Tuesday, August 30, 2005
The view from my office ::

Stephen's post (full of the joys of [Southern Hemisphere] Spring) titled "The sun is shining..." suggested to me a new round of the old this-is-my-desk blog craze...

The new and even more exciting this-is-the-view-from (or in my case "of") my-window craze. Despite Stephen's extolling of the windows at Carey, the view from mine is impossible without a ladder, and I've never climbed up to look...

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Peer review another look: or, on the salvific effects of peer review ::

Jim West has, in Biblical Theology, a fine polemic piece titled "Washed in the Blood of the Peer Review" taking me (and others) to task for our dependence on "peer review". He sums it up, himself, in fine style:
In sum I object to the scholarly mentality that sees itself as "washed in the blood of the peer review". Peer review does not guarantee truth. No one can believe it does. Hence, it exists simply for the preservation of power. It is nothing less than the old cliche of the smoke filled back room where the good ole' white boys gather around the card table to buttress the careers of their friends while they ignore those who are not worthy of their attention because "their ideas didn't appear in the Journal of High-Falootin' Research" published by Brill and costing 95 Dollars for each issue published on a quarterly basis.
And largely I agree with him. I have no desire to defend the "system" it is (almost) indefensible (well it's not, and probably some biblioblogger with more desire will defend it) but I certainly don't want to defend it. And I did say, as well as some incautious stuff, that I now (thanks to Jim's good sense) deeply regret, and won't repeat ;) I did say "or some process that ensures similar rigorous standards". And will note that, in the sordid world where paid academics live, "publish or perish" is the rule, and the publish part needs to be recognised by other bodies as the equivalent of peer review else it only counts for mini-brownie-points and will not save your career, job and family income!

So, in summary: I heartily withdraw the phrase "peer review" and reword the last bullet point below:
  • scholarly, unless Open Biblical Studies submits itself to quality assurance to attest to outsiders (particularly beginners) that it is indeed scholarly, and (through some process that ensures rigorous standards as a peer review process intends) satisfies the professional academics' need for recognition.

Monday, August 29, 2005
What is Open Biblical Studies? ::

Ed @ Ralph the Sacred River asks the thoroughly non-rhetorical question "What is open-source biblical studies?" and as the discussion already, in his comments, shows it is a good question. Personally I'd like to reword it, I've begun to want to avoid (or at least soften) the implied analogy with Open Source Software, and talk about "Open Biblical Studies" and more generally "Open Scholarship".

Here's what I mean:
Open Scholarship would be:
  • open to as many readers as possible - by implied contrast to scholarship which is more concerned with communicating only with professionals, based in the Western world, with access to good library resources, Open Biblical Studies would publish in ways that use digital media to make the publications available to anyone who wants to access them (cheaply or ideally freely)
  • open to collaboration - traditional Biblical Scholarship has largely been conducted by individuals in their studies, and only communicated to others when (nearly) polished and the ideas (more or less) firmed - Open Biblical Studies would prefer work by teams, communicating and discussing using digital media and together sharpening and polishing, while not losing individual difference
  • open in its creation - traditional BS has been the preserve of "professional" scholars (and a few talented, trained and usually relatively wealthy) amateurs - Open Biblical Studies would welcome any and all (who demonstrate the necessary knowledge and skills, or the ability and desire to develop them)
  • scholarly, unless Open Biblical Studies submits itself to peer review (or some process that ensures similar rigorous standards) it would not be scholarship!
OK, that's briefly what I mean what do others think?

Saturday, August 27, 2005
God 2.0 (Rebroadcast) ::

Thanks to Stephen (Greenflame) for his link to the rebroadcast of the Open Source program God 2.0 I'm listening to it now, the timing is brilliant for me as I am just finishing editing the last articles for the November issue of Colloquium which will publish papers from the Carey Colloquium from the beginning of the year on Virtual Theology... more on that later!

Monday, August 22, 2005
Tagging for bibliogblogging ::

Wayne (at least) likes the idea of trying to get, among bibliobloggers, some measure of commonality to our tagging of posts (as and Technorati allow).

