Wednesday, March 03, 2010
  Two new 5 Minute Bible podcasts
They should probably have been one 10 minute Bible podcast, but since the material does split quite nicely in two and since I called the site 5 Minute Bible ;) I have two new podcasts:


Tuesday, March 02, 2010
  Nice but nubbly!
I love reading stories aloud, and our kids are a bit beyond that now (just a bit, all being thoroughly adult), so I enjoy Librivox as a hobby. As well as the William book Barbara and I are (slowly) reading together: More William by Richmal Crompton I have started a version of the Just So Stories. LV already has more than one, but since I had made my readings of the book available online before LV started I felt it was not unfair to do a LV version now.

If you'd like to see what it sounds like the first story: How the Whale Got His Throat is available in draft form (please report any problems or errors).

Appeal for help: there is a thirteenth Just So Story, added to the US edition in 1903 (which was absent from the 1902 UK edition, and most subsequent editions) called "The Tabu Tale" if anyone can source a copy (published before 1926) that I can use I coulld read all thirteen. (There is also a fourteenth but it is in copyright and does not have the wordplays that make the "real" ones fun.

PS: The heading is a quote, it is how the 'Stute fish describes humans, I think the fish was spot on, we are (usuallly) nice, but (often) nubbly!

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Sunday, November 15, 2009
  PG Wodehouse novel in Librivox audio
Wodehouse in 1904 (aged 23) from Wikipedia
Along with all the marking and paper preparation getting ready for leaving for SBL I have finished my latest Livrivox project. An early PG Wodehouse novel, Uneasy Money, pure escapism!

Uneasy Money is a romantic comedy by P.G. Wodehouse, published during the First World War, it offers light escapism. More romantic but only a little less humorous that his mature works, it tells of the vicissitudes of poor Lord Dawlish, who inherits five million dollars, but becomes a serially disappointed groom.

When the story opens Bill (Lord Dawlish, a thoroughly pleasant man) is engaged to a demanding actress. His first thought when hearing of his massive legacy from a stranger whose tendency to slice he once cured on a West Country golf course is of the disappointed relatives. His trip to the USA attempting to give back the windfall results in complication after complication, including firearms and burglaries as well as the usual human misunderstandings that accompany any human life.

Uneasy Money was first published as a serial in the Saturday Evening Post in the USA from December 1915, and in the UK in Strand Magazine starting December 1916. It first appeared in book form on March 17, 1916 by D. Appleton & Co., New York, and later in the UK (on October 4, 1917) by Methuen & Co., London.

A silent, black-and-white film version was made in 1918.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009
  Jesus as fulfilment of Scripture: Slavery and Spanking
Photo by lucyfrench123
This second of my recast podcasts continues thinking about Jesus as "fulfilment" of the Scriptures, by examininging at one topic that's been agreed universally by the Church universal for decades, and another that, in NZ where a bill whose detractors claimed would criminalise parents spanking children, was in the daily headlines when I recorded the 'cast.

You can download it here.

I'm working with this material again for a possible short series in Daystar an NZ Evangelical monthly, which will be republishing my piece on families in the Bible in their December issue.

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Thursday, November 05, 2009
  How does Jesus "fulfill" Scripture
One of the difficult issues for many of my students is the notion of Jesus fulfilling Scripture. The only way they can think of "fulfilment" in this context seems to be predictions and their fulfilment. This means that they have to understand much of the Old Testament as making a series of predictions that would have been total gobbledegook to their first hearers or readers (even assuming that the Holy Spirit had explained enough to the "prophet" so that they could make head or tail of them). This Nostradamus view of prophecy is widespread among Christians. Yet I think it is nonsense.

So, here is the first of two audio posts discussing what it might mean for Jesus to "fulfil" Scripture:

What DOES "fulfil" mean?

