Weekly Meanderings

Weekly Meanderings November 24, 2012

Let’s pray this is a Middle East sunset of peace.

Blog post of the week by Neil Godfrey: “The best way to understand just how ‘non-religious’ or ‘non-biblical’ are the books of the New Testament — that is, to understand just how much a product of their own wider Greco-Roman literary culture are those books — is to read the popular novels of that era. I enjoy both literature and ancient history so I loved reading the Collected Ancient Greek Novels edited by B. P. Reardon. They are called novels here, but they are otherwise labelled ‘novellas’, ‘erotic novels’ (from their theme of love at the behest of the god Eros), or ‘romances’. So I was pleased to find that New Testament scholars have indeed been studying these and publishing on what they can teach us about the New Testament. (This was some years ago, but I am trying to catch up on years of reading on this blog.) One of these academics is Ronald F. Hock (I referred to him in my previous post) and it is my take on his chapter, “Why New Testament Scholars Should Read Ancient Novels” appearing in Ancient Fiction and Early Christian Narrative that I share in this post.”

Wow, talk about class size expansion: “Pennsylvania classicist Peter Struck has guided perhaps a few hundred students annually in his classes on Greek and Roman mythology through the works of Homer, Sophocles, Aeschylus and others – “the oldest strands of our cultural DNA.” But if you gathered all of those tuition-paying, in-person students together, the group would pale in size compared with the 54,000 from around the world who, this fall alone, are taking his class online for free – a “Massive Open Online Course,” or MOOC, offered through a company called Coursera. Reaching that broader audience of eager learners – seeing students in Brazil and Thailand wrestle online with texts dating back millennia – is thrilling. But he’s not prepared to say they’re getting the same educational experience.”

Mark Regnerus: “It points out very old, very stable notions about the sexual exchange itself. Men are the demand side, and women are the supply side. Women could demand sex (and some do), but they’re apt to be remarkably successful when they do. Men can only hope for sex….At bottom, sex scandals involve men because men want sex more than women do. If the classic sex-for-resources exchange model works—and I hold that it still does, despite the fact that men offer less (and women need fewer) resources than in the past—then women with significant authority and power should rarely find themselves in sex scandals. Why? Because they don’t need the resources. They already have them. The scandals will almost always be about men, because while they’ve got more than enough resources, it’s the sex th”at remains elusive, just out of reach. Until it’s not.

Twitter wisdom.

When Julius Caesar was kidnapped… he remained powerful.

An essay on Gratitude: “Through the ages, the virtue of gratitude has played a central role in debates over the nature of human nature. Yet outside of happiness, gratitude’s benefits are rarely discussed these days; indeed, in contemporary American society, we’ve come to overlook, dismiss, or even disparage the significance of gratitude as a virtue.  Expressions of gratitude to God by athletes and other public figures are met with cynicism. How can modern social science research on gratitude inform decisions on the perennial ethical questions of how one should act and what type of person should one be? Is gratitude vital to living the good life?  How encouraging would it be to begin seeing the headlines such as: “Gratitude Powers a Sense of Purpose,” “More Grateful Teens Less Likely to be Depressed, Delinquent,” “Gratitude Leads to Generous Giving,” and “Gratitude Works! How Gratitude Prompts Corporate Social Responsibility.” Research along these lines is underway, but much more is needed.  Only then will modern research catch up with the timeless insights of the ancient moralists.”

Marco Rubio’s faith connections: “Rubio attends a Baptist church in southern Florida but also considers himself “a practicing Catholic.” He was born Catholic, but his family converted to Mormonism when Rubio was 8 years old, according to Rubio’s recent memoir. The family left its LDS faith behind when it moved from Nevada back to Florida and Rubio was confirmed in the Catholic Church.”

Joe Biden, our VP. The best one was when he introduced “Barack America.”

Meanderings in the News

Mormonism’s new confidence: “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has entered a new era after Romney’s run for president. His candidacy illuminated a changing landscape for the religion, where Americans are growing more curious than fearful about the faith, and allies can be found even among Christians with deep misgivings about Mormon beliefs. “After this, it’s hard to say the Mormons are really outsiders,” said Jan Shipps, a scholar of American religion and expert on the LDS church. No one would argue that prejudice and misunderstanding have disappeared. And many wonder how long the new tolerance will last beyond the election. But over the years since Romney first indicated he would try for president, there have been signs of real progress. Mormons no longer stand alone against insults to their church; leaders of other faiths join them in protest. Christians who once spoke about Mormonism only to condemn it, now also acknowledge the church’s dedication to family, charity and community service. Until recently, prominent Christian preachers risked their standing in their communities by appearing at the Salt Lake Tabernacle. That backlash has since diminished. And ministries such as the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association are discouraging conservative Christians from calling the LDS church a cult, a theological term with a specific meaning for Christians that morphed over the years into a broad rebuke.”

Gaza in the Middle Ages and Jewish life.

At SBL a friend of mine told me he has ceased technical NT studies to study “more significant” things, and he told me his next project would be on death. So here you go, stuff on death: “Particularly when you’re older, you are 14 percent more likely to die on your birthday than on any other day of the year. Particularly when you live in certain geographical areas, you are 13 percent more likely to die after getting a paycheck. And particularly when you’re human, you are more likely to die in the late morning — around 11 a.m., specifically — than at any other time during the day. Yes. That last one comes from a new study, published in the Annals of Neurology, that identifies a common gene variant affecting circadian rhythms. And that variant, it seems, could also predict the time of day you will die.  Even death, apparently, has a circadian rhythm.”

Suicides and military: “7:46PM EST November 18. 2012 – With six weeks left in the year, the Army and Navy are already reporting record numbers of suicides, with the Air Force and Marine Corps close to doing the same, making 2012 the worst year for military suicides since careful tracking began in 2001. The deaths are now occurring at a rate faster than one per day. On Nov. 11, confirmed or suspected suicides among active-duty forces across the military reached 323, surpassing the Pentagon’s previous high of 310 suicides set in 2009.”

The world’s scariest bridges.

Sindya N. Bhanoo: “Human ancestors were using stone-tipped spears to hunt 500,000 years ago, 200,000 years earlier than previously thought. A new study reports that the stone tips, found in South Africa, were probably once attached to wooden spears and then hurled at animals by hominins of the species Homo heidelbergensis. Homo heidelbergensis was the last common ancestor of modern humans and Neanderthals, said Jayne Wilkins, an anthropologist at the University of Toronto and the study’s first author. The spears “suggest that the behavioral complexity of these early humans was greater than expected,” she said. Creating a stone-tipped spear would have required attaching stone to wood, handling multiple types of material at once, planning and goal-oriented behavior.”

Meanderings in Sports

Miguel Angel Jimenez: “As always, the Malaga-based Jimenez celebrated his success with a glass of Rioja and a cigar – and credited those habits with helping his longevity. “There is maybe olive oil in my joints, and drinking the nice Rioja wine and those things keeps me fit and flexible,” he said. “Well, the most important thing (is), I do what I like to do in my life, and golf has given me all of this pleasure.”

The punky QB: “Former Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon said that given a do-over, he’d have chosen to play baseball. At just 53, McMahon has early-stage dementia, most likely caused by the myriad head injuries he suffered during his football years. “When my friends call and leave me a message … I’ll read it and delete it before I respond and then I forget who called and left me a message,” said McMahon in an interview with Chicago TV station WFLD-TV Wednesday. He’s now among the more than 2,400 retired football players suing the NFL for concussion-related dementia and brain trauma.”


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