Saturday, October 03, 2009
  New Multimedia Study Bible
Mark linked to the promo video (below) for Glo a new multimedia study Bible. If the video is an accurate representation, rather than just slick marketing, then the interface looks cool, and may even be easy to use, and with many maps, loads of "virtual tours" and hours of video as well as huge numbers of photos and dictionary articles this could be a brilliant tool. Priced at US$80 with a prepub price of US$60 it sounds also like exceptionally good value. iLumina an earlier product from the same company also had an excellent interface (for the period ;) however it suffered from poor and superficial information and resources - as I remember it, I only had a few hours to play with a friend's copy. It sounds as if this new product may have fixed that. I wonder who the first biblioblogger will be to get a review copy? I'd love to see some reviews before the cutoff date for the prepub price ;)

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Saturday, August 15, 2009
I was asked in a tutorial this week about resources for students who want to explore the background to Bible passages.

In the class we talked particularly about two sorts of tool Dictionaries and Commentaries. In this post I will focus first on the sorts of task for which different tools are useful, then in a later post I'll describe different sorts of tool found under the each of the two headings: Dictionaries and Commentaries.
Photo by fmckinlay

Different tools for different tasks

For preference one does not dig a trench with a fork, but equally if one is breaking up clods a fork is more effective than a spade.

Bible dictionaries (a catch all term for encyclopedic works that relate to the Bible - not actually dictionaries at all) are really useful to get a quick fix on a person, place, object, activity, custom etc. in the context of Ancient Israel or the world of the Eastern Mediterranean under the Romans. That is if you have a term that needs explaining they are great to give you a quick fix of "background" information.
An example of a "Bible Dictionary"

So, if you are reading Ezekiel 26 you probably realise that Tyre is a place rather than a round rubber tube, but you may want to know more... Likewise in Ruth there is mention a few times that Boaz is a "kinsman" (your translation may vary) and in chapter three Boaz explains that there is "another kinsman more closely related than [he]" (Ruth 3:12). This clearly is more than a matter of "what sort of cousin are you?" it is important to the book. To read Ruth sensibly you need to know more. Bible dictionaries exist to serve such needs.

[In the Ruth example you will meet a frustration known to dictionary aficionados as "hide and seek", most Bible dictionaries will not have a convenient entry headed "Kinsman", this case is particularly hard, and to find the information you were after you may need to spot that older translations speak of him as a "redeemer". Looking up that word may finally enable you to strike gold!]
An example of a commentary
Commentaries work differently they are not organised (like a dictionary) by terms, but follow through the Bible text in order. In a commentary you look up the passage you are studying and all the information provided is conveniently presented together in one place. A commentary will also, usually, conveniently discuss not only things that get entries in Bible dictionaries, but also the wording and literary working of the passage. This convenience, however, comes at a price :( Commentaries are organised around the commentator's idea of what the passage means. They are like railways, if you wanrt to get where they are going they are fast and convenient. Like railways they are less useful if you have a different destination in view ;)

So on the whole avoid consulting commentaries as long as you can. The more you work at a text before reading one the more chance you have of arriving at a destination determined by the text that is different from the one the commentator recommends ;)

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Saturday, May 03, 2008
  Commentaries and Open Publication
Alan Lenzi has a couple of provocative posts, in the more recent he discusses why biblical scholars write commentaries (he counted and Dove list over 80 on Job alone):
  1. Commentary writing appeals to our strengths and training...
  2. Commentary writing is a recognized genre within the guild ... All the great scholars write commentaries...
  3. Commentary writing is relatively straight-forward...
  4. Commentary writing can be an act of piety...
  5. Commentaries sell so publishers keep asking scholars to write them...
  6. Commentary writing reflects and contributes to advances in the field, presenting the latest research in a convenient location...
Just a few days earlier he wrote about The Open Access Monograph Series That Almost Was and dropped frustrating hints about a newer and better project. So, before he (or someone else) announces that project, I'll reiterate a call for contributors. Any established scholar who wants to write a commentary on a biblical book, and who is interested in getting your work seen and used more widely than print can achieve, take a look at the Hypertext Bible Commentary project, and then contact me for more details.

The Amos "volume" has already (in its peer reviewed stable form) been consulted by thousands of readers each month since its publication in late 2005. The changeable experimental version also gets a huge number of visitors.

