Friday, June 26, 2020
A. E. Cowley was a major Semitics scholar of the early twentieth century, and the head of the Bodleian library from 1919-1931. His Wikipedia page is here.
Despite his still-important activity in the realm of Hebraica, you can encounter some nasty anti-Semitism in the introduction to his Aramaic Papyri of the 5th century BC (1923). Speaking of the Jewish colony on Elephantine, he says
"they aroused anti-Jewish feeling, and suffered violence which they ascribed, as always and probably with as little reason then as now, to hatred of their religion. ... [M]uch is also to be ascribed to natural suspicion of a community with customs differing from those of its neighbours, holding aloof from the common pursuits of its fellow-citizens, and showing contempt or hostility to everything outside itself."
Oof. Thus he explains the destruction of the YHW temple by the adherents of the god Khnub in 417 BCE. This description traffics in a number of well-known anti-Semitic tropes that would bear evil fruit less than two decades later in Nazi Germany.
This is the same Cowley who translated the Gesenius-Kautzsch Hebrew grammar, still in use today (GKC = Gesenius Kautzsch Cowley). He is still cited, without comment, and his despicable views forgotten.
Posted on Facebook June 20
My father died in 1985, at a younger age than I am now. He was a real "greatest generation" guy, an Air Force vet, a pilot, a weatherman, a smoker and a drinker. My life choices were a constant source of puzzlement to him, although he dutifully financed them (usually). He was an enthusiastic golfer, an activity inherited and enhanced by my brother Chuck Cook, and although I've never taken up the sport, by sheer osmosis I've acquired more knowledge about it than I can use.
For some reason, when I was around 10 or 11, my father would take me periodically to the golf course and pay me a nickel a hole (rounded up to $1.00 for 18 holes) to "caddy" for him — that is, to drag the wheeled tripod holding his bag while he played, by himself. I have no idea why he did this; maybe my mother made him, to spend time with his younger son; or maybe he was hoping (against hope) that I would acquire an interest he could relate to. I didn't, and I was pretty bored by this activity, but a dollar was major coin for a 5th grader in the early sixties. Whenever he asked, I went.
Those caddying days make an oddly vivid memory, and I can still close my eyes and see him under the summer sun, striding ahead of me, holding a club for the next shot, while I toiled behind with the bag. Happy Father's Day, major, wherever you are.
Tuesday, June 23, 2020
FIrst posted on Facebook, June 23, 2020.
I am appalled and saddened by the recent news about Prof. Jan Joosten and his arrest as a collector of child pornography. Our compassion should be extended, first, to the innocent children exploited to make this filth. I also feel that Jan should be pitied as someone who fell into an addiction which, I do not doubt, he earnestly wants to be liberated from. In his own way, he too has been exploited by the pornographers. Our rage should be expended mainly on the producers and criminals who produce this garbage, and those who profit from it.
The wrong response to Jan's misdeeds – which he will and should pay a steep price for – is to ban, censor, and eliminate Jan's scholarly work. His work as one of the finest Hebraists of our time stands on its own, and is indispensable. I don't see how his crimes are relevant to an assessment of his work, nor do I see, going forward, how we are to manage as a guild if we have to inspect everyone's rap sheet and download history before we engage with their work.
Indeed, I am surprised (sort of) that the academy, so constantly on guard against any hint of encroachment on First Amendment rights, is eager to erase the outstanding work of one of their own for his deplorable consumption of heinous pornography – and yet would never countenance any movement or legislation to remove the scourge of pornography from the Internet. In fact, such a suggestion would no doubt be met with howls of rage from those now calling for Jan's head.
I for one will pray for the children (I am a father and a grandfather), and for Jan and his family. For the pornographers, I wish nothing but ill. As for Jan's scholarly work, I will continue to use it, cite it, and honor it for its excellence.
Comments welcome. Trolls will be deleted.