Thursday, November 5, 2009

What Do TEDS Students Do for Fun?

Do Trinity Evangelical Divinity School students, in fact, have any fun? The literature on this subject has so far been quite limited. Although some have interpreted this paucity of serious scholarly inquiry as proof that TEDS students don’t have any fun, I contend this is not the case. The conclusion seems logical at first, but it is based on the fallacy of negative proof. The lack of positive evidence for fun constitutes no more than just that: a lack of evidence.

This treatment will attempt to inject new life into the debate, which has hitherto been overly speculative, by presenting a few examples known to this author of TEDS students actually having fun. These examples are necessarily drawn from a limited pool of evidence: namely, the experiences of the author and a few of his friends. But if, as seems reasonable, these few informants are taken as typical members of their wider community, then a model can be
extrapolated suggesting that TEDS students may actually have fun up to once or twice weekly. In short, this study will approach an answer to the question: what do TEDS students do for fun?

Fun Example No. 1: They compose tongue-in-cheek blog entries. While some will no doubt protest that this argument is overly circular, the author being presently engaged in creating the evidence which he cites, it is nevertheless true that the author was previously engaged in this endeavor before he thought of its being used to support his thesis. Those who doubt this may refer to Josh’s Dig, Volumes 1, 2, and 3, which are clearly dated prior to the time stamp of 11/5/09 at 6:47 p.m. C.D.T., the terminus ante quem of this writing.

Fun Example No. 2: They visit their relatives in Indiana, play with their cute 1.5-year-old
nephews, and enjoy spending time with their families.

Figure 1:
With midterms out of the way, I had a fun time in Linton on October 16-18, during my fall break. I got to see not only Dad and Mom (a.k.a. David and Rae Anne Tyra), but my maternal grandparents Ray and Ann Kegley (see where my mom got her name?), visting from Franklin near Indianapolis. We all had a nice Sunday morning and afternoon together before I drove back to Chicago. By the way, I got to watch Andrew for a couple of hours when there was no other coverage, and I got to change my first diaper ever. And my second. Thankfully, Andrew went easy on me! Then I put him down for the nap that wasn't. How grateful was I when Mommy got home!

Figure 2:
Andrew Preston Lore with his daddy Lennon (my bro-in-law). You've got to love that smile. And those brand new teeth.

Figure 3:
Daddy likes to play a little rough, and Andrew loves it!

Figure 4:
Cute in pumpkin PJs!

Figure 5:
I think Andrew and Lennon have the same smile! Tel père, tel fils.

Fun Example No. 3:
TEDS students make cuneiform tablets from scratch. It was (fellow MA Archaeology student) Shawn's idea, and I was totally up for it. I had made a tablet several years ago, and I was ready for a more advanced project.

Figure 6:
Rather than trying to get the real thing from somewhere around Lake Michigan or the Chicago River, we opted for store-bought synthetic polymer clay. It stays soft until you bake it in a regular oven.

Figure 7:
Shawn examines my wooden stylus, made from a small dowel rod. Shawn cut his own stylus from a stick he found on the ground.

Figure 8:
The text I decided to copy. It's a letter in Hittite from an Egyptian queen (presumably Ankhesenamun, the widow of Tutankhamun) writing to the king of the Hittites and asking him to send one of his sons to marry her, since she was politically vulnerable. The king didn't believe her at first, but verified her request and did eventually send one of his sons. The Hittite prince was murdered en route, possibly by the vizier Ay, who then took over the Egyptian throne and married Ankhesenamun himself. These are the days of our lives, Egyptian style.

Figure 9:
Shawn works on copying his chosen text, a line of Sumerian from the Epic of Gilgamesh.

Figure 10:
My tablet, a little over half-way done.

Figure 11:
Detail of my tablet.

Figure 12:
Sean's tablet, completed.

Figure 13:
Our handiwork and our styluses, side by side.

Fun Example No. 4:
TEDS students compose humorous top-ten lists, evocative of some of the better efforts of David Letterman.

Figure 14: The Top 10 Reasons Why Indiana Jones is a Terrible (Near Eastern) Archaeologist

10. He tends to remove one object and haphazardly destroy the rest of the site.
9. He does No. 10 without recording any data.
8. With no systematic data recording, he can't publish in peer-reviewed journals or give papers at professional meetings. (Plus, he might be arrested if he reported on his findings, anyway. See below, reason number 4.)
7. His fear of reptiles tends to impede desert field work.
6. Biblical studies deficiency 1: he mispronounces Mt. Horeb as Mt. Herob in Raiders.
5. Biblical studies deficiency 2: Shaky exegesis of the role of the Ark of the Covenant in Israelite history and religion.
4. Epigraphical deficiency: he can’t read the Paleo-Hebrew/Phoenician script (in Raiders he has to go to an old sage to have the so-called headpiece of the staff of Amun Ra deciphered. And this must be one very old sage, if he remembers how to read Paleo-Hebrew. But I guess he could have picked up the script at Old Sage School.)
3. He fails to adhere to international antiquities laws.
2. Questionable treatment of female colleagues in the field.

