Sunday, August 31, 2008
  Hebrew vocabulary learning
Alan Lenzi has posted about his approach to teaching vocabulary to beginning Hebrew students. "The idea is rather simple: provide a simple or familiar context for each vocabulary word and one will more easily remember the word."

This approach is one we valued in developing דָּבָר Biblical Hebrew Vocabularies project. Along with the other contextual material: sound, picture, other forms, semantic field... we included a phrase from the Bible that uses the word to be learned. In our version the student can also hear n0t only the lemma, but also the example phrase.

Allan has prepared lists for about 1200 words. We only have about half that "done" so far. But if you notice that "vocabularies" is plural in the name we chose you may also spot that with our system you can produce the vocabulary you need for whichever grammar book or course you are using. If you need a word we have not yet done you can become a "contributor" and get a login to add data to the collection to fill in the gap.

Here is what one word would look like to the student.

BTW if you want Greek flashcards Danny has a system to offer. Which allows me to mention that דָּבָר Biblical Hebrew Vocabularies project also allows you to output your vocabularies for printing to use as flashcards. (Actually flash two sheets of paper that slide but that will save trees too!)

Labels: , ,

Saturday, August 30, 2008
  Genesis 1-3, the Rosetta Stone and digital backup
Stephen sent me the link, to this interesting post by Kevin Kelly titled Very Long-Term Backup the starting point is recognising that compared to paper the formats in which we store digital data are not durable. While paper can burn, rot or otherwise be easily destroyed, the capacity to access it is very durable, since the development of the English language (for example, or of the current script in the case of some more ancient languages) basically material written on paper is accessible. Not so the 8" floppy disk, nor even the 5.25" (the last really floppy floppy ;) how long before, even if the plastic of CDs has not degraded physically they become equally unreadable?

KK then describes the development of the new Rosetta project:
Brewster Kahle of the Internet Archive suggested a new technology developed by Los Alamos labs, and commercialized by the Norsam company, as a solution for long term digital storage. Norsam promised to micro-etch 350,000 pages of information onto a 3-inch nickel disk with an estimated lifespan of 2,000 -10,000 years.
Long Now board member Doug Carlston suggested that for the parallel common text of this modern Rosetta Stone we should use the book of Genesis, since it was most likely already translated into all languages already. We hatched a plan to produce a 3-inch non-corroding disk which contained at least 1,000 translations of Genesis and other linguistic information about each language.
One side of the disk contains a graphic teaser. The design shows headlines in the eight major languages of the world today spiraling inward in ever-decreasing size till it becomes so small you have trouble reading it, yet the text goes on getting smaller. The sentences announce:“Languages of the World: This is an archive of over 1,500 human languages assembled in the year 02008 C.E. Magnify 1,000 times to find over 13,000 pages of language documentation.”
Among the 13,500 scanned pages are 1,500 different language versions of Genesis 1-3, a universal list of the words common for each language,
pronunciation guides and so on.
Fascinating, not least because of the cultural assumptions built into its creation!

Labels: , ,

  Theological education and outdoctrination
Linking to Geoff's "Creativity in Theological Education" post and then watching the brilliant presentation (in just 20 minutes) by Sugata Mitra the Indian "Hole in the Wall" man (on TED) "Can kids teach themselves?" has got me thinking (again) about how we do theological education the wrong way round.

[By the way if you have only heard about Sugata Mitra's work it is well worth spending 20 minutes to watch the man himself, whether you agree with him or not, he is a fine presenter!]

He calls his suggestions "outdoctrination" because they are the opposite of indoctrination. In indoctrination a teacher who "knows better" tells a student the answers. Most theological education is built from the ground up on an indoctrination model. Teachers (or possibly the school boards who govern the teachers - quis custodiet custodes) decide the curriculum. They then decide how it is to be taught and how success is to be measured. Students then are fitted into this mold. Evidently, despite our efforts to steer clear of "imposing" our conclusions on students, this is indoctrination. After all, though we may seek to avoid imposing answers, we did impose the questions!

Why not a system designed the other way up. Start from real issues and situations and get teachers to asist students to learn what they need/want to approach these issues. There would be severe difficulties creating "suitable" learning outcomes, and perhaps worse ones working out how to measure them - but I suspect the real measure of success would be seen when students "leave college" and really start to learn!

[I suspect Dr Mitra, a professor of Educational Technology at Newcastle, thinks his work only applies to kids, and that adults are too far calcified in the cortext, but I wonder, humans have more capacity to make do and adapt, I believe that even "mature students" can still learn if we offered them "minimally invasive theological education"!]

