Thursday, September 29, 2005
Broadcast Bible ::

The project to broadcast the Bible (omitting only the Deuterocanonicals, which should at least help keep the time down to a "manageable 3.5 days or so) is moving forward, the form for people to book their 15 minutes of fame is online (Aucklanders and neighbours only, sorry;) and the scheme is beginning to get mentioned in the Christian press (so far here in NZ, but perhaps in the UK too soon...) and blogs:
1st off the block was :: Aletheia :: (but then Craig's wife Linda is one of our readers!
next Wayne @ Better Bibles Blog with his post on the translation issues
and in the last 24 hrs both:
AKMA on podcast audio Bible suggesting we leave off the "think|pray|do" ending of the podcasts
and Maggi Dawn with her bible podcast post in which she claims to be a luddite who does not understand such technologies! ;)

Monday, September 26, 2005
Historiography? ::

Jim has posted a reply: "More on Historiography and the Loss of A Focal Center" to Tyler's excellent post: "Histor(iograph)y and the Hebrew Bible
The Nature and Function of Histor(iograph)y

In this Jim writes:
But all of this is quite outside the originally framed discussion which had to do with a far more specific question- is the Hebrew Bible historical? Does it contain what modern historiographers call "history".
This is a non-question. Of course the Bible does not contain what modern historiographers call "history", any more than it contains what modern theologians call "theology" (i.e. usually systematic theology!). The genres are different because the cultures are different. End of discussion, next question!

The next question is much more interesting... Does the Hebrew Bible contain information that a modern (or post-modern?) historian can take into account? And that is where the maximin scale distinguishes us. Minimalists believe that the Hebrew Bible contains nothing of value (though what is already demonstrated to have happened from other sources may perhaps actually have taken place). Maximalists believe that everything happened like the Bible says, except where disconfirming evidence is produced. And everybody else believes they have to weigh the evidence and come to conclusions about "what actually happened" on the basis of competing fragmentary interpreted evidence.

On history I can't agree with Jim's minimalist position, nor could I be a maximalist, despite lack of evidence to the contrary Jonah's successful preaching in Nineveh seems to me unlikely ;) Where I have sympathy for Jim's position is his stand that discussion of history is secondary, the theological questions are the primary interest of the text, and ought to be ours. But this position is not welcomed in the modern academy. (Perhaps it will be more at home in some post-modern academy?)

Friday, September 23, 2005
Handy for distance teaching? Video 4 all... ::

I'm not sure, but perhaps, if it does not end up costing an arm or a leg, this could be really useful for distance teaching...

Thursday, September 22, 2005
Marking and the great maximalist/minimalist debate ::

I've been busy marking recently, one big task is a Master's Thesis. Reading that has caused me to reflect as bit differently on the maximin debate.

The candidate starts out with a good summary of why we can be sure of almost nothing about the history of the texts. They seem to be leaning towards either a hard minimalist approach or possibly some form of final form literary work. However, the thesis is about anointing, and the author needs history to make some points they feel they need to deliver. Guess what back come all the old presuppositions about P being later than other Pentateuchal sources, and the rest...

It is so frustrating to know next to nothing about the historical origins of the texts we work with. This student has been pushed back to neo-Wellhausenism (for both Pentateuch and the DTH), the maximalists are driven to various sorts of compromise on standards for what we know, and minimalists seem required to know far more about Persian Yehud, or Greek Palestine, than I suspect is factual!

Maybe Ford had it right after all - history IS bunk ;)

These thoughts have been partially stimulated by the great debate between (among others) Big Game Hunter, Dr Cathey and Petrosian, Tel Dan expert, Jim West thanks guys, and sorry I cannot provide a full webliography of all the posts!

Wednesday, September 21, 2005
RSS/Atom feed - has Blogger gone nuts? ::

I've been using the Blogger-supplied Atom feed (reworked to RSS by Feedburner) for this blog, but recently the posts seem to have all the HTML showing. Can anyone tell me (a) is this normal or (b) how to fix it?

PS: Aaaggh! For this post it seems to be normal... what the @#$% is going on?

