3/8/07

Why the Biblical Archaeology Review is so funny

It's articles like this one that reminds me why I never have subscribed to the BAR. The editor "interviews" four mediocre scholars on the subject of whether "scholarship" has affected "faith".

I'd be mortified to have a statement like this one attributed to me. In this BAR interview it's ascribed to Prof. Larry Shiffman:
Let’s take the problem of evil. Somehow or another, Jews have learned throughout their history the bad news that we can’t explain it. We talk about it all the time. We talk about the debate in Job and the various approaches explored there. We see the continuation of these debates in Midrash. But we know that we can’t explain evil, especially after the Holocaust. Any person who says that he can give an explanation for the Holocaust is crazy. So the bottom line is that we all go along living with the fact that this horrible thing happened and we can’t explain it. Judaism doesn’t claim that the individual will get all the answers to everything.

In one of Bill’s books, he discusses the historicity of the Exodus, and he throws up his hands. From the Jewish viewpoint everyone says it happened; it’s part of our past, part of our history. Somehow or other, it happened. I happen to believe there was some kind of Exodus. But the point I’m making is that the framing of the question, from the Jewish point of view, is very different.
The whole interview is ridiculous - like the above quote - from start to finish. That reminds me of why I find the magazine one of our leading humor journals.

But wait! Maybe this was the BAR Purim edition. Yes. Looking at the picture (below) that must be what it was.

5 comments:

Bryce said...

Seems like our friend G.S. posted on this very essay 7 hours before you -- giving one the impression that you just want to contradict G.S., who has the #1 Jewish blog. (Naah, couldn't be.)

Tzvee said...

enough meta criticism - discuss the issue

Bryce said...

Well, I think you'd have to discuss the issue first. All you said was that 1) the scholars were mediocre; 2)you'd hate to have a certain statement attributed to you; and 3)you found the whole interview ridiculous.

All without any explanation.

FWIW, I'm not a fan of BAR either.

Reb Yudel said...

So what would your response been? And for extra credit, what's your solution for theodicy?

Tzvee said...

My response in an oral interview would have been something like: At YU I learned from the example of my teacher the Rav how to synthesize secular and religious learning. And at Brown I learned from the example of my teacher Jacob Neusner how to practice scholarship in the search for religious meaning.

See - we don't reinvent this issue for breakfast and we don't have to talk on a fifth grade level.

As to theodicy I defer to my father who has written in his philosophical and religious inquiries about cosmology and kabbalah in search for assurances in both of these realms that there is order in the universe.

I don't have a simple and polished personal solution for theodicy but I do personally respect those who have dealt with it and with the issues of the Holocaust. I include respect for Satmar who sees evil as punishment, for Zionists who see a story of Israel as a phoenix rising from the ashes and so on down the line of authentic Jewish responses. I respect but disagree with all of these in one way or another.

I expect to continue grappling with these issues with the dawn of each day.