After Alexander’s death, his major generals divided his empire among themselves (cf. 1 Macc 1:8–9). Ptolemy inherited Egypt and soon obtained Palestine also, winning it over from Antipater, also known as Antigonus, who had held Palestine for the first twenty years after Alexander’s death (Ferguson 403; Turner 118–23). Seleucus received Mesopotamia and briefly held Syria (Bosworth 210–45; Ferguson 404), and Antipater and Cassander ruled Macedonia and Greece (Ferguson 16; Walbank 221–56). Nevertheless, although the empire had become politically divided, its language and culture essentially remained Greek (Wright 157).
Is academic writing more important than spending time with your family and friends, petting the dog, and drinking coffee? A dog unpetted is a sad dog; a cup of coffee forsaken is caffeine lost forever. Protect your real-world time just as you protect your scheduled writing time (Silvia 132).
Over the coming weeks, I plan to write a series of posts that outline some background issues that seem particularly relevant for New Testament interpretation. Of the numerous points of historical background that could be included here, four dimensions of the period leading up to the turn of the era will initially receive attention. These background dynamics will include: (1) the Greek conquest and its continuing effects, (2) the Maccabean revolt and the Hasmonean period, (3) the Roman conquest, and (4) sectarian developments within Judaism. As the series grows, if other areas suggest themselves as being particularly salient, thoughts about additional topics will certainly be welcome.
Lastly, as a final “programming note,” in this series, discussion of the hermeneutical justification for this background material’s relevance and its possible role(s) will be left to the side and addressed separately at some other point. For the present, an assumption of value, at least within the context of a certain kind(s) of interpretive activity, may simply be made, though some indicators of one possible means of justifying this material’s significance may be found in this blog’s first post.
For the past several weeks, I have been working on some reasonably substantial changes to the site that should make it more useful and beneficial. With these changes completed and my comprehensive exams on the horizon (in both a hermeneutical and a temporal sense), I hope to begin regularly posting again quite soon. For anyone who may be interested, the following are among the most significant of changes to the site:
The Bookshelf is now visual. Instead of an increasingly long list of text-only links for the publications mentioned on this site and other helpful works, the Bookshelf now uses book cover thumbnails with the author(s) or editor(s) names captioned below.
Complementing the new design for the bookshelf are the “In this post” sections that have been added. This section provides for each post a kind of quick reference bibliography that can be consulted more extensively if one so desires. This section allows any in-text references in the posts to be more abbreviated and, hence, less intrusive, while at the same time providing an additional means of informally facilitating content control and readerly review. “News” category posts, however, do not contain this section since it would seem to be only marginally, if at all, beneficial for this type of post.
Links to http://bible.logos.com have been implemented for the biblical and most of the apocryphal literature. It seems that there may still be some quirks with some of the apocryphal literature (e.g., the additions to Daniel and Esther); otherwise, things seem to work quite smoothly.
Series of posts are now tagged, and the series names appear in a sidebar widget.
The “Current and Recent Reading” section from the Bookshelf has moved to a sidebar widget.
In addition, I have added added a widget that lists select new and forthcoming publications.
At the end of May, Google rolled out a blog “bundling” service, which I have used to create a bundle on the sidebar for this blog and the other blogs listed in the blogroll here. Subscribing to this bundle should automatically subscribe you to the New Testament Interpretation feed as well as all of the other feeds in the blogroll. Whether you use Google Reader or anther feed reader, if you already subscribe to one or more of the blogs listed on the blogroll here, the read/unread statuses of posts in the bundled feed should automatically synchronize with the unbundled feed and vice versa. Once you subscribe to the bundle, you can also customize the specific bundle feeds that you want to receive. At this point, as changes are made to the blogroll, individual bundle subscriptions will not automatically update. To update an individual, bundle subscription, you will need to resubscribe to the New Testament Interpretation bundle itself.
According to my records, the following blogs have been added to the blogroll since the last blogroll update:
Jesus Creed – The blog of Scot McKnight, Karl A. Olsson Professor in Religious Studies at North Park University. Dr. McKnight specializes in New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus.
