing of the kind.  My posting was about a recent article offering fresh linguistic study pertaining to Paul’s statements in 1 Cor 15:1-7 about Jesus’ resurrection.  But this commentor wants to engage in philosophical/theological discussion about the feasibility of resurrection, how it could happen, etc.  That is not what my posting was about.  So, I don’t “censor”, but I do decline to publish comments that veer off into some other topic, or when the commentor is repeating himself and the basic issue has been addressed already.

On the “About this Site” tab, I’ve sketched the basic ground rules to be observed, which include identifying yourself, and staying on the topic of the of the posting to which you comment.  If you want a free-wheeling  venue where you can wander off into anything that comes to mind, you’ll find blog spaces elsewhere.

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17 Comments
  1. I am sympathetic to the academic desire to keep many subjects focused. On the other hand, in my own field of culture studies, it is well known that often people seek to win the day for their point of view, by “framing” the question so narrowly, as to admit only a desired body of evidence. And to exclude other points of view, other kinds of data, that could be relevant.

    So for example, someone might try to establish that this or that point of view in Christianity could not be true – because say, ” mainstream Jewish culture of the time” would not allow it . But this might exclude say, Hellenistic evidence. Evidence that would explain that development in early Christianity. In this case, defining the subject narrowly could result in “framing” the question in such a way to exclude other kinds of evidence, that could bias the result.

    Of course I am sympathetic to the scholarly desire to delimit the sphere of discussion, for purely practical reasons. However, we of course will need to widen the discussion at times, when it seems that there is much outside that sphere that could be directly relevant. Otherwise it might seem that the apparently scholastic desire to focus on a given subject, narrowly, could be used as an attempt to exclude relevant data and counterargument.

    For example, it is difficult to accurately assess Paul’s view of afterlife in 1 Corin. 15, without at least briefly considering the context say of 1) at least the larger body of Paul’s thought on this subject; 2) what the Bible said overall on immortality and afterlife; and even at times 3) the larger culture of the region in which this belief seems to have appeared.

    Yes, there is something to be said for narrowly focusing a subject. On the other hand though, it is always important to keep in mind the later context, as well. As you well noted in the case of say, semantics. My feeling is that as a general rule, at least as much as 10% of even a rather focused study or monograph, should briefly consider the larger context of the study. To see the bigger picture; and whether it tends to confirm or contradict the narrow sphere of the study.

    We need to be sure that the narrowed scope of any given investigatory paradigm does not systematically exclude relevant but contrary evidence or data.

    • Of course, this is correct. But in NT/Christian origins PhD work typically requires just the sort of breadth of coverage of data that you urge. Have you read much of NT monographs lately??

      • Yes. I am much pleased that the field seems to be widening a bit, to include a bit of my own specialty. Still I believe much, much more needs to be done there before New Testament studies scholars hear the fuller scope of what a Culture Studies PhD “proper” would say about religion and early Christian culture.

        There are signs of progress here. But I hope I will be excused here, if now and then I insert a very brief account of what a Culture Studies theorist proper, might say about the larger cultural context of any given Christian text. From our perspective, even the more interdisciplinary religious efforts within your own field, still seem too influenced by ancient theology, or Christian ethnocentrism.

      • Well, I’m not clear what you claim as “culture studies”. But if you want to say something about the ancient Roman scene and earliest Christianity, you’ll certainly have to get a grounding in the languages, texts, people, archaeological data, of pretty much anything 200 BCE to 200 CE. Does “culture studies” mean expertise in this and other stuff too? If I may in return offer critique, I’d say that it seems that there is the danger of an abstract and aloof (snooty?) sense of superiority in your own comments, and that “culture studies” people just might need to be careful about that.

    • “For example, it is difficult to accurately assess Paul’s view of afterlife in 1 Corin. 15, without at least briefly considering the context say of 1) at least the larger body of Paul’s thought on this subject; 2) what the Bible said overall on immortality and afterlife; and even at times 3) the larger culture of the region in which this belief seems to have appeared.”

      Exactly. Especially since Paul’s views on these matters are quite far from self-explanatory or clear.

      • Jerome: Well, time, cultural distance and languages make it necessary to work to grasp what Paul says, but I think 1 Cor 15 is actually pretty clear.

  2. juliaergane permalink

    As an historian (and not a Christian), I am interested in everything. I follow a number of theological, archaeological, and philosophical blogs centered on the ancient Mediterranean and the religions of the peoples in the lands thereby. You were correct in not posting that particular reader’s letter at that time. Possibly in the future, a letter by him will be appropriate. Thank you for sharing your scholarship with the greater community.

  3. Hi Larry, I am a layman who has a degree from a seminary. I am familiar with scholarship and fascinated by it. That is why I love reading your effort to share the results of your scholarship, and comments on others’ results, with those of us who are not in your world, so to speak. The disconnect between scholarship and the faithful laity is a problem I have noticed for years, and you are trying to overcome that. Thank you and blessings upon you for that. Jack Irwin

  4. Doug Bridges permalink

    Bravo! Clearly stated, well enough for those with ears to hear……

  5. Jim permalink

    Thanks for the blog post. I never comment but love reading your posts. I appreciate your efforts to disseminate information.

  6. Yes…I really enjoy your blog…I love your books as well! Great job…your scholarly work is a great aid in my work as a pastor! Thanks again!

  7. I really like you honesty and scholarly approach to the issues you discuss! Keep up the good work!

  8. The clarity of purpose and the intellectual discipline you assert is refreshing and encouraging.

  9. Alan Bill permalink

    Larry (if I may)

    Just a brief comment to say how much I value your blog and your specific commitment to sharing the academic work of yourself and others more widely. As someone outside the academic network I much appreciate this.

  10. I just sent the site of your blogs to a bunch of students today one of whom was trying to work out whether to go straight to Ph.D work or do another Masters. As I am encouraging him to really get his languages up to a high level I felt he should read the quality of your blogs. I love them. Thanks so much,

  11. warren permalink

    Hi Larry, I’m a theology student down at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. Material of this nature is something we’d never usually be exposed to, so your blogs are very much appreciated. Thanks and regards🙂

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