My suggestion is that anyone interested posts their ideas, and out of the discussion some agreement may emerge. To start things off here are some proposals:

Bible Books: use abbreviations, ideally (if we can remember them) those suggested by the SBL manual of Style e.g. gen, exod, lev etc... the alternative would be to use the full English names e.g. Genesis, Exodus etc.... Laziness suggests abbreviations, though the easy tools may make the full name almost as quick and both more meaningful and less likely to throw up false positives in a search...

For things relating to open scholarship I suggest open.theology and open.biblical.studies, as I propose biblical.studies for posts relating to the discipline in general.

"minimalist" seems to me a useful tag to include discussion of issues relating to minimalism and maximalism (even if we have reservations about the terms! [NB, the Blogger spell checker offers "machinelike" as an alternative for maximalist!? Jim will be pleased ;) ]

And that's enough for tonight, I am off for a spa and bed!

PS In the morning Wayne suggests in an email that since Technorati and treat compound tags differently we need to take account of this, he says they both tolerate hyphens, so if this is right my proposal for e.g. "open.biblical.studies" should become "open-biblical-studies".

PPS At work by now... Wayne (Better Bibles Blog)has done more research and writes:
The only character I know of that neither Technorati nor will accept is a blank space. They both interpret that as separating one tag from another. Technorati allows the + sign to join binomials and they can be access on Technorati searches as two full words. interprets the + sign as something else. Both systems allow hyphens and underscores. And both allow separated words in the view field of the tag.

I just tried period word separators on Technorati and they work fine. Periods work on also, in fact, that system seems to accept open.source and open-source as being the same tag, which is good.

So, your open.biblical.studies tag should be just fine. It will show up great in It will also work in Technorati, but Technorati might interpret open+biblical+studies as being a different tag from open.biblical.studies. At this point, I would lean toward using your tags with period separators since there is already some academic precedence for that. Similarly, with phone numbers (except in the U.S., but people in the U.S. are getting used to periods for separating parts of phone numbers).
So, my thought on such "binomials" is that since D & T both seem to they read . or - as equivalent we use whichever of the two the tagger prefers! But standardise on these two (for now at least)...

Joseph don't go! ::

Thanks to Jenee Woodard from the excellent Textweek for pointing me to a nice sermon by Eliezer Segal of the University of Calgary (originator of the web-based introduction to the Rabbinic Bible among other delights) on Gen 37. Well worth a read!

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Saturday, August 20, 2005
Open Biblical Studies @ SBL ::

There seems to be some interest in gathering after the biblioglogger session at SBL in Philadelphia, to talk about "open" biblical studies. So, acting unilaterally ;) I hereby announce that I will then and there meet with whomsoever is likewise interested!

We will (probably do things like:
  • share what projects are around and where have they got to
  • talk about their needs
  • see if we can find ways (through things like, prioritising, collaborating, a central repository, promoting...) to further the goal of providing impetus to "open biblical studies"
  • share a coffee and perhaps a bite of food
If you will be at SBL please mark this in your program book/diary etc.!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005
Hazor: an illustration of Archaeology in Israel ::

There is a really good article in the Jerusalem Post on this year's digging at Hazor. By Danielle Max it is titled "What lies beneath", and gives a good feel for what's happening at this important site, and of the experience of volunteers.

Sadly there is only one picture, but you can get a feel for the archaeology of Hazor from my (2000) pictures.

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Tags (at last) identifying biblioblogged topics ::

I'm slow on the uptake, this technology stuff just keeps getting more and more demanding... Just days ago Wayne persuaded me to add "trackback", and now a neat article from Freshblog has at last allowed me to add categories to my Blogger blogging. (With a little help from the best - if second most security impaired - browser and an addin called Greasemonkey!)

The scheme is neat, uses and Technorati (so must be way cool) tags to permit me to classify posts by subject - those of you who use Blogger must try this it is simple easy and convenient!

I think it raises the question of generating some common tags for biblioblogging: so I'd propose "open.biblical.studies" and/or "open.theology" as ways to indicate this range of topics, names of Bible books could be useful (or do we abbreviate them?), "biblioblog" for bibliobloging meta-posts... What are your suggestions?

