Archive for June, 2010
Thus the wise man, at all times and on every road, carries a mind ripe for acquisitions that ordinary folk neglect. The humblest occupation is for him a continuation of the loftiest; his formal calls are fortunate chances of investigation; his walks are voyages of discovery, what he hears and his silent answers are a dialogue that truth carries on with herself within him. Wherever he is, his inner universe is comparing itself with the other, his life with Life, his work with the incessant work of all beings; and as he comes forth from the narrow space in which his concentrated study is done, one gets the impression, not that he is leaving the true behind, but that he is throwing his door wide open so that the world may bring to him all the truth given out in its mighty activities.
- A.G. Sertillanges, The Intellectual Life: Its Sprit, Conditions, Methods (p. 81)
I’ve been watching a little bit of World Cup action over the last few days, and I just want to go on the record in support of a ban on the vuvuzela. In case you’ve been living under a rock–or just don’t have cable–the vuvuzelas are those plastic horns that South African fans blow at the soccer matches. Sounds like fun, right? Wrong–they blow them constantly, an incessant buzzing of ten thousand huge bees.
This has become a serious problem for FIFA for three reasons. First, the buzzing is overwhelming for TV spectators–I can’t watch the games with sound anymore. One French channel is now offering vuvuzela-free broadcast using digital filters. Second, the players have trouble communicating with each other and the benches, because they can’t hear. Third, fans constantly blowing horns can’t cheer, and other fans don’t even bother to cheer over the blaring. No cheering means no dynamic from the crowd, no swell of sound as one team moves the ball down the field or gets a key chance.
Anyway, that’s my two cents. I wish FIFA would ban them from the games, but it looks like that won’t happen.
On the subject of horns, I was reading Daniel 8 yesterday and thinking about the various opinions on how to date the book. Daniel 8 contains the vision of the ram and the male goat. The male goat defeats the ram, but its great horn breaks into four smaller horns. The rest of the vision is concerned with the blasphemies and desecrations of the little horn.
Verses 1-14 contain the vision, and verses 15-27 provide the interpretation. According to the angel Gabriel, the ram with two horns represents Persia and Media, and the goat represents Greece (Yawan). The interpretation clearly points to Alexander the Great as the goat’s great horn, and his four generals as the smaller horns. The Seleucid kings are the little horn.
This interpretation is widely accepted by conservative and liberal scholars alike. There is significant divergence of opinion about the conclusions that should be drawn about the background of the book from this chapter. Critical scholars presuppose that predictive prophecy is not possible, and so can they date this portion of the book no earlier than the Maccabean period (160s BCE). Many conservative scholars presuppose Danielan authorship, and so they date the book in the early Persian period (late 500s BCE).
I would like to question both of these presuppositions. I embrace the Book of Daniel as Scripture and wholeheartedly believe its message, which is that God is sovereign over all world events. As an evangelical, I believe in God’s sovereignty and the truth of Scripture. Does this mean, however, that I must embrace Danielan authorship? Is there a way to read this book faithfully as Scripture if it were written in the Maccabean period?
I believe that God gave some people predictive visions, and so I cannot preclude the possibility of early authorship. However, many factors mitigate that possibility. The 12 chapters of MT Daniel seem to be a composite work, containing different languages (chs. 1, 8-12 in Hebrew; chs. 2-7 in Aramaic) and vastly different genres (narrative, vision, penitent prayer). The LXX versions of Daniel include two other stories (Susanna, Bel and the Dragon), another prayer and a song. Critical study would lead us to the conclusion that this is a collection of Daniel-related traditions that were brought together at a quite late date.
Why do evangelicals feel the need to question this conclusion? Are we afraid that acknowledging that Daniel 8 was written about current events (the Maccabean revolt) would detract from the divinity of Scripture? We have other examples from the OT prophets and from Revelation of biblical writers interpreting current world events through the lens of God’s sovereignty and expressing the state of the world in apocalyptic language.
Do you agree? Are evangelicals required to hold onto Daniel 8 as predictive prophecy, or is there another way to be faithful to the text of Scripture and the God who gave it to us?
A recent report has revealed that Pete Rose probably used a corked bat during his quest to unseat Ty Cobb as Baseball’s all-time hit king. If you know about baseball, you know that Rose received a lifetime ban for betting on the game while he was a manager: he can never play, coach or enter the Hall of Fame.
