Wednesday, May 31, 2006
PodBible on TV ::

The PodBible project (and our sponsors Bibles in Action) featured on TV here on Monday, you can catch the segment online just click on the Monday 29th May 2006 link (there's a choice of broadband or dialup) and the segment is about 1/3 of the way through the program!
Filed in:

Saturday, May 27, 2006
PodBible (NZ Bible podcast) makes the US news ::

The NZ Bible podcast, PodBible, which recorded hundreds of ordinary Kiwis from primary school to retirement home age and with all sorts of accents and voices has passed it's first six months and made (a very small splash in) a US news service: Biblecast delivering 1000 Bible chapters a day to listeners.

Incidentally, over the first six months usage has grown fairly steadily and visitors have increased by 50%. Data downloaded increased by a whopping 600%, though heavy downloads after Easter Camp may account for some of that. Before Easter at the 5 month mark it was up 350%.

In April (the last full month had on average 364 visitors per day. At the peak at the end of the month they were downloading over a gigabyte of data each day (that's over 1,000 chapters). "Bible Podcast" was the commonest search term on Google to find the site.

24 countries scored more than 10 hits in the month, NZ was second after the USA, visitors also came from: Japan, Netherlands, Australia, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Canada, Guatemala, China, Italy, Singapore, Brazil, Israel, Poland, Norway, Spain, Finland, Turkey, Denmark, Hungary, Malaysia, Portugal. But, of course lots of people subscribe through Bloglines or another Blog or Podcast reader, and will therefore "count" as coming from the USA!

The project will also feature on Shine TV on Monday with an interview with Peter Olds (Balmoral Baptist's pastor).

Monday, May 22, 2006
Communicating : a Good Morning it's Monday item ::

I had to write a "bit" for our college newsletter, since the writing took a good while at a time when I have too much grading/marking, I thought I'd give it a larger audience by posting it here too!

At first all communication was face to face. Later rich merchants, priests and kings developed systems of writing that allowed the transmission of words across time and space. In Egypt pictures represented the words to transmit,[see note] in Mesopotamia and elsewhere arbitrary symbols represented syllables of speech.

What do you mean, my lecture notes are hard to read?

In the Late Bronze Age that world was ready for change, the old structures and centres of power were in decay. Then (notice the sublime historical accident) a short while before the exodus of Hebrew slaves from Egypt, a simpler system, that almost anyone could learn, was invented in Canaan (we call it Alphabet from the first two letters of the Hebrew system). God provided Moses, and the rest is Bible…

The invention of printing in the Late Middle Ages provided providence with another opportunity. At first printing seemed just a faster, cheaper way to produce books. Yet it's real impact was far greater.

Once again, the old order was breaking down. In the church, systems and institutional structures had largely succeeded in obscuring the simple revolutionary truths of the gospel. In politics the abuses of power of the aristocracy, and the beginnings of a "middle class", had begun change "the way things were". The earthquakes presaged by these tremors where felt in the following centuries.

An angry monk learned to use the new medium in creative ways to bypass the traditional structures of power and privilege. With his "tracts" and crude cartoons he ran rings round the pope and the emperor, and appealed direct to the people.
In the Late Modern Age too, structures of church and state have begun to creak. Again providence supplies (beyond the church) a new and revolutionary communication medium. Digital technology not only makes it easier for you to rip and burn your favourite tracks and videos, it also changes the relationship of human and "word".

In the age of the hieroglyph only the elite could master the word. In the age of the alphabet reading was democratised. In the print age distribution and possession of "words" became easier. In the networked digital age, publication of the "word", as well as its consumption, is open to almost everyone. The cost of placing your immortal words in a blog (like Paul's on the Carey website) is almost only the effort of composing them. The cost of recording your own "radio", or Bible reading, programme, (like and offering it to all the Googled-world is also just a few hours of your time.

God called Moses – and made him a writer.

God called Luther – and made him a print propagandist.

What does God have in store for you?


