Is Coptic easier to learn than Latin?

This is one of the strings that got someone to this blog yesterday. I must admit that I only did a term of Latin at school and then tested my friend on her Latin in the train on the way to school for five years, so I am by no means as familiar with Latin as I am with Coptic. I think, though, that I can safely say that Coptic is harder to learn than Latin (assuming English is your first language). It has a different alphabet, more tenses and is more inflected than Latin. OTOH, once you have learned a second language, the next one is not as difficult. It probably also depends on your motivation. If you have a reason for learning a language other than “the curriculum says I must”, then it’s easier to stay motivated.

How they got here

Every so often, when looking at your blog stats, you find a search string that makes absolutely no sense. Yesterday someone got here using:

archive photos of vluyn

Vluyn appears to be a town in Germany just north of Düsseldorf, or at least Neukirchen-Vluyn is. As far as I am aware, I have never mentioned it in this blog until now. I wonder if mentioning it will increase my hit rate? 🙂

Blog tidying

Earlier this week, I came looking for a link that I wanted  and discovered that I had somehow managed to remove my blogroll from the site design. I’ve just re-instated it, removed a couple of links to places that no longer exist, subdivided it and added links to a few of the blogs that I read regularly that don’t have anything specifically to do with my research. I hope to add a few more as time goes on, but right now I need to get back to fun things like the weekend cleaning and writing a job application. 🙂

Women in biblical studies – a strange coincidence

My hard copy of the Spring 2010 issue of JBL arrived in today’s mail. Of the eleven articles in it, three are by women. That’s nearly 30%, a much higher proportion of women authors than the proportion of women bibliobloggers (see JK Gayle’s comment that suggests less than 10% here), but the sample size is quite small.

The first is “Gog’s Grave and the Use and Abuse of Corpses in Ezekiel 39:11-20” by Francesca Stavrakopoulou, from the University of Exeter (UK). The second is “The Gospel of John and the Five Senses” by Dorothy Lee from Trinity College/Melbourne College of Divinity (Australia). The third is my “How Accurate are Eyewitnesses?” and I am from the University of New England (Australia). Thus, nearly 20% of the articles in this edition of JBL are by (ordained) Australian women. This must surely be unusual!

Help with a bible reference

I am having difficulty tracking down a half-remembered reference and am wondering if one of the people who reads this blog can help, please?

I am of the opinion that somewhere in the New Testament there is a statement to the general effect that God’s people will no longer have to bind God’s words on their foreheads and their arms as they were commanded to do in Deuteronomy because they will live in their hearts because of Jesus.  This is a wild paraphrase, but if anyone can help me to locate the relevant passage, I would be very grateful. I am not sure if it is Jesus saying this about himself or someone like Paul saying it about him.

Christopher Skinner’s interviews with Davies and Patterson

I am not very good at updating my blogroll, I find. Christopher Skinner’s PEJE IESOUS (transliteration of the Coptic for “Jesus said”) has been around a while now (since September, in fact), and I’ve linked to it, but not managed to add it to the blog roll, despite it’s interest to people who are interested in Gos Thom. Last month, he posted an interview in three parts with Stevan Davies and this month, he has done the same with Stephen J Patterson (although part III is not up at the time of this post). In each case, I’ve linked to the first post and you will need to read up the blog. He also has a range of other interesting material on Thomas and on early Christianity in general. A blog worth visiting.

No, not nailed to the perch

I was reading through Doug Chaplin’s 48th Biblical Studies Carnival, (which is huge) when I came across the suggestion that my blog is currently nailed to the perch. I followed the link and discovered that I haven’t posted anything since late September! I had not realised that it had been that long, but there is a very good reason for this.  The funding for my current position (the one that keeps food on the table while I indulge my fascination for Coptic text) comes to an end on 31 December so I have been applying for new jobs and sorting my office into things that belong to me, things that should stay in the office (assuming that if the promised fractional time funding actually materialises and they find someone to do anything part time, they might need some resources) and things that should have been thrown away years ago.

I had forgotten how much energy packing takes and when you combine it with writing job applications, there isn’t much energy left for blogging.

My ministry library is currently sitting in 9 book cartons in the office and my doctoral material is now mainly in a new, shared office in the School of Humanities postgrad “waifs and strays” room where I am being a full time postgrad for 3 months (taking annual and long service leave). The room is inhabited by several honours students, a masters’ research student, a full time PhD student who is waiting for a space to free up in one of the full time doctoral offices, an adjunct philosopher who already has his PhD, me (a part time PhD student who doesn’t actually have to be provided with desk space) and several other people who don’t seem to use their desks.

