Monday, March 27, 2006
Top Ten Reasons why Men should Not be Ordained ::

Maggi Dawn has (borrowed) this post "Top Ten Reasons Why Men Should Not Be Ordained" on her blog. Thought provoking!
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Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Comments and community : reprise ::

Back in July I posted a rant about "comments". Now I've come across a fine and sensible discussion of the issues by Jeremy Keith of Adactio called "Comments on community". Jeremy rehearses the simple fact that most comments are rubbish and that the bigger the audience the worse the rubbish to noise ratio (so happily Sansblogue is read by so few that I escape this rule and a high proportion of comments are really helpful!) He also notes the value of "conversation" (and even perhaps "community"?) but feels that:
The difficulty then is keeping track of these conversations. Trackback would be a good option but it relies on a certain level of techiness on the part of the responder and again, the issue of spam raises its ugly head. These days, it should be possible to replace trackback with search using third-party tools like Technorati and Google Blog Search. Expect to see that kind of functionality built in to more and more blogging tools.
The trouble is, this functionality is "not yet". So he will probably never know that I have commented on his post... shame his blog has comments disabled!
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Monday, March 20, 2006
Libraries +10 ::

Theolib has an interesting, if short, post on the future of theological libraries. Here's a key extract:
  1. During the next ten years, the medium for information storage, discovery, and retrieval will become primarily digital.
  2. For many, digital media will also the media of choice for information use. A significant portion of users, however, will require a print on demand service to support the use of information stored in digital format.
  3. The concept of a library collection will either be redefined or simply become obsolete. Aggregators and publishers will continue to bundle multiple titles into single price packages available through license agreements. (Libraries have traditionally selected such items individually for purchase and permanent addition to a physical collection.)
  4. Publishers and aggregators will market directly to users, bypassing libraries. Information discovery tools the build on the technologies of Google, Yahoo and others will seamlessly index information available through open access as well as licensed materials.
  5. The primary pedagogical task for librarians will shift from collection development as a means of filtering information and providing quality control for users to helping users to develop the skills to filter and to critically assess the information they discover.
  6. The primary "technical services" task will be to build linking mechanisms that enable social network tagging systems to easily communicate with each other.
I wondered a bit about that comment on the need for PoD (Print on Demand facilities to print and bind documents as and when needed, as sort of just-in-time publishing ;), but I guess if the timeframe is ten years out then there will still be significant numbers of users needing print editions. And that has consequences. Once libraries invest significant capital in PoD, then they will need to encourage users to use it... maybe the print codex has a longer lifespan (outside aesthetic and antiquarian motives) than we had thought...

Friday, March 17, 2006
I wish I was teaching Jonah again! ::

Tyler Williams has begun posting about Jonah, the book he's teaching for Hebrew class. I love teaching Jonah, and it's years since I've had the opportunity, I used to teach a course on "Hebrew Short Story: Ruth and Jonah" I think (except possibly teaching "Amos" in Kinshasa, Congo) that was my favourite course ever. Two lovely short gripping books. How I envy Tyler our new curriculum has me teaching nothing but Intro classes and Prophets or Justice in the Bible. Don't get me wrong I love the rhetoric and poetic power of the prophets, and ever since I fist yelled "It's NOT fair!" been passionate about justice. But I miss the stories...

Anyway, the lucky Tyler has a good post on resources for studying Jonah. It's aimed at a Hebrew class, so is of fairly solid academic level. So, for any readers who want a lighter look, more focused on the narrative technique I'll give myself a link too: see Study Notes on Jonah

Noah's ark - again and again... ::

Every couple of years someone from the USA finds Noah's ark, or at least every couple of years a bunch of students come across one of the accounts of some American finding Noah's ark. I think if I remember the stories rightly that one ark is on Mt Ararat and another is nearby, but not too nearby. I'm not sure how come there were two arks, but both groups seemed quite convinced and convincing.

Now, as a child we used to enjoy singing a song with the a line in the chorus:
And now the old ark has gone to decay,
it's gone to make matches for Bryant and May.
Which to me always seemed to settle the matter! So the students keenness for the latest ark-finding-expedition has always troubled me a bit. Now Claude Mariottini has provided a nice clear post explaining why he (and also largely I) don't get excited by the latest Ark found in darkest Turkey.
Apparently Bryant & May is really the Swedish Match Company... ah well!

Sunday, March 12, 2006
New Biblionblog and libraries ::

Bibliotheca Alexandrina photo from Wikipedia

The International Journal of the Book has just started a blog, presumably if biblical scholars who blog are bibliobloggers this must be a biblionblog... Their first post is about the three libraries of Alexandria.