And... (drum roll, please...) the number one reason why Indiana Jones is a terrible (Near Eastern) archaeologist:

1. The high body count of his expeditions.

Fun Example No. 5:
TEDS students wear aluminum foil for free food.

Figure 15:
Chipotle, a chain of build-your-own burrito restaurants, was offering a free burrito on Halloween to anyone who came dressed as a burrito. We had heard they were employing a loose definition of what constitutes an acceptable burrito costume, so we did our makeshift best. From left to right: Burrito-Head Man, or possibly The Burrito Chef; Burritune, King of the Ocean; Burrito-On-A-Plate-Head Man; The Teenage Mutant Ninja Burrito; and Bat-rito-man.

Figure 16:
The restaurant was a veritable burrito-inspired ballo in maschera. Here, our clever outfits have secured us the coveted booty. Clearly, the hapless burritistas couldn't tell the difference between us and six large, walking burritos. Note the welcome addition of Yoda-rito, far left.

Fun Example No. 6: TEDS students draw humorous doodles when they should be paying attention in class.

Figure 17:
An idea which the Absolut company should pay me for, since it might allow them to reach a new target audience: biblical sholars, Egyptologists, Assyriologists, etc. Then again, maybe I don't want to be implicated in getting a bunch of scholars hooked on vodka. Sigh... I wonder what the professor said during those three minutes?

Fun Example No. 7: TEDS students go and see the things they read about in books.

Figure 18.
On Saturday, October 10, Shawn and I spent two glorious hours in the University of Chicago's Oriential Institute museum. Then, after a late lunch, we spent four more glorious hours there. Admission is free, and they allow flash photography... how cool is that?

Pictured here is a brick stamped with the name of Nebuchadnezzar II, the Babylonian king responsible for the sack of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.

Figure 19.
The Chicago Stone, recording a sale of land in Sumerian cuneiform.

Figure 20.
Me in front of a cast of the great stela inscribed with the Code of Hammurabi, the earliest known collection of case law, ca. 1790 B.C. I'm trying to strike the pose of the god Shamash, shown seated on the right.

Figure 21:
Whimsical Sumerian votive statues, ca. 2900-2330 B.C.

Figure 22.
A cuneiform brick stamp like the one that would have been used to make the Nebuchadnezzar brick, see Figure 18.

Figure 23.
The same brick stamp, from the front.

Figure 24.
A lion of glazed brick, from Babylon. It would have been there during Nebuchadnezzar's reign, including after he conquered Jerusalem. So Daniel probably walked right by this thing!

Figure 25.
Shawn is dwarfed by the enormous lamassu statue, a man-headed winged bull from the Assyrian city of Khorsobad. Khorsobad was the capital of Sargon II, the king who claimed victory over Samaria in 722 B.C. The Bible attributes the victory to his predecessor, Shalmaneser. A recent discovery vindicated the Bible's record, proving that Shalmaneser died at the end of the siege of Samaria, while he and Sargon, his general at the time, were on their way home. On being crowned king, Sargon co-opted the victory for himself in official inscriptions.

Figure 26.
My turn to feel overawed by the lamassu.

Figure 27.
Another view of the lamassu.

Figure 28.
Looking up at the winged bull-man. The back of the statue is covered with a large cuneiform inscription.

Figure 29.
Shawn explains the significance of a cuneiform sign.

Figure 30.
I contemplate the Sennacherib Prism. (Actually, I'm looking at the camera. But shortly before this shot, I was contemplating the Sennacherib Prism.) This piece is one of the most important biblical connections in the museum. It is an account of the Assyrian king's 701 BC attempted siege of Judah during the time of Hezekiah. Interestingly, Sennacherib claims victory on the prism, but Herodotus and the Bible disagree, with the Bible stating that the LORD struck down 185,000 of his men, whereupon he fled to Ninevah. The prism mentions that he went to Ninevah, but not the crushing defeat.

Figure 31.
Me with an offering stand from Iron Age Megiddo, Stratum VI, the layer that was probably destroyed by King David circa 1000 BC. There's a picture of this offering stand in my Old Testament survey book. I thought that was pretty cool.

Figure 32.
A statue of pharaoh Tutankhamun. The upper part of the statue is original, and the lower part has been restored.

Figure 33.
King Tut from below.

Figure 34.
The base of the Tutankhamun statue. We were only marginally successful in reading the hieroglyphs. We were in our fifth or sixth week of Middle Egyptian. We're so much wiser than that now! (Yeah, right!)

Figure 35.
King Tut's toes, and more hieroglyphs.

Figure 36.
A papyrus of the Book of the Dead.

Figure 37-38.
I was so impressed with these Roman-period Egyptian portraits. They are so realistic! You might run into these people on the street in Chicago. Also, these are on the cover of a Latin grammar book I have. Not sure why they put Egyptian picture on a Latin grammar, but at least they're from the right period.

