Recommended Random Readings: Volume I

Various of our readers from the old Bible.and.Science.Forum email digests ask now and then:

“Why don’t you bring back your old Recommended Random Readings? I learned so much about many fascinating topics, especially general linguistics.

So, let’s do that. I’d also like to broaden the subject matter to include virtually anything which helps us remain conscious of cultural dynamics and historical factors which relate in any way to our trying to understand ancient texts in general and thereby Biblical texts in particular. Sometimes we will include commentary and sometimes not. Yet the goal is always the same: understanding why we think, speak, and write as we do and how we can go about understanding how others have understood the world. Some links will lead to satire and even parody but all will have didactic implications. Therefore, we hope you will always pause to consider the lessons to be learned from our eclectic sampling of Recommended Random Readings and Viewings:

Many people who helped make “No Woman, No Drive” a viral video see it as just another reminder of the “backwardness” of the Arab world (or Islamic world, depending upon who you ask). But I can wish that more viewers would remind themselves that western Europe and the USA of a century ago treated women remarkably similarly in many respects. Even the bicycle was a scandalous symbol of female freedom and demands for independence, autonomy, and the vote. People tend to assume bans on women-drivers are evidence of the harms of a religion when, in fact, such patriarchal phenomena are rooted in cultural traditions which predate the presumed association with religion by many many centuries.

Both Young Earth Creationists and anti-theists critics of Professor Tertius have claimed him to be filled to the brim with an example from our next topic. The Battle of Hastings in 1066 brought radical changes of many types but my interest in the battle’s outcome focuses on the linguistic changes. Many call Modern English a creole language because of the ways the Germanic languages of the natives absorbed/merged/grew with the addition of the Norman tongue, a Latinate language which was on its way to becoming Modern French. The sociological and lingering “class-consciousness” of that collision between cultures and languages lives on in amazing ways as the webpage’s jarring title aptly indicates. Those who have been reading BSF essays for years will find little to surprise them there but the well-done systematic presentation merits attention. Ancient Palestine and the Mediterranean world in general had its own linguistic clashes and confusions and English Bible translation readers miss many of them. And whether we like it or not, every time we write or speak, most people make subtle (or not so subtle) judgments of us based upon our choices between Latinate and Germanic language elements.

Training workshops for authors often stress the importance of Latinate vs. Germanic language element choices in conveying the author’s message. The same goes for university programs in journalism. So this topic is far from esoteric or mere fodder for trivia games.

[Clarification: Over the years I have sometimes casually expressed the conflict as Norman versus Anglo-Saxon languages, a habit shared with a great many writers of linguistic history.Unfortunately, that leaves out Frisian, another set of Germanic languages which came to the island with the migrations. So keep that in mind when following links from the aforementioned page.]

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