Friday, October 28, 2005

After Wilma

UPDATE: Since my hard drive crashed I lost all my e-mail contacts, so if I haven't responded back to you in some time (Minna), or if you want to stay in some sort of contact, please email!

After Wilma we returned to Naples ready to asses the damage, and hope for the best. To our surprise we had power and water within hours of our arrival, but no DSL. We fared rather well considering some are still without power, water, and a few have even lost their homes. So we are happy!

But then in a twist of fate, while returning some of my books to their shelves, a volume of Aquinas’s Summa Contra Gentiles fell approximately five feet and hit my laptop, with a minor crash. No worries until the circuit board on my hard drive started making a crazy popping noise, and then a loud clicking, and then a groovy techno beat. Alas my Hard Drive was fried!

Does anyone really back up every day? Fortunately I backed up the important stuff right before Wilma, but not my music, e-mails, or even endnote files. There is a lesson here, but I will refuse to find it until after I fume!

This is the second time while writing my thesis that my hard drive has crashed, so forgive me if I never read Aquinas again!

As Promised Neusner on Judaism

Nominalist: Every Jew defines Judaism. Judaism is thus the sum of the attitudes and beliefs of all the members of an ethnic group. Each member of the group serves equally well to define Judaism.

Harmonistic: The common denominator among the sum of all Judaisms. All Jewish data, writings, and other records together tell us about a single Judaism, which is defined by the least common denominator among all the data.

Theological: The study of Judaism by studying the theological ideas of the various texts. This provides a well drafted description, but ignores all the questions of context and social relevance. Its Judaism came into existence for reasons we can not say and addressed no issues faced by ordinary people, and constituted a set of disembodied, socially irrelevant ideas that lack history and consequences. So it can be described and analyzed but not interpreted.

Historical: The working through sources in the order in which it is assumed that they reached closure, so as to find the order and sequence in which ideas came to expression. Each document is studied as a Judaism before comparing and contrasting can be done.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

What Is A Judaism and How Do We Study It?

Both Mike and Raf have been asking questions that I have been mulling over, off and on for nearly five years now, still with no epiphany! I was hoping that one of them might come up with an answer plausible enough that It would become the 'consensus' view, and I could just cite them, and begin to use that space in my brain again for something else.

I think a set of corollary questions are: Just what is a Judaism? How do we make use of the various texts of the Second Temple period for a reconstruction of history and theology? And the big question for me is then how can we use this information to better understand Paul, Jesus, Pharisees, or whatever is of interest to us, without manipulating it to say what we want it to say?

Some of the various attempts at describing Judaisms can be polemically explained and dismissed by the rhetorical genius that is Jacob Neusner, in a number of his writings, I don't have the book with me but will post it, after I hop over to USF.

I am aware of Philip Esler's socio-scientific explanation of ethnicity, but found it hard to swallow, but that may simply be because it was a foreign idea to me, and sometimes it takes time for those types of ideas to penetrate my thick cranium.

Enter Francis Watson into the fray, with some of the comments he makes in his, Paul and the Hermeneutics of Faith. Where he poses the question of what it might mean to call Paul a Jew? The short answer for Watson is found in Rom 3.1-2 where Paul places unique significance of being a Jew in the reception, preservation, and propagation of the scriptures. Jews are those who possess, cherish, study, teach, and argue about the scriptures. Therefore to call Paul a Jew is to say that he reads the same texts as his fellow Jews, but reads them differently. The thesis is that all Jews interpret the same texts, the Torah and the Prophets; they interpret these texts in order to interpret the world around them.[1]

In all fairness Francis is only setting up a fruitful way of engaging the various texts, he is not out to answer the question of what it means to be a Jew qua Jew. Careful to distance himself from an essentialist view of Judaism, he offers an interesting way into the texts without having to deal with the anachronisms that Judith Lieu has been warning about.[2]

[1] Francis Watson, Paul and the Hermeneutics of Faith. (London T & T Clark, 2004), 1.
[2] Francis Watson, xi.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Wilma and Formative Judaism

In the anticipation of Wilma, my wife convinced me that for the benefit of the children, and for herself, that we should move further north. It helped that my parents booked a room for us up in Tampa. To my delight and surprise our hotel was right across the street from the University of South Florida. The reason for my delight is that USF was once the scholarly residence for one of my favorite scholars, arguable the most published scholar in religion, Jacob Neusner. USF has published a substantial amount of Neusner's work and as a result holds most of it in their library.

So needless to say I have been spending most of my time working at the library, where I have found books that I have been meaning to look at for over three years, but couldn't be bothered to fill out the inter-library loan forms.

There is a certain beauty about the filled stacks of a research library that invigorate me to finish my dissertation.

Still Waiting for Wilma,

Thursday, October 20, 2005


There may be a slight hiccup in my blogging due to the uncertian effects of Wilma, we will know more later, but until then we wait!


Friday, October 14, 2005

Back to NT posts...sort of.

I have been meaning to read, 'Paul and the Hermeneutics of Faith', by Francis Watson, since picking it up last year at SBL, so I figured I ought to hurry and read it before SBL comes around again (in an effort to justify new purchases). I missed the lecture that Francis gave during the SBL meeting (ironically I went to hear Richard Hays), so I wasn't really sure what to expect from this book. So far, after reading only the introduction, I am looking quite forward to digging in. I hope to post some thoughts in the upcoming days, but until then I will leave you with a quote that struck me as germane to Biblical Studies.

'Disagreement is a familiar social practice in which it is difficult not to engage on a regular basis. It arises from the fact that humans live not in solitude but in community, and that from time to time their respective norms, projects or goals come into conflict. Since interpreting texts is an extension of the interpretative activity that permeates all human interpersonal relations, it is hardly to be expected that the specialized activity will be immune from the disagreements endemic to the wider field. Indeed, the possibility of disagreement is inherent in the practice of textual interpretation: for if a text needs to be interpreted at all, its meaning is not self-evident and there is always room for more than one account of what that meaning is. If it is possible to interpret, then it is also possible to misinterpret; and to claim that misinterpretation has taken place is to engage in the practice of interpretative disagreement. In itself, disagreement is an ethically neutral act. It does not necessarily imply that one party is doing violence to the other, that a human right to freedom of speech is under attack, or that there has been a failure to understand the other’s point of view. The ethical risks that accompany disagreement are perhaps no greater than those attending other practices, such as the avoidance of conflict. Disagreement is always an act rather than just an occurrence, and those who engage in it do so on the basis of means and ends they regard as appropriate and rational. Most important of all, disagreement presupposes a shared concern and thus an acknowledgment of community rather than a retreat into isolation. It always intends its own resolution, even if this can only be attained in the form of a negotiated compromise or an agreement to differ (24-25).'

Monday, October 10, 2005

Just Because?

Because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace things, but burn like fabulous roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue center light pop and everybody goes "AWWW!"

Jack Kerouac
On the Road