Labels: ,

Thursday, August 28, 2008
  Creativity in Theological Education
A while back Geoff Pound (of Theologians Without Borders) put some effort into collecting ideas and stories about Creativity in Theological Education quite a bit of this material appeared in "one off" posts on the TWB blog, but he also collected together a summary post. Unfortunately, perhaps due to the "finished" feel of the posts they have not generated the discussion they might have if these things had been said in instutional staff rooms ;)

Readers of Sansblogue are likely to be stroppy, strong minded individuals, and many are likely to have strong opinions about theological education. So, if you have not done so already please go and explore these posts on TWB and disagree, express your strong opinions, generate discussion - the honour of the blogsphere is at stake, surely this electronic medium is no worse than a college staff room at discussing ideas?!

Labels: , ,

Saturday, August 23, 2008
  Comparing free video sharing services
Here is the same video uploaded to two different video sharing services:

I wonder if your impressions of the two services match mine?
BTW in both cases the default settings were used. Otherwise I'd have "shrunk" the Blip version ;)

Labels: , ,

Thursday, August 21, 2008
  Wikipedia: wiser than Socrates
Jim West that kindly, yet simple soul, has posted yet another urban myth about the fount of all knowledge and wisdom the great and wonderful Wikipedia (blessed be its name). He even has a "screenshot" to demonstrate the truth that Socrates is absent from the cornucopia or the information age. The truth, as a quick search reveals is otherwise. Not only is the ancient Greek well treated, but Jim West himself features in the encyclopedia (see below), now where did I put the $40,000 worth in 94 volumes of that other print encyclopedia so I can see how it treats poor Jim!

Labels: , ,

  Important announcement: BANE non-commentary series
Allan Lenzie, like Charles, was shocked by the number of "forthcoming" commentaries listed on, he has decided to do something about it and announced that a New Un-Commentary Series Seeks Non-Contributors many readers of this blog will already be queueing up for places on the prestigious team ;)

For anyone who still possesses the desire to comment (on a book of the Bible that is) and who would like a wider than usual audience, reaching the parts books from Brill or More Inerrant Than Thou Press cannot reach, please consider undertaking a "volume" for the Hypertext Bible Commentary series this is peer reviewed, but available freely in electronic form. The first "volume" has been reviewed in a number of well respected journals.

To see the instructions for contributors, or to "dip your toe in the water" by offering an article for the companion Hypertext Bible Dictionary, just go to the website.


Wednesday, August 20, 2008
  Firefox scrolling problem
PS: Update the comments below show that this strange problem is a "feature" just pressing F7 turns caret browsing on and off, thus for some reason turing the problem on and off as well :)

I have a puzzling problem with my favourite browser. For the last couple of days Firefox has begun to behave strangely when scrolling (especially when scrolling through the new posts on Bloglines. Instead of the down arrow key moving the screen a line or two, and the Page Down moving it down roughly a screenful, what happens is that it jumps to the end of a blog. This is infuriating, I am reading the blog before yours, looking forward to your latest wisdom or humour, I press either Page Down of Arrow Down and behold I am at the end of the last post of yours that is still live, all ready for the next blog :(

It is driving me nuts, if it continues I may have to move to that browser that Microsoft make :( So, if you know a fix please let me know :)

Labels: ,

Tuesday, August 19, 2008
  Why free is useless for significant ongoing work
There are a host of wonderful, inspiring and exciting free services available currently. Ranging from video sharing to file format converting, with mindmapping and other tasks in between. If you want an electronic service, the chances are someone out there is offering it for free.

This is great fun, and is driving a burst of creativity and colaboration. This easy availability of great free services is in large part responsible for the hype over Web 2.0 (which somehow refuses to fade quietly into the background like other twee slogans - but is rather perhaps being mainstreamed ;)

Yet there are feet of clay to all this. In the 1990s many of us started our first websites on "free" hosts like Geocities, but soon moved on to paying hosts. In that case it was advertising that caused many of us to move. Other were driven by restrictive policies or lack of space. Something similar could happen to the current crop of great "free" services.

As GOS the "Unofficial news and tips about Google" blog recently noted in a post about Google Page Creator closing:
This year, Google discontinued a lot of services: Browser Sync, Hello, Send to SMS and Send to Phone extension.
So, how safe are free services? The provider can drop or change them at any time. Don't rely on them! Use a free online file conversion tool, if you need to convert a few files in a hurry, but not if you convert files regularly. Use a free video sharing tool, to share video freely ( seems the best at hosting, but YouTube draws more of an audience) but if reliability matters to you, do make sure you have a backup plan!

