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Thanksgiving 2015

I’m thankful for…

  • The constant, overwhelming, amazing grace of God.
  • Family who love me.
  • Friends who care about me.
  • A warm home to live in.
  • The turkey in the oven.
  • The theory of general relativity.
  • Panda Express.
  • Sale prices at academic conferences.
  • The music my daughter has brought into my life.
  • Friends and colleagues I know both in real life and merely digitally.
  • Reunions with beloved mentors.
  • The smell of baking bread.
  • Babies’ giggles.
  • Kentucky basketball.
  • Freedom.
  • Faith.
  • Hope.
  • Love.

What are you thankful for?


Galatians Commentary

shbc_galatians_xxlI’m pleased to announce that commentary on Galatians in which I had a part has now been published.

Marty Soards did a fantastic job on the biblical exegesis, and I provided supplemental materials to connect the message of Galatians to contemporary life for the sake of teachers and preachers who will strive to bring this important Pauline letter to life in the church.

In his seventh letter to Lucilius, the philosopher Seneca observed that people learn while they teach. Perhaps it should be added that people learn a lot while they try to write biblical commentaries!

I’m also incredibly grateful for this fine endorsement from my Doktorvater, Dr. John Polhill:

In their Galatian commentary, Soards and Pursiful present a fresh and comprehensive exposition of the epistle. They set forth a careful exegesis of the Greek text that is accomplished in clear language, easily understandable to the non-specialist. Although thoroughly acquainted with the best scholarship, they stick to the text itself and avoid the excessive speculation and over-emphasis on theology so characteristic of many Galatian commentaries. I rank this right at the top of commentaries I have read on Galatians.

So, there you have it. Why not buy one for the whole family?

A Side Project of Possible Interest

Another reason I’ve been out of the biblioblogging loop in recent months is that I’ve sort of become a novelist. This happened almost entirely by accident at the insistence of a former coworker who shall remain nameless. Even so, if you’re interested in comtemporary fantasy geared toward teens and young adults, you might want to take a foray Into the Wonder.

Dr. Platypus, the Amateur Sherpa Guide

I’m having a wonderful time with my friend Bruce Conn, whose new blog I’m helping him set up could be very interesting. He’s a therapist here in Macon and a fellow member of First Baptist Church of Christ.

Don’t tell Connie, but Bruce is very impressed with my ability to remember details regarding setting up a WordPress blog!

Why I am Doomed to Remain a Baptist

The closer I get to affirming that Catholics are right about what Communion does, the more I think it should be offered to all the baptized regardless of their denominational affiliation.

The closer I get to affirming that Catholics are right about what baptism does, the more I think it should be restricted to believers.

Comment to Dr. Dallemand

I left the following comment on the most recent blog post of Dr. Romain Dallemand. It is currently awaiting moderation.

Dr. Dallemand,

I am part of the Macon community that has attempted to make it “very plain” that your “Macon Miracle” plan has many substantive problems that are profoundly troubling to me as an educated and involved parent. It is desperately in need of “revisions, additions, and deletions,” as you say; and, your assurances to the contrary, I am not convinced that you intended the plan as it now exists to be the beginning of a conversation but rather its end.

If the plan being unveiled today were merely “a good start for us,” then why the fanfare? I fail to see the logic of balloons, confetti, and acrobats (!) to announce that you and the Board have put an opening bid on the table. And if this is how you roll out a proposal for extended discussion, then I can only imagine how much of the taxpayers’ money you intend to waste when the final product is unveiled.

If the plan were merely “a good start,” then why avoid meeting with Tanner Pruitt and Brett Felty when they arrived at your office—along with some two hundred of their classmates—to express their concerns about what was in the plan? Surely you knew they were coming and had ample time to clear your morning schedule. At the least, a brief meeting with concerned students would have signaled a willingness to listen to all the stakeholders. It may well have earned you some much-needed goodwill from people like me.

If you intended this plan to begin a conversation about what needs to change in the Bibb County School District, and I do not dispute for a moment that substantive changes must be made, then how did you and the Board manage to miscommunicate your intentions so utterly that large numbers of Bibb County residents were under the impression that there was going to be a vote on accepting the plan today? Could it possibly be because the original plan was to vote on the Macon Miracle at today’s “unveiling” event—as WMAZ and other news outlets have reported?  If the vote was merely to put the plan on the table—not to ratify it as official policy— it would seem an able leader and communicator should have been able to explain this quickly and clearly and thus avoid the potential embarrassment of having to back-pedal on voting at all.

