Prophets in Context
Your work will be marked on the qualities listed in the left column. It should reach the standard listed in one of the next three columns. Five out of five at the "acceptable" level are required for a passing grade. The standards for merit and excellence include those for the lower levels.
If you achieve mainly the “acceptable” column then you will get a grade in the C range (C‑, C or C+). If you achieve mainly in the “merit” column then you will get a grade in the B range, while several in the excellence column with one or two in the merit column will get an A range grade.
Presentation attempts to reveal author’s underlying exegesis
Underlying exegesis summarised and presented critically
Critique is appropriate and effective
Social context of text related to author’s work
Relationship critically examined
Explanation is clear and comprehensible
Literary features discussed in relation to the author’s interpretation.
Author’s position critiqued in the light of these features
Offers alternative interpretation
Attempts both positive and negative criticism
Critique appropriate to author’s goals
Critique helpful for audience’s approach to subject of criticism
Presentation is clear and appropriate
Presentation is well organised and uses language effectively
Presentation engages interest and stimulates further thought
Consistent referencing, appropriate form and contents of bibliography and appropriate use of formal written language are requirements for satisfactory work at this level.
A text is one continuous sequential series of sentences organised into paragraphs and other higher-level clusters. A hypertext comprises a number of short discrete texts that are interlinked in complex non-linear ways. An electronic hypertext is read on-screen. These two differences (linked chunks vs. sequence, and screen vs. print) make writing effectively for the two media very different.
Since hypertext is composed of linked lexia, and since readers may have reached any lexia by several (or even very many) different routes, each lexia should stand alone. So (to help you avoid overlooking material you planned to write) compose each lexia as a separate document. As you edit your material, do not always read the lexia in the same order, so you will be more likely to spot where explanation links are needed.
Each lexia should be relatively short and focused. A couple of hundred words is a good length, often if you get beyond this length you could think of splitting the unit in two parts! When writing hypertext, within reason, fragmentation is good since it enhances focus. In a text coherence and structure are vital, however focus is vital in a single lexia (written to work as part of a hypertext).
As you read over what you have written think about what beginners will need explained. Either build in a link to an existing explanation (Bible Dictionary article or lexia you have already written) or make a blank document with a heading that reminds you to write the required lexia. E.g. if the reader needs some summary introduction to “Prophets in the Mari texts” then make a document with this heading, and a brief note to yourself about why it is needed. This way later you can prepare the required lexia, and can build in the necessary link as you are still writing the first lexia.
Similarly where colleagues or other readers may want to know your evidence or reasons create a document and link to it (as “justification”) even if it only has a title at this stage.
Readers of text on screen have been shown not to “read” sequentially, but rather to scan pages for information. When writing for this medium it is helpful to bear this tendency in mind and adapt one’s style accordingly. Features that have been shown to promote comprehension include:
The best advice from practitioners of writing for screen, as well as empirical studies like Neilsen and Morkes, suggest that as academics we need to reverse our usual writing “logic”. Traditionally we write towards a conclusion. Readers onscreen expect to work outwards from a summary. This is called a “reverse pyramid” – writing towards a conclusion focuses down towards the end, the reverse pyramid puts what is most significant first.
Traditionally, people scan English language documents by reading the first few words of each paragraph. For this reason, put only one idea in each paragraph. And put the main idea right up front, in the first few words…. Never tease people and force them to guess your point.
The role of commentary is to describe and explain the text. Comment seeks to assist its reader to understand and make sense of the text. To this end difficulties and puzzles in the text are exposed, described and explained, context is explained… However, traditional commentary is driven by the sequential print format to lead the reader towards sharing the commentator’s interpretation of the text.
Hypertext, with its links and varied paths is more conducive to allowing its users to explore aspects of the text that interest them. Thus, although a hypertext commentator can present their “way of reading the book”, it is less easy for them to insist on this way of reading. By contrast the form facilitates offering the user other “ways of reading” also. This openness is a feature of the medium that we are keen to exploit, so authors are asked to present not only their own reading of the text, but also to explore and present material that might be useful or interesting for other readings.
