Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Why blog?

In one of my favourite TV series ever, The Prisoner (1967), there is an episode dealing with 1960s anxieties about the ever-increasing powers of the computer.  The episode is called "The General".  In the episode, our hero, Number 6 (Patrick McGoohan) confounds the computer by asking it a question that has long been "insoluble . . . for man or machine".  The question is "WHY?"  But of course the answer to the question has always had a solution ready to hand.  The answer is, of course, "Why not?"

I feel the same way about blogging.  If someone asks me "Why blog?", my answer is "Why not?"  There is actually a danger in getting too navel-gazing about it.  If you want to blog, or think you might want to blog, give it a go.  See how it goes.  If you enjoy it, great.  If others enjoy it, even better.  If not, you've not lost anything, except perhaps a little time.

I was recently perusing the wayback machine's archive of the old Biblioblog interviews as part of my research for a paper I was writing for the SBL International ( still defunct).  Happily, the Biblioblog Top 50 has now rescued these from oblivion.  One of the things that is fun about looking at these interviews is that several of them are of bloggers that have long since vanished from the blogosphere.  And I think that that's great.  It's not great that they have gone (I loved Bruce Fisk's, for example), but it is great that they gave it a go and found that it was not for them.

Recently, Joshua Mann asked me a series of questions about blogging, one of which was "Why blog?", to which the answer is definitely, "Why not?"  Several have already had a go at Joshua's questions and have done a great job -- see his blog.

I suppose that what I am trying to get at is that you don't know until you've tried.  Why not give it a go?  I kind of love blogging and wish I did it more often.  And I suspect that there are loads of people who would be great at it who never give it a go.  And there are loads of people who are rubbish at it and who should probably have given up on it.

I was going to get to Joshua's questions in this blog post, but realize now that I have spent so long on my pre-amble that I am going to have to wait for the next post to answer the actual questions.  And that illustrates something about blogging -- it is spontaneous, self-indulgent, ephemeral and probably a complete waste of space.

Pericopes, passages or paragraphs?

Scholars love their jargon.  And New Testament scholarship is choc-full of jargon.  Sometimes I get a bit tired of it.  For a bit of fun, I am experimenting with banning myself from using certain jargon-y words and phrases in an introductory article I am writing at the moment.  One of the things I am trying to avoid is "pericope".

There are several disadvantages with the use of the term "pericope" for Synoptic-Gospel units of text.  The first is that it is a jargon-word and functions mainly to make scholars feel superior to everyone else.  It's "in" language.  If you talk about a Biblical "passage", you are not one of us!  You are probably doing a horrid Bible Study with your horrid, non-academic friends, and you have no idea about how to study the Bible academically.  If you were an academic, you'd talk about pericopes!  

The second disadvantage is that no one knows how to do the plural of "pericope".  It's pericopae if one is being truly clever and "in".  But some scholars worry that this is a step too far.  It's just too ponsey.  So they go for "pericopes".  And that looks even more ungainly.

The third great problem with the word is that it cannot survive in the age of auto-correct.  MS Word knows that there is no such word as "pericope".  Surely, you must be intending to write "periscope".  And it will change it for you.  Without even asking you.  It's a free chuckle every time I see "periscopes" in a student paper.  And lest I become too puffed up, I have found it more than once in my own hand-outs, where auto-correct has done its worst.

In any case, what was ever wrong about talking about "passages" in the first place?  The word "pericope" is in any case a legacy of the kind of form-critical approach to the Gospels that we have all long-since abandoned.  Austin Farrer so disliked that kind of atomistic approach that he used to talk about "paragraph criticism", noting that he was quite happy to look at isolated paragraphs but that, in the end, it was the Gospel as a whole that rewarded careful, critical study.