PS this post is the first of several over the next few weeks while I will be either or both extremely busy or travelling in which I will repost here things that were first put on my 5 Minute Bible podcast if you first saw them there I apologise for cross-posting after all this time.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009
  Biblical studies podcasts
Chris Heard has begun a podcast series that specialises in Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) topics at first I was unable to check it out as he only published it to iTunes now it is also available for non-proprietary download. Sounds good, I am looking forward to episode two of "God and Someone Else" looking forward since Chris smartly ends with a cliff hanger ;)

Chris thus joins the existing biblical studies podcast series (the order is chronological, since style, audience and frequency offer interesting variety):
Do try them, you'll like (at the very least some of) them!

Incidentally (but appropriately) our PodBible daily podcasts of the Bible itself from various amateur readers precedes all of these biblical studies 'casts :)

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Saturday, September 05, 2009
  Digital audio and 'reading' the Bible
This morning I did my talk at the Digital Faith session at the University of Auckland, I've prepared short summaries of the two sections of my talk. The first is the introduction, which sets the scene, and introduces the PodBible project:

The second is a summary of the ideas behind the vernacular resourcing through approximate oral translation (that I have presented before here - but cannot resist

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009
  Old Testament Podcasts
All the talk of podcasting seems to have fired me up again, in the last ten days, I've posted three new 'casts to my 5 Minute Bible series:
None of these is ground breaking new research, but that's not the goal. Just short (5 minutes or so) snippets that serious Bible readers can hear and then enjoy using to discover more as they read.

If they work for that then the series is working :) and 3.7GB in July (which equates to 16 podcasts each of which was downloaded more than 300 times during the month - not to mention the other 24 podcasts that were less popular).

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009
  Biblical studies podcasting
I've just had an interesting "chat" with Mark G about Biblical Studies podcasting. Some of the conversation (we used MSN, if we had only used Skype I could have recorded it, but ironically we used plain text ;) was technical stuff that would only be of interest to others doing podcasts, but there were two nuggets that deserve wider thought:
KQED Radio - Michael Krasny's studio by David Sifry
  • a joint biblical studies podcast, maybe of two sorts:
    • a virtual common-room, where a few of us chat about some topic
    • a more prepared edited 'cast where different people speak briefly and then perhaps respond to what another has said (getting the interactivity but allowing a more considered approach)
  • maybe using a Facebook page to encourage wider interaction with our podcasts - we each said that while we appreciated the way voice adds a richness, nuances like tone distinguish sarcasm from more gentle wry humour, we missed the interaction with an audience that other media like live talks or blogs provide
I'm convinced that both ideas are worth following up. But, at the start of a new semester, am also too busy to remember ;) so this post is (a) a "reminder to self" and (b) a call for comments - what do you think of the ideas and (c) a call for expressions of interest, would you be interested in participating in such a recorded conversation?

On the technical details:
  • we thought of using Talkshoe so participants could phone in and would not need recording gear themselves
  • we also thought of getting someone to act as host and ask questions / guide the conversation
So, what is needed:
  1. a topic: needs to encourage different points of view, probably to work well needs to allow different personalities to 'come through" (audio rather than text medium) needs to be potentially interesting to a wider audience
  2. a host: needs to be willing to refrain from expressing their own opinion!
  3. some speakers
  4. an editor: to take the recording and cut the fluff (remove the worst ums and errs, or where the participants make asides like "is this too loud?") - I'd be happy to do that.
This post has mainly been about the joint podcast idea, but I do not want to forget the Facebook idea either... this would be a page where podcasts by bibliobloggers or others who open serious biblical studies to a wider audience would be listed and so get mentioned on the profiles of the page's members and perhaps encourage a bit more interaction...

Dramatis Personae:

Mark (as well as being the biblical studies Blogfather) has started an excellent NT focused podcast series NT Pod and for a couple of years I've been doing an occasional 5 Minute Bible podcast (basically Hebrew Bible focused but occasionally trespassing - nearly 40 'casts so far).

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Monday, July 13, 2009
  Hebrew Bible (plus Appendix ;) podcasts
Chris Heard has a post in which he asks what sort of things people would be interested in hearing in a series of short podcasts on the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. My answer would sound something like this "short (5 mins only) somewhat scholarly, but accessible to all, material that helps make sense of the Bible". This is what I try to offer at 5 Minute Bible. Do let me know, or drop a comment on Chris's post, if you think I should focus the material differently.

