Philology in the Modern Academy

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.

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Posted in Linguistics (theory or typology), Modern Scholarship. Tags: . Comments Off on Philology in the Modern Academy

Philology, Phrenology—What’s the difference?

I first saw an announcement about a movement to retread the worn out tires of philology in biblical studies last spring. It was around April 1 and I honestly wondered at first if it was an April Fool’s joke. Apparently it isn’t. I haven’t stopped shaking my head.

I gave a paper at SBL last year in which I discussed what I thought was the obvious and sensible notion that theory is necessary for analysis. For language, this means some sort of clear and coherent theory of language. The exhumation of philology has problems with theory, but that doesn’t seem to be stopping the grave diggers. Apparently theory avoidance is a malady that is hard to get rid of and spreads easily.

Anyway, I spent about 5 minutes with the announcement, which is also posted here (I shall remain hopeful that it’s not a permanent condition), and had a little Swiftian fun by changing a few words. So read further for some Fall fun.

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Posted in Linguistics (theory or typology), Modern Scholarship. Tags: , . Comments Off on Philology, Phrenology—What’s the difference?

Workshop on Biblical Hebrew Linguistics and Philology

If you’re in Jerusalem at the end of June, you’re welcome to register and attend.


Below is the poster. What a line-up of presentations!

Biblical Languages at the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies, eh?

For those interested in biblical languages, visiting Regina in late May ‒ or both ‒ this is for you!

At the 2018 CSBS/SCÉB Annual Meeting, to be held May 26-28, 2018, at the University of Regina, Regina, SK (that’s Saskatchewan, not South Kentucky, for those of you who’ve forgotten your northern geography), there will be a special session devoted to biblical languages. Depending on the number of accepted proposals, this may result in one or two meeting slots. If you love Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac, Latin, Armenian, Ge’ez, or any other primary language critical to biblical studies, consider submitting a proposal. The papers should be focused on language, but need not be formally linguistic (i.e., theoretical) in nature. The call for proposals is below:

Biblical Languages and Linguistics

A special session devoted to biblical languages and linguistics has been approved for the 2018 and 2019 annual meetings of the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies. Proposals concerning any ancient language relating to the biblical texts and/or ancient Versions, from Hebrew and Greek to Syriac and Ge‘ez, are welcomed. Preference is for papers that focus on some feature of grammar as it relates to the interpretation of biblical texts. Comparison of specific features of language traditions (e.g., some Syriac grammatical phenomenon in the Peshitta compared to the Hebrew or Greek of the Vorlage) is also encouraged. Please submit 250-word abstracts by January 8, 2018 to Robert Holmstedt