Sectarian reading of the Bible is common (not only religiously sectarian but also "secular sectarian readings" e.g. those that deny the possibility of supernatural events described in the text). Such sectarian readings may be presented, but where possible authors should identify them as such using phrases like “a Christian reader might understand…”, and where possible more than one such reading should be presented. E.g. when commenting on Isaiah 9, New Testament use of the passage to refer to Jesus should not be overlooked, but nor should it be the only understanding presented.
 R. McAlpine, Web Word Wizardry,
The prototype Amos “volume” required numerous articles of the sort found in Bible Dictionaries, and mini word studies for the vocabulary used in the book. However, we hope that the University Bible Dictionary articles will cover most of the need for such articles and will try to get funding for research assistants to prepare the mini-word studies. So this section of the manual will focus on the comment on the biblical text, rather than including also this ancillary material.
HBC_ aims to equip readers to read/interpret the text. To this end comment should try to provide useful and relevant information about the text and its contexts. The intention is to offer a level of comment that goes beyond what the reader can work out for themselves using Bible software, but to avoid “pushing” one particular interpretative line.
The aim is to provide a similar level of comment to a multi-volume print series. So beginning readers will need technical terms and ideas explained, while biblical scholars will want a justification for a conclusion reached. Thus as well as the basic commentary material two other sorts of lexia will often be needed (for how to handle these different needs see Explanation and justification).
The system will allow readers to seek Bible Dictionary articles for themselves, but sometimes you may want to provide a link in your text to a particular article. Thus you should (usually) not include description of people, locations or widely used concepts (e.g. “Onesimus”, “Megiddo”, “Kingdom of God”) except where some particular detail (not covered in the UBD entry for that term) is needed for your commentary, rather you should link to the entry. (See Signalling links.)
The commentaries will be organised at more than one level. Most often there will be three levels:
A really short book (like 3 John or Obadiah) might be handled differently with only one or two “layers” of comment. Authors preparing comment on longer books (like Isaiah or Revelation) may need to add another level. Please discuss such needs with the editors.
At each level lexia should start with a list of the units treated at the next level (which can be links, in case your reader was looking for more detailed comment).
This comprises one basic lexia with as many sub lexia (for explanation or justification) as are needed. It should discuss such topics as:
In general this material is likely to be less comprehensive than in a conventional commentary, since some of the traditional material included in the “Introduction” may be linked from lower level lexia.
These lexia are likely to be among the longer units you will write, but should not become too long (be alert for occasions when you should prepare a separate [linked] lexia with some of the material). In this lexia you are likely to describe:
The lowest level should deal with a single unit. It is likely to treat questions of genre, rhetorical purpose, imagery etc. the list of headings will differ according to the genre of the text, and the commentator’s interests! This is one case where internal links should definitely be used, so that discussion of the elements (e.g. of the wording) can be included under a subheading (e.g. the verse number).
General comment can be organised under headings, it is convenient for readers if (where possible) you use the same list of headings (omitting those not needed). Those I used most often for Amos were:
Apart from links to Bible Dictionary articles (whether from the University Bible Dictionary or written specially for your commentary) there are two main types of lexia to which the material you write will link:
· explanations provide readers who lack technical knowledge with the means to understand what you write
· justifications allow readers who are interested to see the reasoning and evidence that supports a conclusion that you simply stated in the lexia you were writing
When signalling a link to another lexia you should identify it as one or the other of these categories. Bible Dictionary entries will provide a third category of link. Users will be able to tell in advance which sort of material a link leads towards, e.g. by a tooltip that reads “explanation” or “justification” or “Bible Dictionary”.
Almost always explanations are aimed at lay or beginning students, while justifications are more likely to be sought by “experts”.
Because you are writing more tersely than for print (see below), as you write you should be thinking about where you need to supply such “explanation” or “justification” lexia. I suggest that you make a new file for these required lexia with a heading and brief reminder of the purpose and note from where the link comes so that later you do not overlook providing this material. (“Explanation” lexia may often be used from more than one location in your commentary, while “justifications” are more likely to refer to one particular locus.)