Friday, September 16, 2005
What matters about an encyclopedia? ::

There's a full and interesting comment below, on the Wikipedia vs. Encyclopedia Britannica debate. (The poster is the [as far as I can see] anonymous EBlogger, a follower of the EB, but judging by the blog perhaps not an inside voice.) I think (like the Listener ;) EBlogger may overstate some points.

They say that Alexa's "sample size is quite small" - we are in the middle of an election here in NZ at present, most of the polls we follow use a smaller sample than Alexa!

On the drop in traffic over the (northern) summer, that EBlogger comments on for EB, that's a feature I've noticed in the logs for the Amos commentary for the last decade, so I'd imagine that Wikipedia will experience a similar effect, so if its logs were still rising over that period...

But what really struck me about the response was what it did NOT address. For me the interesting and important issue is: Is Wikipedia accurate? I don't care how many other people consult my encyclopedia, but I do care that it is accurate and comprehensive. So far from my, I have to confess limited, testing Wikipedia is still a bit patchy. (And on the issue of "sausages" is still not updated, perhaps Stephen C should just go in and fix it! I cannot tell if EB has corrected this error, as I do not have a subscription, the print edition in the library is still erroneous;).

In Biblical Studies for example, Wikipedia might have done better NOT to place holding articles from an old out-of-copyright dictionary to be edited, but invited new entries to replace the old ones. The structure of the old entries makes them difficult to update. And so some remain old fashioned...

Thursday, September 15, 2005
Wikipedia vs Britannica ::

Stephen Garner has a good supplement to an NZ Listener article about "the ongoing tensions, or should that be conflict, between established providers of information (i.e. encyclopaedia publishers) and projects like Wikipedia." Stephen in typicaly helpful and thorough manner adds links that are missing from the Listener so do lok at his piece as well as the original!

Wednesday, September 14, 2005
Digital Biblical Scholarship: Dust to Dust? ::

Patrick Durusau has a clear brief presentation of the problem of archiving digital scholarship, and a proposal for action in the latest SBL Forum. Basically the issue is that paradoxically while the digital formats that we work in (including Wordprocessor files) make keeping multiple copies easy, and make storage needs minimal compared to paper (the medium of scholarship until the late twentieth century), the rapid changes in format mean that archives are not kept. The example Patrick uses is to compare the continued availability of the Freer Manuscript of the Gospels: "Dating from either the late fourth or early fifth century, the manuscript is for the most part more legible than the average handwritten document of today." with Gérard Weil's 1977 Hebrew text, which may have already disappeared as a digital artifact.

Do read Patrick's article, the future of the History of Biblical Studies depends on our preserving the present!

Monday, September 12, 2005
Copyright's broken, so we need to fix it
Part One: "Intellectual property and theft"

There's a wise saying: If it ain't broke, don't fix it. In the case of copyright law many of us would argue that it is broken and does need fixing. Actually here those who dislike the polemic tone and arguments of Bell's article that I referred to below, and I are largely (I think) agreed. We probably differ mainly on the degree of brokenness and therefore "fixing" that's needed.

Incidentally don't take my word for it that copyright is "broken". Jonathan Zittrain, a co-founder and co-director of Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet & Society wrote back in 2003: "Almost all those who self-identify as cyberspace law scholars agree that copyright law is a big mess."

So, my sympathies are with the "revolutionaries", copyright is so broken it would perhaps be easier to start fresh. However, being realistic that won't happen!

The sympathies of those like Ed (as – I assume from his comment – an author relying on royalty payments) and Bob (involved as an academic publisher) are with tinkering as little as possible with the system.

So, in the hopes of pushing the discussion a bit further, rather than in a desire to score points: What's wrong with copyright?

Part One: It's not copyright that prevents intellectual "theft"

One of the reasons for copyright is to prevent intellectual "theft". Most reasonable people recognise that authors (like music performers and composers etc.) have a right to benefit from people who desire their work. If copyright is changed (read weakened, though in fact almost all changes in intellectual property law have strengthened the protection it offers) the argument goes there will be no deterrent to theft. Just look at the illegal music downloads with Napster, the argument goes…

But as Shuman Ghosemajumder argued way back in August 2003, this argument assumes:
that the social treatment of intellectual property is unquestionably analogous to that of physical property. This is clearly not the case. The reason people purchase physical goods instead of stealing them comes down to the cost of stealing outweighing the cost of purchasing. Ramifications such as prison, social stigma, and shame -- in addition to guilt over wronging someone -- make stealing "costlier" for the vast majority of people, thus most people do not shoplift or commit robbery.
Experience of extreme situations (like the recent disaster in New Orleans) illustrate this thought – in such extreme situations people do steal.

