Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Bible Dudes latest

Bible Dudes blog notes that its new section on Source Criticism is now live:

Source Criticism

The cartoon "P" and "Q" at the top of the page sets the tone for the whole. And, as usual, the page provides a useful way into the complexities of academic Biblical Studies for the complete newcomer (on more of which, see below). A couple of points of observation and criticism on this page. First, the diagram illustrating the Four-Source Theory has a couple of errors -- the top row should show M / Mk / Q / L and not Mt / Mk / Q / Lk. Second, my no doubt predictable complaint that this kind of approach, which does not even mention Q sceptical views, re-entrenches the Q hypothesis by providing only this solution to the Synoptic Problem and not even mentioning any alternatives. Given that this is intended for the beginning student, this falls into the category of material I discussed in the first chapter of The Case Against Q, "First Impressions". I'd suggest that it is an ideal time to get students interested in discussing and weighing different theories, by introducing them at the beginning, and not pre-judging the issue by coming down in favour of one particular solution. (Perhaps a nice cartoon of Farrer or Goulder with a speech bubble and a sword to slay Q?!)

On the broader question of the value of Bible Dudes, there has been a short thread recently on Xtalk [Note: URL corrected, 28/6/05], beginning with a question by Jeffrey Gibson and a negative reaction by Jim West
. . . .When the Bible is made a cartoon- it becomes cartoonish. Even the best scholarship, if bastardized, becomes, so far as the public is concerned, just another bit of trite drivel.
I suppose for me it is a question of context. The authors' concern is to reach an audience who would not otherwise be looking at academic Biblical Studies, and to use popular and friendly language and images to do it. My guess is that this material is not aimed even at undergraduate students, but is at a much lower level than that. I'd only recommend the site to my undergraduates if they were looking for a place to spend their first five minutes on the topic, and to have a smile. Its ideal audience would be, I'd say, 14-16 year olds, GCSE students in the UK. Or perhaps just about 16-18 ('A' Level students in the UK), though they might feel a bit patronised by it. In relation to this, I'd repeat my earlier concerns that ultimately this is going to get pretty dated. "Dudes" and the like is already a little passé, I'd guess, and it is language that has never taken off over here (except where people are self-consciously imitating Americans), so it will need servicing in due course to adjust to something more contemporary.


Matthew Page said...

I have to say having followed your link I'm a big fan. I can't agree with Jim West. The site doesn't really make the bible a cartoon, it would be more accurate to say that cartoon type characters discuss biblical scholarship. Quite different in my view.

In terms of intended audience I'm not sure it is aimed at 14-18s. For me its a humourous way of presenting this info, but the humour lies in the fact that calling people "dude" or saying that something is "totally awesome", is a bit naff. So I guess the people who will most appreciate it the humour are people in their 20s/early 30s who grew up with Bill & Ted, Wayne's World et al. and have always seen that way of talking as part alien and therefore funny, part naff and part cool. It's a weird combination and I'm not quite sure why it works.

Content wise it is only a rief introduction to the subject, and I'm not really sure in a religious studies syllabus these issues first get examined. I suspect though, it's as much for people who aren't doing theology courses but are interested in getting more acquainted with their bibles, as it is for people studying RE or Theology.


Matthew Page

J. J. Ramsey said...

You had http://groups.yahoo.com/group/crosstalk as the link to XTalk. The link should be http://groups.yahoo.com/group/crosstalk2.

Mark Goodacre said...

Thanks; URL corrected.