Figure 39.
Hieroglyphs painted on wood.

Figure 40.
Detail of a finely carved hieroglyphic inscription.

Figure 41.
Bust of pharaoh Neferhotep, 13th Dynasty, circa 1750 BC. Poor guy, the nose is always the first thing to go.

Figure 42.
I was fascinated with the Egyptian scribal tools.

Figure 43.
A reed case, I think.

Figure 44-45.
The hieroglyphic symbol for writing or scribe, "sesh," is shown in the top picture. It portrays a palette for red and black ink (left; the red was used to write headings), a bag for holding cakes of dried ink(middle), and a reed case (right). In the picture below, you're looking at the real thing.

Figure 46.
A fascinating image portraying pharaoh Seti I (second from left) with his son Ramesses II (the Great) behind him. If you favor a late Exodus, both are candidates for the "let my people go" pharaoh. Think Yul Brenner in the Charlton Heston Ten Commandments and whoever that guy was who played his father. Some classical British actor. He was a good Seti, I thought.

Figure 47.
Shabti figures from an Egyptian tomb. Since the concept of the afterlife included laboring in the fields of Osiris, you needed to be buried with plenty of these little guys so you could make them do your work for you.

Figure 48.
A cast of the Rosetta stone, which was the key to the decipherment of hieroglyphics.

Figure 49.
Many charming boat models have been found in Egyptian tombs.

Figure 50.
This bowl of food is probably 3000 years old. Wonder what it was!

Figure 51.
Funny story time. So there's this massive bull's head from Persepolis, dating to the reigns of Xerxes and Artaxerxes, the time of Esther...

Figure 52.
And so Dad comes to see me at the University of Chicago in about 1999, and we go to the Oriental Institute. We're looking at the bull, and Dad says, "Are we allowed to touch it?" And I don't know what I was thinking--my head generally wasn't on straight in those days anyway--but I say, "Sure, I think we are! Go ahead!" So Dad touches the bull. In seconds the docent is on him like white on rice: "Sir, please don't touch the artifacts." We felt embarrassed, but Dad smiled, whispering to me: "It's too late. I touched a 2600-year-old bull statue. They can't do anything about that!"

Figure 53.
I wonder if this sign was there in 1999? I certainly don't remember seeing it. I think it was added in our honor.

Figure 54.
For old time's sake... (and no, I didn't really do it!)

Figure 55.
Persian gold from Persepolis. Sparkly!

Figure 56.
Students of the history of civil rights, take note: this is a contract from 239 BC detailing the transfer of ownership of a house and another building to a woman. The Egyptians were pretty "progressive," and there were even several female pharaohs, including Hatshepsut.

Figure 57.
A bronze mirror from ca. 150-1069 BC, somewhat the worse for wear. And no longer, strictly speaking, a mirror.

Figure 58.
The mummy of Meresamun, who was a singer in an ancient Egyptian temple.

Figure 59.
An ancient Egyptian harp, possibly like one played by Meresamun.

In conclusion, these seven examples of Trinity students having fun occurred in the space of only one month, with approximately 1.75 fun events occurring weekly. And if each example is taken not just as a single occurrence of fun, but as a conglomerate or cluster of individual fun events, then the weekly rate of fun might be even higher.

Another fun thing that TEDS students get to do from time to time is finish a major project, as I did early this morning. I completed the first draft of the first major research paper of my graduate career. Praise the Lord! Once it is in its final form, the text might just find its way to this forum. But in the mean time, here are a few pictures of my highly advanced system for keeping track of my sources:

Sources on the couch.

Sources on the living room floor.

Sources on the keyboard and the printer.

Sources on the bed.

Sources on the bedroom floor.

And hopefully, sources in the right place in my paper! Well, at this glacial rate I am not going to get in another blog entry before Christmas. If that be the case, then Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas to all, and I'll see you in the new year on the Dig!

In His Grip,
Josh :)


  1. It's a good thing we have digital cameras. You would be broke if you were buying film! Thanks for the tour (I would have touched it just for tradition reasons.)
    Norman Parker

  2. josh i just laughed out loud and learned some amazing things all at the same time! you are one of the smartest, funniest people i know. hope to see you at thanksgiving!

  3. one such a thorough walk through of your life in chicago. :)


  4. Love it, Josh! I would love for this branch of Tyra's to take a vacation to Chicago again and have you as our 'tour guide'! And to be able to take pictures, great! I understand the need to protect the artifacts, but was greatly disappointed at not being able to take pictures when we visited the King Tut exhibit in Indy. But that's another story. Oh, and by the way, I see that your filing system has not changed much. :) Love, Kristy

  5. Yay Josh! Seems you are right in your element as I hoped. Glad to see you are doing well and getting some time to do fun things.

    Miss you lots!

    Much love,

  6. the picture of you by the Megiddo cult stand is the fourth image when you type "megiddo stratum" into Google images. You picture is right where I wanted some sweet table of the stratum to be... but a welcome face.