Thursday, October 30, 2008
  New Testament help needed
For a paper I am writing I need some expert help from someone who has studied the NT more recently than I. Perhaps one of you can assist me. I need to do a lexeme search of the Greek NT text restricting my search to:
  • Material common to Matthew and Luke
  • Material special to Luke
  • Material special to Matthew
I have access to Bibleworks and Logos. Is there any way to do this, or does Z Hubert or someone else facilitate such a search online?

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Monday, October 27, 2008
  Vernacular resources: watering the desert of books II
I'm just back from a long weekend away, and teaching tomorrow, so before I respond specifically to comments on the post below, I'll respond to some of the frequently asked questions in other conversations about the idea.

Won't the translations be inaccurate?

Oh yes! But this is part of the attraction of the project, as well as being rendered in the mother tongue the out of copyright texts are also adapted (a little more than is usual in a translation – for all translations are also to some extent cultural adaptations) this makes them more useful. But it may mean that some sort of peer review process should be built in, to ensure that undesirable errors do not creep in. I doubt this needs to be formalised. Since the new “text” is semi-oral and since semi-oral cultures have a flexibility to adapt their texts, the pastor would rework and improve any chapter that their colleagues question.

How will we ensure that busy senior pastors actually find time to do the translating?

First, not a lot of time is needed, just read a chapter, then reread it a paragraph at a time and speak it in their mother tongue. Say two hours for a chapter, once they have done a couple during a training day, and done the first few more slowly on their own. Second, the laptop itself is a carrot. It stays under their authority as long as they produce an agreed number of chapters – becoming their possession after an agreed period. Third, the fact that they are producing this resource is a source of honour (mana etc.) and the fact that it is in their voice will also add to their authority in other things.

Senior pastors won't be able to master the unfamiliar technology!

How many senior pastors do you know who do not have children (and/or grandchildren, nieces, nephews...) in their household. How much training do you think those guys will need? But it is true not all will be able or willing to support the project. Many useful medicines cannot be tolerated by some patients, Penicillin is a well-known example, this does not stop their use among the rest of the population!

Sometimes you have to really hunt for that mobile phone signal.
Photo by MikeBlyth

There will be a lot of new technology to break down and support!

Not a lot. Most of the distribution can be to existing mobile phones or MP3 players. So, for each district you are looking at one laptop (the OLPCs are designed to be rugged and if they are becoming the possession of the families there is an interest in protecting them) and perhaps several MP3 players (they are also very rugged and now quite cheap <$20 retail). You would naturally use the laptop model that is that is chosen for the national education system, or one for which support should be available. And anyway, how much does it cost under the old print system to get books to pastors? And they are culturally inappropriate books, in foreign languages!

This scheme gives the power to the local church!

Yes! Great isn't it :) Print allowed foreign missions, missionaries and ministries to produce “great” resources for the poor people people of the land. This way they get assisted to produce resources for themselves. If they start out doing Matthew Henry in Kisangali, how long do you think it will take before some pastors also produce their own “texts” dealing with locally raised issues? Where has print ever achieved that degree of localisation?

This scheme will reduce the motivation for literacy in places with low literacy rates :(

First, get your priorities right! What are you about? Helping people become clones of the West? Or deepening their understanding? Second, if you think this little project will have a bigger impact than radio, TV and mobile phones you have a higher view of its potential than I have ;) Literacy as we have known it for 500 years is under threat, but this project will not contribute much to the change, though it does work with it rather than resist... “Literacy” and “books” are not idols to be worshiped but a technology and skill that are no longer as dominant as they once were – do not make the dominant technology of the past a fetish object!

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Friday, October 24, 2008
  Watering the "Desert of Books"
Following on from my previous post The "book" of the future Theologians Without Borders has converted a comment to a stimulating post in Transferring Knowledge in a Desert of Books Jennifer Turner puts the experience of teaching in Africa where "libraries were very sparse, due both to shortage of funds and lack of materials in the local language" with the sight of an OLPC laptop, to generate the dream that we might "skip to the next generation of knowledge transfer" by putting a library on such a machine for village pastors.

How about we put these two posts together, and then tweak the results a bit?

At selected centres (like theological colleges) someone provides a laptop stacked with out of copyright or e-texts for which permission had been given. Senior pastors with a good command of the "imperial" language (English, French or whatever) then read selected works a paragraph at a time into the built-in microphone, translating into their mother tongue as they go. It would not be an accurate translation, and it might well include explanation, but that would just make it more useful!

