Κέλσος and Civitas Humana Plans for Academic Year 2014-2015

This week the Fall 2014 academic quarter starts up in the UC system, meaning that I am heading back to grad school. As I discussed in a previous post, this year will be especially important for my graduate career, since I will be taking the last 3 (out of 7) of my Ph.D. qualifying exams (Latin translation, Greek translation, and ancient literature). If I can pass those, then I will advance to candidacy and be cleared for starting my dissertation.

I am fortunate to have a 6-year fellowship at UC Irvine, so that, if I can pass my qualifying exams this year, I will have 3 years after that to work on my dissertation. I also plan to finish my book project during that time. All of this will hopefully take place during academic years 2015-2018.

So now I want to discuss my plans for academic year 2014-2015. Κέλσος is nearing its two year anniversary on October 1st. I’ve blogged consistently for the first two years of my Ph.D. program and worked to share a lot of what I have learned from my graduate work about ancient history and the Greco-Roman world. I am also glad that during that time Κέλσος was ranked 75th Bible blog on the web in Peter Kirby’s (Early Christian Writings) 2014 Summer Report.

This year will be the most challenging yet of my graduate career. Since I have to pass both a Latin and Greek translation exam (3 hours each), based on a list of ancient authors spanning a thousand year period (8th century BCE – 2nd century CE), with no dictionary of course, I will need to be devoting my full energy and attention to preparing my Latin and Greek language skills. Also, in Spring 2015, I plan to commute up to UC Santa Barbara to take New Testament and ancient religion seminars in their Religious Studies department, which will be another major time commitment.

So, where does blogging fit into this year? I have thought about it, and, while I think that it would be possible for me to still keep up blogging, while studying for my Ph.D. exams, I have decided that it is probably not the best use of my time year. This year I need to not only pass my Latin and Greek exams, but also to hone my skills as a philologist and professional. After all, you only get your graduate years once, and when you are a Classicist, a substantial part of that time needs to be spent, not only learning Latin and Greek, but perfecting and mastering your skills in those languages. You will need to master these languages before you can be a professor in academia.

As such, I have decided that I will not be posting continuously this academic year on Κέλσος and Civitas Humana. For the past two years I have worked to put up multiple posts each month (usually 3 on Κέλσος and 1 on Civitas Humana). My posts are often long and take a long time to write. For 2014-2015, I will not be posting on a consistent month-to-month basis. I need to be fully freed from all other commitments, so that I can devote all of my energy to my Ph.D. graduate work this year.

Does that mean I will not be posting anything? NO. I still plan to post on this blog over the next academic year, I only do not promise to post anything consistently. I am right in the middle of my metaphysics series on Civitas Humana, and I have only written the first part of my ancient biography series on Κέλσος. I will come back and finish these series whenever I find the time. I also plan to announce future publications here, and to post papers from conferences.

The main difference for 2014-2015 is that I will only be posting more sporadically rather than on a consistent month-to-month basis.

I do plan to return in 2015-2018 to continue blogging more on counter-apologetics, especially as I work on my book project and dissertation.

Thanks to everyone who has been reading the blog! I’ve written a lot over the past two years and I appreciate everyone who has been consistent readers. Already, both Κέλσος and Civitas Humana provide great databases on ancient history, counter-apologetics, naturalism, and secular humanism. It’s great to already have this information out there, even if I write less this year.

Feel free to still post comments during 2014-2015. I’ll still be around and will still be studying ancient history, the New Testament, and philosophy. I also look forward to this being a refreshing year to study the Latin and Greek languages at my most rigorous level yet!

-Matthew Ferguson

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“Griffin Beak, Mermaid Fin, and Dragon Blood Stew” Is Now on the Secular Web!

This summer I have been sending out a number of articles to publishers, and one has just recently been published on the Secular Web. I have reworked my old blog post “Griffin Beak, Mermaid Fin, and Dragon Blood Soup” into a Secular Web article, addressing the question of what evidence would be sufficient to persuade a reasonably skeptical person of Jesus’ resurrection.

The new article, titled “Griffin Beak, Mermaid Fin, and Dragon Blood Stew” (I thought that “stew” had a better ring to it than “soup”), can now be accessed online in the Secular Web Kiosk.

In other good news, I turned 27 just two days ago on September 18 (my birthday is on the same day that the emperor Domitian was assassinated). This article was published just shortly before my birthday, so I consider it a good achievement for year 26. Hopefully this will be followed by more publications ahead, which will be announced here.

-Matthew Ferguson

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Fall Quarter and Where I’m at with My Book Project

I will be starting Fall quarter at UCI in the beginning of October (yes, the UC system starts school that late), and I want to give an update about some of the work that I have both behind and in front of me, including where I am on my book project, tentatively titled “Doubting Christianity: Is Unbelief Unreasonable?” (hitherto referred to as DC).

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Some Cool PowerPoint Slides on Roman History and the Bible

This week I finished teaching my first independent university course, for which I  constructed my own website and curriculum. I have previously taught Latin and Greek courses from prepared syllabi, as well as discussion sections for courses on Greek and Roman history, but this is the first time that I got to construct an entire course curriculum on my own.

