Monthly Archives: November 2014

QOTD: Jerome on Studying and Teaching Holy Scripture — Brian Renshaw

Read the divine scriptures constantly; never, indeed, let the sacred volume be out of your hand. Learn what you have to teach. “Hold fast the faithful word as you have been taught that you may be able by sound doctrine to exhort and convince the gainsayers. Continue thou in the things that thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;” and “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope and faith that are in you.” Do not let your deeds belie your words; lest when you speak in church someone may mentally reply “Why do you not practise what you profess? Here is a lover of dainties turned censor! his stomach is full and he reads us a homily on fasting. As well might a robber accuse others of covetousness.” In a priest of Christ mouth mind, and hand should be at one.”

QOTD: Jerome on Studying and Teaching Holy Scripture — Brian Renshaw.

Sunday Roundup #39: 11.1.14.

Given that it’s been over two months since the last Sunday roundup, I figured it was time.  Enjoy.

Brian W. Davidson explains Runge’s Discourse Commentaries.

Those outside of academia tend to lose interest in commentaries that spend too much time surveying scholarly debates. There is a time and place for every sort of commentary, even those that focus more on secondary literature than the text. But Runge’s commentaries are different in ways that pastors and students will appreciate. They are clearly written, relevantly illustrated, and while they are informed by scholarly discussion, Runge only mentions contemporary debates when doing so will help the reader contextualize his comments on the flow of the text.

Gary Alley interviews Randall Buth about communicative Koine:

Things changed when I went to Israel and learned to speak Hebrew fluently. In the process, I noticed that my reading of biblical Hebrew changed. It is difficult to fully explain this by analogy or words, but I will give a brief attempt. Basically, Hebrew changed from being very fast, instantaneous crossword puzzles to a real language, to reading a language for content from within the language. I was young, early 20’s, and naively assumed that the field would gradually move in this direction over the coming decades. I could not imagine a program ignoring the benefits involved, nor had I ever met anyone who had gone through this process up to a fluent level that regretted the time spent or did not see it as qualitatively improving one’s reading and access to the text.

Buth’s interview makes me want to try some of his self-study audio materials.  One more thing for the post-graduation list…

Kris at Old School Script uses discourse analysis to show that the word order of New Testament sentences is both important and ignored in translation.

Though you probably knew before reading this post that it’s not what you say but how you say it that matters, now you should have a better understanding of how this principle can get fleshed out in Greek—even when the exact same words are repeated.

I really liked this post by about Tavis Bohlinger about reading the Bible in English.

So in the course of the conversation, almost abruptly, he [doctoral advisor] looked me in the eyes and said, “Have you read the New Testament in Greek, yet?”

I gulped. And then said, “All but Luke and Acts, and I’m halfway through Luke.”

He replied, “Well, since you are a New Testament scholar, you know…”

Last but not least, I enjoyed Philip Long’s series on the parables, concluded here.


October 2014 update: On thesis-writing and time tracking.

I’ve decided to keep up with these posts every month to make sure I stay on track with life projects.  I only have one major project going on now so here goes.

I had ADHD as a child.  As in, I needed Ritalin to focus in school.  Thankfully, somewhere along the way my frontal lobe caught up to the rest of my brain, and now I can focus.  But I still have one major ADHD trait: I don’t switch tasks well.

So this quarter, as I’ve been working on my senior thesis #1 — about Herakles in Gandharan Buddhist art — it’s absorbed me so thoroughly that I haven’t been around here much.  (For the curious, my thesis is an analysis of the appropriation of Heraklean iconography in Gandharan Buddhist art from the 1st-3rd centuries CE.  Herakles appears as himself, but far more often as a converted chthonic deity named Vajrapani, who becomes the bodyguard of the Buddha.)  I’ve started keeping track of how many hours I spent working on it per week:

  • Week 3: 12.5 hours
  • Week 4: 12 hours
  • Week 5: 12 hours
  • Week 6 (so far): 15 hours

What I’ve learned so far about doing research:

  • I spend way more time than I thought I would on tedious matters.  My primary sources are all in art catalogs, many of them obscure and difficult to acquire.  One took a month to arrive via interlibrary loan.  I spend more time than I would like on tracking down sources and scanning books for my reference.  I am also creating an excel spreadsheet to keep track of all the sculpture
  • I am getting really good at topical triage.  One of the most thorny problems in Gandharan art is chronology.  Countless monographs have been written on the topic.  As far as I can tell, most of them are worthless, since they are based on a subjective stylistic analysis with little proven dates or archaeological evidence.  I am ignoring this topic entirely and only looking at the art from a synchronic perspective.  I might miss some piece of the puzzle by ignoring one approach, but I am okay with that.  It’s a sound cost-benefit analysis.
  • I am learning to distinguish between low-level, high-level, and impossible questions.  As I read scholarship, I am constantly finding and inventing new questions.  I write them down and sort them out according to level of analysis.  For example, some low-level questions: what scenes from the Buddha’s life does this figure appear in?  what expressions does he have on his face?  Some higher-level questions: why does his appearance change from image to image?  why did Buddhists artists use the iconography of Herakles in the first place?  were the images of Herakles drawn more from Greek or Roman art?  And then, the impossible questions: how much did Buddhists artists know about Herakles’ myths?  were the artisans who made these Herakles-Vajrapani images Indian by origin or were they immigrants from Rome on the Silk Road?
  • I am setting clear deadlines and finding a happy medium of pressure.  Every classics major at my school is required to write a thesis.  Last year, many of the theses were very late.  The students were stressed out, the professors were frustrated, and nobody was having a fun time.  I don’t work well under last-minute pressure, so I am pacing myself.  I work on the thesis from 7-10 four days a week.  I am also forcing myself into a deadline, as I’ve applied to present it at the Pacific Northwest regional AAR meeting.  So I have some pressure, but not so much that I explode!

Fellow researchers, what have you learned over the years?