A disturbing story

November 2, 2011 at 02:24 (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

My Greek teacher, a pastoral and kind man whom I greatly admire (not least because he has proven himself to be an even bigger grammar nerd than I, and a much more scholarly trained one), told me a disturbing story today which neatly sums up many of the things I find wrong here.

He was taking a PhD class in 1 Peter and preaching through the book in his local church (I believe he is an elder, but not the main preaching elder–remember, we’re all congregationalists here), so he was sitting at his desk with a lot of commentaries lying open before him.

Red herring: PhD students here receive only a miserable little desk on the second or third floor of the library as their research office. They receive a laminated piece of paper as a nameplate to mark their territory, and in some cases apparently a shelf on a bookshelf. The desks are simple affairs but do have a backboard with a shelf along the top.

I enjoy walking past and looking at how the desks are arranged. Some of them are quite bare and it is apparent that the student has never made use of his or her designated corner of the universe. Others have their shelf packed full of various books, from reference dictionaries and Greek New Testaments that are obviously personal property of long history, to stacks of library books. PhD students are allowed to check out books to keep all semester, and I often wonder if they have actually checked these out, or just pulled them off the stacks’ shelves and relocated them. Still other desks have some personal effects, such as family pictures and creature comforts like paperweights or reading stands. Hardly anyone is ever there when I walk by, probably not least because it’s usually before 8 AM, but I like to think about what they are doing instead, and how often they might come.

Back on track: On this particular day, a student noticed my teacher engaged in study with numerous commentaries lying open about him, and stopped in to say hi. He noticed one of the commentaries, by Karen somebody, and said, “I would never read that!”

“Why not?” asked my teacher. “She’s one of the greatest Greek scholars alive today and writes great commentaries.” The student launched into an explanation of how the Bible says that women are “the weaker sex,” and how this means that they are also intellectually weaker and couldn’t or shouldn’t write commentaries to be read by men…you can imagine the rest.

My teacher concluded by observing, pastorally as ever, that this was this student’s first semester here. “Hopefully he’s been straightened out since,” he prayed mildly.

I leave it to you to guess what I think of this student. If I didn’t hear similar comments made or implied directly to me or around me quite so frequently, I might conclude that this was an isolated incident and laugh it off, hoping too that it was a mere anomaly that had been cured.

But as I observed, “As you say, hopefully he’s been straightened out. Unfortunately, I think sometimes they’re reinforced.”

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