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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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Thursday, November 20, 2008
  Audio epistolatory novel
Perhaps the biggest, and certainly the most complex, Librivox project I've been involved in is finished!

It took 400 days, involved about 20 different readers "playing" the various characters whose reminiscences and letters make up the story, in which different characters versions of events are told alongside each other.

The Woman in White was written by Wilkie Collins in 1859, is the first mystery novel, (which may make it attractive to Barbara who reads whodunits. The Woman in White is widely regarded as one of the first (and finest) in the genre of ’sensation novels’. Many people know it through the musical adaptation by Andrew Lloyd Webber in 2004. It has al,so been filmed by the BBC, a Rusian company and Holywood...

Oh yes, and you can listen, or download from the Internet Archive, or Librivox.

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Saturday, November 01, 2008
  Vernacular resources for local churches
Here's a short Animoto video to explain the big idea...

Of course, if you want text... just read Watering the "Desert of Books" & Vernacular resources: watering the desert of books II.

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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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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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Sunday, September 07, 2008
  Free audio books
Librivox is a great project, it uses volunteers to read, edit, prooflisten and make available copyright-free audio books.

I've done several chapters in collaborative projects, and also several "solo" readings. My most popular (so far) have been:
Compare that with just 750 downloads from of my recording of the much better-known Just So Stories and you get a picture of the benefits of collaboration on a project like this!

I am just finishing Three Men and a Maid by PG Wodehouse and was really encouraged by the feedback on these recordings from Gustav evacuees (see Gustav, Librivox and Life).

In its way PodBible is another collaborative (over 300 volunteer readers and dozens of ongoing volunteer workers) reading the Bible first live over a long weekend, now podcasting the Bible a chapter a day or the whole Bible in a year, and soon to make individual books available in one hour chunks as an audio Bible you could download and put on CD or cassette for those with poor eyesight. The translation we used the CEV is designed for easy listening and is suitable for ESL listeners.

There is also a PodBible Facebook page where a different group of listeners can get a daily "fix" of the Bible.

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Friday, September 05, 2008
  Gustav, Librivox and Life
There are times, most of the time I guess, when we take for granted the multiple ways in which the Internet changes things. Then something like Gustav happens. As a spare time hobby I read (mainly English humour) out-of-copyright books for Librivox these projects get checked, for glitches, errors and/or indescipherability by proof listeners. Often Librivox as a totally web-based project involves working with people who are merely usernames - marscalling, lil'robert and the like. But occasionally through the private message service you learn a bit more anout someone and they start to become "real people".

I've been reading early PG Wodehouse comedies recently, A Man of Means by P. G. Wodehouse and C. H. Bovill was finished back in May,and since then Three Men and a Maid by Wodehouse alone. I have been praying for one of the proof listeners, so when Gustav threatened their area that became a cause for concern.

Here's what they wrote after the storm was past:
You are so correct about the separation being a very difficult part of this evacuation process. At work, I find that we have a great deal to pray about with our customers searching for family members and pets, who have been separated from each other. At one point, our interstate 59 coming from New Orleans was so backed up that a trip which normally takes 4-6 hours, took one customer 14 hours, with gas stations along the way out of gas, several people including this customer found themselves walking the evacuation route for the last 20 or more miles. Nothing on the news about this though, so all I know is to keep praying for all those who are far from home.

Something which might cheer you: I took mp3 copies of your Wodehouse project with me to work, during the rain squals (they usuallky lasted about 20 mins) I played tracks from them for the travelers standing around. Many loved the book and asked about it, one woman in particular stayed while I cooked a pizza for her family and listened to 2 tracks. It turned out she had heard of LibriVox and planned to download Three Men and a Maid when she gets back into her New Orleans area home. I can't seem to say this very well, but I'm trying to say that for at least 2 carrivans of people, your reading gave resspite, comfort and the first real laughter I'd heard all day as our friend Smith the bulldog stole the show that fateful night that auntie returned.
So, more to pray about, but some thanfulness and joy mixed with the "pleases", isn't the Internet wonderful. How else could an Old Testament teacher in New Zealand be able to brush against the lives of people far away at a time of crisis? BTW Smith the Bulldog is indeed quite a show-stealing act ;)

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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!