The room is divided into several bays with 2-3 desks in each.  Everyone is pretty quiet and the room is airconditioned because it used to be a computer lab. This is nice because we are in the grip of an extended spell of hot weather. No other member of the School has air conditioning – not even the Head.

I spent a week getting my head back around my research and acquiring necessary equipment.  This included a rubbish bin and a paper recycling bin, which the other occupants didn’t realise they could ask for, even though they are standard equipment in all offices on campus. I then spent a week at a national university chaplains’ conference in Melbourne, during which time I also talked to several people about potential ministry placements.

Today, I re-read chapter 3 of the thesis/dissertation and decided that it needs a significant rework and discovered that I don’t appear to have a version that still has the Endnote tags for the references.  Yay!! On the plus side, this is the chapter my supervisor/advisor and I had planned to submit for publication some time ago and I am so pleased that we didn’t, because I no longer agree with what it says.

So, Doug, thanks for the nudge.  Although I need to concentrate on getting some writing done so that I can claw back the lack of progress over what has been a truly unpleasant year, I do plan to blog somewhat more frequently over the next two months or so.

My apologies for deleting a comment

Ack!! I just went into comment moderation to delete a spam comment that had been held for my approval.  Just as I was about to click Spam, my husband came in with a cup of coffee for me. I jerked and clicked on the post before it – one that was OK. Because I hadn’t looked at it, I don’t know whose it was, but if it was yours, please rest assured that I have nothing against you and you are very, very welcome to repost it.

Women Bibliobloggers (or lack thereof)

This issue of why there are so few women bibliobloggers has raised its head again in the biblioblogosphere at a time when I am rapidly sinking under a load of the work that I get paid to do so that I can afford to study. Please therefore excuse me for failing to link to all the people who are discussing this and for not acknowledging who said what. Kudos, though, to Pat McCullough for highlighting the issue. I don’t all that often hear men asking this kind of question an we women get sick of asking it for ourselves.

Before I say what I have to say, let me give you some background.  I was ordained by the Uniting Church in Australia in December 1987. My church, which formed in 1977, has always ordained women. Two of its parent churches, the Methodist and Presbyterian churches had been ordaining women since the mid sixties. The Congregational Union in Australia ordained its first woman in the 1930s – internationally, it was the late 1800s. On the surface, my denomination has a pretty good track record with respect to women in leadership.

While I was training, some of the male candidates felt it was OK/their duty to explain to the female candidates why it was against God’s will for women to be ordained. The congregation where I currently worship has had two previous women ministers, one for 9 years. It currently has a woman minister. I have been attending worship there for some eight and a half years while I have been working as the denomination’s chaplain at the university. Significant numbers of members of the congregation still refer to any generic minister as “he”. I recently had a conversation with the chair of a “search committee” (we call them joint nominating committees) from another congregation who told me that a number of members of their committee did not want a woman because the person who has just left to join another denomination was a woman. I have never heard anyone suggest that they should not get another male minister because the previous man had done something they didn’t like – even serious misconduct.  They just say that the last guy was a dud!

The general consensus amongst Christian churches in Australia is that my denomination is so liberal as to be hardly Christian and yet there is still significant misogyny observable and even more if you scratch below the surface. Although we have a significant proportion of female clergy and quite a few of our lay leaders are also female, most of our gatherings are very “blokey”. Men have very loud voices and they pray and sing loudly. Which is why you can have a nicely balanced choir with 7 sopranos, 5 altos, 1 tenor and 2 bases. (Many men also take more than their fair share of seats in aeroplanes, but that’s probably got nothing to do with biblioblogging). 🙂 My church often feels like a men’s club.

Some time back, someone did a list of bibliblogs that described them according to their theological positions as well as their frequency of posting. I appear not to have bookmarked it, but  it confirmed my impression that by far the majority of well-known bibliobloggers are theologically more conservative, which means that they are also less likely to be female. One of the other chaplaincies on my campus is Evangelical and although they ordain some women, these women are not allowed to teach men, so they are girls’ school chaplains or women’s and children’s ministers. One of the women leaders used to run a bible study group in the meeting room next to my office.  I didn’t always agree with her theology, but she was a great group leader and an excellent teacher. The men’s group thought it was just perfectly OK to disrupt her group by playing pranks, like locking her out. At team meetings (which I overhear), there is almost always a “pick on the female leader” segment aimed at making whoever is currently in the position feel small and stupid.  I actually don’t think this is deliberate. The guys are for the most part genuinely nice people, but their culture simply values women’s input on serious faith issues less than it values men’s. If, every time you open your mouth you’re ridiculed, it would take an incredible amount of self esteem and courage to put your thoughts about Bible out there on the web.

