Occasionally I come across disparaging remarks about Wikipedia--usually by traditional academics. Now, I'm not saying Wikipedia is perfect or engaging in some apology for Wikipedia. But there are bigger fish involved in this dialog.
Wikipedia represents the democratization of knowledge and--more important from my perspective--the network generation of knowledge. Is Wikipedia perfect? Not at all. But in the time it takes a traditional online dictionary or encyclopedia to put out an edition, Wikipedia has undergone five or six updates. Notice I say a traditional online dictionary. We'll have gone to Mars before you can get a traditional print encyclopedia edition out.
The internet is a network generated source. They're gone now, but back in the early 90's a prognosticator at Wesleyan HQ apparently tried to convince the denomination to put its stuff online. The response--for free! Are you crazy? And yes, the Wesleyan Church remains relatively unknown to this day.
I know of professors who scoffed at offering courses online in the late nineties. A fad, they said. And if they remain in power at their institutions, insisting on a 90 hour curriculum or more, often requiring Greek and Hebrew, I will unfortunately live long enough to watch them go bankrupt.
The bottom line: Erasmus wins. You know, Erasmus, the entrepeneur scholar who was the first to put out a printed Greek New Testament. Who was he up against? A group of very erudite scholars in Spain putting out a very well planned and executed Complutensian Polyglot with five, I think, different versions of the NT side by side.
Never heard of them? Have you heard of the KJV? Yes, it was based more or less on Erasmus. Was Erasmus' first version quality? It had some hilarious aspects. For example, he didn't have any Greek manuscripts of the last part of Revelation. So he made it up--he took the Latin and translated back into Greek! In other words, his first edition had stuff in it that had never been in any manuscript before him.
But he won. In an age of innovation and paradigm shift, the first is often what gets established. Good grief, do you know how hard it was to dethrone Erasmus' textus receptus, decades, even a century after the best textual scholars knew it needed to be replaced? Even in our day there are still King James only groups gleefully riding the fumes of Erasmus' entrepeneurial venture.
I'm apprenticing with these types at IWU. We are, to be sure, entering a "depth" phase and that is much to be applauded. But why are we the largest private educational institution in Indiana, even bigger than Notre Dame. Why are we founding a seminary and hiring as many as three new people in relation to it in the same year that other institutions are closing and laying off faculty. It's not because we're better or more quality. It's certainly not because we're more spiritual. It's because we were Erasmuses in the nineties, right when it counted the most.
So scoff at us, ye traditional academics. Erasmus always wins.
IWU President | The official blog of the 9th president of Indiana Wesleyan University, Dr. David Wright.