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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!

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Monday, July 28, 2008
  Amos, Paul and PodBible
At the end of last week the PodBible chapter-a-day podcasts started reading Amos, the reader is Carey's principal, Paul Windsor. It must be Baptist week or something, because today's reading in the Bible in a year series is read by Bev Edmiston, who works in the Tranzsend office (she got the less enviable task of reading Ezra).

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008
  Historical Books (Hebrew Bible): SBL International
Today (Wednesday) was a short day at ISBL, nevertheless the section Historical Books (Hebrew Bible) produced some fine stimulation. The first paper scheduled was one of the disturbingly many no shows. (Perhaps the people did not all realise the distance involved in getting to NZ till too late to pull their names from the programme?) Each of the papers we did hear was stimulating:

In "Why So Reticent, Boaz?: Boaz's (In)action from an Identity Perspective" Peter H. W. Lau of Sydney University presented a reading of the book of Ruth that analysed Boaz' behaviour from a Social Identity Theoretical perspective. Using this grid enabled Peter to describe clearly the issues involved and throw considerable light of some of the gaps that we as listeners to the story are obliged to fill.

Next, Sunwoo Hwang of the University of Edinburgh offered a clear and organised discussion of "Bêtî in 1 Chronicles 17:14: Temple or Kingdom?" and in doing so drew my attention also to the interesting differences between not only 1 Chron 17:14 and its presumed source in 2 Sam 7:16, but also between the LXX and MT.

Rachelle Gilmour of the University of Sydney presented a lively and engaging analysis of "Suspense and Anticipation in I Samuel 9" and in doing so added still more to my appreciation of this most entertaining and rich passage. (For my take on the passage before Rachelle's paper listen to my 5 minute talks "Humour in the Bible: Part 1: Introducing Saul and Humour in the Bible: Part 2: Still Introducing Saul, incidentally there really are other 'casts in the Humour in the Bible series!

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Sunday, June 15, 2008
  Smaller lighter audio Bibles
On FutureBible David introduces us to a (to me) new file format AMR: An alternative to mp3, I have tried it, using the conversion tool David points to, and it works, a 1.11MB MP3 (at 32kbps) becomes a 266KB AMR (at 6.7 MR) which sounds "nearly" as good though a bit "quieter".

This could be great news for projects like (making the PodBible audio Bible podcasts available to mobile phone users).

However, I have two questions you might be able to answer for me:
  1. What mobile phones can or can't play AMR files? So if you have a phone can you try downloading this AMR file and seeing if it plays, and report the make, model and result below, please!
  2. What exactly are the licensing issues with AMR there is a link on the Wikipedia site to an VoiceAge legal page, but I go cross-eyed trying to find out what that means for ordinary non-commercial users. Any comments on that would be helpful too!

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Sunday, May 25, 2008
  YouPod (help wanted)
For the Podbible project (audio CEV Bible podcast a chapter a day) we want to add the possibility of people posting their responses to the Bible readings. Ideally we will do this simply by creating a blog that each day posts the current day's chapter as the title of a post, which can other wise be blank or better with just a short invitation like "Tell us our responses to this passage here:"

The chapters are podcast using PHP to read the directories and create both the RSS feeds and the corresponding web pages. So... what I need is someone who can help me create a blog using the same (sort of?) mechanism.

If you know someone who might (a) be interested in helping and (b) might have the necessary skills please let me know!

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Friday, May 23, 2008
  An Early PG Wodehouse!
The other evening, while Barbara was at a women's group, I finished reading (for Librivox) chapter six "The episode of the hired past" of A Man of Means by P.G. Wodehouse and C.H. Bovill. Here's my introduction of the book:
A Man of Means is a collection of six short stories written in collaboration by P. G. Wodehouse and C. H. Bovill.

