Recently Eerdman's released a sad and tragic statement regarding some of Peter O'Brien's commentaries. They said
Eerdmans editors compared the text of The Letter to the Hebrews (Pillar New Testament Commentary, 2010) with various secondary sources and submitted findings to external experts for verification. Summing up the findings, Editor-in-chief James Ernest said, "Our own editors and our outside consultants agreed that what we found on the pages of this commentary runs afoul of commonly accepted standards with regard to the utilization and documentation of secondary sources. We agreed that the book could not be retained in print."
Examination of the same author's Letter to the Ephesians (PNTC, 1999) and Epistle to the Philippians (New International Greek Testament Commentary, 1991) found them less pervasively flawed but still untenable.
Peter O’Brien responded with a heartfelt apology,
In the New Testament commentaries that I have written, although I have never deliberately misused the work of others, nevertheless I now see that my work processes at times have been faulty and have generated clear-cut, but unintentional, plagiarism. For this I apologize without reservation.
From the outside looking in this seems to be a situation where an honest mistake (a big one at that) occurred and, if I were to guess, it happened at the level of research and note-taking where personal writing and quotations/notes became conflated and sources were lost. This situation really could happen to anyone and it has caused me to rethink my research and note-taking strategies. In an age where information is at our fingertips and there are a thousand ways to organize, research, and write in a digital format it can be easy to get lost in it all. This is where a research workflow becomes vitally important so you can stay organized, cite correctly, and write efficiently.
Most broadly, there are three ways that research and note taking occurs:
When you are researching and doing steps 1 & 2 you always always always need to keep the citation with your writing. This is where an application such as Zotero can come in handy. Anytime I have any new research documents I add the citation in Zotero. Then when I am writing and taking notes I can just copy that citation from Zotero and just paste it in my writing document. I also find it helpful to use an app such as Evernote, Ulysses, or other writing software to keep a file for each document that I am using for research and tag it with the specific project.
For example, I am reading through Brant Pitre’s excellent new book, Jesus and the Last Supper. I currently have a document with the title of the book and all my notes go in there. After each entry within the note I will now put in parentheses (quote, page #) or (summary, page #). Quote will mean that this is a direct quotation from the book and summary means that I have modified it in some way. This also means I need to be careful to not conflate summaries and quotes in my notes or if I do to identify them correctly.
If I am writing some thoughts that are not quotes or summary from the book I will write (original, page or chapter). This way I can trace back to when I am writing my “original” thoughts. If I am reading chapter 2 of the book and I end up writing a paragraph or two sparked from what was said in that chapter I still want to document my thinking process even, if, in the end, I don’t need to cite it depending on how much dependence comes from Pitre.
All in all, I think this is a sober warning to all students and full-time researchers to document your research carefully. Yes, it takes more time and can be annoying but it is vital in the research process.
If you have any other thoughts or workflows I would love to hear them in the comments or via Twitter (@renshaw330).
I put original in quotes because nothing is new under the sun but there is a difference between summarizing someone’s work and writing your own thoughts ↩︎
"There is a very big difference in the way we see the world and the way we hear the world. When we see the world we can’t have two objects in space at the same time and see them as different…in the way we hear that is not the case…notes in music fills the whole of what we hear. If we add another note then both notes fill the same space but hear them as two notes. They can be inside each other but stay distinct."
Welcome to the May 2016 Biblical Studies Carnival. I hope all of you are finishing up your final papers, grading papers, and getting grades in as most Spring semesters are wrapping up. For your enjoyment listen to some classic Alice Cooper before diving into the carnival for this month!
Updated: James Pate shows of evil people performing miracles or impressive wonders to deceive others in the Apocalypse of Elijah and Gospel of Nicodemus. Also check out his post reflecting on who the Pastoral Epistles could be responding to and poses the question could they be responding to the “Acts of Paul and Thecla.”
William Brown, over at The Biblical Review, reviewsGoliath’s Legacy: Philistines and Hebrews in Biblical Times by Łukasz Niesiołowski-Spanò. Also check out his review of The Power of Myth by Daniel Gorman Jr.
Jacob Cerone reviews the recently released Going Deeper with New Testament Greek by Andres Kostenger, Ben Merkle, and Rob Plummer.
Susan Eastman over at the Marginalia Review of Books reviews John Barclay’s Paul and the Gift. She concludes,
For the present, Paul and the Gift is a stunning invitation to consider deeply, broadly and creatively the tremendous power of grace as divine gift, and its implications for every aspect of human life, from intimate family relationships to global politics. It certainly will change the work of Pauline scholars, but it deserves a wider readership as well. Anyone interested in Jewish as well as Christian theologies of grace and in the dynamics of human transformation, will benefit from the riches of this book.
If I have missed a post that you think should be added please send me a tweet @renshaw330 and I will go ahead and add it here!
Kris Lyle over at the Old School Scripts blog will be hosting the carnival for June 2016 so be sure to send him your links during the month of June.