Monday, August 15, 2005
Trackback and Podcast Bible ::

Two unrelated topics.
  1. Following Wayne's advice and encouraging I have tried to enable "trackback" - if you understand this stuff do tell me if it works!?
  2. I have posted the latest plans for podcasting the Bible - all comments welcome.

Thursday, August 11, 2005
Yet More Open Source Reflections ::

Mark Goodacre, in a post "More Open Source Reflections", continues doing the valuable job of providing buckets of cold water (no, the image is too aggressive for his gentle style, whatever...) for discussion of whether we would be helped by some gathering to talk about Open Biblical Studies (or Theology) projects.

As I've said, in my mind funding is not the only (or perhaps main) issue that such a gathering could begin to address. "Volunteer" efforts need volunteers, and those that are too big (like e.g. the Disseminary or Bible Dictionary) need more than a couple of volunteers, with so many good projects around it is difficult to find such people.

One of the problems we face now is that if we are to move beyond the "wow cool new, what'll it do?" phase, where enthusiastic individuals can achieve a lot (NT Gateway as a prime example) we will need more collaboration.

So, since there seems to be a long lunch break (11am-1pm) after the Biblioblogger SBL session, I formally move that we (= all interested parties who are around in Philadelphia at the time and free of other commitments at that time) get together, have a coffee and talk (informally).

My suggested agenda would include:
  • what projects are around and where have they got to
  • their needs
  • can we find ways (through things like, prioritising, collaborating, a central repository, promoting...) to further the goal of providing impetus to "open biblical studies"
  • sharing a coffee and perhaps a bite of food
From the posts:
...and from all the (too many to list) comments there does seem to be a measure of interest, even enthusiasm, and concern.

So, how say you?

Wednesday, August 10, 2005
Archaeology proves the entire Bible, again ::

Just days after I discussed the finding of "King David's Palace" with a class, pointing out just what had and had not been found (according to the newspaper reports bibliobloggers are currently working with!) there's another archaeology proves the Bible piece doing the rounds...

Amiram Barkat in Ha'aretz writes about how "Dig backs biblical account of Philistine city of Gat".

Jim West "Gath in the News" sensibly cautions:
Of course archaeology can prove no such thing. Archaeology is, once again, being asked to do more than it is competent to do.
The Ha'aretz report did give a few details of what was found, basically
"An enormous trench surrounded by towers was found at the dig, which was apparently built during the siege of the city."
We are left to assume that this is dated to the appropriate strata to fit with the biblical account of the fall of Philistine Gath to the Arameans. That account read:

אָז יַעֲלֶה חֲזָאֵל מֶלֶךְ אֲרָם וַיִּלָּחֶם עַל־גַּת וַיִּלְכְּדָהּ
וַיָּשֶׂם חֲזָאֵל פָּנָיו לַעֲלוֹת עַל־יְרוּשָׁלִָם
At that time King Hazael of Aram went up, fought against Gath, and took it. But when Hazael set his face to go up against Jerusalem...
2 Kings 12:18/17 (in Hebrew and English)
As Christopher Heard points out, in "Haaretz on Gath digs", what seems to have been "proved" here is that Gath was attacked and defeated. There is possibly some evidence in the method employed that suggests that the Arameans may have been responsible, and there is probably evidence that suggests this occurred in the relevant timeframe.

All I'd note, apart from pointing you to the Ha'aretz report, and Jim's post and Chris's discussion, is to just note that as far as I know the identification of Tell es-Safi / Tel Zafit as biblical Gath of the Philistines is merely a scholarly consensus (as the ABD article calls it ;) - and we all know how fragile they are!

So, does archaeology prove the Bible again? No.

Does this archaeological result fit with the biblical account? A cautious (we'd really need a proper report to be more sure) yes.