The course I taught was an introduction course to the Roman Empire, titled “CLAS/HIST 37B: Roman Empire.” As part of teaching this course I had to produce a large number of PowerPoint slides for each class lecture. There were 15 lectures total (each covering a 2 hour class). For each lecture, I made a PowerPoint presentation with about 20-25 slides (adding up to an approximate 300-375 slides total).

I have decided to leave the course website up, both because I plan to use it for future job applications and for anyone who is interested in reading the material:

CLAS/HIST 37B

If you are interested in checking out some cool PowerPoint slides, which cover approximately 300 years of Roman history (c. 49 BCE – 235 CE), you can find them on the course website under “Lecture Slides.” The slides actually cover even more years than that, since I incorporated a fair amount of broader world history into the course.

On a similar note: a couple of years ago, when I was completing my M.A. in Classics (emphasis in Ancient History) at the University of Arizona, I was asked by a professor teaching an Early Christianity course to give a presentation about the books of the Christian Bible. In the presentation I gave overviews of all 66 books of the Protestant Bible, as well the 73 books of the Catholic Bible, and other apocrypha.

If you are interested, you can read the slides from my presentation, “The Biblical Scriptures,” here as well.

-Matthew Ferguson

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A New Volume on Suetonius in English

As part of my blog series on ancient biography, I thought that it would be fitting to discuss a new volume that was published just earlier this summer (July 3, 2014) on the Roman biographer Suetonius Tranquillus.

SuetoniusThe new volume Suetonius the Biographer: Studies in the Roman Lives provides a much needed collection of  essays on Suetonius in English. I say that these essays are “much needed” in light of the fact that there as been a dearth of studies on Suetonius in English over the last several decades. The most recent English monographs on the author Andrew Wallace-Hadrill’s Suetonius: the Scholar and His Caesars and Barry Baldwin’s Suetonius — were both published in 1983. In addition to those, Richard Lounsbury published a short work on Suetonius — The Arts of Suetonius: An Introduction — back in 1987. But, aside from those, Suetonius has largely been neglected in English scholarship for about the last three decades. Even in foreign scholarship Suetonius has been neglected. Jacques Gascou’s Suétone historien is the largest study on Suetonius’ style in French (or any language for that matter), but even this monograph was published back in 1984. In German, Helmut Gugel’s Studien zur biographischen Technik Suetons has many good structural observations about Suetonius’ organization of material, but was published way back in in 1977. Clearly, Suetonius has needed some fresh scholarship, so I am really glad to see this new volume in English.

The volume is edited by Tristan Power and Roy Gibson. I have been following Power’s scholarship for some time in my graduate studies. Over the last several years, Power has published a number of short articles on different aspects of Suetonius’ works, which have been very helpful for my own research. I received my M.A. in Classics at the University of Arizona in 2012 after completing a master’s thesis on Suetonius’ biographical structure. This new Suetonius volume discusses a number of topics similar with my recent graduate work, which I will discuss below.

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Posted in Ancient Biography, Classics, Reviews | 2 Comments

FtBCon 3 Rescheduled

I hate to bear bad news, but the Freethought Blogs 2014 online conference has been postponed to a later date.

I have actually known for a couple days now, but I have been waiting to see if they would announce the new date of the conference before this weekend. However, since I was originally scheduled to present tomorrow, I need to announce today that I will not presenting at the time and date that I had stated in a previous post.

I will update this post when a new date has been chosen. Right now January 2015 looks like it will likely be the new date range for the conference, but I do not know.

Sorry for any disappointment, but I will still eventually be presenting my talk, “Reasonable Skepticism verses Hyper-Skepticism: Understanding the Difference in Evaluating Ancient History,” just at a later date than originally planned.

-Matthew Ferguson

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Speaking at FtBCon 3

[This conference has been rescheduled. Please see my blog announcement about the new date.]

I will be giving a solo talk at the Freethought Blogs 2014 online conference, which will take place August 22-24. I am currently scheduled to present at 12pm on Sunday, August 24.

ftbcon3_wordpressThe title of my talk is “Reasonable Skepticism verses Hyper-Skepticism: Understanding the Difference in Evaluating Ancient History.” As you can probably gather from the title, the talk will be about historical methodology and will particularly address the apologetic claim that non-believers are “hyper-skeptical” in their treatment of the NT and the evidence for Jesus.

In the talk I will be providing criteria whereby historians can exercise reasonable skepticism towards certain ancient claims and texts, which will be fleshed out by examples from Pagan and Christian literature alike. By showing how historians would exercise skepticism towards any other set of ancient texts in the same situation as the NT accounts of Jesus’ resurrection, I will be demonstrating how non-believers are not hyper-skeptical in doubting the ancient tale that Jesus rose from the dead.

The talk should also make use of some of the research in my recent seminar paper “The Propaganda of Accession of the Roman Emperor Galba.” I’ll be posting here again with more details as the event approaches.

-Matthew Ferguson

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