Monday, January 31, 2005
Eggcorns in Biblical Language ::

Ralph (the sacred river) has a nice post "Eggcorns and Belial" taking up the term "eggcorn" - that the ever stimulating Language Log did much to popularise - and asking where there are examples of "eggcorns" in the Bible.

Now a true eggcorn (according to LL) is like but different from a number of other language phenomena:
It's not a folk etymology, because this is the usage of one person rather than an entire speech community.

It's not a malapropism, because "egg corn" and "acorn" are really homonyms (at least in casual pronunciation), while pairs like "allegory" for "alligator," "oracular" for "vernacular" and "fortuitous" for "fortunate" are merely similar in sound (and may also share some aspects of spelling and morphemic content).

LL also claims that eggcorns also not merely a misshearing (what after Sylvia Wright we call a "mondegreen"), like Ralph's own name, since "the mis-construal is not part of a song or poem or similar performance."

Now, on that last distinction I am not convinced of the usefulness, particularly for Biblical Hebrew where we do not know what might have been part of a song etc..

Which leads in a round about way to my niggling worry about Ralph's proposals:
צלמות, tzalmavet, "shadow of death" for tzalmut, "deep darkness." - is probably a true eggcorn
Gen. 2:23, where it says "she shall be called Woman (ishah), because she was taken out of Man (ish)." - Is surely a straightforward "folk etymology".
Though, Ralph's main example:
the old understanding of בליעל, beliyya'al, "Belial," as "without worth"- may indeed be a true eggcorn.
Though, of course, as Ralph points out, we cannot really know. Ah the joys and frustrations of working with such a small corpus!

So does any language buff out there have any other proposals for biblical eggcorns? (I'm happy to extend "biblical" to include the Christian Scriptures in Greek as well as biblical Hebrew!) There is even a real live prize for the proposer of the most convincing biblical eggcorn!

Sunday, January 30, 2005
Back to the Future: virtual theologising as recapitulation ::

Over on the Virtual Theology Colloquium blog we have begun to post drafts of our papers, I put mine up yesterday morning, only a few hours late but only one virtuous soul (our philosopher with title: Philosophical Conversation in a Virtual World) managed to be strictly on time! Do have a read and comment on these papers, part of the goal is to use the possibilities of wider communication to enrich the discussion, as well as the face to face day, to see if we can get (some of) the best of both worlds.

Saturday, January 29, 2005
Now it's Turin's turn, or How Would Jesus Look? ::

Well, I suppose (especially with the Golan indictment as background) bibliobloggers cannot overlook an article that claims the 1980s Carbon14 dating of the shroud of Turin as a medieval forgery was flawed.

On the dating itself see the fine rebuttal by Stephen C. Carlson.

While Ralph (the Sacred River) uses the event to reopen the interesting question of why people, including CS Lewis, feel the need for something like the shroud that lets us answer our question: What Did Jesus Look Like? His own candidate is one of the WikiMedia Fayum mummy portraits. These are paintings of the dead made on wooden panels with coloured wax they come from 1st-3rd C Roman Egypt. So provide good candidates for Jesus look-alikes. There are a number of potential candidates, including the very Roman and even the Hollywood Jesus pictured here (all piccies from WikiMedia or should that be PicciePedia?).

Which one works for you?

Thursday, January 27, 2005
Maxi-minimalists again ::

Just when one thought that the kerfuffle over all the (possibly/probably) forged artifacts would quieten at least the maximalist side of the running debate while they assessed the damage, up pop another bunch of "Archaeology Proves the Bible" addicts.

Actually, since the Globe and Mail article claims: "Canadian archeologist Russell Adams's interest is in Bronze Age and Iron Age copper production. He never intended to walk into archeology's vicious debate over the historical accuracy of the Old Testament." my comment might seem unfair. On the other hand, he and others did title their paper in the current Antiquity "Reassessing the chronology of Biblical Edom: new excavations and 14C dates from Khirbat en-Nahas (Jordan)" which makes the Globe and Mail remark somewhat disingenuous.

Now, why can't archaeologists just get on with archaeology, and biblical scholars with reading the Bible... I always liked David Clines reaction to discovering (while at the 1986 ISOT) that the last piece of "authentic" archaeological contact with Jesus in Jerusalem (a "1st Century" pavement he may have walked) had been redated. "It's like the ascension." He said.

PS ::
Ooops, people that was a rant, it does NOT (of course) reflect my considered view and balanced reflection on the topic. But it might reflect my attitude. Archaeology is fascinating, helpful and informative, but it is unlikely in any useful way to either "prove" or "disprove" the Bible!

Return of the rabbi: Writing the paper ::

I've been away for a few days, frantically trying to get my paper from ideas to paper. It has been slow work, not least because every article or book I read suggests new exciting avenues to explore! In the end I am sticking fairly closely to the abstract, probably a sensible decision at this stage, not least because as organiser of the Virtual Theology colloquium I do NOT want to set a bad example and be late with my draft paper. (The idea is that we will all share our draft papers in advance so that when we meet we can discuss rather than read them.)