Free is fun, but it is also vulnerable. Google is great - as a search engine (though even there one shudders to recognise the power they wield) but not to be trusted with your website!

Labels: , ,

Friday, August 15, 2008
  Penitent leopard!
Kevin (Bluecord) has an entertaining post about the Acts of Philip The Penitent Leopard, he writes:
I was editing an article yesterday on the Acts of Philip, a 4th-5th century apocryphal work about the Apostle Philip. As I read it, I came across a line where the author says that Philip "converses with a penitent leopard." It made me giggle, because obviously the author meant to say that Philip was talking with a penitent leper. Of course, the spell checker wouldn’t catch this, because both "leopard" and "leper" are valid words.
The punch-line, however, is that the penitent leopard is indeed in the Acts. The said leopard was sorry she had attacked a goat (Acts Phil. 96–101). Thank goodness Kevin is a really professional editor and checked, otherwise the article would have puzzled Acts of Philip specialists ;-)

But, what a cool name for a blog - "Penitent Leopard"! Way cooler than Lingamish's hippo ;-)


Thursday, August 14, 2008
  e-Sword screencast
Here's a quick screencast I did to show students how to use e-Sword like an English/Hebrew concordance to see how a word is used - in this case עֵ֖זֶר in Gen 2:18.


Friday, August 08, 2008
I've just joined a frivolous Facebook group 888,888 Members by 08/08/08! My reason for joining was anything but frivolous though, today - or tomorrow for those living in less (chronologically) advanced countries - is the 20th anniversary of the 8888 Uprising, when a bunch of unarmed students looked set to topple the brutal dictator in Burma.

A couple of years later
, in 1990, despite brutal repression Aung San Suu Kyi and her party won the general election - would you vote for peace when a soldier with a gun was urging you to vote for the generals?

Burma is still ruled by a junta who do not care at all for the people, but only for their own pleasure and power. Remember how they responded to the cyclone in May?

So, join the 08/08/08 group, make today the day you pray, and speak for Burma. At least watch some YouTube...

PS, if you want to do a little more you could pray for Burma during the time of the anniversary of the uprising, I'll be posting suggested topics and other resources on another blog the first suggestion, for today 08/08/08/ is there now.


Thursday, August 07, 2008
  Nice name
Deirdre, who is determined to be no sausage, posted about a product with a nice name Ear Bible I had not heard of this before, but it is also a nice idea, a whole audio Bible on a player.

However, like Deirdre I be pushing pause a lot, the translation they chose for Ear Bible (the NASB) is far from ideal for hearing. It is a deliberately "formal equivalence" translation, which means that it is only just English. For regular speakers of Biblish it is fine, but for our primary target group when we started PodBible, it is far from ideal. We imagined people who did not grow up with the KJV, don't speak Biblish, are not used to sitting down to "study a book" for such people (most of us today ;) the NASB is not the audio Bible of choice.

We chose the Contemporary English Version, a Bible intended and translated to be read aloud, an audio Bible translation. So compare a sample passage in each version and imagine which would be easier to hear:
Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. [NASB]
God has also given each of us different gifts to use. If we can prophesy, we should do it according to the amount of faith we have. If we can serve others, we should serve. If we can teach, we should teach. If we can encourage others, we should encourage them. If we can give, we should be generous. If we are leaders, we should do our best. If we are good to others, we should do it cheerfully. [CEV]
Don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking the NASB, just suggesting it is not the best translation choice for an audio Bible. So if you want a Bible for your ears, an easy to listen to audio Bible give PodBible a try... and while you are at it how about becoming a fan of PodBible: every one's audio Bible on Facebook!

Labels: ,

  Website backup and restore
You'd think it would be easy, all I wanted to do was backup my website, by downloading it to my PC, and then be able to restore it again. First I asked a friendly guru. We got it working, though it required a bit of fiddling and two different programs. Then my laptop died...

This time I thought I'll use the power of Google. I searched for various terms "website backup and restore", "reviews website backup and restore", "magazine reviews website backup and restore" and the like. I found and installed trial or free versions of dozens (well actually nearer to half a dozen) programs. None worked well. Some backed up fine, but could not restore. Some did both, but only to the same FTP site, so no use if I have to change hosts. Some seemed to have difficulties with my system and kept hanging up...

So, does anyone have a suggestion of a Windows program that makes backing up and restoring a website:
  • simple: don't tell me about Chegwin and the rest of them, twenty years ago I wrote mean batch files, but I have no desire now at 60 to start that learning curve againworks to do incremental backups
  • will restore to another FTP site
  • costs less than US$60
Then please let me know!