After comparing the goals of the ancient Great Library of Alexandria with those of the modern Bibliotheca Alexandrina the post contrasts the technologies used.
The library also contains an Internet center, specialized sections for audio-visual and electronic materials, microforms and rare books, as well as a Planetarium, study rooms, reading halls, museums, and spaces for conferences and art galleries.
The post concludes:
Is this a story of destruction and rebirth, of transformation and technological progress, relating the legendary past, the present and the changing future? Certainly, it is. But it also suggests that irrespective of its form, content, reading or access techniques, the role of the library was, is and will remain the same, i.e. that of a radiating repository for universal knowledge.
My conclusion is different, technology makes a great difference. The ancient library (until the late 20th century in fact) was localised, and only one person at a time could consult each "book". So one had to visit Alexandria to consult it's riches. The digital library (which the modern Bibliotheca Alexandrina includes) can be anywhere and everywhere. It can even through Book Mobiles (go to and scroll down) go to the poor and deprived. Print began a process of democratising books. That, in part, is how Luther could run rings round the pope and the emperor. But digitisation takes this process to a new level.

As long as "books" remain physical objects they remain sources of sensual pleasure for rich (or at least comfortably provided) readers. Once they are digital there is more chance that they can be liberated by the less wealthy. The digital divide is potentially a temporary aberration. (How many people could afford a copy of the first edition of Gutenberg's Bible?

Saturday, March 11, 2006
Virtual Launch for Amos: Hypertext Bible Commentary ::

Somebody at the launch party last night - yes, after ten years and 200,000 words (not counting pictures whatever they are worth or spoken words) Amos is now launched - said "Of course, we should have had a virtual launch!". So, here it is, I'm sorry current limits to broadband and to sensory technologies mean you will miss out on the chocolate cake (and all the other goodies) and will have to express your own espresso, but the speeches are here:
Prof William Loader's speech 2MB

my talk about the project (with question time) 8MB

or: The Whole formal part from go to woah! 9.4MB (lower quality)

Thursday, March 09, 2006
Reading the Bible and teaching biblical languages ::

Idle Musings reports by means mainly of a long quote Carl Conrad, writing on the B-Greek list, about the teaching of Greek. It is good stuff. AKMA has a fine rant, stimulated by the same source.

It's time for the revolution! Teaching students that reading (which should he hearing anyway, but that's another story;) language is like decoding a cipher is plain wrong. At least a generation of teaching Hebrew and Greek has done as much harm as good, and maybe more. Language is a social system, not a mathematical one, we learn language like we learn friendship, by doing it, not by reading books about it. Practice first, theory follows.

On a positive note, AKMA mentions Randal Buth's exciting work teaching biblical languages in a better way - it is possible!

Non-commercial Advert
The Hebrew Vocabularies Project which I've mentioned before will possibly help a little with this, it will make vocab learning a fuller and (slightly) more rich and natural experience. If you are teaching biblical languages take a look... No Greek as yet, but the engine is there so you could easily build on the technical work we've done to start a Greek Vocabularies Project...
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Wednesday, March 08, 2006
I want a SmartFox ::

Every since I first read about SmartFox I've wanted one.
The tagline, "The Educated Browser: SmartFox, the Scholar's Web Browser" got me hooked, and the descriptions finished the job. There is indeed:
no easy or powerful way to use these [online] resources, often [we are left] resorting to a cobbled-together set of stand-alone applications (such as EndNote and Word) to make citations, take notes, and create personal collections and bibliographies.
Actually since and EndNote "upgrade" succeeded in slowing my spanking new shiny fast PC to a crawl I've been reduced to doing these things by hand, and hoping for the day Open Office gets its bibliographic act together...

But please Center for History and New Media gimme news! Tell us how the project is going, let us marvel at your efficiency and generosity, but don't treat us like mushrooms! (Left in the dark and fed...)

Sunday, March 05, 2006
Coherence, cohesion and incoherence ::

Wayne at Better Bibles has an interesting post about "Coherence, cohesion, and Bible translation". Go read it - I won't even try to summarise it here ;) but since cohesion and coherence and their interactions in prophetic texts are one of my research topics, and since serendipitously I came across a fine example of an incoherent but cohesive text this morning here is a sample:
Tickets tickled one quixotic bureau, even though the lampstands grew up lamely. Quark telephoned one dwarf. Umpteen obese mats towed irascible televisions, however the lampstands abused two silly Klingons, but the botulism bought aardvarks.
Paul marries the obese chrysanthemums. Umpteen Jabberwockies ran away, then one mat laughed noisily, even though two Klingons auctioned off the ticket. Umpteen schizophrenic pawnbrokers married two obese aardvarks, then five tickets almost lamely kissed two botulisms, even though one Jabberwocky abused umpteen lampstands...
It manages not only lexical cohesion, but a measure of alliteration and assonance too! Brilliant.

