An Improving Quiz

Yesterday I favored you with a little experiment. Today, I will extend the favor with an improving quiz.
Read Jim West’s latest essay at Bible and Interpretation and see if you can find,

  • Two or more words with well-understood meanings in common language that Jim uses ambiguously as technical terms without flagging them for his readers.
  • One or more words that are nearly devoid of meaning in common language that Jim does not define.
  • One or more use-mention errors
  • A proof text.
  • One or more arguments from inappropriate authority.
  • One or more anachronisms.
  • The most blatant slur on non-christian believers.
  • The most blatant slur on nonbelievers of any strip.
  • Two or more unsubstantiated but testable empirical observations (they need not necessarily be wrong, only unsubstantiated).
  • The best argument for a secular studies section within the Society of Biblical Literature (so many to choose from).

Hint: it’s okay if your results overlap in a few places.

3 thoughts on “An Improving Quiz”

  1. yup appalling wasn’t it. But on reflection B&I is more of a popularising biblical studies forum than an academic one and I don’t think he probably intended to make it academic. In fact he made it as contempuous and controversial as possible in order provoke discussion and draw attention to the difference between contemptuous scholarship and critical ‘scholarship’. And it’s a well known fact that Jim West has done much to support critical secular scholarship, but here, he seems to intentionally attack fundamentalism with fundamentalism, on purpose. Just my thoughts.

  2. LOL. Looks like you are among those who are not big fans of JW. I’m indifferent. I tend to take everything I read with a grain of skepticism, a bit of reading between the lines, and attempt to figure out what they were trying to say rather than how it came out. If what they are saying is interesting enough, I’ll research it further on my own, double check their sources (if possible), and reëvaluate the statements. This occurs with everyone, not just the Jim Wests of the world, but also the Devers, the Finklesteins, Cargills, Hawasses.
    Disclaimer #1: no particular reason I picked these 4 other than that they were the first 4 that popped in my head.
    Disclaimer #2: this isn’t any kind of judgement on my part on those who are particularly non-fans of JW; my intent only to express my amusement of the large non-fan base of JW, and to explain why I think I have somehow not fallen into either the non-fan zone, nor the fan zone of JW.

  3. Steph,
    I’m having trouble understanding why logical error and serious misdirection are better in popularizing contexts than in academic contexts. While Jim has supported critical scholarship, I worry that he does this only to inoculate his dogmatic positions against critical scholarship. The position he expressed in B&I are consistent with what he has said rather frequently in both public and private venues.
    I like Jim. He has provided direct service to me on several occasions, The one time I met him he was both gracious and entertaining. What I don’t like are fallacies masquerading as reason. To be sure, all of us fail in this way from time to time. Yes, even Dever, Finklestein, Cargill and their like fall off the wagon from time to time. But Jim’s piece has such a high density of fallacies that I thought it provided an exceptionally good exercise in developing critical skills. I appreciate your skepticism and desire to research things on your own. In fortunately, your tribe is small. But I do wonder exactly what it is you would research in Jim’s piece.

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