Of course the Hieroglyphs in Ancient Egypt soon developed into a much more complex and useful system, including a consonantal "alphabet-like" component. My point here (and this piece was written to a deadline and with a strict word limit) was just that complex systems restrict literacy to those with time to learn "complex systems". [RETURN]

Together(?) for the gospel ::

Dave Warnock has been posting a detailed commentary on the statement put out by this one-sided and divisive conference, he has even proposed a less divisive "My Altogether for the Gospel" introduction. If you noticed the original and if it saddened you, you may like to read Dave's alternative and be cheered. Hey, we don't have to fight other Christians to prove we are wrong right oh, whichever it was... T4G was after trying to demonstrate!

Saturday, May 13, 2006
How (not) to read books ::

Scott McKnight (NT blogger I ought to read regularly, as his blog is so well-written, but don't because of no-one can read everything) has a fine, fun post "On Marking Books" (which I found through a lovely quote in Ricoblog). I agree with the commentor (Jonathan) who says:

"The only way to read Hengel is with a beer in hand to take the edge off."
That'’s definitely my quote of the week!

BUT the whole discussion appears predicated on actually "reading books". I have told generations of students: "Never read a book!" After this shocking advise I instruct them in the not-so-gentle art of scanning:
  • The table of contents is important, look at it second (First you look carefully at the covers, yes, spend longer on the back cover, it tells you what the publisher thinks the book is about and who it is aimed at.) The ToC gives you an idea of the contents (duh!) and the flow of the work, so it is where you start. (The front cover may have already told you if the book is worth not-reading!)
  • Skim the preface or introduction. Often they will summarise the whole book, so you will have a better idea than the ToC has given you of what to ignore for now.
  • You will now have an idea which chapters are important and relevant to you - the others can be left but may become relevant one day (you can not-read them then)!
    • Read the opening paragraph (or two...) carefully. If the writer has done their job this should tell you what the chapter is really about.
    • Read the closing paragraph (or two...) carefully. If the writer has done their job this should summarise their conclusions.
    • Glance through the chapter paying particular attention to any headings, pictures or other bits that catch your attention (allow about 2 mins for this task).
    • Now you can decide if that chapter is really necessary to not-read now.
  • When you have glanced in this way at any chapters that seemed potentially "don't miss" items you can decide which to actually not-read. After all, by now you have a good idea of what the book is about and of how it and its author work!
  • You now approach these chapters, and using similar techniques gut and fillet them. Despite all I have said above and the number of times I've stressed that the aim is to not-read, you may (if you must) at this stage actually read the chapters that matter (to you, now).
  • Skimming the index for interesting titbits is optional and may be enjoyed at any time.
Later, of course, you may come back and either read other bits, or even if the book is really well-written and interesting, actually read it.

Yes, I'm a barbarian and a heretic, but I'm a busy barbarian, and my students are busy people too...

PS: I'd no sooner finished writing the above, when the SBL email announcing the latest Forum appeared in my inbox. Serendipity. Athalya Brenner has a piece "On Blurbs, Prefaces, and Other Good Intentions" saying some of the same things, at least about blurbs and prefaces, though no one should tar and feather her with the same barbarian brush as me! Her piece is a plea for honesty in advertising. (At least according to a first very fast skim!)

Saturday, May 06, 2006
What good is a male God? ::
[ Warning: this post is a rant, my language and expression may not be coolly academic, but the issue is important, and my feelings are hot ;) ]

Claude Mariottini, in a post "The Jewish Goddess" drew my attention to a review in Forward by Jay Michaelson ("The Jewish Goddess, Past and Present") of two books, one that I know: William G. Dever Did God Have a Wife? Archeology And Folk Religion in Ancient Israel Eerdmans, 2005 and the other I didn't Rami Shapiro The Divine Feminine in Biblical Wisdom Literature Skylight Paths, 2005. Judging by the books, and the new one comes from a publisher I do not know, I assumed I'd learn little, but the topic is one I think important...

The review seems careful and fairly balanced, though it does not like the book that is new to me! But there is (at least) one statement I must challenge. If only because it is made too often as an assertion of fact, without support. It is contained in the throw away phrase "the familiar male God of the Hebrew and Christian Bibles". There ain't no such animal! Or at least there is but his name was Ba'al, or Moloch, or Mammon. The Bible regularly and strongly rants against such male fathering gods, as it does less often and strongly (read Dever for the background or see Michaelson for a biased though not unreasonable presentation) against their female counterparts, mothers and wives. But to claim that YHWH the God of the OT is male is just wrong! (The case of the "God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ" of the NT is more complex and needs at least a chapter or two to discuss).