Koinōnia – A blog oriented toward biblical theology sponsored by Zondervan with contributions from numerous scholars.
Paul of Tarsus – The blog of Kevin Scull, a PhD candidate at the University of California. The blog focuses on Paul with occasional entries about other topics, including broad New Testament issues, the historical Jesus, the Apostolic Fathers, papyrology.
Sitz im Leben – The blog of Brandon Wason, an incoming PhD student at Emory University. Brandon will specialize in New Testament, but he also has interests in the Apostolic Fathers and the New Testament Apocrypha.
Source Theory – The blog of Tim Lewis, an MTh student specializing in Syriac Lexicography.
The New Testament Greek page has been updated to revive what had apparently become dead links, add files that had previously been corrupted, add audio files for the optative mood, and add miscellaneous other files.
During the second quarter this fall, I will be teaching a class at Southeastern for which I thought the students might benefit from reading the recent dialogue on justification between John Piper and N. T. Wright. Book lists happened to be due well before Wright’s book arrived in the mail, but I have finally begun moving through it myself and, a couple days ago, came across the following section:
It is really high time we developed a Christian ethic of blogging. Bad temper is bad temper even in the apparent privacy of your own hard drive, and harsh and unjust words, when released into the wild, rampage around and do real damage. . . . [T]he cyberspace equivalents of road rage don’t happen by accident. People who type vicious, angry, slanderous and inaccurate accusations do so because they feel their worldview to be under attack. Yes, I have a pastoral concern for such people. (And, for that matter, a pastoral concern for anyone who spends more than a few minutes a day taking part in blogsite discussions, especially when they all use code names: was it for this that the creator God made human beings?) [Wright 26–27; see also Köstenberger, “Internet Etiquette”; Köstenberger, “Internet Etiquette (Part 2)”].1
This bow shot at “(information) superhighway rage” is, of course, quite fitting, as is the recognition that, for all its usefulness in certain areas (e.g., facilitating information exchange), the internet itself often poorly facilitates other things (e.g., sustained content quality control; on a slightly different facet of the issue, see Goodacre, “April Fool’s Jokes”). Such things are clearly in the forefront of Wright’s mind in the quoted statements and may help to flesh out the role of biblioblogging in relation to presentations in more traditional media. For instance, consider the following quotation:
Today in the sciences, books are usually either texts or retrospective reflections upon one aspect or another of the scientific life. The scientist who writes one is more likely to find his professional reputation impaired than enhanced. Only in the earlier, pre-paradigm, stages of the development of the various sciences did the book ordinarily possess the same relation to professional achievement that it still retains in other creative fields. And only in those fields that still retain the book, with or without the article, as a vehicle for research communication are the lines of professionalization still so loosely drawn that the layman may hope to follow progress by reading the practitioners’ original reports (Kuhn 20; italics and bold added).
Biblical studies certainly “retain[s] the book” in such a fashion, and biblioblogs can have a similar function, even if how they fit among more traditional, academic activities is not always clear (cf. Goodacre, “Academic Blogging”; Carlson). Although internet access is not always free, subscriptions to blogs are as free as RSS readers, and as internet access and use of blog subscriptions continue becoming more common, the quantity of people interested in biblioblog material at its regular cost (i.e., free), should continue growing also. Consequently, this increase in the accessibility of material related to biblical studies could continue significantly widening at least the circle of listeners for biblical studies discussions (if not the circle of participants in these discussions also), but whether this increase in accessibility will be beneficial is entirely relative to the value of the content on the biblioblogs themselves. As biblioblog quality approaches the quality that has come to be expected in more traditional media, the blog medium itself becomes something quite different from the “blog as site for spuriousness” that Wright so correctly criticizes—it becomes something more akin to Thomas Kuhn’s “vehicle for research communication.” Since the sciences about which Kuhn was writing and the general humanities setting in which biblical studies and biblioblogging sit have different dissemination media and subject matter, however, several additional and potentially beneficial options emerge for forms that biblioblogs and their contents might take (see Köstenberger, “Genre of ‘Blog'”). How precisely to sustain this kind of interchange where it does exist and how to encourage it where it should exist are thorny questions indeed, and in some cases, behavioral regeneracy may be a necessary starting point (cf. Col 3:7–8).
