Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Mr. N.T. Wrong, the man

Aristotle, of course, was not named "Aristotle"; the name he went by had a different pronunciation and a different spelling. So the claim that our use continues the chain that began with his being baptized "Aristotle" needs refinement. Then there is the worry that chains that originate in a single stipulation may later diverge. In that case a term has two different reference classes despite its link to a single introducing event.... Ambiguity occurs because correction... allows for alternative continuations of the causal chain.... Each continues the chain, but the two uses of the word... are not coextensive. Nor do we always succeed in referring to what our predecessors did, even when we intend to do so.
--C. Z. Elgin, Ph.D., 
Harvard University Professor of Philosophy

I'm starting my post with a quotation of Dr. C.Z. Elgin, one of the world's top experts in philosophy, an expert on that branch of philosophy called "epistemology."  But I want to talk about Mr. N.T. Wrong, a man.  [hint: I'd like us to talk about more than this man towards the end of this post.]  

What Dr. Elgin is getting at is a problem that Aristotle told his students to avoid.  "Avoid ambiguities," he told the elite Greek boys in his academy.  He really knew that men, who were not bar-bar-ians and who were not wo-men, should not have to worry about possible chains of divergence from the singular stipulated natural class of a thing.  He could imagine what fe-males and non-Greeks would do with his name, how they might mis-spell and mis-pronounce it, for example.  But I do want to diverge from this, sort of, in order to talk about the man, Mr. N.T. Wrong.

Mr. Wrong is the spokes-man for the nearly all-male Biblioblog Top 50, which Rod of Alexandria has called the "NT Wrong & Co." of men, who exclaimed just yesterday that they are finally just "Now accepting women!"  Does the name, N.T. Wrong, originate in a single stipulation?  Yes!  What is it?  N.T. Wrong is the creative, playful pseudonym for a man who blogs on the Bible.  It doesn't take a rocket scientist or even a top-notch epistemology-specialty philosopher at Harvard to figure out the un-ambiguous facts:
  • He is not a wo-man and is not a fe-male. 
  • His name is fake. 
  • He has invented his name as a counter-part of the name of another man, one N.T. Wright, a Bishop, and therefore, a man.  
  • His name is to-be a pun:  one may be (W)right but the other is unambiguously Wrong. 
  • He is not telling us who he is. 
  • He hides who he is to the frustration of some other pretty big Top-notch-Bible-blogger men, like the man Mr. Dr. John F. Hobbins (who claimed to know him as Mr. Stephen So-And-So while admitting how, nonetheless, he "think[s] there may be two or three NT Wrongs out there") and like the man Mr. Dr. James F. McGrath.
The un-ambiguous fact I want to talk about is this:
there has never been any hiding of the fact that N.T. Wrong is a Mr., is a man.  No one really has to say that, do they?  
For example, when Mr. James Crossley, at University of Sheffield, wrote and presented an essay about Mr. N.T. Wrong, Mr. Crossley did not have to use male markers.  Note what Mr. Crossley wrote [with my own male-marking interpolations for ridiculous effect]:
After a recent poll of over 70 [male] bibliobloggers asking for their top five most influential scholars [which might have included women if there weren't only men], the results were collected and a top ten was compiled. [Mr.] N.T. Wright and[Mr.] Walter Brueggemann were one and two respectively in a top ten which also included [Mr.] James Dunn, [Mr.] Peter Enns, [Mr.] Gordon Fee, and [Mr.] Bruce Malina.
Mr. Crossley goes on to talk about the enjoyment or the frustration of [male] Bible bloggers in classifying the theology of Mr. Wrong.  Mr. Crossley himself writes his paper to classify Mr. Wrong as a propaganda-ist and a surveillance-r in all of the positive senses.