The stories all star Roland Bleke, a nondescript young man to whom financial success comes through a series of “lucky” chances, the first from a win in a sweepstake he had forgotten entering. Roland, like many a timid young man seeks love and marriage. In this pursuit his wealth is regularly a mixed blessing. The plot of each story follows its predecessor, sometimes directly, and occasionally refer back to past events in Bleke’s meteoric career.

The writing style is crisp and droll, and shows much of the skill and polish of the later Wodehouse. The disasters that befall the hapless Bleke are entertainingly recounted and his unforeseen rescues surprise and delight. In the character of the butler, Mr Teal, we meet an early draft of the ingenious Jeeves.

The stories first appeared in the United Kingdom in The Strand in 1914, and in the United States in Pictorial Review in 1916. They were later published in book form in the UK by Porpoise Books in 1991; the collection was released on Project Gutenberg in 2003. (Summary by Wikipedia adapted by Tim Bulkeley)
You can download it to listen to in the car, or wherever you do your leisure listening from (this link is to a search page that will lead also to other readings I've done in case Wodehouse is not to your taste ;)

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Thursday, May 22, 2008
  Adding a daily audio Bible chapter to your blog (WordPress only)
If any of you want to add a link to a daily Bible chapter (as an MP3 file read from the CEV) to the sidebar of your Wordpress blog, just go to Widgets, and find "RSS" and "add" it then click "edit" and use this URL for the feed to add the Bible in a year use this URL to get just one segment a day choose to display one item. Give the widget a title like "Today's Bible reading" and away you go!

Sadly this does not work for blogger :( so I can't demonstrate it here, but you can see it at work here so, if you have a WordPress blog, how about it?

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Wednesday, April 30, 2008
  Audio Bible
John has a link to an interview Introducing Maureen Girkins, Zondervan’s CEO in which she notes that Zondervan's all singing and dancing celebrity Audio Bible The Bible Experience was the best-selling Bible of 2007. No surprise in a way since our, almost un-advertised, read-by-plain-ordinary-people, PodBible has delivered more than some 40,000 audio Bible chapters every month for some time now.

She was asked:
Can you tease out an example of how publishing will change?

Wireless phones, which didn't exist 20 years ago, have changed not only the way people communicate but also the way they live. People are going to read, and they're going to read paper for the rest of our lifetimes. But I'm convinced that different distribution for content will change the way we live. We have entered the digital world. It's not like we're just stepping our toe into it. The Bible Experience audio Bible was the best-selling Bible of 2007.

I think we can make some predictions today for how further distribution changes will alter the way we live our Christian life. The spiritual journey many of us have will be changed by the Internet and digital technology. But I'd like a little more time in this discovery process before I can vocalize how.

Now, this is cautious, but much less cautious than print-based publishers usually are! It makes projects like David's for mobile phones or our PodBible relevance visible!

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Friday, March 21, 2008
  Interesting project on aging and interactive writing
Ben, on the if:book blog linked to a really interesting project. Ashton Applewhite a staff writer at the American Museum of Natural History, who has previously written a book the conventional (solo author in a study) way, is writing her next book online. She has a blog "So when are you going to retire? Octogenarians in the workforce" on the site she has information about her research, snippets of audio and stories she is collecting. I find that the audio clips add a richness to the written posts, like this one Cornelius Reid — “That’s what kept him going.” It's a lovely, thought-provoking, post, but the short clip of Cornelius makes it come alive. Definitely a blog I'll subscribe to, who knows, one day I may comment, and one of my comments may help Ashton tweak some aspect of her ideas and so her book.