It is in the senior pastors' interest to help, because they get to base a laptop at their home (their kids will nag them into it) and the churches they are responsible for will respect them even more.

These audio books get loaded onto mobile phones (or MP3 players) for village pastors and others. The result semi-literate (and lets face it in much of the world village pastors are often either semi-literate or less than fluently literate) pastors get real solid stimulus and information for a fraction of the cost of print.

It is in the village pastors' interest to listen because they will seem better educated, without all the hassle and risk to their status involved in moving from partial to full literacy.

Do the maths! For a district with say 20 local churches:
  • cost of one laptop, loaded with "books" $250
  • plus 20 MP3 players @ $30 = $600
Round it up to allow for labour $1,000. This provides all the pastoral workers and anyone else who is interested with all you can eat access to all the "books" on the laptop for (say, on average) five years. Compare this with printing "real" books, the same money probably buys 100 paper books!

All we need are:
  • enough people to catch the vision
  • publishers of texts like the Africa Bible Commentary to be willing to see their print editions reach extended twenty-fold
  • people to "sell" the idea to senior pastors
  • a bunch of Western agencies to give up their fetish for print!
Which of the above bottlenecks do you think will scupper this vision? Or can you see other problems with it?

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Thursday, October 23, 2008
  The "book" of the future
The IFbook blog is often stimulating, send one of the contributors to India, and give them a massive tome on 60 Years of Book Publishing in India and you are practically guaranteed that the resulting post a leap into the post-industrial will provide food for thought.

Two extracts, a thought from the BBC and then my comment:
As you might expect, book publishing in India is enormously complex: 80,000 books are published a year by 16,000 different publishers in India's 22 major languages. Translation happens between Indian languages and to and from non-Indian languages. Piracy is a major issue: a number of contributors bemoan the fact that anything published in Bengali is immediately pirated in Bangladesh (and shortly thereafter on sale in the shops of my neighborhood in Queens).
Mohini Rao in one of the articles in the book mentioned above wrote
We are facing the post-literacy problems even before achieving complete literacy. We are coping with the information revolution even as we struggle with pre-industrial problems. . . . According to the report of the committee on TV software, '. . . Electronic media like the radio and TV have the potential of transcending the literacy barrier and therefore also the class barrier.' TV has made it possible for the non-literate masses to have access to information, and consequently, to the fruits of development without first crossing the literacy barrier. People belonging to the pre-industrial era can take a leap into the post-industrial era without passing through the stages through which the West had to pass.
I listen to the (also often stimulating) Digital Planet podcasts (I believe they are also broadcast) from the BBC world service. While in Brazil (another huge and rapidly developing economy and culture) the presenter visited a radio station whose playlists are chosen by listeners.

So, here's my comment in the IFbook blog:

So, the current "book" for many Indians is the TV or VCD (or perhaps DVD) and/or radio.

If India's mobile phone usage is anything like that in neighbouring
Sri Lanka then a medium that combines radio (or TV) broadcast and
mobile phone (adding either reply or two way communication will further
extend this "book"...

BBC World's "Digital Planet" had an interesting (but very short)
item on a radio station in Brazil which allows its listeners to create
the playlist, that strikes me as modeling the future. Talkback 2.0 ;)

What do you think? Is Talkback 2.0 (or something like it) the new "book"?

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Monday, October 20, 2008
  PodBible promo: the lively one
Here's the one I prefer... same photo credits: Photos by freecultureNYU, biblicone, kretyen, Edward B.,, terren in Virginia, Alan Joyce, liewcf, GeoWombats, Wonderlane, knowhimonline, the bright and morning star, nexus6

Update: In view of David's comments below I got an account at Animoto, and have tinkered with the video here are links to the improved version:

  PodBible promo
Having seen David's promo video I've been playing with Animoto. Since in email conversation with David we determined that I have an unusually short attention span here first is the quiet slow version...

To put this video on your webpage or blog use this code:

<script type="text/javascript" src=""></script>

The photos are all from Flickr with CC licenses, here are the credits:

Photos by freecultureNYU, biblicone, kretyen, Edward B.,, terren in Virginia, Alan Joyce, liewcf, GeoWombats, Wonderlane, knowhimonline, the bright and morning star, nexus6

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008
  Elections and Poverty
NZ is in the middle of a General Election - though we sometimes forget, especially online, because of all the fuss about dirty tricks and slanging matches overseas where some characters called Michael Palin and Barak O'Bama (a British comedian and an Irish-Arab terrorist) are competing to rule the richest nation on earth.