Also, if you would like to host the carnival at some point please contact Phil Long (firstname.lastname@example.org or @plong42). It is a great way to get your site out there and contribute to the biblical studies genre of blogs in general. I love reading these each month but we can’t have a carnival without volunteers so please contact Phil to reserve your spot!
I just wanted to point out two helpful (and free!) online Biblical Greek resources.
Daily Dose of Greek
The first, is by one of my favorite professors at Southern Seminary, Dr. Rob Plummer. He has a vision to help people keep their Greek after seminary and part of accomplishing this vision is his excellent site, Daily Dose of Greek. Every weekday he walks through a verse explaining the syntax, vocabulary, and translation. On Saturdays he generally has a special topic or a guest host. The great thing about Daily Dose of Greek is that it is short (and helpful!) so it is easy to watch daily.
Another site that I recently was alerted to is Master Greek by Dr. Paul Hoskins. This site's aim is to help with parsing. It is a simple web app that allows you to practice parsing Greek words. You can either do practice mode or quiz yourself. It works well in your browser on the computer or on your phone/tablet.
I was only recently introduced to this site/web app but it functions really well and I can see it being helpful for keeping up with my parsing.
In Henri De Lubac’s book, History and Spirit: The Understanding of Scripture According to Origen, he makes a brief comment in passing that I think often times is overlooked when comparing hermeneutical methods. The early church is working with an entirely different worldview and thought when it comes to Holy Scripture. It isn’t necessarily a method that we can just mimic but it is a whole approach when engaging the text. This is one of the chasms that we may or may not be able to cross when it comes to the oft times odd (to us) figural/allegorical/christological approach to reading scripture. There wasn’t history versus figural reading but rather it is all wrapped into one way of thinking about the text. This doesn’t mean they didn’t care about history or the historical nature of scripture (see Augustine’s Harmony on the Gospels) but they didn’t slice and dice the exegetical process like we do today.1
But as I looked in those works for the necessary information, the subject I had at first envisioned assumed a broader scope in my eyes. It was no longer a matter of measuring, in any given exegesis, the part allotted to the “letter” or to history., It was no longer even a matter solely of exegesis. It was a whole manner of thinking, a whole world view that loomed before me.2
Also see Hans Boersma in response to de Lubac’s observations,
Both in his book on Origen and in his other writings on spiritual interpretation, it would have been good to read more about what allowed both Origen and later Christian tradition to allegorize particular details of the biblical text….What was it, for example, that allowed the church fathers to see the lamb and the sheep mentioned in Isaiah 57:7 as a reference to Christ? What was it that enabled them to see Christ in the wisdom of Proverbs 8? These questions do have some urgency if spiritual interpretation is to avoid the common charge that it renders interpretation arbitrary and subject to the whims of individual interpreters. We might wish that de Lubac had touched on these kinds of questions.3
Frederick Bruner, one of the masterful commentators of Matthew, helpfully reflects on the idea of the "need" and "help" nature of the Beatitudes.
"It can be said fairly, I think, that a certain post-Reformation exegesis stressed the need Beatitudes too much, emphasizing that the Sermon on the Mount was intended to drive us to our knees, to our sense of need, to our impotence before the law of God. This exegesis did take seriously the almost insuperable difficulty of living the Sermon on the Mount, and it took seriously the central content of the gospel’s Cross and Resurrection. Yet Jesus calls us not only to our knees, and the purpose of his sermon is not only to make us feel weak. Half the purpose of his sermon is to set us on our feet again and to give us the strength to go out and be a help. The help Beatitudes belong as much to jesus’ teaching as the need Beatitudes, and deserve equal time.
God helps those who cannot help themselves (the need Beatitudes), and he also helps those who try to help others (the help Beatitudes), but he does not in any Beatitude help those who think they can help themselves—an often ungodly and antisocial conception. Jesus wants faith and love. Only faith justifies, only love proves faith real. There is no contradiction between the fact that God helps the helpless (that is God’s free mercy) and that he helps the helpful (that is God’s justice). The Beatitudes reward not only helplessness—Reformation exegesis has always delighted in knowing this; the Beatitudes also reward helpfulness—we have been reluctant to see this from a fear, often enough legitimate, that a teaching of merits might creep in. But if we can stick closely to Jesus’ definition of the righteous deed in the Beatitudes, and see the exact nature of that deed—that it involves people at center and not first at their works—we will be half way to freedom from new legalisms. The need Beatitudes engage us deeply with God; the help Beatitudes engage us deeply with people. The need Beatitudes enlist us in all that we are not. The help Beatitudes enlist us in all that we are. In the need Beatitudes we are salted (passively); in the help Beatitudes we are salt (actively). In the need Beatitudes we are picked up from the earth; in the help Beatitudes we are thrown into it. What happens to us when we hit earth is described in greater detail in the final double Beatitude."
F.D. Bruner, Matthew: A Commentary. Matthew 1-12, The Christbook (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007), 152.