While I was at the bach for light relief I read a couple more Just So Stories, so I am now over halfway, though I only did this wen I really needed a break from virtually theologising about Virtual Theology!

Friday, January 21, 2005
Zhubert : a tool for study of the Greek Bible ::

Zhubert has done it again, he now has a tool that covers the whole Bible in Greek (or will when/if the Deuterocanonicals are included. With parsing, and a cutdown lexicon, and loads of other nice features. It's a great tool, and a fine example of what is possible with some good will and a lot of work.

But I dearly would love to see the Hebrew Bible covered as well. I wonder if we could get a bunch of Hebrew teachers to set parsing exercises for classes that could be amalgamated into the start of an open morphMT... Or perhaps whether someone who has published a print analsyis would be willing to assist in producing an electronic version...

Bonhoeffer on preaching ::

Finker had an interesting puzzle the other day, a longish quotation about preaching, to guess who wrote. It was an interesting experience (the competition is over now).

Here is the first paragraph from the quote:
Of course it is our aim to preach Christ and Christ alone, but, when all is said and done, it is not the fault of our critics that they find our preaching so hard to understand, so overburdened with ideas and expressions which are hopelessly out of touch with the mental climate in which they live. It is just not true that every word of criticism directed against contemporary preaching is a deliberate rejection of Christ and proceeds from the sirit of Antichrist. So many people come to church with a genuine desire to hear what we have to say, yet they are always going back home with the uncomfortable feeling that we are making it too difficult for them to come to Jesus. Are we determined to have nothing to do with these people? They are convinced that it is not the Word of Jesus himself that puts them off, but the
superstructure of human, institutional, and doctrinal elements in our preaching. Of course, we know all the answers to these objections, and those answers certainly make it easy for us to slide out of our responsibilities. But perhaps it would be just as well to ask ourselves whether we do not in fact often act as obstacles to Jesus and his Word.
It fascinated me how varied the guesses were: Ambrose, John Chrysostom, Ryle, Spurgeon, Tozer. I have always thought that Bonhoeffer's writings (at least in translation) have an archaic sound to them! But the ideas, just hit home. I wonder if that will still be how I feel in another 20 years...

Thursday, January 20, 2005
Search Engines and Bible Encyclopedia Resources ::

Through a neat free tool from Marketleap, a Search Engine Saturation check, I have discovered that most search engines only list a fraction of the pages from the Bible Encyclopedia section of my Amos commentary, perhaps because I use frames!

So, in an attempt to get them listed I have prepared pages that list these Bible study resources (I used Xenu a brilliant free link checker to make the lists).

I will keep you posted if this works, as others may have similar problems!

Tuesday, January 18, 2005
Morphologically analyzed Hebrew Bible/Old Testament ::

Zack strikes again! Just a few days after I pointed him to an available morphologically analyzed LXX Zack (zhubert) is nearly ready with an online version!

But oh, what a shame that the only suitable Hebrew Bible is only available in a commercial version!

Shortly there will be available accessible tools online for students with some knowledge of Greek to dig deeper into the NT and the LXX. BUT for those learning Biblical Hebrew (whether it is a "language" or not - and BTW do read Seth's fun post on this question!) life will not be so good. I know and I accept that the Hebrew institute at WTS needs and has a right to its funding, but I deeply wish there were ways to ensure that yet still make their scholarship AVAILABLE. Biblical Studies for the elite or rich only seems to me oxymoronic!

Saturday, January 15, 2005
SBL and academic freedom ::

American politics is so divided and divisive (it seems) that their issues are spilling over into scholarly societies. I have just received the email which appears to have come from Matthew Collins asking me to indicate support (or otherwise) for a political statement by SBL on the recent US election. This statement describes SBL (rightly) as: "the largest international, professional association of teachers and scholars of the Bible", yet assumes that such an international constituency will wish to comment on American politics.

Now, I do have opinions on American politics, some of them are printable, and some have been aired here - especially at the time of the invasion of Iraq, but I object strongly to an association of scholars describing one reading of the Bible as "right" and so by implication others as "unacceptable".

So, I'll join the chorus of bibli*bloggers, and pray that good sense causes such a backlash of Biblical Scholars for Academic Freedom that SBL will pull back from the brink of the abyss of totalitarian "liberalism"!

Thursday, January 13, 2005
Ancient Israel and modern CODECs ::

I've added Real Player media to the video tours of Beersheba and Hazor. So, if you had difficulty with the Windows Media files, please let me know if these are visible. If it works it could help resolve the problem of how to make video available on the web in small file sizes (so that at least most people can see it!)

Do let me know....

Tuesday, January 11, 2005
Quick response about MORPH (morphologically analyzed Hebrew Bible) also ::

The response though not as welcome, it is not unexpected. Basically, in a friendly and helpful email Steve says that to protect royalty payments from publishers of commercial Bible software they cannot authorize deals that would amount to unfair competition.

