[b-hebrew] how scholars debate controversial issues

Bryant J. Williams III bjwvmw at com-pair.net
Mon Apr 2 12:34:12 EDT 2007

Dear Yitzhak,

Happy Passover and Feat of Unleavened Bread to you too.

Remarks follow.

Rev. Bryant J. Williams III
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Yitzhak Sapir" <yitzhaksapir at gmail.com>
To: <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Monday, April 02, 2007 6:39 AM
Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] how scholars debate controversial issues

> On 4/1/07, Bryant J. Williams III wrote:
> > Dear Yitzhak,
> > Is there truly a doctoral dissertation that is "new" and "original" and
> > advances the field of understanding in Hebrew? Greek? Archaeology?
> > Linguistics? Furthermore, what about the assumptions?
> Hi Bryant.
> Yes, it appears to me that there are important dissertations that are new
> and original.  In particular, I personally feel that all the study of
> Israelite and Judaean archaeology, and history, and Semitic linguistics
> all very young as far as studies go, and there is much more to be done so
> there is much room for innovation.  I think a properly executed
> will be new and original although perhaps not as groundbreaking.  Also,
> I think that a dissertation, even if it is innovative but with a very
> scope, will train the PhD student in the execution and study of an
> idea.  The important step afterwards, in my opinion, is for the researcher
> continue developing ideas and studying them.  Some will be more
> some will be less convincing, some will have narrower scope, some will
> wider influence.  But as more and more studies are executed the chance for
> a groundbreaking step in the fields of study increases.
> > I know that when one is preparing to present a doctoral dissertation,
> > must do so that presents "original" and "new" in that particular field.
> > since there is "nothing new under the sun," it would appear to me that
> > is happening is that more and more doctoral dissertations are going off
> > "deep end" to "earn" the doctorate. I am also becoming increasingly
> > at the number of doctoral students who so specialize that they "forget
> > forest through the trees."
> Going off the "deep end" may be an appropriate way to describe some
> dissertations.  know if it is appropriate to say that "more and more"
> are "going
> off the deep end."  I would hope there are few dissertations that "go
> off the deep
> end."  I also would be happier seeing that a doctoral student has several
> subjects or lines of interest, but perhaps that is something that
> develops after
> he publishes his dissertation.
> > I do understand that specialization is necessary
> > to help proceed when things get rough, but I think that when it becomes
> > center of discussion and leaves the hoi polloi in the dark, or confused,
> > then I really wonder whether or not the "scholar" is really doing his
> > Specialization is great, but the person in the church, synagogue, et
> > needs to be taken into account so that confusion does not reign.
> I don't understand exactly what a researcher has to do with a synagogue or
> church.  I think a researcher in linguistics or biblical history is
trained in
> different areas than a person who is supposed to serve in a synagogue or
> church.  While the research in linguistics or history may help as far as
> a wider perspective on certain issues, I think these are two different
> entirely.  In Judaism, a Rabbi is a legal designation and signifies the
> as a capable and recognized legal authority.  It involves less innovation
> scholarship, and much more the ability to master previous scholarship of
> legal decisions.

Most of the dissertations that deal with ANE, especially Israel, or the
languages of Greek, Aramaic, or Hebrew, its history, etc., are frequently
written in such a way that the person without any background in that field
has "no clue" what is being talked about. Whether one agrees or disagrees
with BAR (Biblical Archaeology Review), it has made the attempt to educate
the people about what the archaeological terms are and what they mean. This
does not happen very well in linguistic circles. Too many terms, it seems to
me, are used in non-normal usage that even a lawyer would have a hard time

In issues dealing with the Bible, it is imperative that articles,
dissertations, etc. be written in a clear and precise way that any person
off the street would be able to understand without having to go to a special
dictionary to decipher. At Northwest Baptist Seminary, Tacoma, Washington,
all the professors required that any study on the biblical text (including
thematic, word, historical, etc.) include a sermon outline section. Now,
although this did help in sermon preparation, it actually helped in the
organization of the paper to be coherent to any one reading it. My
professors of Hebrew, Drs. Herman Austel and Richard D. Patterson (PhD,
UCLA, Semitics) were translators of the NASB, emphasized that the role of
the scholar is not to just write articles, books, etc., but the primary role
of the scholar is educate and do so in such a way as to build up that
faith/knowledge of the believer whether in the church or synagogue even in
issues that are quite controversial. This is where most dissertations go
astray: they do not educate the common person in such a way that
understanding is gained. Those of us who are scholars (teachers) have the
greater responsibility to do so and will be judged accordingly to a higher

You work in the field of linguistics. I assure you that you should continue
in that field. But, how can your studies benefit the common person? In what
way are you able take the articles you write to inform or educate the common
person? This, I think, is what is not being done.
"Therefore my people go into exile for want of knowledge..." Isaiah 5:13a
> My understanding is that the idea that most DSS are not published does not
> represent the modern situation.  Today, most DSS are published.

I only mentioned this to show that it took an extreme effort by people not
normally associated with the DSS to, finally, break the monopoly to get them
published (Abegg (classmate), Wacholder, Huntington Library, Shanks, BAR,
etc.). Now this group and others are involved very much in the publishing
articles on the DSS. Thus, we are benefitting from this knowledge more and

 Also, while
> we can always claim that some evidence is lying somewhere undiscovered,
> fact is that many major sites have been excavated and many more others
> been surveyed, and the excavations together with the surveys do give a
> clear picture of history.  This area is one of the most actively
> excavated in the
> entire world, if I remember correctly.  We may not have 100% of it all
> excavated,
> but we do have a good portion excavated, enough to allow us to draw
> conclusions.

That is true to a certain extent, prelimary field reports are made, but the
final field reports are what is lacking. Some of the field directors have
died and have not issued a final field report. This does not help. For
example: Ebla or Tel-Mardik has not seen any reports, let alone a final
report, since the late 1980's (if I remember correctly?). Now, I do
understand that politics, Syrian, is also involved.

> Happy Passover (and Feast of Unleavened Bread) to everyone!
> Yitzhak Sapir
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