The digital world means that we all live in an extreme situation. Copying an electronic file illegally is so easy – every copyright or DRM scheme so far tried to the contrary – that the "cost" of intellectual theft by this means is near zero!

So: it is not copyright that prevents some people from intellectual theft. (I write only "some", since my informal poll suggests that few are actually scrupulous in their practice! Have you made a copy of software you've bought on a home machine as well as work without checking the licence? Or ripped an MP3 from a CD you've bought without a similar check? Guilty as charged, Milord!) Despite a few high profile cases the chances of you're getting caught are near zero! It is morals, or a belief in the system, that prevents you stealing really, as opposed to the notional (though probably thoroughly illegal) copying that we do undertake…

Discussing possible reworking of copyright Zittrain said sensibly: "Such reworkings of copyright will have costs to someone — they wouldn't be reworkings if they didn't." and added:
I pay my taxes. I have no idea how to calculate them, but I do what Turbotax tells me to. I'll pay a copyright tax, too, and willingly support artists whose work I appreciate, because it's the right thing to do, and because it guarantees that more work will be made available to me. I'm not alone.
My conclusion to Part One: Copyright is broke, it does not acheive what we need, a decent income for "authors" and "publishers", so we need to fix it!

Sunday, September 11, 2005
Copyright: a response ::

The copyright rant below (based on Christian Bell's rant in Calvin College Chimes) not only stimulated good comments from bibliobloggers Ed Cook and Chris Heard but a longer reflective critique by email from Bob Buller, who gave me permission to copy it here. It's much better than my knee-jerk response to Christian's piece, so (though I am not at all as keen to defend copyright as Bob) I am delighted to present to you:

Christian Bell's article "Keeping Integrity without Copyrighting" left me breathless—for all the wrong reasons. Thus I offer for perspective a few random responses (by no means a measured or adequate discussion of this key issue) to certain of his claims. Of course, readers should consult the entirety of Bell's article for themselves.

After stating that "Copyright is fundamentally incompatible with Christian scholarship," Bell writes:
But consider that we live in an era where our ideas (which are now called "intellectual property") are under an increasing amount of legislative and judicial restriction. Recent legal movements such as lawsuits over media copyrights should cause us to wonder who owns our thoughts, or indeed, should anybody?
Bell's reference to "our ideas" and "our thoughts" betrays a fundamental confusion about this issue. In fact, ideas and thoughts per se are no more protected by copyright than feelings and emotions. It is only when ideas and thoughts or feelings and emotions are given some form of concrete existence, whether in words or images or whatever, that copyright applies. Later he adds:
The problem is that copyright places restraints on both scholasticism and scholars; it locks ideas up under the ownership of particular people who are legally entitled to do whatever they want with it.
Again, Bell confuses ideas with works. Copyright places no restraints on the free use of ideas, merely on the illegitimate appropriation of another's work. Put simply, one scholar is perfectly free to appropriate the ideas of another (we see this all the time in academic writing), but that scholar cannot simply reproduce another's work beyond the constraints of "fair use," a key element of copyright protection that Bell neglects to mention (and the basis for my quotation of his copyrighted [!] article here).