It is instructive on this Blog Action Day (or should I use the TLA which is BAD?) with its theme of "poverty, to notice how often providing a decent chance in life for the poor crops up in the candidates' and leaders' speeches. It does not matter whether the poor are local or foreign, the frequency count so far is the same - zero.

That's right I have not heard a single reference to giving a chance to those whom birth or circumstances have pushed down, though once or twice there have been references to protecting those with savings in the bank, and everyone is determinded to bid for the students vote, and law and order get ritual mentions... Many of the issues on which the politicians proclaim proud policy are important, a few are really important, not least the question of trust ;) But so far none of them have addressed poverty - it seems to have replaced sex in NZ as a topic one does not mention in polite company ;)


  Exam technique
It's almost the exam season down here, so here are links to my series on Exam technique for anyone who is interested ;)

Photo Jack Hynes

An exam is like a military campaign, first comes the strategy, so the first post deals with how to plan your campaignHow to pass exams: Part One: Revision it covers issues like selecting topics to revise and preparing notes (rather than just writing down everything). Working with others is an important way to focus and sharpen your revision (by collaborating you get more bang for your buck, or more % for your hours) so take a quick look at How to pass exams: Part Two: Collaborative Revision and then even if you are not naturally sociable get working in a team and talking to others with the same exam as you.

You won't need it now, but as the "big day" gets nearer you might want to read up on how to best prepare and actually site the exam ;) that's covered in: How to sit exams

I'd say "Good luck!" except as the advert said (before Banks had other things to worry about than annoying us with adverts) "Luck has nothing (or at least as little as you can arrange) to do with it!"

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Friday, October 10, 2008
  Cyber Psalms and the vocal Psalterium
David has finished 50 of his cyber psalms, and since his new job allows so little scope for imagination and fun, he has decided to produce a "Psalterium Cyberium:" which will "Illuminate the cyber-psalter".

He's invited the arty to produce art to create "an illustrated manuscript for the 21st century." He is also inviting us to read a cyber psalm for an audio version - and if I can persuade him potentially multi-media version(s). I'm also trying to persuade him to put the text into the public domain, so we could run the audio project on Librivox ;) He plans to put the whole thing online and also sell print copies...

If you are thinking of recording an audio psalm for Psalterium Cyberium please do spare some thought to the equipment you'll use, it can make a huge difference. To illustrate here are two versions of Cyber Psalm 11 recorded on:
To illustrate the importance of the sound card, here is one done on my old laptop (that had a good sound card built in) using the same headset mic:

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Thursday, October 09, 2008
  Fun with footnotes
The NZ Journal of History style guide is mandated for essays in the History department at the University of Auckland. An excellent student [declaration of interest: she is my daughter, <brag>her brother not long ago got first class honours from the same department </brag>] and I cannot make sense of one section. It reads:
Print all page numbers up to and including 99 in full, e.g. 16–18, 94–99; for 100 and upwards use the least number of figures, e.g. 322–30, 522–3; but write 116–18, not 116–8; 210–11, not 210–1 (where confusion might otherwise arise).
Now most of this makes perfect sense, "Print all page numbers up to and including 99 in full, e.g. 16–18, 94–99" gotcha "for 100 and upwards use the least number of figures, e.g. 322–30, 522–3;" gotcha, "but write 116–18, not 116–8; 210–11, not 210–1 (where confusion might otherwise arise)" UH? What confusion might arise if I wrote 116-8? because from their own previous example if it was 116-128 I would have written 116-28.

Now I admit the bright student and I are mathematically or scientifically minded, not really arty types, but where pray NZJH is your confusion?

If you are an arty type and can explain the cases to us so we can understand we'd be delighted :)

[Incidentally anyone who thinks footnotes and bibliography are not really fun should watch this short video ;) ]

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  Superb photos of a beautiful place
Mike Crudge has walked the Abel Tasman track, one of NZ's most stunning natural beauties, every year since he was a mere child. Every year he takes friends along. Every year I wish I'd organised for us to go with him. Mike is also a very good photographer, and he has put some of the best of his Abel Tasman photos into a book, The Abel Tasman Coastal Track: The best bits of New Zealand the book has reproduced the photos superbly and it would make a nice present for anyone who has been there, or who might enjoy beautiful coastal scenery, NZ bush or unspoilt places.

