Saturday, 10 October 2009

end of department of biblical studies at uni of sheffield?

latest: 16/10/09

The University of Sheffield has today confirmed its position with regard to the future of the Department of Biblical Studies. In the light of concerns regarding inadequate consultation, as well as feedback from staff and students, the Department of Biblical Studies is no longer under review and a proposal that it should be reconfigured as a Postgraduate Centre has been withdrawn.

Instead the University has asked the Faculty of Arts and Humanities to consider, as a matter of urgency, a short, medium and longer term plan for the Department. With regard to the undergraduate intake for 2010, the University can confirm that it will recruit students for this year onto single and dual honours degrees in Biblical Studies. The Faculty of Arts and Humanities are working with colleagues to ensure that these students are appropriately supported, including through the recruitment of additional staff.

Looking to the future, the University recognises the outstanding reputation of the Department of Biblical Studies in Sheffield for scholarship and a superb student experience, and has confidence that all concerned will work together to enhance this for future students.

Professor Mike Braddick
Pro-Vice-Chancellor for the Faculty of Arts and Humanities


latest 15/10/2009:
the department of biblical studies will not be closed after student protests!!


undergraduate department of biblical studies in university of sheffield to be closed. news have come down that one of the best recognized department of biblical studies will be closed. below is a letter from cheryl exum, OT professor at university of sheffield, that explains what is happening (from jim west's blog):


End of Biblical Studies at Sheffield

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

I am writing you, in a personal capacity, to ask for your support in preventing the destruction of the Department …of Biblical Studies at the University of Sheffield.
In its meeting on 7 October, the Senate of the University of Sheffield was asked to approve the following (copied from the Senate papers):

(a) that the 2009-10 entry to undergraduate programmes involving Biblical Studies should be the last and that the Department should cease to function as a single entity: (b) that undergraduate programmes involve Biblical Studies should be maintained for existing students, and that measures should be taken to ensure that they receive the high quality education and student experience which they have been promised; (c) that the Department’s academic staff should be transferred to the departments in the Faculty of Arts & Humanities most suited to supporting their longer term careers; (d) that the development of a Biblical Studies research centre be progressed with a view to providing a focus for postgraduate study and research and a continued point of contact and collaboration for academic staff irrespective of their new home departments, thus ensuring the continuation of scholarship in this area.

These proposals were made in the light of a review of the Department, conducted in the spring and summer of this year, for which I would like to give you a brief background. The Department had lost two members of staff (Loveday Alexander to early retirement and Jorunn ├śkland to a post in Norway), but had been given permission to fill a post with a senior New Testament scholar in 2009-10. Although this meant a change in staffing from 8 to 6, this kind of fluctuation in staffing has been typical in the Department over the years, and we had hopes of additional staff in future years. Difficulties began when the University decided, at the beginning of the 2008-9 academic year, not to make any appointments in the Faculty of Arts until reconsideration of the University’s financial position in the light of the national Research Assessment Exercise. So we were not allowed to proceed with the New Testament appointment. Then, in the second semester, the University decided to review the Department, citing the reduction in staff and the Department’s fluctuating undergraduate numbers and as major concerns (at the same time, deciding to cap the number of new students we could accept at 20). In fact, undergraduate numbers in the Department have always fluctuated, but Level 3 (i.e. final year) classes in the last two years have had the highest numbers ever.

Another problem for the Department arose when the University, in June of 2009, introduced a Voluntary Severance Scheme as a means of coping with the current economic downturn. Three members of staff are leaving. As someone within only two years of retirement, I am one of them; the others are Keith Whitelam and Barry Matlock. This leaves the Department with three permanent members of staff: Hugh Pyper, and Diana Edelman in Hebrew Bible and James Crossley in New Testament. We have also been given a two-year appointment in New Testament, Mark Finney.

These are the events that led to the proposals above. I did not know until today that the transferal of staff to other departments was being proposed, since I have been excluded from any formal discussions of the future of the Department. At the meeting of Senate, the vote on these proposals was postponed thanks to the intervention of the Sheffield University and College Union and the Union of Students. Our students are currently mounting a strong protest and you can find information about this on a number of sites on the web ( try, for example, As I understand it, the decision has already been made to suspend undergraduate admissions for the coming academic year while the above proposals are being reconsidered. But suspension of the undergraduate programme, in effect, means the end of it. And the notion that there can be any postgraduate ‘centre’ or programme without the existence of an independent Department of Biblical Studies is not wishful thinking, it is a way of subtly dismantling the Department, since the Department and its reputation depends on its distinct identity and its vibrant research culture based on its outstanding undergraduate and postgraduate programmes.

I am writing to ask you to support the efforts of our students, alumni/ae, colleagues and friends to reverse what could be the end of an outstanding department by writing to the Vice-Chancellor to urge him not to dismantle the Department (1) by destroying an excellent undergraduate programme, which will inevitably be the effect of a suspension of admissions for the 20010-11 academic year and (2) by setting up a Biblical Studies ‘research centre’ that cannot succeed without an undergraduate programme and its contribution to the Department’s research culture, when one appointment of a senior scholar would enable the Department to maintain its strength in attracting postgraduates.