Much of the necessary background information can be found in existing or expected future University Bible Dictionary articles (see the list at *****INSERT URL*** or in articles written at our request)  – if so you can link to them. Some more specialised information you will need to supply yourself as an “explanation” (or possibly “justification”) lexia.
The UBD is a separate project, but we have the right to use its articles, and are represented on the editorial panel. Articles will usually be around 1,500 words, we expect the first 100 entries to be complete in 2006. Authors are being recruited upon recommendation, and all entries will be approved following a peer review process.
The University Bible Dictionary (UBD) is a general reference work that makes biblical scholarship accessible online to undergraduate students and general readers. The resource offers original articles on books in the Hebrew Bible, Apocrypha, and New Testament, and on individuals, groups, artifacts, locations, events, and institutions. Articles are concise (no more than 1500 words in length, excluding bibliography); authoritative (subject to peer review and periodic revision); academic (descriptive and historical, not prescriptive and confessional); and introductory (giving an overview and recommending further reading).
 When you need an article that does not (currently) exist in the UBD, either we can commission such an article or you can prepare one, these options should be discussed with the editors.
 That is, if you think that the current list misses a topic that should be covered in the UBD we can commission an article. If however you need an article with a particular slant or emphasis, or the article is likely only to be needed by your commentary, then you should provide the entry yourself as a lexia.
 Cited from the draft “Instructions for contributors” being prepared for the UBD project.
Hypertext is a collection of smaller textual units (lexia) which can be thought of as separate files. Lexia are joined by hyperlinks. This encourages readers to follow different paths through the material. Thus usually any particular lexia may be reached by more than one (often many different) routes. Therefore each lexia must either be able to stand alone, or must contain links to the material that enables readers to understand it.
This difference poses some problems of adjustment to scholars operating with a codex (or even scroll) as their mental ÂmapÂ of the nature of text. Instead it is helpful to remember that each lexia stands alone, yet at the same time works collaboratively with others (see ÂThinking linksÂ).
This is inconvenient for a document - like a monograph or this manual - that seeks to lead the reader to particular conclusions or results. By contrast it is most convenient if the aim is to equip the reader, e.g. in a commentary that seeks to equip its readers to read the original text for themselves.
This manual will begin with a section on the practicalities of how material for a commentary in the series is organised (section 1), include some background on how text and hypertext differ and some consequent suggestions about rhetoric and style (section 2), before dealing with the technical details of Âhow toÂ prepare material for publication in the HBC_ (section 3).
 As I discovered when I began the Amos prototype, and found that the ease with which onscreen text can be scrolled tempted me initially to write long documents with many internal links! Some traces of this phase of writing Amos can still be detected in the published Amos: Hypertext Bible Commentary. E.g. Tim Bulkeley, ÂGENRE: Kinds of LiteratureÂ, Amos: Hypertext Bible Commentary,
 See Tim Bulkeley, "Form, Medium and Function: The Rhetorics and Poetics of Text and Hypertext in Humanities Publishing", International Journal of the Book 1, 2003, 317-327
But readers looking for in-depth analyses may be left wanting more.As for the blog format, the problem, once again, is RSS. I read Pulse in my feedreader, I comment on my blog... No connection. Now, I know the answer is something called "trackback and ping", but I'm not techie enough to have worked out how to understand or use them. If they are so important how come they are not built into the Blogger interface?Wrote Aparna Sreenivasan in the San Fransisco Chronicle
Our guiding principle is give before you get. Readers can read the entire book without paying a penny by subscribing via RSS or email. By making Pulse easily available, we're encouraging people to share, discuss, and pass on the ideas in this fascinating book.I've subscribed. The first day's installment starts with the blurb from Names@Work that I just quoted, and follows up with the first chunk of the book. Robert Frenay has an easy to read flowing style, and his thoughts are full of "big ideas". The first 500 words or so takes us through the whole evolution of life on earth, with a focus on the end point:
The twenty-first century will mark a sea change in human affairs, one unlike any that has gone before. Soon to come are computers with emotions, ships that learn from fish, and "soft jets" that flex and twist like swooping birds. Fabricated arteries will pulse and contract just as they do in life. Industries will reabsorb waste, like fallen leaves fading into the earth, while a new kind of money looks to energy cascades in nature. These are not blue-sky dreams. Work on them is well advanced.This is "love-it or hate-it" stuff. So, do I? Well it's too early to say, the lack of evidence annoyed me, I'm marking student work at the moment and so often there I'm saying: "Support what you say with evidence, cite an author, give a Bible reference, or the source of the statistics..." well (so far) Frenay gives none of these and it's frustrating. On the other hand I LOVE the book as blog approach. Bite-sized chunks to read between other more "productive" work, great. Book-as-blog, I'm sold... but whether I'll buy this book may depend on whether Frenay's rhetoric gets (sometime) a backing of more solid evidence.