I wish his website looked less "commercial" and I wish I could provide one of his photos here to show you how good they are. But to compensate for his uptight attitude to intellectual property Mike's book is thoroughly green, locally printed on paper made from sustainable forests ;)

Mike, if you give me permission, and I can choose a suitable photo, I'll do another post advertising the book in a week or two (even closer to Christmas).

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008
  Baptists [caught in a] on the web
The redoubtable Jim West has linked in "Baptists on the Web" to an article on Ethics Daily "Oh What a Baptist Web We Weave". It is an interesting article, focusing on the American Southern US Baptist History and Heritage Society which might seem to suggest that across the globe Baptists only exist in the USA. I point him to the Baptist World Alliance where hundreds of non-US (and some American ;) Baptists communities celebrate their common alliegance to the historic denomination. Jim is usually (for an American) an internationalist, so I post this gentle reminder to keep him honest ;)


  PopeBible II: .con
Below Richard, offers a clarification on what I'm calling the "real PopeBible".
Only the first and last hour of the marathon are on the normal TV channel of the state broadcaster. The rest is on one of the broadcaster's satellite channels, so not very accessible to Italians (although it can be watched live on Internet as well). This created quite a few complaints from Italians - I have had more comments on this fact than on any other on my blog. I don't believe there are only plans to distribute the video after the event. By the way, most of the readers are not celebrities, but "normal" people that signed up to read a chapter.
To me this just indicates the failure of traditional models of distribution to get to grips with the possibilities of electronic media.
Photo by sean dreilinger
forget baby photos in the wallet,
they've got kid videos on their cell phones
You have a great chance to distribute the Bible more widely and to engage more people in listening to the Bible, so what do you do? Lock it up so people have to pay for it - reducing the potential audience to a small fraction!

The failure is driven by the need to be commercial, and only advertising and porn make money on the Internet. With a different model - in this case one that the Bible societies (I include many organisations with somewhat different names under this blanket heading hence the small S) have been doing for years - you could harness the possibilities of the electronic medium and maximise distribution. Set the Bible free and unexpected people will hear... and hearing they might understand.

But how can they hear if the message is hidden away! "Broadcast" on a cable channel, or sold on DVDs is very narrow casting indeed ;) And in the world of Bible distribution, that is a con. People donate money to Bible societies to distribute the Bible, the means are available to do this almost infinitely more widely and freely than ever before. All that is needed is imagination and the willingness to take a small risk. Nike have the right slogan, just do it! Video a score of NZ celebrities reading Mark's gospel as a serial story, then set the video free, you can even sell DVDs to recoup some of the costs, and watch the fun!

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Tuesday, October 07, 2008
Photo from CNN
Have you seen this? Pope begins Bible-reading marathon

What a neat way to use the pope's star status!

I could not help wondering what would happen if BibleSoc and the Scripture Union's Christians in sport group (and a few others) got together and got NZ celebrities to read a gospel. It might not get on free to air TV here, but it could be cheap (by TV standards) to make, at least if the celebs volunteered their time. It could also go on DVD and YouTube so get wide distribution. Even with some imagination, become a serial story, stopping at exciting places and distributed by mobile phone as well as the other routes.

What a way to get Kiwis in touch with the Bible! And the cumulative impact of a whole bunch of celebs could really help make faith cool. Each of them would only have to give an hour or so of their time...

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Saturday, October 04, 2008
  Cafe Trends

Not where you'd expect, in the Ellerslie main drag but over the motorway almost in the office parks of Penrose, Cafe Trends is easy to miss, who knows how many times I've driven past without spotting it? But to miss it would be a pity, the food offers a standard cafe menu with few surprises - except the price, which is not high - but the quality is good. Barbara chose perhaps the "most surprising" item a breakfast burritto with bacon, egg, potato and other goodies burritto wrapped and by all reports delicious. I had the mushrooms, lashings of creamy sauce (I am picky, I'd have preferred a higher mushroom to cream ratio ;) and delicious smoked bacon.