Don’t get me wrong, Dr. Dallemand. I am not necessarily opposed to every detail of your plan. But in my estimation the negatives far outweigh the positives, and even where I agree in principle (foreign language learning, year-round school), I have grave misgivings about the proposed implementation. Far more worrying than your proposals, however, I am deeply concerned about the heavy-handed manner in which they are being advanced. If I may be blunt, you have not assured me that your talk about openness to “revisions, additions, and deletions” is anything more than a last-minute damage control maneuver.

I will watch with interest how you and the Board proceed in the weeks to come. An attitude of transparency and humility would be a refreshing change, and a good start to a more fruitful and healthy relationship with the people who pay your salary.


Darrell J. Pursiful, Ph.D.


The Macon “Miracle”?

Dispatched today to William Thomas Barnes III, President of the Bibb County School Board:

Mr. Barnes,

My parents were teachers at a public high school in the inner city of Detroit. They could tell you stories about incompetent teachers, school-board politics, disengaged parents, and unprepared students that would make your toes curl. And yet, they inculcated in me a deep appreciation for public schools. I am a product of a public school education, and it never entered my mind to send my child to a private school—until we moved to Macon.

It was with profound displeasure that I learned last week that Dr. Dallemand’s plan to revitalize the Bibb County School system involved closing schools and eliminating teachers. I cannot fathom how this will result in anything other than larger class sizes, less individualized attention to students, and further academic decline.

I am, furthermore, mystified at the idea of shifting fourth- and fifth-graders into middle school and what were once middle-schoolers into high school.

What leaves me most stupefied is that Dr. Dallemand is unable to answer legitimate questions about how much his so-called “miracle” will cost in the short term. It is simple due diligence to know what the plan is likely to cost and make that information available.

While I agree that we must do something for the good of Bibb County Public Schools, we don’t have to do this! A bad idea doesn’t become a good one just because we have to do “something.” Dr. Dallemand is asking for the largest and most radical change in the history of Bibb County Schools since integration, and he is asking for this change to be approved after only seven days of consideration. At the very least, one would have thought he would take the time to sell his plan to the stakeholders—the parents—rather than ramrodding it through the board. That is what leaders do when they have a grand vision. Only the insecure try to rush a decision before all the details are known and explored.

Among some of my closest friends—who represent a wide array of political perspectives but who all possess advanced degrees in their fields and are more than knowledgeable and involved in their children’s education—I am not aware of any who support this morass of a plan.

Rest assured, I will be looking very carefully into private school options for my child should the school board fail to apply the brakes to Dr. Dallemand’s half-baked agenda. The board may be willing to experiment on my child, but I do not have to like it, and I certainly do not have to stand for it.


Darrell J. Pursiful, Ph. D.

UPDATE: Just learned about the petition at Change.org: “Stop the ‘Macon Miracle’ Plan.”

Moses, John Tyler, and Skewed Generation Lengths

I thought this story about Presidential descendants was interesting:

Former President John Tyler, born 221 years ago, still has two living grandchildren. The one-term president isn’t a well-known historical figure; he’s probably best remembered for helping to push through the annexation of Texas in 1845, shortly before leaving office.

So, how is it possible that a former president who died 150 years ago would still have direct descendents alive today? As it turns out, the Tyler men were known for fathering children late in life. And that math is pretty outstanding when added up:

John Tyler was born in 1790. He became the 10th president of the United States in 1841 after William Henry Harrison died in office. Tyler fathered Lyon Gardiner Tyler in 1853, at age 63.  Then, at the age of 71, Lyon Gardiner Tyler fathered Lyon Gardiner Tyler Jr. in 1924 and four years later at age 75, Harrison Ruffin Tyler. Both men are still alive today.

That means just three generations of the Tyler family are spread out over more than 200 years.