That Bell views copyright claims as a sign of a deeper spiritual malaise is evident when he states:
The proper method — and the historical method — for Christian scholarship is for our work to be conducted by members of the body of Christ for the benefit and enjoyment of the rest of the body. Simply put, our work must serve Christ.
Copyright in and of itself is no barrier to distribution, since the individual who holds copyright may indicate that a work can be freely distributed. Copyright merely limits the right to make "distribution" decisions to the person who "authored" the work. As a sandwich maker, I may decide that I want to give my sandwiches to those who cannot afford to buy them (in service of the body of Christ). However, would one then argue that every sandwich maker in the church is obligated to give all his or her sandwiches to the needy, simply because they would benefit from and enjoy them? If not, then why should "original works of authorship" be treated any differently? At its core, Bell's argument appears to betray a surprisingly low opinion of scholarship, that it is not "real work" and thus should not be afforded the same protections that other works enjoy. Or perhaps Bell views scholarship in overly exalted terms, as something that is so superior to the work of the unwashed masses that it should not be tainted with "profit" motives. Bell goes on:
In the former case [profit], the motive is plain enough: copyright gives its author the exclusive right to sell and profit from his/her work. We have no direct quarrel with this motivation; what we do quarrel with is the whether or not profit is enough of a motivation to restrict the distribution of ideas. Profit is undoubtedly the most driving force behind the legislative and judicial focus on copyright; the distribution of copyrighted material is, after all, a multi-billion-dollar industry.
Yet again Bell is flogging a straw person (to mix metaphors horribly). Copyright in no way restricts the free distribution of ideas. Rather, it stipulates only that, if anyone is to profit from a work (a condition bordering on contrary-to-fact for much scholarship), the author of that work has the right to determine who will do so.

After a long but confused explanation of how copyright fosters pride and ego, Bell pulls out his "big gun":
What does this all mean to us, practically speaking? Let us consider a simple but troubling example: the copyrighting of Scripture itself. Pick up the nearest contemporary translation of the Bible and turn to the publication page. It is there, in black ink, that we find these perverse words: "The Holy Bible. [Some version.] Copyright [some date] by [some publisher]."
Even if one grants for the sake of discussion that the copyrighting of Scripture is wrong (although the issue is not as simple as Bell's example suggests), one must ask if the right solution is an absolutistic requirement that no Christian copyright any work. Emotional appeals and black-and-white declarations regarding right and wrong are no substitute for careful and informed discussion about complex matters on which people of good faith (and true faith) may disagree.
Having spent the majority of his time and energy denouncing and demonizing advocates of copyright protection, Bell offers a brief solution:
Avoiding copyright of course raises questions about what the alternatives are. We can say succinctly that there are alternatives, including the public domain, Creative Commons licenses, and other alternative protections that keep the integrity of our work intact while ensuring that it stays free — both in terms of cost and in terms of freedom.
Release to the public domain would ensure the free (in every sense of the word) distribution of material, but it would not address the "pride" factor that so upsets Bell—unless he wants to suggest further that all Christian scholarship should be anonymous. Creative Commons licenses are a wonderful alternative that I support, but one should not ignore the fact that they are predicated on the very same belief as copyright, namely, that an author of a work is the sole individual who has the right to determine how it can be used. Creative Commons licenses are more an application of copyright law than a replacement of it.

In the end, Bell's impassioned call for the abolition of copyright in Christian scholarship leaves me cold. First, as a supporter of copyright protection, I do not appreciate Bell's frequent characterization of those of my ilk as "perverse," "selfish," concerned only for "profit" and "ego," allied with those "violently" in support of copyright—indeed, as little more than worshipers of a "contemptuous idolatry" (i.e., outside the narrow circle of the truly faithful, as defined by Bell). Second, Bell's article betrays a fundamental confusion about key issues in this debate, such as the difference between ideas and works, between profit and compensation, even between copyright law and Creative Commons licenses. In addition, Bell raises the matter of ego, somehow attributes it to copyright law, then offers alternatives to copyright that would continue to feed the ego problem that he so abhors. (As an aside, if Bell believes what he writes, why does his name appear at the top of this article?) Third, Bell appears to view the works of scholarship as work of a different sort from that undertaken by the "average" Christian. But is not all good work honorable and worthy of some level of compensation? I believe Paul also had something to say about that. Fourth, Bell seems outraged by a moral problem but wants to attribute it to a legal protection, not to the individuals whose morality he wants to improve. Copyright holders are always free to distribute their works at no cost and to authorize others to do the same. However, this does not mean that the decision of some copyright holders to limit access to their work is perverse, and users have no moral right to the work of others. Fifth and last, I note with irony that a notice of copyright appears at the end of Bell's article. If all that Bell claims is true, why did he not insist that Calvin College Chimes freely give up all claims to copyright for his article? At the least, Bell could have published his opinions in a forum where "all rights" were not "reserved."