The coffee was good to very good
The food was very good
Overall excellent

Cafe Trends
49 Main Highway

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  Scholarship is not "free" but it should be open
Way back in July (in the depths of my winter) Charles posted on the topic of the cost of scholarship. Since then I have been intending to reply ;)

In Is Scholarship Really Free? Charles argued that:
  • it is good when scholarship is freely available:
    I really love the fact that so much academic material is now distributed free of charge: the Oriental Institute is offering their treasure-trove of publications gratis, lectures on every conceivable topic from thermodynamics to Thermopylae are available on institutional sites as well as iTunes U, free online journals have arisen, and individual scholars are putting their work on their websites.
  • even such scholarship however is not really "free", since someone paid for it, he groups the patrons of scholarship (or rather its production and publication) as:
    • institutions that can use "scholarship" as advertising - here he lists teaching resources
    • institutions that employ scholars to research - if degree level teaching is "research led" should not all institutions employing scholars be employing them to research?
    • individual scholars - working for love
    • publishers - who pay for proofing and other editorial work
  • distribution costs(e.g. printing or hosting) need to be paid for
Thus far it seems to me to be good common sense. Scholarship is not free, nor is its distribution.

Though, Charles writes about scholarship in general, I'll distinguish between the research and teaching components. In this post I'll focus on research, since I have different things to say I'll do another post on teaching.

Scholarship is not free, nor is its distribution.

But institutions pay for its production either because that is what they have been given money to do, or in order to gain "profile". I'd add that (at least in places influenced by the European tradition) they also sponsor scholarship in order to retain the right to teach degrees. And sometimes individuals contribute out of love for the subject, as they have always done. Scholarship that is "paid for" in some other way, like medical research whose patron is a drug company, is suspect as it has sold its impartiality.  Scholarship which is driven by the royalties from book sales is NOT scholarship and is not worth reading ;)

Distribution costs. Traditionally scholarship was nevertheless made open through the existence of libraries which opened their doors to unattached scholars as well as to institution members, sometimes there was a small fee but this did not often bar anyone with an interest from access. Today with electronic distribution those costs are negligible Charles asks: "who’s going to host the publications and pay for bandwith" since the costs are now very low. My host copes with 60GB a month data transfer, which since "scholarly publication" is usually words with some pictures is quite a lot of scholarship ;) for US$100 per year which includes a domain name. That equates to over 2,000,000 scholarly books for $100 or 0.000000108 US cents per book. (Yes I know in reality the labour involved maintaining the site costs far more than the hosting, so let's multiply the figure above by 1000 making a whopping 0.000108 US cents per monograph.)

That leaves editing. Traditionally much editing of scholarly work has been done by volunteers, e.g. those who edit journals for the kudos not the cash. That is becoming less workable and has never worked for larger projects, like monographs. The open access movement began with research grants and institutions paying for this, but why not in each developed country a tiny proportion of the research budget gets spent on providing editing services to peer reviewed publications. It is after all in the national interest, in dozens of ways, to be seen to sponsor such work! (It would also be in the national interest to sponsor good work from scholars in other countries ;)

My conclusion is the direct opposite of Charles'. Research publication should be freely accessible, except where such "research" has been bought by the military, by drug companies... and then it should NOT be considered a scholarly but a commercial activity, and so not eligible for tenure, promotion or other scholarly uses ;)

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Friday, October 03, 2008
  e-Waste in NZ
If you live in NZ and have e-Waste - old computers, monitors, mobile phones etc. - don't let it pollute the landfill, check the details and take it to e eDay 2008 on Saturday at a location (fairly) near you. (HT to Stephen once again for this really useful info.)

Thursday, October 02, 2008
  The Bible as canonical meaning machine
Claude pointed to a small version of this superb visualisation by Chris Harrison, Carnegie Mellon University; Christoph Romhild, North Elbian Evangelical Lutheran Church/Science:

I wanted to see and know more, the report did not give enough details, and the image was too small to see the real beauty. So I chased down (hunting in the Boscogoogle) Chris Harrison's homepage. He gives more info, and much bigger images. There you can see the full beauty of this visualisation, and catch a glimpse of how the Bible functions as a canonical meaning machine. As I read the rather vague description the "cross references" are not diachronic allusions or quotations, but rather the sort of connection real readers synchronically make (see the discussions of "intertextuality" in the bibliablogsphere captured in the Carnival or start here Intertextuality: Part 3 and work back).


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Wednesday, October 01, 2008
  Request for help: Coventry Cathedral
Does anyone reading this know someone on the staff or otherwise connected to Coventry Cathedral, UK? One of my colleagues needs to make contact with someone there in connection with a book he is writing, and the website contacts do not seem to be working...

If you can help him make contact please email me tim(aT)


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