God explicitly states in several places that human categories do NOT apply to the Godhead ("I am God and not a man" using אִישׁ 'ish the usual word for a man (sometimes a bit like the English "man" also used of a human being of unspecified sex). (Num 23:19; 1 Sam 15:29; Hos 11:9 cf. Job 9:32 etc.) In the Hebrew Bible God is pictured in motherly ways about as seldom as "he" is in fatherly ones (both are rare, perhaps precisely to avoid association with pagan engendering and birthing 'gods'). Female pictures are not in general much rarer than male ones. So why does this myth persist that YHWH is seen by the Bible writers as male.

Perhaps it is because Christian (and Jewish?) tradition gradually turned God into a male?

The "Fathers of the Church" in the first millennium consistently taught that:
God is neither male nor female.[1]
Sexual categories do not apply to the Godhead. [2]
[NB knee-jerk-readers may like to notice that the second quote is from Jerome that renouned and often excoriated feminist theologian!]

These sentiments are not isolated, nor mere slogans without implication, for "“the fathers" were not ashamed to speak of God as mother.

Early Christian writers picture God'’s teaching as breast-feeding. This picture was common in the Hellenistic world, and Christian theologians took up verses from the Epistles speaking of apostles' feeding their readers with the "“milk of the gospel" and extend them to God the source of this milk (i.e. 1 Pet 2:2-3; 1 Thess 2:7-8; 1 Cor 3:1-3 and Heb 5:12-13). They could even speak of "“God's breasts"!

If a one parent family is less than a perfect expression of God's plan, then a male God who "fathers" is clearly less than God!

Idolatry is (somewhat) unbiblical, but thinking of God as male is simply idolatry!

[1] Migne P.G. 44, 916B. Gregory of Nyssa, Homily VII In Cantica Canticorum in Greek the quotation reads: "epeide gar oute arren, oute thelu to theion esti".

[2] Corpus Christianorum, Series Latine LXXIII, 459, 1.82-83. Jerome In Esaiam in Latin the quotation reads: "In divinitate enim nullus est sexus".

Friday, May 05, 2006
Gospel of Judas: Gnostic remix ::

Conrad Gempf, who has a fine way with words, has a good post (which gospel is radical?) for anyone (other than historical theologians or biblical scholars) who is interested in the Gospel of Judas brouhaha. I'll quote one short paragraph to give you a flavour. He's arguing that we need to recognise that at the time it was the Christians (like Irenaus who discusses the Gospel of Judas) who were the radicals and the Gnostics (who wrote the Gospel of Judas) who were the Conservatives. Here's how Conrad puts it:
To us, Gnosticism looks radical and mystical. Look again. They're not Beards running Linux, they're just Suits shoe-horning css into FrontPage. Gnostics are ancient intellectual elitists for whom the real gospel was too radical.
There's also a nice line about secret handshakes... well worth a read!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006
The future of Personal Computing ::

I've seen the future! And it might just work...

PCs are NOT "personal" that big screen that sits on a desk is highly impersonal. My laptop comes closer to being a "personal computer", I joke that 2/3 of my office is here, actually that's hardly a joke, more a statement of fact - all but the "long tail" of my office is here in front of me as I write, wirelessly at table as I eat my breakfast. Since I use email, MSN and Skype as the main means of communicating with family and friends, and since our camera uploads to the laptop, and my MP3 player downloads from it much of my personal life is here too...

But even a laptop is hardly "personal" it's still too big to take "everywhere", so my diary and phone, todo list and notes-to-self are on another gismo (PDA/Phone) that sits on my hip. it's small enough to take most places, but does not "do" everything, even with a mini keyboard I hardly ever write significant lengths of text on it...

I've friends who swear by USB drives, carry their documents around in a locket round their necks. But, with a USB drive they depend on the host computer having the software they need. Enter the ugly head of proprietary file formats...

Is there no such thing as a "personal computer"?

<digression> : Family briefing paper and collaboration
[You'll see the point of this soon enough, I promise!]

I mentioned a while back that I am trying to co-ordinate writing a briefing paper on "family". There are two difficulties: getting busy people to agree to participate and writing collaboratively. (The first is pretty much fixed, by dint of lots of phoning and emails.)