If you don't want to spend the time to write a commentary, or you are not yet an "established" scholar then, offer a dictionary article these too will get larger than print readership, these also will be peer reviewed before publication, and so should "count" as publications, but most of all you will contribute to making solid information available to everyone who is interested. And unlike most scholarly writing your article will get read and considered and used!

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Sunday, February 11, 2007
  Online Biblical Scholarship
Two posts recently have got me thinking about why biblical scholarship online is so thin. The first was Tyler's Religious Studies Review: Religion and the Internet in which he reviews Religious Studies Review 32: 4, a special issue on "Religion and the Internet" (the editor was Christopher Helland).

I have not seen RSR yet (paper takes time to traverse distance - boy doesn't it just!) but Tyler sums up the article on "Biblical Studies on the Internet" by Matthew Mitchell:
The review of biblical studies on the web is pretty basic, highlighting only four resources, one relating to NT, one to OT/HB, one to the DSS, and the ancient world.

These are all great resources, though there are so many other excellent resources available on the Internet for biblical studies that I can’t help be a bit disappointed with the brevity of the list.
Sight unseen, and assuming the writer had more than a few hundred words to spare, I'd use stronger language! It is true each of these sites is really good. Chris Heard and Mark Goodacre point to most of the other really good material between them. KC Hanson has a lot of good material, and the Orion site is a good one on a popular topic. And yet... to describe these four sites as a review of "biblical studies on the web" makes "pretty basic" into a new epitome of litotes!

Then John (Ancient Hebrew Poetry) posted "Exploring the Frontiers of Online Biblical Scholarship" the point of the post is that the best of biblical studies resources online are in German not English. In making the point John highlights four projects (some of which could surely have been seen by RSR!
The four are:
These are each great projects, yet somehow John's recurring question "Why don’t we have anything like this in English?" becomes a lament.

Granted that the RSR article may have been horribly negligent, granted the existence of these fine projects (with so far adequate funding) in German, and again granted that there are others like them, I'm still left feeling that biblical scholarship online is a poor weak struggling thing. Most projects are little more than one person's hobby. Where are the teams, where is the funding?

Or to make the question more personal: Why do I find so few people willing to write even a short Bible dictionary article? (And it looks as if WILAT has the same problem, they still only have two articles one by an editor, and the other written in 2004...)

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Ideas for the Bible Dictionary (from SBL) ::

This post is partly a note to myself, partly a hope that you will help me evaluate and work through a couple of ideas for the Bible Dictionary project that came out of sessions at SBL.

HBD and Bible Software

Someone suggested (sorry I never got a note of your name, if you read this please email me so I can note and remember you!) that we talk to Logos or BibleWorks about the possibility (once we have a first edition of articles) of putting the Dictionary into their software as well as making it available on the web. For the software company it would give them a good recent dictionary (currently they are all "aging", either old and out of copyright like ISBE, or elderly like The Anchor Bible Dictionary) that they could include even in basic packages. It would give us another funding source either for starting or (more likely) for running costs and development.

Semantic markup

As part of Sean Boisen's presentation for which he promises the slides soon, he showed us a cool implementation of his NT names data being used to sort and display names from the NT according to different categories. So, e.g. interested in Ephesus one could find out what other cities were in the same region, or which characters lived or visited the city (in the NT). I began to imagine making use of such a facility as part of the interface for the Dictionary...

Basically Sean's NT Names is (IT geeks please bare with my inaccuracies, ignorance and oversimplifications) a system of classifying names - of people and places so far - according to their relationships. So Timothy is an "associate of" Paul, but the "son of" Eunice, "lived in" Lystra, he "visited".... etc. A user who can navigate through this web of data while "inside" a Bible Dictionary has a whole load more options for exploring!

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Sunday, November 12, 2006
SBL Forum Wiki Edition ::

(With apologies to all the other contributors. Especially Bob Buller who wrote on Google Books so is also a must read for me - I can probably live without Samuel Thomas' Bible Scholar on an Airplane as I'll be one in a day or two!)

But given my limited time at this season, its the "In the Classroom" articles that deserve my first read. They all focus on Wikis!
Sight unseen (I have yet to begin to read any of them!) Kevin Wilson's is the most exciting as Tyler's post led me to Kevin's Blue Cord Bible Dictionary wiki project even before he led me to the SBL Forum. I do hope Kevin will be at SBL and we can meet up!

Now I must run, the day is breaking and Barbara needs coffee before church...

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