Retrospect and Prospect

Retrospect and Prospect December 31, 2019

It is often strange for professors and other researchers to look back on the calendar year and ahead at the one about to begin. Our rhythm follows the academic year, and so we would more naturally celebrance new year’s day in August, and make resolutions then. It is nonetheless worth joining in with this calendrical event and reminding ourselves of things accomplished and experienced. Definitely the biggest life event of the past year was that my father passed away.

The Mandaean Book of John, funded for 4 years by the NEH and a total of about 9 years in the making, finally appeared. The new font, formatting the text in versified form, and many other aspects of it took longer than we expected. Related to that, I’m happy to say that I made the first concrete step towards starting a book project related to the historical John the Baptist, bringing the Mandaean sources into the picture, through a paper I presented at a conference in Romania last summer.

Eighth International East-West Symposium of New Testament Scholars

I wrote book chapters on Star Wars, Star Trek, and the relationship between alien abductions/UFO encounters and religious/mystical experiences. I also wrote several reviews, at least some of which I’ve drawn attention to here once they appeared in print. I’ve gradually started work on a collaborative project on theology and progressive rock. And there are other things in the pipeline. I blogged more than once about a book I hope to complete by next summer, to be titled What Jesus Learned From Women.

Presenting at Starbase Indy this year about gods on Star Trek provided a cool opportunity to meet Doug and Mary Piero Carey and Bill Sullivan in person. Mary offered a good definition of what isn’t a god on Star Trek: “If Kirk can outsmart it, it isn’t a god.” I think that’s worthy of becoming a meme:

I presented at Spirit and Place about John Rutter’s Requiem:

John Rutter’s Requiem

I also made a guest appearance at Bethany Seminary in Richmond, Indiana, and contributed to the Academic Minute podcast. There has also been a lot of administrative work related to the core curriculum, and I taught a Global and Historical Studies course that I hadn’t taught in 13 years. I was delighted by the level of engagement from students in this 8 am core curriculum class, all the way through to their final website collaborative group projects.

As far as looking back on the most popular content of the past year on this blog, I’m glad that some posts from this year circulated widely. These were among the top 10:

Jesus’ Female Disciples

RIP Rachel Held Evans, Eshet Chayil

Challenge to Fundamentalist Bible Readers

Some of the posts that have gone viral in the past have continued to do well, life and/or tech hacks and troubleshooting guides on topics like squirrel baffles and Insignia television sets. A couple of posts related to the main focus of this blog have circulated again:

Not Liberal, Just Literate

Jesus Burdens Our Religious Freedom

This one was popular again this Christmas:

Silent Night (Quaker Arrangement)

Other than finally finishing blogging through classic Doctor Who, what else do you hope I’ll do on the blog in the coming year?

To all readers of this blog, I wish you a very happy new year!

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  • Sue Burnam

    Any idea when those book chapters will be available? I’m interested in all!

    • Hopefully this coming year. Not sure beyond that. For the Star Wars one we have been given an extension to work in Rise of Skywalker and Mandalorian references.

  • Hmm. I wonder, though. There aren’t any biblical stories that come to mind where someone straight up “outwitted” God, but there are certainly times when someone got their way by talking God out of it or putting Him in a bind.

    • John MacDonald

      What about the talking snake?

  • arcseconds

    So, who does that leave as a possible God in the original series? I’ve just been watching the series, I’m about halfway through now. He outsmarts and defeats Apollo and Mitchell, but in fact he doesn’t outsmart or defeat Charlie X or the Squire of Gothos, instead the Enterprise crew are rescued by the ‘parents’. (Kirk is on to the Squire, and has a go, but it really looks like the Squire’s going to win).

    Does having parents disqualify one? That rules out a lot of traditional gods…

    I was wondering whether Spock could be a god under this rubric, as he clearly outsmarts Kirk in ‘The Menagerie’ and ‘Mirror, Mirror’, but I suppose Kirk does defeat him (with trickery and drugs, when Spock is impaired by hormones, but I guess it still counts) in ‘Amok Time’.

    • Spock seems to play the role of “god-defeater” in both “Who Mourns for Adonais?” and Star Trek V.