Enter Rallypoint an online Bliki*, Wiki-style several people can edit the text, and create new pages of a Rallypoint site, they can also annotate pages using blog-like comments and tagging features. Since users are limited (to five in the free trial beta version) this looks a useful way of preparing such a text.

But, since it is online it is only available when I am within reach of the Internet (at the bach where I get my best coherent uninterrupted time for writing there is deliberately no Internet or phone!), so Rallypoint's not really personal...

But suppose someone put Rallypoint, synchronisation, and a USB (or even better wifi) flash drive together? Portable data (even 1GB drives are cheap as chips now) collaboration built-in, open file-formats, and my workspace goes with me - or can be given to collaborators, and all our changes get synched next time we meet or go online... Any PC or laptop becomes potentially my workspace, and I can share it with you...

And the good news is they're doing it! I read about it in a post "Always-on-you computing" on The End of Cyberspace. Liam Breck "is a mobile & ubiquitous computing architect and entrepreneur" who gets "it" and is trying to make it real (his blog has the nice title Web 2.5 : The Always-On-You Web and the latest post may give a bit of the flavour: "Web 2.5 vs. In-Office Spam" though there are lots I'd have liked to highlight!

I even think that despite the warnings, I might download the trail alpha version of the thing... when I have time and the family briefing sheet and marking are finished ;-)

* Bliki is my personal name for a combination Blog & Wiki... [return]

Monday, May 01, 2006
Notes for authors: third part: draft please comment ::

Here's the final part, please do leave or send comments...

3. Technical details

Wordprocessors: all text for HBC_ should be prepared in a either Open Office or MS Word (except by special arrangement).

Templates: use the supplied Template, (and not another like the MSWord "normal" template. Please make no changes made to the Styles in the Template. (For more details see the guide for either Open Office 2.0 or Microsoft Word2003.)

Characters from non-Roman alphabets and other special characters should either be standard Unicode, or produced in Times New Roman using the | Insert | Special Character| (Open Office) or | Insert | Symbol | (MS Word) functions (the writing system should be indicated using the “character” Styles “Hebrew” or “Greek” from the supplied Template).

3.1. Styleguide

  • Spellings are American and not UK or NZ.
  • Abbreviations, Grammar and punctuation should follow the SBL styleguide.[1]
  • References in the text should use the following format (Name, page number) or (Name, date, page number) thus (Brown, 63) or (Brown, 2006, 63) – where there is more than one work in the bibliography authored by someone with the name “Brown”. If people named Brown have more than one work in 2006 then initials should be used e.g. (J. Brown, 2006) or if there are two J. Browns (J.S. Brown, 2006); if the same Brown has more than one work that year, the first is (Brown, 2006a), and the second (Brown, 2006b) etc. NB. this will mean that when you discover that such distinguishing is necessary a global search (of ALL files so far produced) will be needed for “(Brown” to substitute “(J. Brown” or for “Brown, 2006)” to substitute “(Brown, 2006a)”.
  • Bibliography should be in the Chicago 14a style for the author date system.
  • Formatting all formatting should be through the use of styles except bold and italics, bullets and numbered lists which should be created using the built in features of your wordprocessor (MS Word or Open Office)
    • Headings: should be indicated by the appropriate style (Heading 1, Heading 2 etc.) and represent a hierarchy of thought i.e. Heading 2 material should be of higher level than Heading 3 material which resides “within” it. The text of headings should aim to describe the content. Heading 1 is used for the first heading within a lexia (file).
    • Fonts: no changes of font should be introduced, foreign language fonts should be signalled using the supplied Styles “Hebrew”, “Greek” etc.[2]
    • Indented paragraphs: are made using the supplied Styles “Indented” or “Indented (double)”
    • Quotations: of less that 25 words should be in the body of the text and indicated by quotation marks “with the text being quoted in italics”, where 25 words or more are quoted the paragraph Style “Quotation” should be used:

This is a longer quotation in the Style “Quotation” the words quoted should be followed by a reference in brackets, either a Bible reference in SBL style or to the work cited. E.g. (Am 3:12) or (Blogs, 63)

