Precisely three years ago, at this very hour on Sept. 19, 2012, I was in a meeting…a meeting called by the president of my former institution because (and this is a verbatim quote from his e-mail) “of some serious concerns expressed as a result of your Huffington Post blog” (which appeared on August 31, 2012, an article about the Bible’s marginalization of women and the sad perpetuation of that in the modern world).
I went into the meeting concerned, but also knowing that I had tenure, knowing that my institution’s faculty handbook had the AAUP’s statement about academic freedom enshrined in it, and knowing that I had not been required to sign a statement of faith at any point. But I was wrong….little did I know that I should have been very concerned…..because at that fateful meeting, I was told that I would need “to resign or be fired.”
Thus began an ordeal, a saga, a journey. I was forced to resign, something that became effective December 31, 2012. Then began some twenty months of “living out of a suitcase”….good things….a visiting professorship at GW, then an NEH in Jerusalem, and a visiting professorship at Tel Aviv….but a period of tumult and “suit-case living” as well. Then, ultimately, an offer of a tenured position came along from George Washington University (something that a true Mensch named Eric Cline faciltated, in ways that border on miraculous…and with many of you writing letters of recommendation for me, paving the way for everything)…and I accepted.
So today, as I reflect on these three years, and as I begin my second year at GW, I marvel at the difference a year, or two, or indeed three, can make. I absolutely love teaching at GW….and I am grateful for the students, faculty colleagues and administrators at GW. So today especially, I hold the GW banner high….with gratitude for everything….and with delight at the wonderful things that have developed since that fateful and painful meeting three years ago this morning. I’m really loving the music of life and all that it can bring.
While going on line this morning I happened to run across some information regarding theological issues between faculty there and Professor Rollston. As an Israeli archaeologist interested in the Historical Jesus I follow to a great extent what is currently being discussed in that field.
In 2009 I first had the opportunity to meet and hear Chris at a Duke special conference on problems dealing with religion and the media. Chris and I both were invited speakers and if you go on-line you will see the stature of the academic community invited there. For a young man that was quite of an achievement (it took me 40 yrs). He was truly impressive as an academic and as a result I began following some of his research.
In a sense he stands almost alone in a small community of scholars who have the courage and integrity to take a stand against those high profile individuals in the media who are seeking fame and fortune at the expense of those around us. For me personally, I view him not as a theologian but as a very well respected, articulate and highly educated colleague who is perhaps best represented by the words of Seneca ‘academics should be lawyers for the masses’ in the sense that Chris speaks not only to the masses out there in America which few theologians do, (outside the churches on Sunday), but for many of us Jews, Christians and secular academics around the world.
To lose this voice of reason is a blow not only to academic freedom, your institution, but religious studies in general. Please think it over as he has hard earned support from those of us in the academic world. To dismiss him and his ideas would be a travesty and bring shame on your institution. Please reconsider your actions, by doing so, you will do all of us a favor as he is truly unique in his field.
Respectfully yours and Shalom this Feast of Succoth from Jerusalem
Chris posted a very precise summary of the discussion of the Talpiot ‘Jonah’ inscription today, the summary of which is
In short, in terms of readings for this very brief inscription (just fourteen graphemes!), I continue to contend for the following reading: DE OSTAE OU PSŌ AGB, while also considering viable: DI OSTAE OU PSŌ. In terms of the verb, it could be understood (as I suggested on March 15, Rollston 2012b) as psaō, with either the transitive or intransitive meanings I mentioned then (i.e., “I touch not,” or “I crumble not away”/”I disappear not”). Conversely, because we do see the shortened form of the negative attested epigraphically in Greek (i.e., o for ou; perhaps also compare the phenomenon of crasis in Greek), it is also viable to suggest (as I did in Rollston 2012a, that is, February 28) that the verb preceded by the negative is indeed upsoō (i.e., “lift,” “raise up,” “exalt”), especially since a number of ossuary inscriptions refer to the movement or non-movement of ossuaries or bones (see Rollston 2012b for these references). Of course, in the latter case something such as this is tenable: “Because of the bones, I lift not (the ossuary), O Agabus,” or “Because of the bones, I Agagus, lift not (the ossuary),” with the ossuary being understood, as it is the thing being written upon. Of course, something such as “Here are the bones, I lift not (the ossuary/bones), O Agabus,” or “Here are the bones, I Agabus lift (the ossuary/bones) not” are also plausible. In sum, I consider this inscription to be about bones, and it is also clear that the tetragrammaton is simply not used in this inscription.