One batch file was really mean, we snuck it into a colleague's autoexec.bat without him noticing, on bootup on April 1st it ran another file, his screen fell to bits, characters dropping and gradualy the screen went blank, for one minute nothing worked, then a new screen appeared, like the WordPerfect 5.1 startup, except it said: "a pirate copy of WordPerfect has been detected on this computer, contact the WordPerfect corporation, do not touch any key, do not switch the computer off" since the poor guy was in the middle of Africa this was difficult ;) when eventually heart in mouth he pulled the plug at the wall (nothing else not even CTRL-ALT-Delete did anything we'd piped the console to NUL) his DOS prompt now read "C: Never mind Richard WE love you!" [return]

Labels: ,

Wednesday, August 06, 2008
  PodBible audio Bible on FaceBook
Wayne (really is an early adopter ;) I'd hardly started to promote the FaceBook page I'm making for PodBible, than he had a post "PodBible on Facebook".

Basically the idea is to enable/encourage people to:
  • listen to the Bible
  • share things that they have thought, prayed or done as a result of listening
  • encourage each other to respond to the biblical chapters they hear
To join in just go to the PodBible everyone's audio Bible page and click "become a fan".

If you are a FaceBook guru I'd be very glad of suggestions on how to make this "work" better. If you are a keen Bible listener, then do add some stories to the page!

Labels: , ,

  I've seen the future...
Well, maybe... this Aurora concept video presents one possible future user experience for the Web, it was created by Adaptive Path as part of the Mozilla Labs concept browser series.

The video dramatises new ways we could interact with the future Web these ideas are "based on projected technological trends and real-world scenarios."

It also illustrates how strong the "Apple is cool" meme is right now ;) But do I really want one of those annoying "wheel" things, or is this one time when reinventing the wheel is a bad idea? Reactions on the LifeHacker blog (HT) to the 3d cluster arrangement were very mixed, so I suspect that this is something us kinesthetic/visual learners may love, but some other people will hate. I wonder if in ten years time we'll be able to get more choice in how the interface works?

I will agree with one LH commenter, it would drive me NUTS if the computer kept rearranging the icons without asking me, as the speaker seemed to suggest - that would me MS desktop at its worst behaved ;)


Tuesday, August 05, 2008
  Sansblogue scoops the BBC or serendipity
On Monday, 4th, at just after 9am NZ time I published my little post about flat-earthers Interesting questions Peter Kirk points out that at 11:03 GMT the BBC posted this: Do they really think the earth is flat?With a nice (faked?) picture.

Though not the one I am displaying thanks to Thomas Hawk - the BBC one had "copyright" wirtten all over it (metaphorically speaking)!


  On unconscious prejudice in assigning relative probability to biblical characters.
There has been, of course, the usual ballywho around the announcement that a bulla (seal impression) with the inscription "Belonging to Gedalyahu son of [P]ashhur" since a person of this name (provided as almost everyone does we accept the reading P for the patronymic) is mentioned in Jeremiah we are treated to the usual "this demonstrates the historical reliability of biblical narratives" and "this proves nothing" snarls. There have also been a couple of more interesting posts. Among them Claude Mariottini summarised his dictionary article on the five biblical Gedaliahs, and Chris and Duane added epigraphic Gedaliahs for a fuller picture (both conclude that the seal that made this bulla is indeed likely to have belonged to the person mentioned in Jeremiah.

What I found abnormally interesting though were some details from Duane's listing of the biblical Gedaliahs, I'll cite the relevant section (bold highlighting added):
  1. 2 Kings: 25:22-26: Gedalyahu son of Ahikam, exilic governor of Judah under Nebuchadnezzar. He didn't last long.
  2. I Chronicles 25:3: Gedalyahu, a prophetic musician said to be from the time of David
  3. Ezra 10:18: Gedalyahu, a postexilic priest married to a foreign
    woman. He had to send her away and provide a guilt offering. Can't have
    any of that marriage to a foreign woman stuff, at least not at that
  4. Jeremiah 38:1-6: Gedalyahu son of Pashhur, an official of King
    Zedekiah, who along with other officials, thought someone should kill
    Jeremiah because he was demoralizing the troops. Can't have any of that
    demoralizing of troops stuff going on. Oh, no, I forgot Jeremiah was a
    good guy, a prophet of God. A eunuch Cushite finally rescued Jeremiah
    but not before Jeremiah did some quality time in a royal cistern.
  5. Zephaniah 1:1: Gedalyahu son of Amariah, grandson of King Hezekiah
    and grandfather of Zephaniah, or so it says Zephaniah. Being in a royal
    line is always a good thing.
There is evidently an informal, and unacknowledged hierarchy of probability at work here. The Gedaliah from David's time is merely "said to be" - so biblical texts telling earlier events are less likely to be accurate. The semi-royal is also dubious - claims to distinction render a character less plausible. (Actually on this Gedaliah I am not sure whether Duane is dubious of his existence or merely that he was Zephaniah's grandad, but somehow his royal connection renders him a doubtful character ;)

But the other Gedaliahs all squeak in, some of them I suspect simply because they had already provided a nice opportunity for humor.

