Saturday, December 27, 2008
Tim will probably not be posting (much?) over the next couple of weeks, it is the summer holidays, and holidays :) means no Internet :( ?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008
  Gen 6:1ff. yet again
Several bloggers have spotted and amended (maybe an amended version of the amendment will return one day) Scott Bailey's Genesis 6:1-6 (SBV) in the light of the interest this passage is eliciting, and to return the discussion to the biblical text, do please listen to this MP3 reading of the passage. I think this reading has been very well planned and executed to capture the meaning (or at least what seems to many the most likely meaning) of this notoriously difficult passage.
What do you make of it?

[The MP3 was produced by a husband and wife team, and together with a very good essay explaining and justifying the performance it was submitted for the last assignment in the Genesis class I taught recently. I shared some of the thinking behind this assessment on Theologians without borders.]

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  Thinking about technology
Some authors build for themselves such dominant reputations that they become one-man brands - the names that require no qualification. So in discussion of Christian issues "Barth" (unless qualified by a forename) means Karl-author-of-Romans-and-Church-Dogmatics.

Some authors achieve this status because their thinking is so clear, and their communication so straight and clear that one must either agree or disagree with them - they polarise. [Some of us are so good at seeing every facet of an issue that following our thought is like walking through untracked forest, a series of tiny decisions,rather than one momentous one...] Lewis earned his "brand" that way, and so has Carson.
Photo of DA Carson by jrgordon13
At least in Carson's case his forthright clarity means people usually either love or hate him - and in recent years his pronouncements on "emergent" have earned him much hate. But, whatever you think of Carson the (one-man) brand, he has written a superb editorial for Themelios.

He addresses a Christian approach to technology, and begins (predictaby) with Rom 12:2 and (also predictably?) 2 Cor 10:5. He states that "the most dangerous movements in any age are those that are so widely assumed that it is very hard to see them" supporting his case with reference to history, though any cross-cultural worker will be as aware that today's assumptions by Western Christians look very different in most of the world.

[The geographical difference in assumptions is well illustrated by an example a colleague uses of German and American "Christian Brethren" women meeting - the Americans were shocked that the Germans drank and the Germans felt that the Americans looked like whores with their makeup ;) ]

After an interesting, though to readers of this blog unsurprising, rehearsal of some features of current digital techno-culture he concludes:
We need to hear competing voices of information from the world around us, use our time in the digital world wisely, and learn to shut that world down when it becomes more important to get up in the morning and answer emails than it does to get up and read the Bible and pray. We may also learn much from church history, where we observe fellow believers in other times and cultures learning the shape of faithfulness. We begin to detect how easily the "world" may squeeze us into its mold. We soon learn that adequate response is more than mere mental resolve, mere disciplined observance of the principle "garbage in, garbage out" (after all, we are what we think), though it is not less than that. The gospel is the power of God issuing in salvation. Empowered by the Holy Spirit and living in the shadow of the cross and resurrection, we find ourselves wanting to be conformed to the Lord Jesus, wanting to be as holy and as wise as pardoned sinners can be this side of the consummation.
Do read the whole editorial (HTML or PDF), and since Themelios does not have a comment feature (how I wish the church, and especially Evangelical Christians, would recognise that openness and discussion are healthy and not persist in old authoritarian modes of discourse) you are welcome to post any short responses

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Thursday, December 18, 2008
  Learning Jonah
Next year I'm teaching Biblical Narrative, and with the Hebrew option students I'll be focusing on Jonah and Ruth. I have been playing with a new software toy. It allows me to create a system where the student can play Jonah in Hebrew with the written text following along in both Hebrew and English phrase by phrase. Here's a video of a sample:

As well as playing continuously a student can step through, or jump around just clicking on the phrase they want to hear:

Neat! Fred, the programmer who is preparing the program has just released a new version, but is not sure it can handle RTL languages with strange scripts. See

  NT Greek music videos and publication
Danny has published another NT Greek music video this time the catchy title is "Present Active Indicative Song". I don't teach Greek, heck I don't even get to teach Hebrew any more, though I still have an interest in Hebrew teaching, but such resources are really useful.

After making this video available to the world and her uncle (if she lets her uncle share her Internet connection, as most of the world [outside Western culture] does [and even inside Western culture close family are usually allowed the odd share]), Danny then ponders the future: "as I am trying to ultimately get them published, I’m not sure how many more to share freely online :-)".
So, let's get this clear, in 21st century biblical studies making something available to almost anyone who wants it is NOT publication. Publication involves somehow controlling access to the resource so only people who pay can use it. That is a necessary, unavoidable (in the current situation) step to getting paid for your work, but what we habitually call publication is really privatization - making a work LESS public.