Understandable, especially since the Hebrew Institute at Westminster Theological Seminary is "supported entirely by (such) royalties", but it leaves our project with a problem. Or at least a conflict of goals with facts:
  1. we want to make our work as widely available as possible (that >700 people look at a commentary on Amos every day is a huge encouragement to make biblical scholarship accessible)
  2. we want to offer information to assist users to read and understand the text - it would be good to help users (even those with only limited knowledge) to read the "original languages"
  3. morphologically analyzed texts for the Greek NT and the Spetuagint seem to be available (I have still to check that we can also use the Greek NT, but the fact that Zack H can suggests this is likely - I will write the email today!)
  4. the only (currently as far as I know) morphologically analyzed Hebrew Bible is not.
So, what do we do??

Maximalists? ::

Ralph the Sacred River has a fine post on the problematic of creating a term "maximalist" to correspond to and contrast with the term minimalist.

He starts:
In the study of the Hebrew Bible today, the terms "maximalism" and "minimalism" are thrown around with great abandon.
So, there must be lots of others out there who had invented the term "maximalist" as a shorthand way of saying "those who oppose the ideas and conclusions of the minimalists" - at least that's how I (uncomfortably) invented it for my Genesis class.

But a Ralph says it is easy to define a minimalist, just ask a question like "Did king David exist?". But, he claims, not so straightforward for "maximalists" there is a sort of sliding scale of different questions about the existence of Abraham, Noah, Adam etc. So he concludes:
In fact, I submit that it is impossible to define "maximalism." Even if one answered "yes" to David, Moses, and Abraham, as I do, one might still want to add "--but I don't necessarily believe every story told about him." What does that make you?
I think Ralph is right to be uncomfortable with the term "maximalist" but for the wrong reasons.

There is a sliding scale of minimalism too, at least potentially. Just take some of Ralph's questions and add a few:
Did Jesus exist?
Did John the Baptist exist?
Did Ezra exist?
Did King David exist?
Did Moses exist?
Did Abraham exist?
At what point on this scale does one become a "minimalist"?

Now, like Ralph I am not really happy with the term "maximalist" either, because there are many biblical scholars who are not minimalists or maximalists in any dictionary sense, yet who argue against the conclusions of the minimalists (so fitting my definition of what I wanted to describe by the term "maximalist" at the start: In Hebrew Bible studies Maximalists are those who oppose the ideas and conclusions of the minimalists. So, it is not the term "maximalist" that is bogus, it is the term "minimalist".

However, unlike the term "biblioblogger" the term "minimalist" is well entrenched and very widely understood. So, if biblioblogger is likely to survive "minimalist" is sure to. So, unless someone can propose another really good term for those who argue with and against the ideas and conclusions of the minimalists, I'll stick with "maximalist".

Monday, January 10, 2005
Good news on morphologically analyzed Septuagint ::

Steve got back to me very quickly with permission to use the morphologically analyzed Septuagint (LXXM) so it really is the Hebrew that we need!

Bible texts for the hypertext commentary ::

I should have started blogging this earlier, but just before the holiday I remembered to ask Zack if it was OK...

Seeing his Greek NT has started me thinking again about how we handle the provision of texts for the Hypertext Commentary. In the Amos prototype I have manually linked the text to small wordstudies. But for the "real thing" something like Zack's Greek NT set up would be close to ideal, if we could make the Bible open in one window (frame) and the lexicon etc. in another. I have begun a conversation with Zack about this.

What can we do for the Hebrew Bible though? The obvious answer is to do a similar job on the Westminster Hebrew Morphology Database. I have written to Steve Vanderhill, but we may have problems because the commentary does not yet, and may never generate an income to pay royalties - we'll see what he replies.

Another option would be to produce an open source/open access database of our own. For example each commentator could be asked to do the coding as they prepare comment, but this involves (a) reinventing the wheel and (b) authors in significant work, of a (computer) technical kind. Or we could do it as an open project...

I have also written to Steve Amato about the morphologically analyzed LXX.

Saturday, January 08, 2005
Introductory tours of Beersheba and Hazor ::

Just in case you think that with all this talk of children's stories I have forgotten the Bible, I will point you to the other outcome of my playing with PhotoStory. I have done "video" tours of Beersheba and Hazor.

They suffer from the same problem of CODECs that Stephen mentioned in connection with Peter Rabbit, so if anyone can suggest a highly compressed, reasonable quality video format that both most Macs and most PCs can read, and that I can convert to free or cheap do let me know!

Peter Rabbit in Heiroglyphs ::

It must be silly season in the Northern Hemisphere, as well as holiday-time here. Not only am I still following this hobby of recording and animating children's classics, but the Beeb reports that the august British Museum is preparing a hieroglyph translation of Peter Rabbit - what fun!

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