The Vice-Chancellor is Professor Keith Burnett and his email address is Please copy your message to Professor Paul White (, who, I understand, will be in charge of the ongoing review. For those of you who are willing to write on our behalf, I would be grateful if, in order for us to have a record of the level of response to our plight, you could either send me a blind copy of your message (bcc) or simply reply to this email that you have written to the Vice-Chancellor. Please also consider sending a copy of your letter to the website listed above.
If might be helpful for you to know that the Department ranked 6th in the national Research Assessment Exercise (higher, depending on how one reads the figures), quite an achievement for a small department. We achieved the highest mark in the national Teaching Quality Assessment, and our rating in the national Student Satisfaction Survey was, to my knowledge, the highest in the University, well above that of the Faculty of Arts and the University as a whole. We were at the time the review was undertaken (and may still be) also one of the few departments in the Faculty of Arts not in deficit.

I apologise for any cross-listings. I have combined and split various email lists I have in the interest of reaching as many colleagues as possible. Please feel free to forward this letter to anyone you know who might be willing to help.
Thank you for any support you can offer us,

J Cheryl Exum
Professor of Biblical Studies
Director, Sheffield Phoenix Press


society of biblical literature (SBL) is also taking action. read here below:

Friday, 9 October 2009

what or who is a serious scholar?

what or who is a serious scholar? interesting question and interesting answer from OT scholar Niels (from biblical-studies list)


'...Sometimes we continental Europeans bang out heads against the difference between the meaning of "scholar" in the Anglo-Saxon world and the European "Wissenschaftler" -- somebody who provides new knowledge. "Scholar" has the taste of a passive knowledge -- a learned person, guarding his knowledge like a Faffner his treasure -- in many ways the same meaning as the German "Gelehrter" (I do not say that an Anglo-Saxon scholar will always be a passive "scholar" in this sense only, nor that a central European Wissenschaftler will always provide new knowledge). A Wissenschaftler is linked to Wissen, and has since the beginning of the modern university been engaged in the production of new knowledge. Here we get to another point: Science alias Wissenschaft is in my world not limited to natural science. A scientist is in the Anglo-Saxon world primarily engaged in providing new knowledge but is he automatically a scholar? Of course such distinctions are getting blurred now-a-days. And it is becoming more and more common to limit the term "Wissenschaftler" to the natural scientists only. A hundred years ago the historian Theodor Mommsen was awarded the Nobel-prize, in literature. This does not happen today. So it is more and more becoming the general opinion that scholars are handling "dead knowledge." Happily this is not the case but it takes some time to tell the public.

Ten years ago, as member of the University research council, I was asked by the chancellor to give an input on different categories of university "scholars." I mentioned three categories of "scholars": the top the ones who create new paradigms, the second group consisting of people who work on such paradigms and expand them, and a third group who does nothing of the kind but only transmits what other people have said. Any university should go for the first group and also accept the second but should scorn the third one. The third group will do as college (Gymnasium) teachers without obligation to do research. They might know as much as any Wissenschaftler but are not supposed to expand their knowledge by pointing at new ideas or venues. If they do, they automatically move into one of the first two groups.

Serious scholars as I define them belong to the first two groups...'

by Niels Peter Lemche

Thursday, 8 October 2009

claus westermann's birthday

yesterday was the 100th anniversary of claus westermann's birthday. claus is a famous german OT scholar and very prolific writer. he has written many key commentaries and books on different areas in the OT including prophets, wisdom literature, psalms and pentateuch. he is also well known as an OT form critic. the reb has been interacting with his works for many years and part of the doctoral studies is a critique of westermann's form-critical work on isaiah 40-66.

long live westermann!!

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

when is corruption only a technical offence?

the million dollar (or ringgit) question for the week is: when is corruption only a technical offence? is corruption not a moral offence too?

and the BN tried to control the press to muzzle them in: no reporting from the press of former MB Isa's suspension from UMNO due to corruption.

and on a lighter note, here's an interesting write-up about the 'sleepy hollow' seremban:

Sunday, 4 October 2009

time for laughter

a timely reminder from my ex-dean of ocms before the reb's own viva (coming soon next year). a good time to laugh to begin the week tomorrow:


Call Me Doctor

The title, ‘brother’, once I wore,

But that can satisfy no more,

Since on my journey up to fame,

They added M.Div. to my name.

But still it did not seem quite right,

What could give me true delight?

Now they call me ‘Doctor’—how I love it!

No other title is above it!

Never was I thrilled like that before,

As on that day upon my door

They added ‘Doctor’ to my name,

Now I’ll never be the same!

So call me ‘Doctor’,— Man Alive,

On my ego I must thrive.

And at conferences I will shine;

Praise the Lord, the title’s mine!

Once I was humble, now I’m proud,

Walking erect with the Doctor crowd.

Surely the world hath need of me;

A man of the learning with a grand degree!

The apostle knew no such bliss,

For he had no title equal to this!

I tell you my brothers, I’ve never been the same

Since I added Doctor to my name.

David A. Beam adapted by Bruce Winter