It is time we stopped calling a spade a "magic wand" and started calling it by the job it does - in this case the job "publishers" would perform for Danny is selling, not publishing.
Photo by teachandlearn
Now, selling is fine and necessary. Without some way to pay for work the "works" do not get produced - except in various amateur (for even when produced by highly trained people and even when those people are employed in the field unpaid work is "amateur") ways. But, "to sell" and "to publish" are two different terms with different meanings. It is high time we had a model for getting people payment for work consumed that allows them to really publish because currently all we have is a model that allows people to get paid for their work by rationning publication.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008
  Are "we" all addicts?
Frank has another fine post, on Humanitarian Chronicle, this time he points out how the impulse to spend is the sign of a deep-rooted addiction in Western culture. He began:
Allow me to make a confession - I have come to the realisation that I am an obsessive consumer. The sad thing is that in my world consuming is so normal, encouraged and needed for the survival of the economy in which I exist that I, like many other such addicts, have been mostly blind to my addictive compulsion. It’s placated so often without question that I’ve never been subject to the withdrawals and tendencies that drive my addiction to buy and consume.
Do you think, like his first commenter "I have always been a thrifty person myself so probably struggle a bit less."? I wonder, of the two most thrifty people I know round here, there is only one I do not suspect of suffering those moments that begin "with a thought - 'hmmmmm, I feel like a…' Presently I try to ignore that little thought."

So, how's your spending? Can you survive without feeding the consumption addiction? Or do you try to assuage the beast with a little purchase?

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  Naming the Roses
Top Countries
The World Names Profiler is a fun toy. First I found that New Zealand is now the most popular place in the world to be called Bulkeley, with the UK and USA offering very poor competition to get the silver and bronze spots. The map below also shows a creditable score for India, which given that the scores are in frequency per million may mean that there are more Bulkeleys in India than any other country!

It was also interesting to discover that, although in NZ as a whole names like Smith, Wilson, Brown, Williams, Taylor, Jones... filled the top ten, with only the possibly amgiguous Lee at number ten suggesting the non-Anglo-Saxon component of contemporary NZ, looking at Auckland City gives a very different picture with only half the top ten being Anglo names, and Patel, Lee and Wang all in the top five.

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  Nasty Suspicious Mind
I must be a suspicious person, according to Lifehacker only 4% of Internet users got all ten answers correct in the phishing quiz here.

I thought they were mainly easy to spot. I had most difficulty with the ones that were genuine ;) all my instincts screamed things like: "You don't have an account with them! Spam it!"

What do you think?

Have I got a nasty suspicious mind, or were these scams fairly easy to spot?


Tuesday, December 16, 2008
  Gospel and the Land of Promise
My colleague at Laidlaw Carey Graduate School (as our postgraduate consortium) is currently known) Phil Church is organising a one day colloquium on "Gospel and the Land of Promise" it is scheduled for 9th July 2009, and the call for papers is still open if you have a 20 minute presentation on this topic.

Phil writes:
The word for “land” is the fourth most common word in the Hebrew Bible, appearing several thousand times. On the other hand there are less than one hundred occurrences of the Greek word for “land” in the New Testament, and very few of these refer to the Land of Israel. The competing claims of the State of Israel and the Palestinian people to the “Land” depends in part on the biblical understanding of the notion of the Land of Promise, and calls for a biblical and theological response.
The keynote speaker is Dr Peter W.L. Walker (Tutor in New Testament & Biblical Theology) @ Wycliffe Hall, Oxford who "has written and lectured extensively on the questions of the Temple, the City of Jerusalem and the Land in the NT. He will give the keynote address and sum up at the end of the Day."

I suspect this is too far for those of you in the Northern Hemisphere to travel, though I am sure we could arrange hosting if you did ;)

PS: If any of you, especially any of you in the South Pacific region would like to post about this on your blogs you would not only make Phil happy (and so me happy) but you might help convince LCGS that it was time to uprgade their web presence now that we have entered the century of the Fruit Bat * ;)


Friday, December 12, 2008
  Stupidity and publication in biblical studies
Jim has a post in which he draws attention to a site which offers a back to front Hebrew text, while claiming to allow people to read the Bible "just as it was first written". The post title More Dilettantism will do nicely to reference Jim's post, as the subtitle mentions the site's name and I do not wish to encourage Google or others to visit it till the Hebrew text is represented readably.