As I suggested on April DeConick’s blog, I think that another problem is that in many families where both partners work full time, there is an uneven allocation of housework and childcare at home.  This is well documented in the literature, and it means that women tend to have less time and less headspace than men to blog. If you are going to blog serious theology, you need headspace (this was pointed out by another woman blogger who rarely blogs theology despite having academic qualifications therein).

I am different. I grew up in an egalitarian family. My mother taught me to cook and my father taught me to fix cars. I went to an all girls’ school where we were told that we could do anything we wanted if we worked hard enough. I was in my early twenties before anyone whose opinion I respected told me that there were things I couldn’t do because I am female. My husband has been the primary care giver for our children ever since they were born. He recognised my call to ministry and was prepared to support it.  This has limited his choices in life.  April is also different. I don’t know about her family and educational background, but she didn’t have a child until she had already established her academic career and from what I have observed, she does have a husband who is willing to share the household chores and child care fairly evenly. This is not the case for many of my female colleagues.

If real life doesn’t overtake me again, tomorrow I will make some comments on the place of the Bible, which I think is really important.

I will close by saying that I really wish I had known about the Emerging Women blog when I was doing my Biblical Studies Carnival.  I really struggled to find women to link to, but here some of them were!!

It must be summer again . . .

. . . because memes are abounding in the blogosphere again. I’m always ambivalent about them.  On the one hand, it’s nice to be recognised by other bloggers as having something worth linking to.  On the other, one of my friends once suggested that they’re not far removed from chain letters…

However, I’ve been tagged with two in the last week or so and  I want at least to acknowledge the taggers.

noblesse oblige logo

noblesse oblige logo

The first was Tim Bulkeley from SansBlogue, who tagged me with the noblesse oblige meme. The rules of this meme are very simple – you display the logo on your blog and tag up to 9 other bloggers whose work you think deserves it. The concept, for those who are not familiar with it, is that with nobility comes obligation (in the case of the French aristocracy, the obligation to look after their serfs, in the case of the tagee, to tag others). Tim is a scholar of Hebrew Bible whose blog has recently concerned itself with the ethical dilemma for people from the developed world of spending money on life’s little luxuries when people in developing countries don’t have adequate food, clothing, shelter or education. Malheureusement, so many people have now been tagged, which makes selecting targets challenging.  Those whose interest in biblical studies extends to putting the study into practice in worship might find both Cheryl Lawrie’s hold :: this space and Roddy Hamilton’s abbotsford.org.uk sites interesting and thought-provoking, maybe even refreshing and encouraging.

Today, the person who goes by the nom de plume Theophrastus Aristotle and writes over at What I Learned from Aristotle tagged me with the far more work-intensive meme. This one, Books that Influenced My Reading of the Bible, as the name suggests, requires five books that have influenced how you read the Bible. I find this very, very difficult to do, because I actually can’t remember any books that have had a lasting influence, but there have been people:

  • Prof Brendan Byrne, sj,  who helped me to understand what exegesis is all about and how important it is to read meaning out of rather than into the text
  • Prof Nigel Watson, who introduced me to Koine Greek and to the concept that it’s OK to change how you interpret biblical text based on new insights from other scholars
  • Prof David Scholer, about whom I’ve written elsewhere, who introduced me to the concept of lenses or grids through which we view the bible
  • Dr Morna Hooker, who showed me that a female biblical scholar could have credibility without being ordained or trying to write like a male one and whose “On Using the Wrong Tool” I have also written on elsewhere
  • Prof Majella Franzmann, my doctoral supervisor/adviser (does this make her my Doktormutter?) who gently reminds me when I am reading biblical texts wearing my “person of faith” lenses and making  assumptions based on church dogma.
  • Prof April DeConick, my mentor and friend, of The Forbidden Gospels Blog, who also reminds me about my faith lenses and who helped me to see why having a clear methodology for approaching text is so important.

While it is very tempting to tag Jim West, just because everyone knows how much he hates memes, I am going to resist.  Tim Bulkeley has just moved house, but might wish to participate, seeing he tagged me with the other one. Hey, if you read this blog and would like to join in because you have books or people you’d like to mention, consider yourself tagged. Oh, and my daughter has just wandered past and after getting over the shock of discovering that bibliobloggers do memes, suggested that I should mention her personal favourite blog, I can haz Cheezburger, although I can’t really see them getting excited about writing about books that changed how they read the Bible or feeling noblesse-ily obliged to link to other blogs. 🙂 Anyone got a picture of a cat looking at a Bible that we can caption “O, u mean ai should look at it from dis saide”?

Oh, and just so you know, here in lovely Armidale, NSW, Australia, I am wearing thermal underwear in an attempt to deal with the winter cold in a way that has less negative impact on the environment. Our students started end of semester exams on Tuesday and classes begin again on 28 July.