I don’t know how old Lyon Jr. and Harrison were when they became fathers, but the average age for both President Tyler and his son, Lyon, is a whopping 67 years! To put this in perspective, genealogists will usually figure a first child is born when the father is about 20-25. If you’re not worrying specifically about firstborns, the average father-to-son generation length will be a bit longer, but surely not much past 30. But here is a documented account of a father-to-son average generation length of almost 70 years. This is significantly longer than the average 40-year generation length documented in my own family tree over the past six generations.

Of course, I’m thinking about this because of (what else?) the biblical genealogies. We usually don’t bat an eye when we see a genealogy (biblical or otherwise) with generation-lengths in the 20-30 year range. But surely something is amiss if we find some in the 60-70 year range, right? Well, yes, there almost certainly is—but apparently not always. In the great majority of cases, there is most likely a generation or more missing from the record when you find you have to “stretch” the generation lengths to cover the allotted time. Either that or you have over-estimated the time span in the first place.

For example, the genealogies that span from the time Jacob and his family entered Egypt until the time of the Exodus will expand or contract depending on the dates assigned. Even then, however, different genealogical lines cover that period with different numbers of ancestors. Joshua’s (through Joseph) has thirteen. Nahshon’s (through Judah) has seven—or maybe a couple more if you make certain text-critical assumptions about the version of this line given in Luke 3. Moses’s (through Levi) has only five.

Is it really possible that only five generations separate two points in time that other genealogies fill with a dozen or so ancestors? Actually, probably not. I still suspect there are some missing generations in there somewhere. But the genealogy of John Tyler makes the genealogy of Judah look a bit more plausible on the surface. Two or three unusually long generational “jumps” would bring all the rest into something like the expected parameters.


Happy Thanksgiving

I’m thankful for

  • The love of God, the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit
  • A loving, longsuffering wife
  • A brilliant, happy, healthy ten-year-old daughter
  • Freedom to practice my faith without anybody looking over my shoulder
  • The King James Version of the Bible
  • The Screwtape Letters
  • A warm house with a full refrigerator
  • Parents who care, help, and advise without being pushy
  • A job where I’m appreciated
  • Ray Charles
  • A church where I’m both challenged and comforted
  • The Proto-Sinaitic alphabet
  • Archbishop Malkhaz Songulashvili
  • The unforgettable experience of celebrating a Baptist Eucharist that involved vestments, chant, and real wine in a golden chalice
  • Writers who help me see Scripture in different ways
  • Interstate 75 (except around Atlanta)
  • The Charlie Brown Christmas Special
  • The Mercer University Children’s Choir
  • Two arms, two legs, and all five senses
  • The Internet
  • Students who indulge me by laughing at my jokes
  • Bedtime stories
  • Socks

What are you thankful for?

An Editor’s Bucket List

Tom Raabe rocks! My favorites:

  • Catch a really important typo. Many have been the authors whose assiduous editors have saved them from espousing a “pubic” theology, for example, or from proclaiming a gospel that is a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the “Geeks.” The great editorial coup, however, the ne plus ultra of the category, is catching a typo in the title of a book on the very cover of the book in question. There circulated a few copies of the first edition of Elmer Gantry whose covers proclaimed the title as Elmer Cantry. Pity the poor saps who scribbled their sign-off initials on the cover proofs of that one.
  • Successfully pronounce a French phrase at a staff or sales meeting. Reading refined and intelligent books for a living, I come across a plethora of recondite words, and not a small number of foreign phrases, many of them in French. I look these up, of course, to verify the spelling and diacritical markings, but very rarely have occasion to utter them out loud. And when I do, people look at me as though I’m speaking ancient Ugaritic.
  • Respond to demanding technophobic authors who insist on communicating exclusively in snail mail with replies written in ancient Ugaritic.
  • Write into the contracts of certain selected authors the clause that, when they submit their finished manuscripts, they be required to include in the package a case (“consisting of no fewer than twenty-four [24] bottles”) of Five-Hour Energy Drink.
  • Receive a bibliography that does not require any editing whatsoever.
  • Be standing at the Eerdmans author reception at the Society of Biblical Literature convention, in a conversational huddle comprising N. T. Wright, Wolfhart Pannenberg, Stanley Hauerwas, Miroslav Volf, John Dominic Crossan, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, and say something so amusing that all of them burst out laughing simultaneously.