The dillettant in question is a male, who from his description must be middle aged (at least) however Jim illustrates his "Biblical Studies Dilettante Award" with an image of a young girl. This is WRONG, if the stupidity was committed by a middle aged male use a picture of a stupid middle aged male. As it is Jim seems to be suggesting that young blonde women are typically stupid, my daughter is a young blonde, and I'd bet on her rather than Jim (or most other middle aged male bloggers) in an IQ test.
Photo: Bold and Stupid Men by runaway wind

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008
  Making a church website
Usually I agree with Mark's technological recommendations, and while sagely agreeing I envy his ability to play with so much cool technology ;)

But not today. In his post Tools for creating your own web site he assumes that "you" will learn to use an HTML editor to make your site. A dozen years ago that was necessary, not long before that we had to hand craft our code in a text editor, five or six years ago using Dreamweaver or a free HTML editor was still the norm. But not today. To make a church website, or a personal site, today just use Wordpress (or if you want to host it on your own domain use Wordpress). It is (fairly) easy to adapt, anyone can edit and update, and it is free. With widgets and such it is fairly easy to do pretty much anything...

I created a simple site for our small church and in just a month or two people are already beginning to write it themselves - and longer term it will facilitate discussion, something a static site will not achieve. The Wordpress "Sermon Plugin" enables complex sermon audio recording archiving, you can even use Wordpress as a mini-social networking site (your very own local Facebook ;)

So, sorry, don't use Kompozer it is so 90s, do the 21st century thing and make the site in Wordpress, or if you need something more complex a full blown CMS... If WP is too techie for you there are loads of online build it yourself sites there is no need for a time machine, really ;) there's even a design-your-own-Wordpress-theme tool for total beginners!

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  Christmas: In the deep mid-winter?
I've just received the latest mailing from Doug Greenwold of Preserving Bible Times (whose superb videos from a helicopter I enjoy using to show classes and church groups something of the layout of the land).
Photo by CharlesFred
Doug's "Contextual Reflections" emails often provide a neat reminder of the importance of geography or culture to reading between the lines of biblical texts. For this post I'll not focus on the main point of his Christmas message, they were largely not news to me, though could provide useful details for many a Christmas sermon. I'll mention a detail that's topical for us in the Southern Hemisphere, as we gear up for Christmas, singing carols about deep mid-winter and snow, while the weather, at last, starts to behave as if summer is on the way, and heaters get replaced by fans (or for the fortunate air conditioners ;)

The first Christmas was likely in summer!

Remember those shepherds "abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night"? Do you remember also Jesus' talk of sheepfolds (in John 10)? The habit, at least in areas near a village, was to pen sheep at night. So, why were the shepherds "keeping watch over their flock" "in the fields" at night? The peasant farmers round Bethlehem ("house of bread") would hardly want sheep trampling their fields of grain! (Few fields were fenced or walled in those parts.) However, after the harvest, things were different, sheep ate the stubble and, following digestion, their excretions fertilised the fields. At that season, sheep in the fields makes sense. Harvest would be in summertime. If there were sheep in the fields near Bethlehem at night then it seems likely that God ordained the first Christmas for summertime.
Christmas Eve by Frédérique in NZ
This is rather nice for complexed Southern Christians, who somehow feel that roaring fires, yule logs, snow and the rest of the traditional European festival are a necessary part of the season! (Barbara's choir just held their carol service, it is timed so that they can sing by candlelight at the close of the service ;)

[PS: Bite my Bible has a post claiming erroneous calculations by an Aussie astronomer are behind thoughts of a summer Christmas Jesus was a Gemini? they ask, while (by implication) answering "No!" - I think they are wrong Bite my Bible is too cautious by half ;) ]

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Monday, December 08, 2008
  East of West, and a Kitten not a Kerr
David's been taking lessons from Jim, his mega post The toppled ivory tower of Biblical studies and the rabble’s tower of babble that has risen in its place is full of Westian exaggeration and vituperation. "Rave on in the ruins of your ivory tower!" is about as gentle as it gets ;)
Dog and kitten by chadmiller
In the post he skewers the pretensions of the scholarly and calls for an engagement with the real world of Wikipedia and Study Bibles. The trouble is that the post nicely and neatly expands a false dichotomy. One must in Kerr's vision be either an ivory tower academic, or a Wikipedian Mega-pastor. West is little better, only the minimalist are blessed with all truth (however small that "all" may be) and anyone who lacks a fluent understanding of six ancient languages ought not dare discuss the Bible.