Do the news reports sensationalise? Yes! This trench has been the subject of investigation over several seasons, see Aren M. Maeir "The Tell es-Safi/Gath: 1996-2002" or "Tell es-Safi, Israel, Summer 2004: Tracking the Siege Trench" this report is worth quoting at some length:
1) The trench had been manually excavated in antiquity; 2) In the area that was excavated, it is ca. 5 m deep and 4 m wide at the bottom; 3) The initial refill of the trench, after it went out of use, could be dated to no earlier, but at the same time, no later, than the Iron Age II; 4) The material that had been originally excavated from the trench had been dumped consistently by the original excavators on the side of the trench that was away from the tell, forming a "berm"; 5) The material from this "berm" covers deposits dating no later than the early Iron Age II (parallel to Temporary Stratum 4 on the tell).
It's conclusion while it points in the same direction (towards the Bible text) as the newspaper report is notably more cautious:
Based on the dating of this feature to the early Iron Age II, a connection with the similarly dated large-scale destruction level on the site itself (Temporary Stratum 4) is compelling. If one takes into account the suggestion (above) that Hazael of Aram was behind this destruction, it is interesting to note that in the Zakur inscription from northern Syria, Hazael's son, Birhadad, is credited with digging a siege moat (and a circumvallation wall) during the siege of the city of Hadrach. If so, one might have evidence of a similar "Aramean" siege method at Tell es-Safi as well.
Updated update:

Chris H. says about Maeir's use of the Zakur inscription
I am neither an Arameologist (is that a word?) nor an expert on ancient Near Eastern warfare, so I don't know this text from Zahor that Meir mentions. However, this is the sort of thing that would count as good cirucmstantial evidence to suggest that the attackers were in fact Arameans.
The inscription reads (in Millard's translation from William F. Hallo The Context of Scripture II) that
"Bar-Hadad, son of Hazael, king of Aram, united [a number of kings and]...All these kings laid seige to Hazrach. [Zakur's city] They raised a wall higher than the wall of Hazrach, they dug a ditch deeper than [its] ditch.
Which, may possibly refer to the type of siege moat and circumvallation wall that is found at Tel es-Safi. The problem is that (at the moment) it looks like a jump from "may possibly" to "does"...

Monday, August 08, 2005
Wikis for academic publishing ::

There's an interesting paper/experiment at Wikis for scientific publishing a wiki paper that began life as a paper from Wikimania05 (thanks to Peter Suber of Open Access News for the link).

When I have time (?!) I must read it, it might be useful reading for our Dictionary team...

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Sunday, August 07, 2005
Open Biblical Studies ::

It's hard to keep up at the moment, so here's a brief summary of my impressions from the recent flurry of posts and comments, first some general thoughts, then I'll summarise a couple of recent posts:

The issues that might be helped by the sort of process I outlined include:
  • labour - many projects currently struggle because they lack sufficient volunteer scholar time (a central [= prioritised by a team ≈ peer-reviewed] register might help this)
  • funding - as AKMA argues (though Mark has reservations) currently some projects languish through difficulties attracting funding (collegial support from a group of scholars might assist through identifying priorities, and also through generating more volunteer time so showing possibility of success, see above)
  • promotion - in theory megasites like NT Gateway and its Hebrew Bible imitators (what's a better word for others who follow and to some extent copy a good pioneer?) iTanakh and OT Gateway may serve this function (personally I think they do not yet have the reach among the less IT literate teachers to really do all that's needed...)
  • and just plain sharing together and learning from each other...
Peter Kirby offers (on Christian Origins) a summary list of projects in his field of view that fit with the Open Access/Open or Collaborative Creation kind of deal we have been (quite wrongly but without as yet a better candidate) calling "Open Source" Biblical Studies.

Wayne Leman has a plea for open collaboration on Bible Translation.

Saturday, August 06, 2005
Open Source Biblical Studies (follow up) ::

There has been an encouraging response already to talk of open source biblical studies: comments to my post below by James Tauber, AKMA, and Peter Kirby, (my post responded to AKMA's "Prior Art") and a post by Mark G "Sansblogue on Open Source Online Biblical Studies". Maybe, at last, this is an approach that's ready to fly!

Mark asks that: "Tim (and perhaps AKMA too?) hone precisely what the goal(s) are here". For me the goals would be:
  • to identify projects that are underway
  • to identify what they need to really take off
  • to see if there are possibilities to rationalise, share or collaborate so that efforts are less dispersed
  • perhaps begin to identify priorities
  • and so, by focusing, to try to get some worthwhile projects really moving
At the very least to publicise what is being proposed/tried so that others do not try inventing triangular wheels like the one I have been developing since 1992...