Mr. Crossley has first-hand classified information.  Mr. Crossley, he himself says, had email exchanges with Mr. Wrong.  Mr. Wrong always hid his identity, even if he admitted hiding.  And, on the hiding, Mr. Crossley quotes him:
It [blogging anonymously] gives you a degree of freedom to say what you really think, without worrying about what those who might employ you think. I encourage everybody to do it. In fact, most books should be published pseudonymously, too. Who doesn’t want to write a scathing refutation of what they wrote ten years ago? I think it could encourage more open writing. It might also make it easier for people to approach works without bias against the author. It wouldn’t help with The Man’s academic publishing requirements – but you know what they can do.
The point I'm trying to make here is that The Man of biblioblogging and The Man who influenced the biblical scholarship of "over 70 bibliobloggers" polled (men) is Mr. N. T. Wrong.  With respect to his being, a man, there is no ambiguity for him or for any of us at all.  No body has to mark this fake-named man as a real man.  He clearly enjoys all of the advantages of being male, even if there are other refinements about this man that can be and have been made by other biblioblogging men.


Something else (as if this is an aside, an afterthought, although it's really the main intention of this blogpost of mine):

There can be a great advantage to writing as a man.  Or at least to not writing as a woman.  Why is that?

A woman emailed me this morning.  She told me her name.  She also said something else.  Here's what she said:
I'm currently working with, and we recently published an article entitled "10 Famous Females Who Used Male Pen names". You can review the article here: (

I'd like you to review her article with me, and then let's talk more.  Okay, then.  What did you see?  Is there the author's name?  No.  I don't know about you, but for me the most hopeful sentences in this essay are these:
In a world wrought with a history of sexism and gender inequality, female writers have hidden their true gender behind the veil of masculine pen names for centuries. Acknowledging that the most famous of these women found success even after abandoning their male pseudonyms shows just how outdated the sexist notion truly is.
And this one:
It is impossible to say whether Harry Potter would have achieved the immense fame that it has if written under Rowling’s true name — but we certainly think it would have.
I'm hopeful also because women are coming forward to talk about the value in their names, whether they employ the strategy of a pen name or not.  (I'd been so much less hopeful when conversing with Mr. Mitchell Power elsewhere, saying, "J. K. Gayle is a man. I am this person. However, .....")

Can we be hopeful after reading what Kristen wrote here at this blog with this comment of hers?
I know that there are certain blogs where if I post, I post with a username that does not identify me as female. When certain bloggers know I'm female, the way they relate to me changes. I don't mind it when they speak a little more gently, with a little more awareness that I have feelings. But there are many times when what I have to say becomes less important, more easily dismissed, because I'm a woman.
Likewise, can we be hopeful when reading what Katherine shares, her personal experiences of how male friends label movies or books uninteresting or merely "chick lit" because they are not male enough?
I actually don't comment on many blogs, especially many biblioblogs, so I can't say much to that. But this post made me remember two different stories. One was one of the men who taught regularly in my youth group who was very much into stories and how important and meaningful they can be, which made it great to discuss movies and books and such with him. My sister and I asked him about a movie that had come out that we had all seen, and he said he was bored and didn't find it meaningful because all the main characters were women, so he couldn't relate. I also remembered a review he wrote of a book online where he expressed surprise at enjoying a "chick lit" book because even though it was all about women he found it interesting and actually cared about what happened. I also recently saw a discussion on one of my college acquaintance's facebook page where he talked about how much he liked the TV show "Angel". When someone asked him if he ever watched "Buffy" (which came before it and from which the latter is derived), he said he didn't "need" to bother because it was all about girl empowerment.
Will we be surprised but can we be hopeful when reading what Amanda Mac writes here (see the second comment here)?
I wonder how many blogs out there are actually written by women but are done so anonymously? I spent 6 months with my blog being gender-neutral and in a way it was freeing to be able to post without having a voice in the back of my head say, “the reader will see you’re a woman and never come back.”
I'd like us now to come back to what Dr. C.Z. Elgin has written.  She is that top notch Harvard philosopher, the expert in epistemology.  Her name is Catherine.  She knows how much we use, we need, ambiguity.

