Hector Avalos on "The Ideology of the Society of Biblical Literature and the Demise of an Academic Profession"



Harry H. McCall said...

I joined the Society of Biblical Literature in 1973 and attended my first national meeting in 1974 in Washington, D.C. (The same year that the ancient Christian scholar Fredrick C. Grant (father of Patristic scholar Robert M. Grant, University of Chicago) died (Both Grants were presidents of the S.B.L. and the only father and son I believe to hold such position) and also the same year that Harvard Old Testament professor George Ernest Wright died of a heart attack. I did attend his proposed lecture on archeology which had to be fielded by another scholar.

I remained a member of the Society until about 1998 at which time the cost of membership did not justify my interest. The value which the Journal of Biblical Literature had for me were the book reviews which helped me decide what my next purchase would be for my library.

After I had left the ministry, I attended the 1986 SBL meeting in Atlanta, Ga. and, while having lunch, the Biblical professor sitting next to me, who (when she learned I worked in the electronic industry) asked abruptly: “What are you doing here?”

I agree with Hector Avalos about the social functions of the SBL where professors from larger colleges and universities have most all their cost of attendance paid for them. The after meeting “party time” is where colleges and universities have receptions held for students and professors and where the alcohol flows freely. I remember sitting at a table where a drunk Biblical professor stumbled over and wanted to know which university I taught at.

The national SBL meetings always draw some type of religious nuts who often have written some weird theology. At one meeting, back in the 70’s, a man was giving out hundreds of his self published books entitled “I Found an Elephant in the Bible”. This 78 page book had symbols of elephants in everything from the lay out of the Holy Land to symbols of elephants revealed in the theologies of the Bible. I still have mine with his personal autograph and the statement that “May God bless you as you read it“. If you do not think Jesus was revealed in the form of an elephant, then you just may not have studied your Bible enough.

While Hector’s very real look at the SBL is revealing and correct, in the long run, this ever growing monster will merely find Hectors objections a mere bump in the road as it continues to justify and feed its own existence.

Edwardtbabinski said...

Elephants in the Bible?

Harry, You ought to write a piece on John's blog about some of the best arguments for "elephants" in the Bible. I'd like to see some of them.

And what about Steam Locomotives?

Chaplain Tresham Dames Gregg delivered a noteworthy sermon published in 1863, "The Steam Locomotive as Revealed in the Bible. A Lecture Delivered to Young Men in Sheffield." Gregg's sermon is a little gem of fundamentalist ingenuity and creativity in which he demonstrates that God gave the prophet Ezekiel a vision of a steam locomotive. (Ezek. 1:4-25)

"The Steam Locomotive as Revealed in the Bible: A Lecture Delivered to Young Men in Sheffield" (London: Wertheim, Macintosh, and Hunt, Paternoster Row, 1863; reprinted in 1991 by Paradox Press, Burnsvi1le, Minnesota, by the (now late) Robert Schadewald, who also has some great online articles about the Bible's "flat earth" passages, along with a bit of history of Christian popularizers of a "flat earth."

zilch said...
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zilch said...

Steam Locomotives in the Bible? Who'd a thunk it? That reminds me of this great passage in Sylvie and Bruno by Lewis Carroll, where the two fairy children are visiting Dogland (warning: severe thread drift):

“When His Majesty speaks to you,” the Sentinel hastily whispered to Bruno, “you should prick up your ears!”

Bruno looked doubtfully at Sylvie. “I’d rather not, please,” he said. “It would hurt.”

“It doesn’t hurt a bit!” the Sentinel said with some indignation. “Look! It’s like this!” And he pricked up his ears like two railway signals.

Sylvie gently explained matters. “I’m afraid we ca’n’t manage it,” she said in a low voice. “I’m very sorry: but our ears haven’t got the right--” she wanted to say “machinery” in Doggee: but she had forgotten the word, and could only think of “steam-engine.”

The Sentinel repeated Sylvie’s explanation to the King.

“Can’t prick up their ears without a steam-engine!” His Majesty exclaimed. “They must be curious creatures! I must have a look at them!”