Sunday, October 31, 2004
When tolerance fails ::

Tolerance is one of the highest public virtues of the West. Gay rights and a host of other liberal causes progress thanks to this value. What people in Western Liberal Democracies think and do in "private" should not affect their rights including the right to the full range of employment. Yet "liberals" are as guilty of intolerance as "conservatives". Finker writes about a good piece from the (conservative) London Institute for Contemporary Christianity about the dumping of a conservative Catholic by the European Parliament.

Apparently despite saying:
The state has no right to stick its nose into these things,’ he reasoned, ‘and nobody can be discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation... this stands in the Charter of Human Rights, this stands in the Constitution and I have pledged to defend this constitution.
Someone who own view is that homosexuality is a sin cannot be Commissioner for Justice, Freedom & Security. Rosemary Righter wrote in the London Times:
...if the EU Parliament’s apparently successful hounding of Signor Buttiglione affected only the smooth running of the Commission, it would be a matter of small consequence, an insignificant flutter in the EU dovecotes. But if an EU citizen is to be debarred from public office for holding personal beliefs that are at odds with the prevailing social orthodoxy — and to be debarred despite a categorical statement that he would not let those beliefs intrude upon policy decisions, or result in any form of discrimination whatever — then it is not only “the European project” that is undermined; it is democracy itself. In democracies, majorities rule with the assent of all, an assent founded on the belief that the interests of all citizens will be taken into account.
"I can tolerate anything except intolerance" seems to be the liberal chant. Yet to believe something, even to seek to convince others of something, is not in itself intolerance. What this slogan is really saying is that "we" cannot tolerate views that differ from the prevailing ones! Enter the thought police...

Saturday, October 30, 2004
Did David Lose His Salvation? (Psalm 51:10-12) ::

One fun result of "being online" is the e-mails, not the spam, but the people who find you whom you'd never normally meet. A 19 year-old from Trinidad and Tobago in the West Indies plans to start an online journal and would like an article on this topic. Anyone keen to have a go? I'll pass on your message!

I belong to the (ISCF) Inter School Christian Fellowship group of Presentation College, San Fernando (All Boys College). I am currently in the process of making an e-journal (online Journal) that affirms the eternal security of the believer/perseverance of the saints. This journal is due in April/May 2005 as all articles will be received by March 21st, 2005.

In the meantime, I am preparing the 2007 journal edition since I may be too busy to do this later on when I apply for university (September 2004).

The 2007 journal edition of (Imperia Testamentum) focuses on problem passages
Would you or one of your students/colleagues be able to do the following article?:

Did David Lose His Salvation? (Psalm 51:10-12)

Deadline: March 21st, 2007



The prospective, online Journal (Imperia Testamentum) is a project that has arisen as a result of the need for quality material on the issue of the security of the believer to be made easily available. The majority of the works online pertaining to the subject do not deal with the issue systematically and in-depth. Oftentimes, the works are also polemic and mean spirited.
The intention of the journal is to affirm the doctrine of the security of the believer without being very polemic but cogent and logical.
There is no target audience per se and hopefully it would be beneficial to laymen, pastors, bible students and seminary students.

The denominational linkage is: Protestant Evangelical: (Calvinist or Moderate Calvinist)

Presentation College ( was the first Roman Catholic school to be built in South Trinidad. It was established by the Presentation Brothers of Ireland under the leadership of Sir Edmund Rice.
Our ISCF group is the only Protestant group in the college.

flickr sorry, it doesn't even flicker for me ::

I've wondered for a while what was behind all the fuss about flickr so today when I read more hype (this time on an e-learning blog) I though I'd take a look. Those "Notes and Tags" sound useful. The trouble is flickr is an IE only shop. "Look below to see how it works (move your mouse over the photo to see the notes)" it says. In Mozilla I could run an elephant over the dead image and see nothing. Boring!

Thursday, October 28, 2004
Relying on "natural propagation" ::

I am preaching on Sunday week, so I was checking the lectionary on Jenee's fine Texweek site (I think I can't resist the Job passage, but that's another story) and something prompted me to check that she had my "Notes" on Ruth and Jonah listed. Jonah's there alright, but Ruth is not. It's a lesson not to rely on the natural propagation of such links. I need to do some surfing to check that I've told the key lists.

Making a website flourish is a bit like gardening. You can leave it to "nature" to an extent, but without regular care things get out of hand or don't flourish. Because I forgot to write to Jenee I missed the three yearly Ruth season, and if one doesn't prune and weed occasionally one's site gets dissordered.

Now I wonder where else my material is absent!?

Tuesday, October 26, 2004
Wikipedizer - a cool tool ::

Now here's a cool tool. The wikipedizer: you "[p]ass it a URL, get back a list of related Wikipedia entries." Just imagine how that could turbo-power an online Bible dictionary! I'm drooling at the thought. The trouble is, so far when I point it at dictionary entries from the Amos material I only get one Wikipedia entry per page, and not always the most relevant.