    • Images and captions: Images should be provided as separate electronic files in as large a format as is practicable (you should send with the image an acknowledgement of the source and an indication that you have, or have obtained from the copyright holder, the right to use the image and any conditions on its use). Their place in the text should be indicated by a mention between double asterisks giving the filename e.g. **donkeys.tiff** if the horizontal position of the image is important indicate this within the asterisks e.g. **donkeys.tiff right of text** or **donkeys.tiff centered** (Any other suggestions or requirements for presenting the image, e.g. minimum size… should also be added inside the asterisks.)
      Each image should have a caption, this is a "paragraph" formatted with the style “ImageCaption”, which lists the source of the image referring to a “name” from the bibliography (see references above). E.g.:
      The Well at Tel Beersheba (Bulkeley, 2004)

3.2. Signalling links

Authors should aim to indicate where links are needed or may be created. There are two methods of doing this. The approach outlined here is easier and cheaper to convert, however if you find this inhibits your editing of the text then simply place the indications of links as comments, with the highlighted words forming the link text. (In Open Office only the end of the selected text in highlighted, so the beginning should be indicated by a double asterisk, see sample.odt)

3.2.1. Justification and explanation

Where you create “justification” or “explanation” lexia you should think about how, and from where, these lexia will be accessed. Links are normally made from sections of text (usually just one or a few words long), which themselves suggest or at least hint at the linked material. Such text should be enclosed within double asterisks and include an indication, within square brackets inside the asterisks, of whether the link provides justification (“J”) or explanation (“E”) followed by the filename of the linked lexia, still within the asterisks. Thus if you write:

**this explains linking [E links.doc]**

the text “this explains linking” will be linked via a link marked as an “Explanation” to the file named links.doc.

3.2.2. Internal links and anchors

It may sometimes – most often where a longer lexia needs a list of headings at the start, for example linking to verse level comment within comment on a unit – be necessary to link to a location within a lexia. These may be made using:

  • Open Office: | Insert | Hyperlink | Document | or
  • MSWord: | Insert | Hyperlink | Place in this document |

3.2.3. University Bible Dictionary articles

Often it will be useful (think particularly of untrained readers) to link to a Bible Dictionary article.

Where such an article exists in the UBD, or where such an article is listed as desirable, if possible make the link text in your lexia the same as the head word (or term) of the dictionary entry mark the term with double asterisks and the mention [UBD] thus “the **kingdom of God [UBD]**” will link to the article headed “kingdom of God” as will "the **kingdom of heaven [UBD kingdom of God]**".

If no such article is yet listed, but where you think one would be desirable add double asterisks round the mention UBD to indicate this to the editor e.g. “**Ugaritic mythology [**UBD**]** is particularly…”

Where either you do not think it likely that the UBD will need to include an article, or you prefer to create your own, make the link as a standard “explanation” (see above).

3.2.4. Bible references

You should take care that Bible references are given in standard (SBL) abbreviated format with the book name included (e.g. Is 5:3). You should mark them as links with asterisks and the mention [Bible reference] thus: “later in the chapter (**v.13 [Bible Is 5:13]**)” will read “later in the chapter (v.13)” where v.13 is a link to Isaiah 5:13. If you need to make reference to a particular translation you should usually quote the text directly.

3.3. Styles and how to use them

As we have seen above, with VERY few exceptions NO styling should be used that is not applied as either a “paragraph” or a “character” Style. So I will include some simple instructions for those not yet very familiar with Styles:

  • Microsoft Word (based on Word2003)
  • Open Office 2.0

3.4. How NOT to format

3.4.1. Tabs, tables and spaces

  • Spacing the start of lines: do NOT use tabs, or normal spaces (neither will “translate” between formats, rather use non-breaking spaces usually produced by CTRL-SHIFT-SPACE (that is holding down the CTRL key and the Shift key at the same time and then pressing the spacebar).
  • Also wherever more than a single space is essential you should use non-breaking spaces.
  • If columns or aligned text are needed use Tables rather than Tabs.

3.4.2. Fonts

Do NOT use fonts at all. They should ALWAYS be assigned by the Style chosen.

[1] Patrick H. Alexander, et al. (eds.) The SBL Handbook of Style: For Ancient Near Eastern, Biblical, and Early Christian Studies (Peabody, Mass.: Hendricksen,1999)

[2] If such a style is needed and does not already exist contact the editors and one will be added to the Template.

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