Friday, June 30, 2017

Fact-Checking the Torah -- scholarly writing

There’s a basic problem with all academic work that came out in papers I ran across while researching this blog.  Sources.
When academics write for other academics, part of that work has to be a review of the literature.  If you leave out a source, your peers will send you comments such as “why didn’t you include the seminal work of X?” 

One of the problems of doing academic work is getting access to all the sources.  Some of them are only in the stacks of a university on the other side of the country, the ocean, or the globe.  Sometimes you can get them through interlibrary loan.  Sometimes you can get them by travel.
What also happens is that your peers haven’t read some of your sources and can’t get access to them.  They can’t check on whether you understood the conclusions or how the conclusions were supported.  They have to accept that you did good work.
Posting your work on the internet is a good technique to encourage peer review.  It also gives access to your work for average people.
And average people not only won’t have access to all your sources, they will have access to hardly any of them.  The vast majority of people with internet access don’t live near your university, and the majority don’t live near any university.  Those who do, have lives and they have no time to go to the stacks to review your sources.
Academic work plays to academics.  The rest of us ignore it.  Sometimes with good reason.
The sources may be full of fallacies such as quoting out of context, using translations as if they prove something about the primary document (this will come up again soon), using refuted “authorities”, and so on.  An academic has to do more than just collate snippets of information from this book and that study.  He has to drill down and make sure that his sources don’t have problems of these types BEFORE he cites them.
If he understands that they are problems.  Finding fallacies in academic work suggests that not all academics understand how to put together a logical basis for their claims. 
And that, ultimately, is why I have been encouraging you to study Hebrew and Aramaic, and giving you links to primary documents that are free online.  When you can access them directly, you can ignore all the academic work produced, which piles up an exponential amount of pages compared to the primary documents.  You don’t have to use your local university library.  You don’t have to try to get an interlibrary loan.  You don’t have to budget for travel.  You can stay home and learn the material more accurately than anybody who relies on translations and commentaries, which is what academics sometimes have to do if they think their reviewers don't know the language.
And as I have shown, the meaning of a primary document easily gets lost in translation, and still more so in commentary.
You have the power.  Use it.
Next week I start posting on the subject I have been leading up to for almost exactly four years. If you have read the other posts on this blog page, the direction I take will not surprise you.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights  Reserved

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