This is exactly what Aristotle told his elite male students of his own race what they should avoid:  "avoid ambiguities," he insisted.  Elsewhere, I've said something about that and noted that Sappho, whom Aristotle disparaged in his Rhetoric, would actually use ambiguities as if talking about coolness that “wrapped around” waters.  Yes, you hear that.  Sappho, a woman, speaks pretty poetically.  Aristotle doesn't listen to her that well, and he doesn't get or let his students get all that she has to offer them.  Too bad.  To know, to really know things, says Dr. Catherine Elgin, we all do well to employ ambiguities.  If we're men who perpetuate a less-gendered, less-ambiguous humanity, then I think it's really too bad.  Fortunately, she offers us some hope for change.

[update:  Rod responds to this post, here.  See our comments below, and please make your own comment if you like.]


Rod said...


i just ended james crossley's 15 minutes of fame:

J. K. Gayle said...


funny stuff.

However, the male logic residue of the N.T. Wrong mask is mostly (as Tim Bulkeley describes it) "the male locker room type 'humour'."

Here's a sampling of N.T. Wrong quotations (showing this male logic):

“Logic is truth. How can you speak against truth, J.K.? (…irrefutable logic in action…) To do so is to indulge in fallacy (sounds like ‘ph*llusy’).” [1]

“What’s left is how to translate this passage [Hos 2.11-12], in order to retain the original c*nt-pun. I suggest this: ‘I will sn*tch away my wool and my flax which were to cover her p*denda, and today I will expose her p*ssyfooting in the eyes of her lovers.’” [2]

“With taxonomic fervour, I have also classified the [biblio]blogs in two ways….” [3]

“[Jim West: Do you have any secret hobbies or interests that our readers might find surprising? / N.T. Wrong:] F*sting.” [4]

“Merry P*rineum, Roland!” [5]

“Mutual m*sturbation in biblical studies” [6]

“Yes, the idea of turning academic biblical studies blogging into a top 50, like some sort of popularity contest or pop-music contest, is absurd. It’s my little joke on the whole biblioblogging caper, you see.” [7]


[1] a Wrong comment at my post “What πίστεως means to a 10-Yr-Old Girl” (at the blog Aristotle’s Feminist Subject)

[2] another Wrong statement at N.T.’s own blog, in the post “C*nny Punning in Hosea 2″

[3] an entire post using Wrong logic to make the N.T. bible blogging “List of Bibliobloggers – Conservative or Liberal?”

[4] the deleted blog of Jim West, who was interviewing Wrong (an excerpt of which is found in James Crossley’s essay “N.T. WRONG AND THE BIBLIOBLOGGERS”)

[5] a Wrong salutation to Roland Boer, at his post “A world upside-down, or, ‘anarchy in the UK’,” at his blog Stalin’s Moustache

[6] a Wrong description of Roland Boer’s previously mentioned post, which N.T. classified and labeled as “Hot reading” at “the very hottest of hot biblioblogs” which was also noted as among the “very sexiest in biblical studies blogging” — all an N.T. Wrong play on logical objectivity, which got some men hooting it up while some women, also playing along, protested.

[7] a Wrong attempt to sound like a feminist, or at least a sophist, to Kristen, who expresses concern about the Top 50 Biblioblogs serving as a competitive gentleman’s club. (You know, historian Bettany Hughes says that the sophist Gorgias himself attempt this sort of thing, while all the men laughed: “When, in Ancient Greece, the rhetorician Gorgias stood up and delivered his ‘Encomium of Helen’ (a defence of Helen of Troy’s indefensible character) – this was a great joke. How can you laud the most sluttish femme fatale of all time? But the rhetoric also got people thinking – maybe, just maybe the skilled speaker had a point.”)

*Rod, Let me know if you need the vowels supplied here.

*I’m trying to spare (y)our readers the blatant N. T. Wrong misogyny. If this person is a woman, then she sometimes writes like a very cowardly sort of Christie Hefner. At least Christie Hefner didn’t pretend to take down the patriarchy when taking over her father’s powerful female-objectivizing woman-denigrating porn business. Or has Wrong, by the recent statements to you and by declaration number 7 above, turned N.T. into a feminist?