When I say “myth”


This came up recently… When I say myth, I do not mean fiction. Rather, I mean taking our words and talking about things we do not understand. We do this via stories or analogies or whatsoever poetic form this may take. The book to the left has helped convince me of the use of myth in explaining a lot of things.

Most peoples of the ancient world, including Canaanites (and the Romans of New Testament time), viewed the world from the perspective of myth. Contrary to what I have often heard from the pulpit, the term “myth” as used here does not mean “false” or “fiction.” Even in my old and yellowed Webster’s, “fiction” is the third meaning of the word. In its primary and more technical meaning “myth” refers to a story or group of stories that serve to explain how a particular society views their world. The stories of myth often deal with phenomena of the physical world for which the culture does not have an adequate explanation. Or they may deal with human actions and emotions that are potentially valuable or destructive for the community. Myth is a means by which a society can express its collective experience of the world, with the fear, frustration, anxiety, and promise that it holds.- Dennis Bratcher

Speaking the Language of Canaan: The OT and the Israelite Perception of the Physical World.

Prometheus, by Gustave Moreau, tortured on Mou...
Prometheus, by Gustave Moreau, tortured on Mount Caucasus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This guy? Mythic, but maybe not mythic like other things but then again, maybe so. Thoughts?

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SBL 2014 Interviews

SBL 2014 was great and I had the opportunity to interview three scholars for MAP.

Dr. Yael Avrahami is the author of the award-winning book Senses of Scripture: Sensory Perception in the Hebrew Bible. In our discussion, she addresses why the 5 senses alone don’t hold up in the epistemologies of the Hebrew Bible. Yael is also one of the creators of Hendrickson’s new Reader’s Hebrew Bible.

Dr. Bob Bascom is a Hebrew Bible scholar and Bible translator. Bob is a friend who has taught me a lot about life and love. Literally. He’s a cognitive linguist who can tell you about love in the brain and what kind of love it is. And he does here in the interview.

Dr. Chip Hardy has recently completed his PhD at the University of Chicago on the diachronic development of biblical Hebrew prepositions. In our discussion, he lays out the basic principles of grammaticalization theory.



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Case-frames in Logos 6 #Logos6

First of all, Joel told me that I should post here because no one reads my blog. And that’s not very nice. But, he’s probably right. And, once I changed his blog’s tagline to “Where Joel incessantly brain vomits nonsense into cyberspace” for an entire day without him noticing while letting everyone else in on the gag.  So I suppose we’re even.

At any rate, I’m cross posting. I’ve written a post on my personal blog about what I’ve been up to for the past year, namely working on the new case-frames feature in Logos 6. Here’s a teaser and you can read the rest HERE:

Rick has already posted some of his favorite features in Logos 6. So, I thought I’d take some time to post on my favorite feature in Logos 6 while also mimicking his post title. Incidentally, I’m biased because I worked on the Hebrew data for this project. Paul Danove (whose work really inspired this feature) provided initial Greek data, and Mike Aubrey continued that work.

Case-frames provide a new way of exploring meaning within Logos 6. It may not be apparent on first glance how they do this. Here I will work from an English example to an original language example to demonstrate how this works.

Consider an English verb like “return.” This verb can have several different meanings as in the following sentences:

  1. He returned home.
  2. He returned the donkey to its pen.

In the first case, we might paraphrase “return” as “go back”: “He went back home.” In the second, we might somewhat poorly paraphrase as “bring back” (perhaps this isn’t the only possible interpretation, but this is only an example): “He brought the donkey back to its pen.”

The difference in these two meanings of “return” is reflected in the number of “arguments” that the verb takes in each example …


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Check out Bible Sense Lexicon “Sense of the Day”

I haven’t availed myself of my privileges here at Unsettled Christianity for quite some time. At least not since the time I changed the tagline to “where joel incessantly brain vomits nonsense into cyberspace.” Thanks to Jim for preserving that for perpetual memory, or at least until he decides to shut down his blog again.

But, I wanted to take the opportunity to put in a shameless plug since Joel is constantly doing that for his books here anyway and you’re all accustomed to it … Actually, I breakfast with Joel recently and he said I could/should.

For about two years, I was a part of a team of people who worked on a tool within Logos Bible Software called the Bible Sense Lexicon. The project was headed by Sean Boisen, who you can follow on Twitter and also involved David Witthoff who can be found there as well (our Greek counterpart Mark Keaton isn’t on social media, for shame).

The Bible Sense Lexicon is a tool that allows users to better search and explore the bible. In order to give some insight into how the tool can be useful we’ve started a feed on the Logos Academic blog called “Sense of the Day” (think Webster’s Word of the Day). Sense of the day is described as follows:

Sense of the Day is based on content from Logos’ Bible Sense Lexicon, which organizes biblical Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek words by meaning based on a variety of semantic relationships. Sense of the Day provides examples of senses in context, along with insight into their application for theology and interpretation.

Jonathan Watson of Logos academic blog notoriety has written a more extensive post introducing Sense of the Day. I’ve linked to two papers I’ve written about the BSL. But perhaps most importantly, our team writes the posts and Jonathan posts them on our behalf HERE (Yes, I linked to it twice, but it’s very, very important).

I hope you will check out some or all of the links and consider subscribing to the feed to interact with us about this new tool. You can comment on the blog or send questions via the Logos Academic Twitter account (which also posts the Sense of the Day Link) or shoot them directly at me.

And now back to your regularly scheduled program of Joel brain vomiting nonsense into cyberspace.

