Essay / Uncategorized

A Letter to Daniel, Department of Philosophy

John Mark Reynolds, 2004.

Generic Hebrew University (GHU Cares!)

Office of the Vice-President for Faculty Development

To: Daniel, Department of Prophecy

RE: Your latest book (Daniel)

I would like to make a few comments about your latest book. I hope you can receive them in the helpful spirit in which they are intended. I fear your brief little pamphlet with the self-centered name is destined to do more harm than good. Imagine my embarrassment in the obvious political spin of your book! GHU has been trying hard to distance itself from the hard right. Your picture of Nebuchadnezzar is stilted and lacks nuance. Must you always confront? You must remember many members of GHU are big supporters of the present regime. They are working on the inside, as I know you are, to make change. The difference is that they get along, while you constantly confront. The entire issue of food choice is a prime example.

Imagine our thrill when you won a fellowship with some other GHU faculty to Kings College. What did you do? Alienate and draw attention to yourself . . . not based on scholarship, but on out dated religious practices not all GHU members even share. You tainted us all with one brush. You must broaden your political outlook or avoid writing about government altogether. Anecdotes have a place in academia, but this can be taken too far. Your entire book reads like an airport novel. It includes one war story after another, all with you as the central hero. We do not need heroes at GHU, we need thinkers. Think more. Act less. If you had been at our fall conference on Loving the Difference: Other in a Heathen Culture: Beyond Fundamentalism to an Ethic of Love you would have missed the entire lion’s den episode. Bad for your career as a pop culture icon, good for your serious work. More argument, more research, less story time!

The most disturbing note in your book was its triumphal tone. You seem to think the Kingdom of God is about to win. You keep mocking the spirit of our age as if it was about to lose! I can assure you that there is no evidence of this. GHU has never seen our religion at lower ebb. We are losing and can only hope for attention from the Persians to stay alive. Any vain hope you place in the young Dr. Alexander of Macedonia College to impact Persian policy is misguided. We are to love our foes, which are ideas not people. You keep speaking as if God will judge men and not ideas. You must get over this notion. God will win, but we must never act as if this is so. Instead, we must be sad and act as if we are losing at all times (after all we are). Please adopt a more humble tone. There is little doubt that the Persian Empire and culture are here to stay. We must deal with it if Hebrew scholarship has any chance of advancing. Sure, you were delivered from the lion’s den, but we cannot count on that every time. Think of the rest of the GHU faculty.

Confrontation and war metaphors do not set the tone we want here at GHU. We are lovers not fighters. Love is not best expressed by beasts coming out of oceans. Also the disturbing sexual imagery of little horns supplanting big horns has upset several of our donors. Tone it down. The religious obscurity of the entire book is unhelpful. How could anyone outside of GHU make any sense of it? Numerology. Figures of speech dependent on prior Biblical knowledge. You are writing for GHU only audience. We want to break out of this ghetto and have the sort of people who read the Epic of Gilgamesh take us seriously. Think about it, Daniel. We here at GHU have been working for some time to rid ourselves of the stigma of being just a Scroll school. You are not sensitive to the pain caused when people shout, Dare to be a Daniel! to some of our more thoughtful scholars. They are trying to do the hard task of accommodating our faith to a culture that has rejected, clearly rejected, the language of monotheism for polytheism. You are setting them back at least fifty years, there is just no going back to Jerusalem. We have all seen where the hard line approach of Dr. Jeremiah got GHU.

Let’s try a new course and make GHU a school where even the Moloch worshiper can feel at home. Your work is setting back this important project. I hope this was not your intent. I know you can do better next time as you shift to a more scholarly focus. Why can’t you try something on the lines of Dr. Baal’s recent Constructive Engagement with a Culture of Idols: a Post-Jerusalem Examination of the Fictive in the Writings of Jeremiah. There is a work that will last and make a constructive contribution to getting along with the Babylonians.


Owen Alcibiades Ph.D.Vice-President for Faculty Development

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