Let's all get morbid!
Many of the Biblical Studies bloggers have duely taken notice of the death of Jaques Derrida.
(So I won't, except to note that he was - I believe - the only intellectual in recent memory to fill the Auckland Town Hall for a lecture.)
Instead I'll mark a death of much less significance on the world stage. On Saturday we gathered to celebrate Joyce's life, comfort her family and commit her to her God. Joyce was within a decade of my age, but had had two triple bypass opperations and for some years now regular dialysis, yet her indomptable spirit, and nearly unfailing good humour, had impressed more than her family, and the church was packed. Thanks to her, and her family's, deep faith it was a lovely funeral.
So, what's all this to do with this blog? Well, it caused me to think again about what sort of funeral I'd like. It may seem morbid, but long ago when B and I were newly married, we once had a long conversation about this (probably just after I'd taken a funeral!) Back then I wanted the hymn "Thine be the Glory
" and my ashes scatttered from the top of Westbury hill - it's White Horse was a local landmark, and it's the highest and windiest hill in that part of Wiltshire.
At my dad's funeral the hymn "The Strife is O'er the Battle Done, the Victory of Life is Won
" seemed most appropriate.
So, what would I choose now?
Well I'd still like my ashes scattered, from a good hill on a windy day, or over the sea at high tide. Somewhere where they will travel far and wide.
But for the songs... Well, I'd still not go for any modern ones. I can't really think of one that's serious
or deep enough for a funeral.
So how about: "I bind unto myself today the strong name of the Trinity
" (St Patricks Breastplate)? After all, when I'm knocking on heaven's door I know I won't get in on my own virtues, no, my only excuse for getting in will be that covenant with God in Christ... Luther's hymn wouldn't be bad either: "A safe strong hold my God is still...
" and I still fancy "Thine be the Glory
" belted out good and fast at the end, to leave the congregation breathless, but joyful.
And, for the party afterwards (sorry the "tea") have some caterers provide some nice nibbles, and if the church bring the usual plates as well, people will be able to have a good chat and catch up, and will feel they can hang around a while and enjoy themselves...
So, that's enough from me on that topic - for now at least... How about you? Can anyone nominate a good song for a funeral?
I don't mean sombre, I do NOT want a sombre funeral, I mean serious. Something that takes life and death, heaven and hell, God and evil seriously, and has a feeling that what we do (or even what the deceased DID) in this life matters. So no "Jesus is my boyfriend" songs at my funeral please, but let's have some theological meat!
Coherence of prophetic texts: re/search
Towards the end of a busy week, in a busy period of the year (here the end of the academic year) it was good yesterday to be reminded of my "ivory tower" research. I did a paper to the Carey Research Seminar (so not just biblical scholars, but a "mixed" audience) on my work on coherence.
It was especially interesting to stand back and view this work as a whole instead of looking closely at the parts. The paper worked like this:
Introduction: why coherence is an issue
How the historico-critical generations were so good at taking the prophets apart that we (= biblical scholars) could no longer see their books as wholes. Even at chapter level we had focused on their incoherence
. Von Rad offers an extreme but not untypical case:
...the individual speech units in Amos are in thematic respects in no way attuned to each other....
Rhetorical and literary readers have tended to assume
Coherence and cohesion
So, my project has been to work from examining signs of linguistic cohesion
to then asking about literary and rhetorical coherence
Amos 3 & 7: cohesion and coherence
linguistic features of a text which promote or create its sense of being a unity.
Crystal: "the ties that bind a text together".
not-quite synonym, implies ideas expressed mutually relevant, makes sense. Crystal: the underlying logical connectedness of a use of language
After a brief summary of my Australian Biblical Review
article (1999), which argued this process in Amos 3 I went on to summarise the papers I've given to ANZABS. Especially the recent one on Amos 7:1-8:3.
This process makes me aware:
(a) I must write them up properly and submit them for publication.
(b) I must do something to get the email group going, perhaps a discussion of terminology or getting others to comment on my draft of one of these...
 G. von Rad, 'The Origin of the Concept of the Day of Yahweh', JSS iv,2
, 1959, 105 n.1.
 David Crystal, The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language
, CUP, 1987, ad loc. span>.
Coding an online Bible Dictionary (2)
Stephen lives in the office next to mine, so occasionally we talk ftf as well as online! He's given me lots to think about following the post below.
Multiple head terms
: How will the coding handle cases where one could use several different terms for the headword? The options seem to be:
Indexing multiple languages
- Multiple terms inside a tag. This would be easy for the authors and for display, but not so easy for searching.
- Multiple tags.
- Handle it through the related terms area. (Which, in draft one, I called synonyms but this may be misleading
: while we can use Unicode to display multiple languages, so having a חֶסֶד
is fine, we cannot expect users to search using Hebrew or Greek characters. So
we will need a stated transcription scheme, but one that does not use complex accented characters
so חֶסֶד will have to become chesed
rather than ḥesed
How will we handle glosses for such terms?
He also suggests that having an RSS feed
for new entries would be a great idea!
We also talked about the differences of "keywords
" and "related terms
" and advantages (mainly searchability but also potentially the serendipity of slice and dice) and disadvantages (more work either for authors or for perhaps better someone else) of having both.