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Will the notion of “Authorial Intent” be killed soon?

Over the past two weeks, Mr. Grunberg has spent several hours a day writing his novella, while a battery of sensors and cameras tracked his brain waves, heart rate, galvanic skin response (an electrical measure of emotional arousal) and facial expressions. Next fall, when the book is published, some 50 ordinary people in the Netherlands will read it under similarly controlled circumstances, sensors and all.

via Arnon Grunberg Is Writing While Connected to Electrodes – NYTimes.com.

I believe the author is not dead, nor hidden… well, maybe hidden. But not dead. The author is every bit as important, if not more so, than the audience. The author actually determines the (first) audience.

Anyway, this looks like a grand experiment… tucking it away.


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Appalachian English #linguistics

“We are twenty ‘ears behind the country, but I wouldn’t trade places with nobody”

Anyway, it is a decent, short, program on some of the uniqueness of the English in these hills.

And remember, it is Appalachia, not Appalachia

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Our language is too straight

Cecilia Bartoli, after a concert performance o...
Cecilia Bartoli, after a concert performance of “La Cenerentola”, Salle Pleyel, Paris (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In my recent piece on the Historical Jesus, I chose to use these words:

…just a story told like other divine imaginations, to help out one person or another in achieving something of an ethical collusion, or mythicism.

I realize some have a difficult time understanding nuanced writing. (Throughout this post, I have linked words to various pages giving their meaning.)

Anyway, the above quote was one singled out as a means to attack. That’s fine, because that is the route of the weakened mind, a mind only able to fight back by fleeing into imaginations vain. Regardless of our friend with the mind cancerous , and in spite of not needing to answer imbeciles, I wante to speak to the use of several of these phrases — phrases that cannot be googled.

The goal is always to make a nice tableau painting with the voice. The more color I can find, the more shadow I can find – the goal is always to make more nuance and colors. – Cecilia Bartoli

The problem is one of nuance. Literalists, or rather those who ignorantly claim literalism as what the letter says rather than how the letter is used to say, decry nuance. It is the devil, the one devil, they believe in. Others would see nuance as too subjective to matter, or unintentional, and thus they become idionoēma (or homomeaning). We are at fault, we English speakers, we who have ridded the world of nuance in an attempt to straighten out our language, to push back the queer closet of true beauty — that of the subtle meaning, or turn of a phrase, or even the creation of a new phrase in the shadows of the author’s pen. Or is it Arthur, perhaps, with the poet’s kingly pen of the less-mighty sword, lodged violently in the stone of the mind?

Consistency requires you to be as ignorant today as you were a year ago. ― Bernard Berenson

Sometimes I know the meaning of a word but am tired of it and feel the need for an unfamiliar, especially precise or poetic term, perhaps one with a nuance that flatters my readership’s exquisite sensitivity. – William Safire

Our manner of speaking is too straightforward, too boring, too many trees and we miss the forest. When we write — rather, when I write  — I try to be intentional. When I insert the letter ‘a’ in front of the name of Jesus, this is heatedly intentional. As one linguistic scholar is fond of saying, choice implies meaning. If I create a new phrase, one the poor relict cannot find on google’s tract and thus deems unreal (how ironic that one is so limited in his scientific expedition, and not knowing much about anything, deems the phrases a myth), my intention is explored by the phrase itself.

In the early days, I had very little idea about arrangements, and I wrote songs a little flat, as it were, just on an acoustic guitar. They didn’t really have quite enough nuance. – Graham Parker

1For instance, the phrase “ethical collusion.” If one knows ethics are not just created, but multiplied (please note the collusion of these words), then we can understand why I chose the word “collusion.” Further, if we understand the so-called mythicist argument (so-called, because mythicists have no real arguments, just words strung together flat as their understanding of history) then we can understand the nuance of collusion as something deceptive. Adding to this Plato and ethics, well… the one has the necessary information to understand what I mean. Unfortunately, such crass interpretive needs only betray the literary and intellectually impoverished mind who is so buried within itself – so that the mind is in an orifice – to exist only as a singularity.

The writer has the advantage of a medium that can be contemplated many times over on the pages of a book or a magazine. The words lie on the page and the writer has an extended opportunity to imprint on his reader every meaning and nuance distilled from experience. – Bienvenido Lumbera, Filipino National Artist for Literature)

Do I really need to explain “divine imaginations” then? Rather, let me open the window rather than give you the key to the door (notice here the implied colloquialism). It is a phrase intent on pointing to the use of the divine, as in fear or reward, in creating ethical stories as well as their role in myth-making. Now, you go and discover what else is there.

Life cannot be captured in a few axioms. And that is just what I keep trying to do. But it won’t work, for life is full of endless nuances and cannot be captured in just a few formulae. — Etty Hillesum

What a shame when one is unable to do anything else but show himself as the full meaning of the word asinine.

Mythicism, unlearned in history, science, and now literary nuances.

On a side note, if you don’t know the difference between Tradition and tradition, then may be too ignorant to comment on the difference.

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Science Proves the Tower of Babel

If by prove you mean theory and by Tower of Babel you don’t really mean the Tower of Babel, then sure:

The ancestral language, spoken at least 15,000 years ago, gave rise to seven more that formed an ancient Eurasiatic “superfamily”, the researchers say. These in turn split into languages now spoken all over Eurasia, from Portugal to Siberia.

European and Asian languages traced back to single mother tongue | Science | The Guardian.

That’s pretty darn cool if you ask me and you did, which is why you are hear.

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