Thursday, June 18, 2015

Askonas Digging Deeper - Is Reza a Scholar of Religious History?

Jonathan Askonas writes on 7/29/13 in "Digging Deeper into Aslan's 'Scholarship'":
I’ve read the dissertation, and can report that it uses no historical methods or archival research. It solely focuses on the events and movements of the twentieth century, with the exception of one ten-page summary of the life and times of medieval Muslim theologian Ibn Taymiyyah. In the fields of sociology and political science, it seems like a rather unremarkable piece of work (it’s also unusually short for a PhD dissertation, at about 130 double-spaced pages. Dissertations usually run into the hundreds). It also seems likely that much of the research was later published for a popular audience (along with the usual current events punditry) as Aslan’s book Beyond Fundamentalism. Absolutely nothing in the dissertation gives any indication that the author has any interest in, much less qualifications for, New Testament scholarship.  
Aside from content, Aslan’s claim that he is a scholar at all is questionable given the publishers of his books. A Google Scholar search for Aslan’s bibliography shows the author’s trade books (as opposed to books from university presses, the standard for scholarship), newspaper articles, blog posts, and lectures. He has a couple of articles in a “current affairs journal” (normally called a newspaper). His single citation from an academic press is for a forthcoming chapter in an Oxford University Press book The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Violence —a volume edited by his dissertation advisor at UC-Santa Barbara. Literally the only remotely academic article he’s published was a 2003 piece in an obscure UCLA law journal on the sociology of stoning in Islam. Again, Aslan has no scholarly work that would qualify him as an expert in New Testament studies by the standard practices of that field.
Askonas goes on to question Aslan's claim to special expertise in Greek.  He argues that Aslan simply doesn't have the academic background, although given Margaret Mitchell's unforgiving assessment of the evidence in Zealot of knowledge of Koine Greek (not published until recently in Harvard's Criterion periodical), it would seem that his grasp of Koine is even less than what his academic credentials might lead us to expect.

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