Online Bible Dictionary Project
I would be glad of feedback on my current ideas for the components of an entry for the online Bible Dictionary.
Leaving aside the header information and focusing on the content I picture it something like this (the tags are not proposed real ones, just meaningful markers):
>Word or phrase</headword> This is the word or phrase being treated, e.g. "David" or "Reader Response Criticism (Old Testament)"
>A sentence or two. This gives a quick brief definition or description.</glossary>
>This will be longer, perhaps between Harper's and Anchor Bible Dictionary in length. Aimed at providing a full, if limited, introduction to the person, place, artifact, topic, theme etc.
Authors may use section headings and even sub-sections, but we will need in each case to ask if these would be better as (associated) separate articles.</entry>
>This will be a list of (linked) associated words e.g. king : Solomon : United Monarchy ...</related_terms> [NB. in an earlier draft I called these "synonyms".
with URI etc.>This element would be used to list associated images, with text (like this) to describe their relevance for the headword.</img>
Bible references in these entries would be coded (in OSIS?) so that they linked to the biblical text. Likewise words, phrases and concepts that are treated in the dictionary would be links to the appropriate article.
This is a draft hypothesis of what the meat of an entry might contain.
Can anyone suggest what is missing? Or could be done better? Or redundant? ....
Herald on Sunday: or Women Behaving Badly
Well, NZ’s new, bright, alternative Sunday Paper is here. Since we are NZ Herald
subscribers they have been kind enough to give us a few week’s subscription to the new Herald on Sunday
to try it out. On the whole it is a predictable attempt to be both entertaining and informative – probably a good enough relaxation on the day of rest, but Kerre Woodham’s article jolted me out of my comfort zone.
Kerre Woodham is described, by the new Herald on Sunday (View p.19), as “the Auckland-based radio host and Herald on Sunday
columnist”. She is an intelligent woman who, since we came to NZ at least, has made a good living out of pretending to be a ditzy blonde. Our family enjoyed her TV show Ready Steady Cook
where she appeared both human and humane. That is the side of Woodham that we hear in the feature in View: a woman shocked by the inhumane cruelty of the Khemer Rouge, yet enjoying the people she met on her travels in South East Asia (soon to be a TV show).
The Herald on Sunday
features Kerre Woodham’s column on page 23.
In the column this humane woman she came over all moral. She offers a load of backhanded advice to young Sharee Adams. Sharee’s main failing – if you believe Woodham – is to have entered a beauty contest. Or perhaps the mistake was winning? And she dared to use the resulting fame as a springboard, ensuring that her views on marriage and the Civil Unions bill got heard. Now there’s a crime that Kerre and her PC majority friends have never committed - to use fame to make themselves heard!
What really got my goat though, was not that Kerre disagreed with Sharee – that’s normal, and in a democracy to be applauded – it was the tone. She started out: “You have to admire Sharee Adams.” Then she proceeded to tell us why we shouldn’t admire the young campaigner. Apparently because she was a beauty queen, and worse one that was NOT fancied by the bookies, we should ignore her but listen to Kerre and the other TV “personalities”.
Kerre went on to offer the younger woman some motherly advice – Sharee is within a decade of Kerre’s own daughter. You see apparently – in the world of the Herald on Sunday
and Kerre Woodham – because Kerre has “eschewed the sacred bonds” of marriage, and because some people fail to live up to the ideals they promised, Sharee’s talk of marriage as being different from other unions deserves ridicule. We Herald on Sunday readers are expected to join in.
Ugh, a woman behaving badly, and one smart enough to know better, and old enough to have learned compassion (as the feature article in View reveals). I for one hope Ms Adams sticks to her guns. Her father is an MP, so hopefully her parents can support her through reading and responding to Ms Woodham’s snide attack. Her dad has probably had experience of gutter journalism, and her mum has likely learned ways to provide comfort and rebuild self-esteem in the wake of unfair and savage attacks.
Questioning our commitment ::
U2's Bono did a speech to the British labour party conference, if the BBC report is accurate
it was a rousing performance. The subject - the poverty of Africa - is dear to me, so here are some paragraphs:
Africa makes a fool of our idea of justice; it makes a farce of our idea of equality. It mocks our pieties, it doubts our concern, it questions our commitment.
Because there's no way we can look at Africa - a continent bursting into flames - and if we're honest conclude that it would ever be allowed to happen anywhere else.
Anywhere else. Certainly not here. In Europe. Or America. Or Australia, or Canada.
There's just no chance....
You see, deep down, if we really accepted that Africans were equal to us, we would all do more to put the fire out.
That's telling it like it is. Amen. The grinding inescapable poverty of most of black Africa (is South Africa the only exception?) where more die daily from the inability to afford medical care, than in the Iraqi bombing and firefights, is a silent scandal. The heartrending sadness of the Dark Continent only touches Westerners when one of the many civil wars produces striking and televisable tragedy or cruelty. The quotidian oppression of poverty doesn't make it to our screens.
It seems to me, the lethargy and indifference that we apply to Africa, does indeed question the commitment of Western Christians to the God of the Bible!