Yet, in addition, might not self-consciously situating biblioblogging in some kind of “Great Conversation” among present students, past students, and the biblical literature itself provide a measure of guidance? With the current nature of the blog medium, this conversation will certainly be impersonal—a conversation among “gravatars” is certainly not the same as a conversation among “real” people present with each other at the same time (cf. Wright 27). Yet, on the other hand, the letters and signatures that have connected people for centuries are, for instance, at least in some ways, not so very different from blogs and gravatars.
The metaphor of biblioblogging, within a “Great Conversation,” as a “working group” is probably too formal and scholastic, but it does portray the activity as a collaboration that produces something beneficial. Thanks to resources like those that Brandon Wason and John Hobbins, Daniel and Tonya, and perhaps most particularly, the Biblioblog Top 50 (with its accompanying Google searches of all biblioblogs and all biblioblogs and related blogs), “beneficial somethings” on the biblioblogs are continuing to become easier to find by more people, once these “somethings” are added to the conversation in any given place. With the rise of resources like these ones and a push (whether from individual bibliobloggers or from a more organized, “peer review” format) to maintain good content quality, biblioblogging should be able to be a valuable activity for bloggers and readers. Indeed, not least for those of us in the Protestant tradition, whose first forebears regularly pushed to get more people more information with which to make more informed decisions about matters of biblical interpretation, the blog medium has, despite some of its deficiencies, the attractive potential to serve simultaneously both church and academy, as well as any others who “log on.”
1 Incidentally, InterVarsity has made the chapter from which this quote comes available in a PDFon their website.
In How to Write a Lot, reviewed in the previous post, Paul Silvia provides his own progress monitoring system as an example (39–45). Since finishing the book last month, I have been adapting Silvia’s database format to a Google Docs spreadsheet that will track some additional data in addition to the data that he finds helpful. Since it has been helpful thus far, I thought I would make the blank spreadsheet available (with just enough dummy data to give the formulae included some substance) as well as the one below with some sample data.
Some Additional Details Column E: I am working on estimating the average number of words that I write in an hour (including time for research), and thus far 175 seems fairly close, hence that value running down the E column. Behind this number is actually the formula =350/2—for an average of 350 words on one of my standard pages (including footnotes) and an estimated 2 hours for writing that page, though I have a sense that something like 2.25 to 2.5 might be more accurate.
Column F: An overall daily goal calculated based on =[Column D]*[Column E].
Column G: The results of a word count (including footnotes) at the beginning of the day. As the spreadsheet above shows, however, I did not start tracking beginning and ending word counts until May 29.
Column H: The results of a word count (including footnotes) at the end of the day.
Column I: A daily progress total based on =[Column H]-[Column G]. Cell I2 computes the average daily progress.
Column K: A daily progress measure against the daily goal based on =[Column I]/[Column F]. Cell K2 computes the average amount of the daily goal that is actually met each day.
Column J: The cells for each work day use the formula =IF([Column K]>=1,1,0). If a given daily goal is met, Column K = 1, or if it is exceeded, Column K > 1. In either case, this formula returns the binary value 1 (= Yes). Alternatively, if the daily goal is not met, the formula returns the binary value 0 (= No). Cell J2 then averages the values in Column J to determine the portion of the work days that meet the daily writing goal. The significant disparity between Column J and Column K appears because, as would be expected, some days have been more research intensive and other days have seen more writing.
Column L: Column L indexes how much “life happening” has affected the actual writing progress made versus the progress that was planned. A negative number indicates the number of planned writing hours that were spend on some other task(s), and a positive number would indicate additional, unplanned time devoted to writing. Cell L2 provides the total number of writing hours that actually happened over or under the planned number of writing hours.