Thank you Bob for a thoughtful and thorough critique of Bell's article. And thank you Ed and Chris, too. I'm keen to follow this discussion further, precisely because I find myself sharing attitudes and ideas with both "sides". (NB by "sides" I do not mean that anyone is forming a side or party etc. I just intend it to represent a difference between:
  • the attitude which seems to me basically to say copyright law has served us well, it needs tweaking for the 21st century, but the basic approach works...
  • and that which says copyright is now used to protect "rights" that are wrong, and which it was never intended to create or protect, and so we need a new different approach...
As I said I have sympathies with both, so I'll be interested to read your future posts, and mine!

Saturday, September 10, 2005
Laurel Snyder interview with Robert Pinsky about "King David" ::

Laurel has been doing the rounds of biblioblogdom asking us all, very nicely, to post links to her podcast interview on NextBook with Robert Pinsky about "King David" - it's a fine podcast of an interesting interview, about a fascinating subject, and she wrote a nice email in reply to mine following up her comment on my post about the Bible Podcast project. So, I'm happy to provide a link... Though such a cast is serendipitous while the Great MaxiMin debate is going strong about whether the Tell Dan stele is evidence he actually might have existed, or not... (e.g. Chris Heard "Picking Abraham and choosing David")

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Copyright is wrong : a Christian critique of copyright::

Christian Bell in Calvin College Chimes (no pun intended;) has a thought provoking piece on why "Copyright is fundamentally incompatible with Christian scholarship" saying, among other good provocative things:
The primary motivation of copyright is to protect two things: profit and pride. But neither of these are things that we ought to be racing to defend.

In the former case, the motive is plain enough: copyright gives its author the exclusive right to sell and profit from his/her work. We have no direct quarrel with this motivation; what we do quarrel with is the whether or not profit is enough of a motivation to restrict the distribution of ideas. Profit is undoubtedly the most driving force behind the legislative and judicial focus on copyright; the distribution of copyrighted material is, after all, a multi-billion-dollar industry.

But more than profit, copyright is an umbrella of protection for the ego. It is well and good that copyright affords its author royalties, but the real profit from copyrighting your work is getting to hear your name mentioned when the work is reviewed. What could feel better?
He boldly asserts
The root of the problem is that our faith opposes the basic premise that copyright asserts.

Our objection to copyright is a denial of the implicit premise of “ownership” in copyright. Christianity asserts strongly and unequivocally that no human person owns his or her own thoughts. Our entire scholastic and intellectual endeavor is made possible solely by the grace of God — this is one of the fundamental tenets of our faith.

This assertion challenges the justification for copyright’s existence, namely that it affords legal protection for its creator, under the auspices that a person — a human being — owns his or her thoughts and is the genesis of them. Christianity — yesterday, today and forever after — rejects this idea as a contemptuous idolatry. We know the real truth: it is the Divine Creator, not the human creator, to whom the credit and glory of our work is due.
Amen! In Christian scholarship copyright is wrong, deeply theologically as well as morally wrong. So Bell's conclusion follows, it's simply this:
It is a difficult thing to divorce our minds from the idea of copyright, but in good faith, that is exactly what we must do.

Friday, September 09, 2005
Podcast Bible project (update) ::

The live webcast, will be really fun, a bunch of ordinary people of all ages, genders and many races (we hope) reading the Bible live to the world! We have begun to sort the technology for broadcast and recording, and now have a good solid Webcast provider who has a POP in Wellington and in San Fransisco.

Beyond the Webcast we have begun to prepare a small stockpile of Bible chapters for the daily Podcasts. The aim of these, with their "Think! Pray! Do!" suggestions after each chunk of text is NOT to tell people what the Bible says. We think the Holy Spirit will do that. We aim to stimulate hearers to reflect prayerfully on what they have heard.

Yesterday a small group of us (Mark B, Jodie, Peter, and Tim, plus Mark H for a while) got together to work on Mark's Gospel - appropriate choice with two Marks involved (and no book of Jodie ;) We prepared a "Think! Pray! Do!" for each chapter and recorded over half the book.

We have provided sample chapters from the Gospel so you can hear what the Podcasts will be like, and make any comments now, while we are still planning...