Some have argued that the sluggers from the so-called steroid era–McGwire, Sosa, Bonds, etc.–should likewise not be permitted to enter the Hall of Fame. There is a lot of question as to whether the writers will in fact vote for these guys when they’re up for election in a few years.
I think Rose’s transgression—betting on the game—is in a different category from those of the steroid crowd. I don’t have a problem with letting those guys in for several reasons:
- There is no conclusive evidence that “PEDs” actually enhance performance. The explosion of power in the late ‘90s can just as easily be attributed to the expansion and the dilution of the pitching talent. Even if steroids have the potential to make you stronger, that wouldn’t give me the hand-eye coordination that Bonds has. They still had to hit/throw the ball.
- A lot of the PEDs these guys were taking were not illegal or against the rules at the time. You can’t fault them for trying them, especially if their opponents were as well.
- Let’s be honest here: MLB executives are equally to blame for the steroid abuse, because they banned stuff and then didn’t test for it. That’s like a professor who gives a take-home, closed-book exam—it punishes the scrupulous and rewards the cheaters. The execs liked the HRs because they attracted (weenie) fans. Again, let’s be honest: McGwire and Sosa saved baseball after the strike.
Betting on the game affects the integrity of the contest in a different way from the way PEDs do.
When I watch a sporting event, I want to know for sure that the performers are trying their hardest and that the game will be called as fairly as possible by the officials. I expect the athletes to do all sorts of things to increase their chances of winning. Some are judged to be within the rules (training, practice, weightlifting, vitamins, cortisone shots, stealing signs while on second base, etc.) and some are judged to be outside the rules (hurting one’s opponent, taking steroids, stealing signs with binoculars from the bullpen). As a consumer of entertainment, I assume that the athletes would do all these things if they could, but the officials limit these behaviors for the purpose of improving the sport and maintaining the health of the players.
Betting one’s own sport, however, is a different matter—that casts doubt on whether the games were contested fairly. Even if Rose bet on his own teams, it will never be possible to know whether he was managing to win, or to cover the spread. Baseball was right to kick him out and keep him out. Maybe someday he should go in the HoF, but he definitely should be involved in the sport again.
I would vote McGwire, Bonds, Clemens, Palmeiro, Sosa et al into the HoF if their numbers and achievements were judged to be extraordinary compared to their contemporaries. Stats always have to be judged in context. That’s what makes them so much fun and yet so debatable. There’s no question that Bonds hit more HRs than Ruth. Bonds played many more games at night than Ruth did. Bonds walked many more times than Ruth did. Ruth had Lou Gehrig protecting him in the lineup for most of his career. Conversely, Ruth was a pitcher (an excellent one, BTW) for the first years of his career. He also played before the live-ball era, and played 154-game seasons.
The debates are endless. I think steroids should be part of the debate, but not the only component.
HT: The Onion.
On Friday, I received word that my paper entitled, “A ‘Perfect’ Poem: The Use of the QATAL form in the Biblical Acrostics,” will appear in the fifty-first issue of Hebrew Studies, the annual journal of the National Association of Professors of Hebrew. The date of publication is usually November or December.
This is my first academic publication, and I’m very excited as you can imagine. Rather than viewing this honor as the end of a long project that started last summer, I hope that the article becomes a stepping stone to deeper work in the Book of Lamentations.
There really is no such thing as an individual achievement. At this relatively small but still important academic milestone, it is imperative that I express my gratitude to several people. First, I’d like thank those who have taught me Hebrew at several institutions over the years: my father (Ralph), Gary Schnittjer, Karyn Traphagen, Doug Green and Mike Kelly.
Second, Brian Toews was my advisor on this project last summer, and I am grateful to him for taking time away from his busy schedule as Provost to meet with me, as well as for encouraging me to pursue the question even when the answer might have been “no.”
Next, I’m grateful to Chuck Walton, a good friend who was the first to say to me last year, “You know, have you ever thought about presenting at a conference or submitting a paper for publication?” No, I hadn’t really, Chuck–so, thanks.
Finally, my wife, Corrie, deserves “praise in the gates” and my heartfelt gratitude for supporting me financially, spiritually and emotionally while I pursue academic work. She understood that the months that I spent working on my projects between full-time master’s work and a doctoral program were not a waste. She believes in me, and the most gratifying aspect of these small successes is that they validate her faith in me. Corrie, you are truly’ an ‘ešet ĥayil.