If something like this spreadsheet seems like it would be helpful, a nearly blank version, again, is also available. If others have similar tools or methods that they have found valuable for research progress tracking and management, I am sure readers would find those helpful as well.
Paul J. Silvia teaches psychology at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. In How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing, Silvia chiefly pleads with his readers to set aside specific, regular blocks of time for writing and to adhere steadfastly to this schedule (16–17). “The secret,” he says, “is the regularity, not the number of days or the number of hours [allotted for writing]” (13). Silvia argues that observing such a regular writing schedule will allow an author to produce better material more efficiently (1). “More efficiently” does not, of course, necessarily indicate that all academics should publish a large quantity of material; those whose interests lie elsewhere can still use a regular writing schedule to produce the quantity of literature that they wish. Thus, Silvia suggests that a more accurate title for the volume would be How to Write More Productively During the Normal Work Week with Less Anxiety and Guilt, but he humorously recognizes that such a title may well have inhibited book sales (130).
To motivate his readers to take his advice about writing schedules, Silvia addresses four common barriers to productive writing and regular writing times (11–27). First, Silvia addresses the difficulty of finding large blocks of time to write by asking his audience to consider writing to be part of the set of required tasks that academics have. “Do you need to ‘find time to teach’?” he queries, “Of course not—you have a teaching schedule, and you never miss it. . . . Instead of finding time to write, allot time to write” (12). Second, Silvia cautions against the literary paralysis that can result from a constant feeling of needing to read more about a topic before writing about it. Doing this reading during one’s scheduled writing time can eliminate the roadblock it presents to the writing process (18–19). Third, perceived workspace or equipment inadequacies cannot be allowed to be deterrents from writing (19–23). Fourth, waiting for inspiration or “feeling like writing,” at least for those who do not intend to produce novels or poetry, should not dissuade someone from a regular schedule because keeping that schedule will itself generally prompt more ideas for writing and more occasions when an author feels like writing (23–27).
After attempting to dispatch these common roadblocks to productive writing, Silvia suggests some “motivational tools,” including: setting reasonable goals to achieve within one’s regular writing times, prioritizing different projects appropriately, and monitoring one’s progress (30–45). He also comments at length on starting and running a writing accountability group (49–57).
Silvia briefly discusses some characteristics of good writing style (59–76) before giving specific counsel for writing journal articles (77–107) and books (109–25). For journal articles, Silvia provides numerous specific tips (78–98)—some of which specifically relate to his own field of psychology but may still apply to articles submitted in New Testament studies—and a general counsel: Assume that any article submitted will be rejected (98). Silvia intends this counsel to calm fears about “what if. . . ,” and he encourages his readers to think of article rejections as a “publication tax,” or a cost that must be payed to have other things published (100–101). For books, Silvia suggests finding a co-author if necessary (112–13), and he provides some tips for authors when they want to “sell” their books to publishers (118–23).
While Silvia’s book contains numerous, practical hints for various issues that arise during the writing process, the book has a unified message: “Make a writing schedule, keep it, and you will write more than you do.” The “plan and persist” mantra is, perhaps, somewhat oversimplified at times, but this simplicity too serves Silvia’s purpose. How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing, in the end, does “guide,” but this guidance is designed also to motivate.
Looking at beginning the dissertation phase here at Southeastern later this year, I found Silvia’s book encouraging, but perhaps more encouraging is a very simple writing schedule. If someone were only to average one page each week day, that person would write about 261 pages each year. At about 350 words per page, our hypothetical student would write in one year 91,350 words on a project where something around 100,000 words seems to be a fairly standard finishing length. Others who have already walked this road will certainly have a more nuanced perspective, but at the beginning of the road at least, such things are encouraging.
The next revision of the Theological Writing Handout is now available, and it can be previewed and downloaded below. As always, comments identifying errors or suggesting improvements are welcome. For anyone who may be interested, a change log from the previous version (0.4.1) is also available.