Similar (usually partly unconscious) prejudice operates in most assessments of the likelihood of the existence of biblical characters in more serious writings. With maximalists more likely to doubt "minor characters" and minimalists more likely to doubt religiously significant ones perhaps ;-)


Monday, August 04, 2008
  Interesting questions
The image of Domitian's coin, mentioned
below, comes from Wikimedia.
One of the real benefits of teaching is the questions students ask. Recently one exposed my shameful forgetfulness of what I once knew about the history of science :(

The question ran something like this:
The emperor Domitian had a coin made to celebrate his son's divinisation showing the boy sitting on a globe - presumably representing the earth, with 7 stars around him.

The Romans like other ancients believed the Earth to be flat.

Why was a globe used?
Of course, the image is typical of a tradition of picturing gods seated on globes, see for example the coin representing Victory seated on a globe (from the page on coins from the time of Nero from the Classics Dept. at Monmouth College).

The Romans regularly used "orbis", a circle, ring, or disk, in the phrase orbis terrae, terrarum "the circle of the world" to mean the whole earth.

For of course, as I had forgotten, and the student did not know, the story which claims that before Columbus people "all" believed that the Earth was flat is simply a myth.

A Greek, Eratosthenes (c 276 to 195 BCE) estimated the Earth's circumference by getting measurements taken of the Sun's position in the sky at two different places Syene (now Aswan, Egypt) and Alexandria which is directly north of Syene. From the difference (and assuming that the Sun is so far away that light is parallel in the two places) he got a value close to the current measurements. (There is a good well documented presentation of this and the whole history of the "flat earthers" on Donald Simanek's site.)

Most early Christians, in the Roman empire, largely following Aristotle, accepted that the earth was round. Though at least Tertullian and others argued that the Bible spoke of it having four "corners" etc. so it must be flat.

So it is no surprise that Roman coins pictured the globe as round, that was the majority view among educated people at the time! And indeed continued to be, though perhaps not for much longer if the "Creation Scientists" have their way and require us all to use Scripture in ways that were never intended to teach us "science".

Labels: ,

Sunday, August 03, 2008
  Biblical Studies Carnival
The latest Biblical Studies Carnival is online, on time, and spot on. Though in three (3) parts, suggesting that the talk of splitting to carnival into two posts a month may not be a dumb idea. John, the Trekkie, Hobbins does the comprehensive, balanced and serious job you'd expect in:
Now, for the (im)patient Biblical Studies Carnival XXXIII (is that a round number?) is scheduled to appear at Michael Halcomb’s.

Labels: ,

SEARCH Tim's sites
Posts listed by topic
My academic CV

Write to Tim

January 2004 / February 2004 / March 2004 / May 2004 / June 2004 / July 2004 / August 2004 / September 2004 / October 2004 / November 2004 / December 2004 / January 2005 / February 2005 / March 2005 / April 2005 / May 2005 / June 2005 / July 2005 / August 2005 / September 2005 / October 2005 / November 2005 / December 2005 / January 2006 / February 2006 / March 2006 / April 2006 / May 2006 / June 2006 / July 2006 / August 2006 / September 2006 / October 2006 / November 2006 / December 2006 / January 2007 / February 2007 / March 2007 / April 2007 / May 2007 / June 2007 / July 2007 / August 2007 / September 2007 / October 2007 / November 2007 / December 2007 / January 2008 / February 2008 / March 2008 / April 2008 / May 2008 / June 2008 / July 2008 / August 2008 / September 2008 / October 2008 / November 2008 / December 2008 / January 2009 / February 2009 / March 2009 / April 2009 / May 2009 / June 2009 / July 2009 / August 2009 / September 2009 / October 2009 / November 2009 / December 2009 / January 2010 / February 2010 / March 2010 /

biblical studies blogs:

other theology/church blogs:


Powered by Blogger

Technorati Profile

Yellow Pages for Auckland, New Zealand