I am a kitten, not a Kerr. Without scholarship, where the careful and systematic study is lacking, all sorts of weird and wild ideas flourish (just look at the average American "Evangelical" website - or see the summaries offered by John Hobbins in The Poisoning of the Evangelical Mind: Antidotes or follow his links to the series of fundagelical posts by Michael Pahl). It may look as if we kittens are merely tangling balls of wool, but the tangling and untangling helps those who pay attention to avoid a worse tangling of the very ideas by which they live!
East - West by mollyali
I am east of West. For all his warmth, and erudition, Uncle Jim does exhibit a strangely un-Baptist elitism. If Zwingli stands with the proud, educated, rich and powerful, then I'll read my Bible in Babel with Thomas Muntzer and with that young cobbler the institution at which I teach is named after. As the Reformers pretty much all affirmed the Bible is "perspicuous" you do not need even a diploma, let alone a PhD toy understand what you need to know!

So - to David, I'll sound like Jim (scholarship is the governor which holds back our faith from the worst extremes of which it is capable) and to Jim, I'll sound like David (any biblical study which does not begin and end in the community of believers is vanity).

[Actually, I suspect that both my distant friends will agree with everything I've said above, except the bits that are rude about the other ;) But I do think it is really important, if dangerous and uncomfortable to stand firmly in the middle of this road!]
Photo by dlemieux

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Friday, December 05, 2008
  Metadata and the identity crisis in biblical studies

Shemot/Exodus 13:4-8 from a modern Mikraot Gedolot (Wikipedia)

The IFbook blog is back (again) with a typically stimulating post today of music & metadata. It presents two artworks that play with the concept of metadata:
Jace Clayton, who performs music as DJ /Rupture, has an elegant demonstration of this in the Silver Shed gallery in New York right now. A spindle attached to the wall of the gallery is full of CD-ROMs, free to visitors; if you take a CD home and stick it into your computer, you'll find that it contains all of Clayton's commercially available music - 130 MP3s, 550 Mb, six and a half hours of music. One catch: Clayton has destroyed all of the metadata for the tracks. Each file is named something like "DJ_Rupture.mp3" (you can't have 130 files with the same name, of course, so the punctuation varies). Track names, album information, dates have all been erased; if you dump the MP3s into iTunes, there's the artist's name but nothing else.

A photo of the Merneptah stele
(Cairo Museum) from Wikipedia

Without "metadata (except for track lengths). The music can be played - on shuffle, probably - but the listener can only guess what it might be. Something's missing."

On this view biblical studies is (almost) all about metadata. Whether one is a secular scholar, interested primarily in the history, culture or literature of the Ancient Levant, or a religious reader, interested primarily in the contemporary significance of an authoritative Scripture, it is the metadata which makes meaning.

In one case the primary set of metadata is historical: date, place of writing, author if known, other works from the same genre etc... in the other this set plays some part, but the primary metadata is the canon, whose other works provide a framework and context for reading, along with the tradition of interpreters and interpretations who have passed this canon on to us.

It is small wonder that "the guild" has such an identity crisis at present, we have moved from a situation where the religious readers were thoroughly dominant, through one where the "historians" (for want of a better term) have become dominant in the academy, but in which those willing to pay for our "product" (publications and teaching) are very predominantly still religious readers. Recognising the metadata that gives meaning to the texts, and the relative importance of different sets of such data, can help clarify this issue...

Tuesday, December 02, 2008
  Google comes down to earth, down under!
Having not yet ceased to marvel at the wonders of the satellite imagery in Google Earth, now at last Google Maps comes down to earth, in NZ (I know those of you in the North have had this for yonks), with Street View. The idea is cause to marvel. For some of us the result is more of a curate's egg. Here is the best result for our home on Street View:

Yes, we are the house behind the trees, down the drive, beside all the mailboxes, you can't miss us!

Well, that was not a lot of help... so here's the bach:

Again, we are the house behind the vegetation, but this time you can see a bit of us, and a great shot of the neighbour's car ;)

However, I've saved the best till last, here is Carey:

I'm not sure what Google's millions have bought us, but frankly I'll return to those beautiful and useful satellite shots. Street View is not getting a slot on my Bookmarks Toolbar :(

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