I think that AKMA identifies the biggest problem we all face: time (or the money to pay for it), but I also think that this problem is compounded by having so many projects that (whether we intend it or not) compete for time, money and energy...

Friday, August 05, 2005
Open Source Online Biblical Studies a proposal :

AKMA, has a post that addresses the problems and delays in getting any substantial open source project going in biblical studies. He claims:
What we need is the time to devote to open-source scholarly productivity (yesterday I diverted hours from my workflow to track down copyright-safe images for Theology Cards) and the financial support that will motivate scholars to offer their research and written instruction outside the current print-publishing-prestige-profit complex.
He's right, as far as he goes, and especially if you notice that he implies that time is money... But...

There are several (other) problems with Open Source online theology. As well as the ones he identifies, I'd add the fact that there are or have been several (in fact if not in theory) competing projects. I remember the Theoweb initiative, as well as the Disseminary... And many bibliobloggers are involved in others, like the Bible Dictionary project we're planning currently.

I wonder if we need in our discipline a colloquium on this topic. If we could get 50 scholars (and by scholars I include the amateur scholars) together - ideally physically, but possibly virtually - to talk, I think we might get some traction... Identify a few key projects, try to combine and cross fertilise... Such a group could significantly add weight to what up to now have been mainly the efforts of individuals (or small groups) and begin to develop some critical mass.

So, I propose that:
(a) we begin to discuss such a proposal here in blogsphere
(b) those of us at SBL in Philadelphia try to meet - over coffee or a meal - to strengthen the network and begin identifying issues
(c) we work towards a (CARG sponsored?) day to really work things through before SBL in 2007

Introversion, shyness and neuroticism ::

In March I blogged a rant (what I claim was a "humorous and polemic piece" ;) on shyness and a report in Time magazine that related to some research on shyness. (The article has now become more valuable with age and is "premium content" - corporate-speak for "if you are still interested you'll have to pay to see it"). One of the people involved in the research (NOT the Time article) has responded in the comments, so I'll reproduce the comment here:
I understand your frustration and, as someone closely connected with this work, feel that the Time authors are somewhat to blame for not adequately illuminating subtleties in the research. I am referring to the differences between two competing neural-behavioral systems: neuroticism and extroversion. Whereas extraversion involves the desire to engage with others, neuroticism concerns an individual's tendency to experience negative emotion, including emotion surrounding social situations. The two interact with one another to produce overt "shyness", although it is difficult to disentangle the relative impact of the two systems.

You are right that it is unfair to expect everyone to be an extravert. Whereas some folks need to ring in the new year surrounded by thousands in Times Square, other would prefer a quiet evening with a select few.

The judgmental tone of the article, though, is presumably aimed toward shyness that is more strongly based in neuroticism. Although some folks may embrace solitude, several others are isolated not because they wish to be, but because their physiological responses prevent them from engaging more fully in the social arena.

It is these individuals, who crave interaction but shrink from it, who may benefit from treatments for what, TO THEM, truly is a problem.
I'm still not entirely happy. I can see, and quite accept, that a combination of Introversion and Neuroticism may be one that needs "curing" or "treatment". But I know that the combination of Extraversion and Neuroticism does too. (I won't name you, but you know who you are!)

I can even accept, and recognise in myself that it might be better if I learned ways to tackle the more extreme manifestations of my Introversion. My point is that I just wish Western Society would spend as much time and effort telling stupid, loud-mouthed, aggressive, extroverts to shut the *** up, as is spend bemoaning the less disruptive behaviour of us introverts... Who needs curing, the person who because they want to bask in the limelight forces the rest of us to behave like idiots, or the person who sits quietly in a corner chatting (from time to time, as they are moved) to a few others?

Now, I may well be blaming the authors of the research wrongly, I have not seen their reports. But phrases from the Time article, and again from this comment, make me squirm. The commenter wrote: "The two [neuroticism and introversion - which incidentally seems to be defined as lack of extroversion!] interact with one another to produce overt 'shyness'..." "Overt shyness" so it's OK for me to be shy, just so long as I don't display it where others can see!