Friday, March 03, 2006
Bibleicious (dudes) ::

One of the great things about sending out a newsletter to all the good folk who have signed up as interested in the Hypertext Bible Commentary and Encyclopedia project is the interesting and encouraging replies I get!

For example Bryan Waters is thinking about using type tagging to enable people to create a wisdom of crowds/web 2.0 sort of application Bible... Oh, I can't explain it, go look at his descriptions!

Arguments for the historicity of Abraham ::

Since the exchange of posts with Claude Mariottini about Abraham has started to become a sustained conversation, let me set some parameters from my perspective. (See his posts: "The Royal Tombs of Ur, the City of Abraham"; "Ur and Abraham: A Rejoinder to Tim Bulkeley"; "Abraham and Archaeology" and my posts: "Reading Abram/Abraham"; "Writing Abraham (update)".)
  • For myself I read the narratives in Genesis (and indeed in most other parts of the Hebrew Bible) more as literary works, looking for plot, character and the messages carried by the words than as an aid to reconstructing the history of the Ancient Eastern Mediterranean and Mesopotamia - but I recognise that many of my readers will be highly "interested" in questions of history (interested here in both senses ;-)
  • I am neither a maximalist, nor a minimalist. The Bible is written in a highly sophisticated narrative style that either makes use of supernatural revelation (e.g. of what characters were thinking, what God was thinking etc.) or of imagination, and it works hard to ensure that hearers of the narratives get God's message from the stories as they listen (these are theological texts)- if these things were not true it would be merely a dull collection of ancient annals.
  • The evidence for the historicity of the events underlying the Patriarchal narratives is highly contested, as is its interpretation. E.g. Claude is happy to claim that Kitchen's reference to an Egyptian text that may mention a place name including the name Abram is "a possible extrabiblical reference to Abraham", it is, but it is at several removes time, it is a place name not a person, and we do not know that the reference is to our Abram... In short, from my perspective, there is NO extra-biblical evidence (from anywhere within 1000 years
  • There is, however, evidence that seems to me to make Abraham, much as the biblical narrative describes him, a possible person. Not least names and social customs found in MB Syria.
All this is too complex for me to be able to deal adequately with it in the 150 words that a sidebar permits, and the editors have not included "historicity" among the headings they have given me for the body text.

I hope Claude - whom I've never met FTF - is enjoying the conversation, I am finding it most helpful. Not least because I have similar issues in my teaching, there too "most people... want to believe that these stories are reliable and historical, even when there is no historical evidence or archaeological findings to prove that these stories are true" (to quote Claude). But there too, in Intro classes at least, there is not really enough time to address the issues at all fully.

Thursday, March 02, 2006
Biblical Studies Carnival III ( Thanks "Rico"!)

Ricoblog has published the third Biblical Studies Carnival, it must have been lots of work, but probably great fun too, it certainly provides an interesting read and snapshot of Biblical Studies last month in Blogaria. It plus Tyler's January "Carnival" provide horrible reminders of all the interesting posts and discussions that I've missed (so far?) joining. My busyness and dearth of blogging means that I was doubly surprised to find two mentions in Carnival III. One is for the Amos launch, the other for the Abraham/Maxi-min discussion with Claude Mariottini.

But do go and visit the Carnival for yourself and see how many goodies are there!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006
Writing Abraham (update) ::

Claude Mariottini, whose post on the Royal Tombs at Ur I mentioned in the earlier post Reading Abram/Abraham does a nice job of succinctly summarising discussion about the location of "Chaldean Ur". His post illustrates one of my perplexities in writing the article on Abraham, Claude takes about 350 words discussing the location of Ur, if I add a sidebar on this I am allowed 100-150 words!

On the wider issue of history/historicity Caude proposes that to write on Abraham the only source available to me is the Bible, which is quite correct. So, inevitably 95% of what I have tries to assist readers of the Atlas to read Abraham's story in the biblical texts. However, "modern" readers of the Atlas are very interested in history, the Atlas will be full of references to archaeological finds... so, in a sidebar of 100-150 words, how does one address this issue? Inevitably the summary will oversimplify excessively, but how...

For a minimalist it would be easy: "Abraham didn't exist, the stories are fiction, here's how the fiction works...

For a maximalist, easy again - though getting harder, difficult to handle the uncertainties (the Bible text does NOT identify Ur...

For a wishy-washy middle of the roadkill it's not so easy, readers have the right to hear something of the complexities, but how many of my precious words do I spend on what Claude (implies in his post) and Jim (putatively would claim) is a side issue to the real thing, helping readers read Abraham?

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