This blog will be the hub for a blog tour featuring and discussing T. Michael Law’s When God Spoke Greek: The Septuagint and the Making of the Christian Bible (See Forthcoming book blog tour). A couple days ago he wrote a post titled Clearing some things up about When God Spoke Greek where oddly he had to defend his decision to write a popular level work on the Greek Bible (HT: Joel Watts).
I am guilty as charged if the accusation is brought up again, as it has been to me in an email, that this is not a “scholarly monograph”, though I would not have gone on to agree that it is “popular drivel.” I have beat the drum here on this blog and elsewhere (including in the first pages of my book), so I will be brief about it again. Stephen Prothero said it in this interview with Charles Halton: the rewards in the humanities go to those who write books that are completely “original,” “ground-breaking,” etc. There are prizes for that: tenure-track jobs being only one of them.
My concern is different. I worry about the atrophy or even death of the humanities due to excessive navel-gazing. I’ve taken no small amount of criticism or snide remarks from scholars for writing this book. But, if I may be so blunt, I am bothered that many people (including students and scholars) know next to nothing about a subject I think is quite important for religious and cultural history. Some scholars hate words like “impact,” but if that means you just don’t care ever to communicate to the public what is good and worthy in your discipline, you cannot complain when your departments are being closed because new students want to go study sciences.
Pardon my ignorance, but why would someone like Law who is highly qualified to write a book on the Greek Bible be chastised for writing one that may educate the public? Why do biblical scholars do their research? To talk to each other only? To feel like the only kid on the block with the new video game system who can sleep easier knowing they have something others do not? What is the reason for this smugness? If educators in the humanities do not do their work to educate society then why do they exist? Why discover, produce, and preserve knowledge if not for the broader society?
If the humanities in general, and biblical studies specifically, exist so scholars can do nothing but wax eloquently in a room of five people with no desire to educate the public then there is no need for these scholars or their work. Humanities professors bemoan the lack of funding that goes to their departments, then they want to produce research that is too high and mighty for public consumption? If this is the trajectory of the humanities then defund these departments. They have become useless to society, so why should society care if they are funded? Personally, I am grateful to people like Law, Bart D. Ehrman, and many others who respect the public enough to write for them. We need more of it, not less.