(So far I've just tried:
the entry on "altar" which gave Ancient_Near_East
and genizah which gave Western_Wall"/.)

I will have to test it more to see whether it is just bad examples or whether the tool needs work...

A Theological take on Reality-based Industries ::

Maggi points to this piece in the UK Guardian, a conversation between George Dubya and the Maker of Heaven and Earth.

Raises some good theological questions - and not just for a presidential candidate!

Friday, October 22, 2004
Humor my humours : fun an' games with the SBL ::

Paul Nikkel - at Deinde - has a nice touch with his piece offering glittering prizes for the best paper titles from this year's SBL programme. Categories include an "Award For Transgressive Punctuation". In view of two contestants in Paul's "Keeping it Real" category:
Embracing Wonderland: Chasing Gnosticism Down the 'Rabbit Hole' of The Matrix (Ross E. Winkle)
John’s Apocalyptic Matrix: Violence and Virtual Reality Ancient and Modern (Jon Paulien)
I'd offer an award for the classic cult pop-cultural item that is most often mentioned in SBL paper titles!

Since I shall not be able to be there, there was the added joy of NOT reading just to see if my title was mentioned - though if you ARE listed he poromises a real prize!

Tuesday, October 19, 2004
Terrifying stuff ::

Just read this, thanks to AKMA, explains a lot about why kids and aid workers and even American and British soldiers are dying in Iraq:
I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House's displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn't fully comprehend -- but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.

The aide said that guys like me were ''in what we call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ''That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''

From the New York Times

Monday, October 18, 2004
Google Desktop: the good news - bad news story ::

The Coding Humanist post on the Google desktop search download got me all excited. I've been waiting, with breath almost bated, for a good, user-friendly, hard disk search to replace MS Windows search function - which is as intuitive and friendly as CPM used to be!

It's there to download, and not a big file! It indexes when your machine is idle, rather than in the background - slowing all ones work. (Oh, that MS would learn that lesson!) BUT it doesn't index emails - unless you are a good little microserf. Gnash, gnash listen to my Mozilla-using teeth grind away in dumb fury. No, actually don't, follow the link chain to here and register a request that your email client gets the Google treatment!

Friday, October 15, 2004
Top 100 Bible dictionary entries ::

For the dictionary project we want to create a priority list of the 100 terms we would most like to see covered. The idea is to prioritise this list so that the dictionary material becomes useful as quickly as possible.

Three of us have come up with a list of 47 terms. Do look at it and suggest (either in the comments or directly) the additional terms you would like to see covered first!
Biblical Criticism (i.e. a general entry that lists and gives brief mention of some major strands, not all the specific entries like "tradition history")
Dead Sea Scrolls
Documentary Hypothesis
John the Baptist
Kingdom of God
Oral Tradition
Sermon on the Mount
Synoptic Problem

Tuesday, October 12, 2004
Canon and inspiration ::

I realise that in the busyness of the last several weeks I have not mentioned Maggi's brilliant series of posts on the authority of the Bible. That's mainly because - expecting a short 4 or 5 post series - I decided to wait till either it was finished, or I was less busy before reading.

But today I gave in, the post on "Inspiration" and the formation of the canon drew me in. There is lots of sensible, down to earth, simple truths, like:
First. Nobody started out with an empty cover with 'Bible' written on it, and try to edit a collection.
Backed up by scholarship lightly worn. I'm teaching in 15 minutes, but I'll follow this up further now that I've started. For now here is the list of posts so far:
Words and the Word
modern views of text in a postmodern church
John, Paul, George, and Timothy (but not Ringo)
"Inspiration" and the formation of the canon
I plan also to annotate this list with summary comments later...

Monday, October 11, 2004
Let's all get morbid! ::

Many of the Biblical Studies bloggers have duely taken notice of the death of Jaques Derrida.
Mark Goodacre
Peter Kirby
Paul Nikkel
(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! [back]

Friday, October 08, 2004
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....[1]

Rhetorical and literary readers have tended to assume coherence.

Coherence and cohesion
So, my project has been to work from examining signs of linguistic cohesion to then asking about literary and rhetorical 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”[2]

Amos 3 & 7: cohesion and coherence
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...

[1] G. von Rad, 'The Origin of the Concept of the Day of Yahweh', JSS iv,2, 1959, 105 n.1.
[2] David Crystal, The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language, CUP, 1987, ad loc..

Monday, October 04, 2004
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:
  1. Multiple terms inside a tag. This would be easy for the authors and for display, but not so easy for searching.

  2. Multiple tags.

  3. Handle it through the “related terms” area. (Which, in draft one, I called “synonyms” but this may be misleading…)

Indexing multiple languages: 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 or hesed 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):

<headword>Word or phrase</headword> This is the word or phrase being treated, e.g. "David" or "Reader Response Criticism (Old Testament)"

<glossary>A sentence or two. This gives a quick brief definition or description.</glossary>

<entry>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>

<related_terms>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".]
<img 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.

Saturday, October 02, 2004
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!

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