One class costs around $1200. Depending on what holidays fall during the semester you're looking at about $100-$120 per 3 hour lecture.It's time for an message from my employers... In New Zealand fees are around NZ$3,477 per year for PhD students (plus a few extras but say around NZ$4,000 in total. That's around US$2,500 or GB Pounds 1,400 or just a tad over Euros 2,000 for a full year of doctoral study. Living costs are also lower here than most other places in the developed world. And Universities like Auckland regularly rank OK in international comparisons.
Data tells us that humans lie all the time. And I mean ALL THE TIME. It's not often big lies, but we tell small lies constantly. About 10 a day to be conservative. And that isn't counting dishonesties such as laughing a co-worker's joke that isn't funny. What is interesting is that most of these lies, like laughing at the poor joke, are meant to be acts of "service," dishonesties meant to protect another person's feelings. Psychologists call these "other-oreinted lies."I replied (in part):
So, my students ask: Are all these lies sin? I'd like to answer that question. They don't seem like sins to me or my students. But it is hard to find sources with good theological discussions about such topics. You could take an ethics class, but that isn't really theology.
Why on earth should OOLs be sinful? Where in the Bible (I'm a Baptist, so the main source of my theology is Scripture ;-) does it say that to lie is sinful?We had also been talking about free will and contingency, on that Richard wrote:
"Bearing false witness" is clearly sinful, but OOLs hardly count as "false witness"...
Jesus tells us (following Jewish wisdom) that we should be people of our word ("Let your 'yes' be 'yes' and your 'no' be 'no'" Mat 5:37) but do OOLs really contravene this command?
I'd have thought the direction of a theological response to OOLs was fairly simple... Read your Bible!
BTW if you want a good precedent for an OOL approved by God, think of the whopper the midwives told Pharaoh (Ex 1:19).
Humans are contingent beings. Circumstances of birth or small changes in life events can drastically affect the course of a life. Examples here are legion. So, I'm not saying we have no choice, but rather that choice can be very circumscribed.I'm not going to comment on soteriology (I'm an OT teacher!), but did reply:
I think most would agree with this. If so, then how do we make this idea jive with soteriology?
I wonder if it is precisely a recognition of human contingency that results in such a very high proportion of the Bible being "narrative".Narrative by its nature invites us to "enter the world" of the story, and to make judgments on the characters, and thus on ourselves. Such engagement enables and encourages us to work out our response to life in a "biblical" way, but it does not equip us with simple neat rules.
Systematic writing, "law", "letters" etc. finds it difficult to cope with complex contingent behaviour. Narrative requires such a reading (else the narrative is not "true to life" and so is poor narrative). That's why most of the Bible does not have systematic meaning, though texts like Aesop's Fables do (see Judges 9 for a [very rare/unique?] biblical example of a narrative with a single simple "meaning".
When we read Jacob's story we do not learn a (more or less) simple set of rules e.g. "do not lie, except when...", rather we learn about a contingent and broken human life lived in relationship with God.
To annoy colleagues I have often said that Systematic Theology is an oxymoron, and I am only half joking ;) (I don't know an emoticon for "half joking"!)
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