Now, above I mentioned "Western Society", this is important, because most other societies actually value a touch of Introversion. Think of the biblical injunctions against being a blabbermouth, or pushing yourself forward. Or notice how in African or Polynesian cultures the person who is unassuming gains honour...

But I've probably allowed my traces of extroversion free reign too long, the commenter has a good point, that also needs to be heard:
It is these individuals, who crave interaction but shrink from it, who may benefit from treatments for what, TO THEM, truly is a problem.
I entirely agree, to the extent that someone desires interaction but shrinks from it they have a problem, and deserve advice and assistance. But let the person choose for them selves. Too often brash extroverts decide for us, and I still want to be alone!


Thursday, August 04, 2005
My Desktop ::

OK, just this once I'll enter the latest blog craze - if only to keep myself in the top 13% - Tyler showed his desk (with several signs of the busy and productive life he leads, then Jim confess to the emptiness of his, so here's my desktop:

Note the piles of books and papers, I'm busy just now editing articles for the November issue of Colloquium and polishing an article of mine with a deadline also at the end of the month, as well as teaching (note the piles of papers. A photo of my wife is there, just behind the laptop, where I can see her often... The mother and baby carving that was my rescued item when we were evacuated from Kinshasa, a reminder of my faith and of God's love for me...

I must tidy up, that empty coffee mug needs filling... so I'm off to do it now ;)
PS: Stephen,

The spaces you can see, made more noticable by the angle of the camera, are still there because:
(a) I need space round my keyboard as otherwise typing is impossible
and (b) I just tidied the desk before the new semester started... Soon it will need doing again...


I might blog about the evacuation (even though it is old news) if I can offer any new thoughts, in the meantime the basic story is in a sort of short biography on my old Electric Angels site...

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Wednesday, August 03, 2005
TV3 and the biased TV election debate ::

The minor parties in NZ's proportional representation election are scrabbling for survival. After the traditional big two (Labour and National) there are two more parties that look likely to elect MPs by crossing the 5% threshold in the "party vote" (Greens and NZ First), two more that may have to rely on getting an individual elected in order to get their - party vote - share of the seats (United Future and ACT), and one that is basically a one-man-band (Progressive).

The struggle of these small parties is likely to have a profound impact on the makeup of the new governing coalition. And no struggle is more vital than that of the two parties striving to keep their place in parliament. Of the two ACT is less likely to get in on the coat tails of a constituency MP, Peter Dunne of United Future should be a solid sitting MP.

The TV debates will impact this struggle, last election they helped propel United Future into a strong Parliamentary position as a moderate voice. Yet for next week's debate TV3 has decided to axe United Future, presumably in favour of ACT.

TV3 will not include Peter Dunne/United Future in the party debate they are airing next week. The decision came out today. Party supporters are trying to appeal this through media channels and a 24hour phone protest to TV3.

If you feel it is appropriate, (and although I am not a UF voter it seems unfair to me they should make way for a party with a smaller proportion of popular support) you can consider calling TV3 today at 09-377-9730 and lodging a complaint. (They say they have had hundreds of calls already about this unfair exclusion!) PS: the email address is

Ask that Peter Dunne be included in the debate, United Future has several MPs in the current parliament, and (at least last week was more likely to be in parliament next time than ACT or the Greens and polling ahead of ACT (PDF file), and we should be allowed to hear the viewpoint of all leaders of significant parties in order to make a more informed voting decision.

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Monday, August 01, 2005
Disseminary's new design plans ::

AKMA has posted a new design for the disseminary site. Which is good looking and lively.

( !! warning pet peeve ahead !! )

BUT it has a wide empty gutter on the right, with nothing in it except the logo. Now, I know that designing for a full screen is difficult, a fixed width is so much easier. 800 or 1024 pixels depending on what you think is the largest screen that will cover almost all your users - no designer wants to make people scroll left to right unnecessarily do they... But this doesn't look like a failure to allow for a basic constant of web design - VARIABLE screen width - but rather a deliberate attempt to introduce "white space" into an otherwise typically cluttered screen.

I wish I had a big enough high enough resolution screen to be free with the old white space (a constant of good print design) the fact is such screens are (a) expensive and (b) not very portable - and I like my laptop.

So, AKMA, please find somewhere else for the logo...

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