Sample Chapters from Mark's Gospel
  Mark 1 (1.54MB)
  Mark 8 (1.7MB)
  Mark 16 (900KB)
So do let us know if the mix "works" for you...

The real podcasts will start on October 25th 2005!

Sunday, September 04, 2005
Why bother with Open Scholarship? ::

One or two of the posts in the recent flurry on Open Biblical Studies have asked questions that aggregate in my mind into the caricature: Why bother with "open scholarship"? After all we all have access anyway...

I've started writing several angry posts that point out that not everyone lives a life of rich abundance, with University libraries at hand and the like, but they all got to bitter and twisted...

Now, a guy called Hannu, from a blog called Tomorrow Elephant (I wonder why?) has answered neatly and without appeal to the Two-thirds World.

He starts:
Last week, I tried to access a paper which I cowrote with a bunch of fine people a few years back, only to discover that I couldn’t, since Edinburgh University does not have a subscription to the publication in which it appeared. This made me seriously angry, and so I started thinking about all the things that are wrong with the current scientific publishing model.
Well I can see how that would hurt, suppose you wrote for the Bulletin of Highly Relevant Paleographic Studies. The journal's electronic editions are subscription only, and your library, though richly endowed, does not subscribe... (Well no library can subscribe to everything ;) Well if I was you, and I had lost my own electronic copy, or wanted a page reference, I'd be pissed off too!

What we need is open scholarship...

Saturday, September 03, 2005
Ambiguity means disambiguity ironically... thanks to Mike Sangrey ::

Mike Sangrey of Exegetitor somehow managed to post this delightful and insightful comment in Haloscan, and as it is so good that I've put it here so everyone can see. (I hope this is OK Mike?)

Mike Wrote:
I once had a disagreement with David Tuggy, PhD in Lingusitics, regarding ambiguity. I finally looked up the word 'ambiguous' in a dictionary only to discover David was using the word in one way, I was using it in the other.

You see, the word is ...ummmmm... ambiguous.

And yet, as soon as I saw the ambiguity in our disagreement, the disagreement suddenly became a conversation. In fact, the whole nature of ambiguity became quite clear.

I think that is what happens in the Bible (in any well written text, for that matter). Authors want to reach their readers along several levels, meaning enveloped by entertainment is quite a communicative text.

So, I agree, I think there's a richness in ambiguity within the text; however, the ambiguity creates another level of coherence in the text, and, in fact, it tightens up the meaning all the more. In other words, ironically--hmmmmm, interesting word, 'ironically'--ironically, the ambiguity brings about clarity. Or, to say it from the author's perspective, clarity intends ambiguity.
I'd love to explore this more, Mike, can you give us an example of how one of you was focusing on ambiguity of interpretation, and the other on intention... I think I see what you mean, if so when Wayne thinks "ambiguity" he thinks of different interpretations possible, when I think "ambiguity" I envisage multiple intentions...

And I love the way you draw attention to how in ambiguous texts the ambiguity creates stronger coherence. That's just one of the neat things, by triggering other echoes an ambiguous expression tightens the cohesion, and by stimulating other meanings it makes another layer of coherence!

Friday, September 02, 2005
Who is Ambiguous? ::

Wayne, in the Better Bibles Blog has been arguing about ambiguity. Most recently in a post: "What is ambiguity?"

He's convinced that though ambiguity "is sometimes done intentionally by authors, ... But doing so is more of a language game than part of ordinary communication, IMO." Others, like me feel the opposite is true, many biblical authors delighted in "language games", puns and ambiguity and the like were grist to their mills.

Pondering this impasse - we are both/all convinced of our own positions, but actually since the authors are not around to ask (but comprehensively "mort"), we can neither side convince the other - I wondered why we have two groups of people so convinced that biblical authors work in such different ways... I think the personality of the modern reader enters in. Some readers like Wayne like communication to "say what it means and mean what it says" puns and the like are only for "fun". The other group love ambiguity, word play and the richness of text, and can tolerate a bit of well frankly lack of clarity, if the communication is rich...

Next time you read someone commenting on the likelihood that a biblical author does or does not intend ambiguity whip out your trusty Myers Briggs and behold you will understand their words...

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