In my last post, I used satire to address an important issue that has surfaced in Biblical studies in the last few years as well as in the general humanities over the last decade or so. Apparently my satirical send-up was not appreciated by all. Indeed, I was quickly chastised for my bullying, condescending, and misogynist post (and I was also subtly called a racist). Oddly, no one bothered to address the substantive issues: can we say anything useful without using a theory to interpret the data?, and what IS “philology” in contemporary scholarship?
I care about how we do things in biblical studies, not because I give a flip about current scholars (I can simply not read work I don’t think worth my time), but because I am sensitive to what young minds gravitate towards. And if there is one thing that is insidiously attractive to young minds it is easy thinking. And I think any approach that deliberately eschews clear methods for handling data and clear theories for interpreting data is very dangerous. And this is precisely what I sense in the movement to reclaim philology as a useful term in contemporary biblical scholarship.
Below are excerpts from an essay that has its origin in the joint linguistics and philology session at SBL 2018. If anyone was wondering why I wrote my phrenology (I mean, philology) post, this perhaps explains why.