Now that's a fine project: a worthwhile, valuable, interesting blog; where the comments and email correspondences that a blog attracts will assist the writer with her project, not only that but as the author explained to Ben in an email, it could even make commercial sense:
I also think i'll end up with a valuable platform for leveraging and disseminating my work over the long run — one that could radically revise conventional notions of shelf life. Cutting Loose, my book about women and divorce (HarperCollins, 1997) is still in print; imagine what sales would look like if it were at the hub of an ongoing social network, and what a rich site that would be?
The early adopter in me, however, wonders - just a little - what the point of the print edition will be... especially in the light of all the rave reviews of Amazon's proprietary (lock you in to us as your supplier), pay as you go (even for "converting" your own PDFs), expensive (and not even available) Kindle over at Lifehacker ;)

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008
  Transit, and travel diaries
Singapore airport was already my favourite, and the only airport where I am happy to spend a few hours! It has confirmed this impression this time. As well as writing blog posts I've got up to date again with my email, including a note to say that Kipling's American Notes has now gone live on Librivox. I wonder of Barak Obama's progress in the US pre-elections would make Kipling rethink his best-known quote from the book? "It is not good to be a negro in the land of the free and the home of the brave." I also wonder what today's Americans make of his take on their ancestors - do let me know, whether you read a print edition, read the Guttenberg edition, or listen to my Librivox edition.

PS, the weather is as dull as it looks here, so we did not much miss the chance to see a bit more of the city this time (which was ruled out since we arrived in the middle of the night).

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Friday, January 18, 2008
  American Notes
My latest project for Librivox is Rudyard Kipling's American Notes. (Perhaps I'll do the more famous Dickens American Notes next?) The essays are controversial, they were when they were first published, and given the debate over Kipling's (alleged?) racism they are not less so today. Here is what I have written as introduction, I would be glad of any comments. The Gutenberg e-text of American Notes is here, and the chapters read aloud:
I'd love to know what today's Americans make of Kipling's America, and I'd also be glad of any suggestions on how to improve or correct this introduction:

This book is controversial, it records Kipling's cutting observations of American life in the 1990s, and it reports with apparent relish the most racist of opinions as if they were facts.

Yet Kipling's essays about American life in the 1890s are written with an interesting British/Indian distance from his subject. Though the tone is often sarcastic, his affection for the country and its people is a steady undercurrent. These essays provide an interesting glimpse of the USA at the time, and regularly reveal Kipling's love of words. They also contain (when circumstances warranted the comment - see the toffee-nosed Englishman described in chapter 4) disparaging remarks about his compatriots.

As well as the rude things he says about the USA, Kipling's readers are often shocked by things he says about races and peoples other than his own. Everyone must interpret this for themselves (perhaps remembering that like us he may reflect the presuppositions and prejudices of his time and place). One may hear an interesting "distance" between Kipling and the "facts" he reports. So, after recounting crude racial prejudices, with apparent agreement, he concludes "It is not good to be a negro in the land of the free and the home of the brave." Which opinion is Kipling's? The one, the other, or somehow both at once?

Indeed Kipling's writing, often, and above all here, raises questions of interpretation. One American reader (G. A. England from Harvard University) from Kipling's own time commented: "He sees things done by machinery, in large ways, and wonders at every-day occurrences that any child among us would regard as matters of course." He detected no double edge to Kipling's words, no implied comparison with the more backward "home country" then the seat of Imperial power.

He comments scathingly on Kipling's passage (in ch.1) describing the benefits of the San Fransisco cable-car system: "With the same scorn he wastes nearly a page in fantastic description of a cable-car as an amazing phenomenon. It is as though Alaric at Rome had marvelled before the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus with the scoff 'provincial' on his bearded lips. Thus does the newly-landed Anglo-American descant upon our barbaric devil-carriage." Can Kipling, a Nobel Prize winner really be as naïve as his critic assumes?

Indeed, can the critic be as naive as I have assumed above? Mr England of Harvard began his piece demolishing Kipling claiming: To the American temperament, the gentleman who throws stones while himself living in a glass house cannot fail to be amusing; the more so if, as in Mr Kipling's case, he appears to be in a state of maiden innocence regarding the structure of his own domicile. Was England perhaps playing Kipling at his own game and pretending to take seriously, what really he was smiling fondly at?

In the end, this is not Kipling's best work, yet these articles, first published in an Indian Newspaper, still carry vivid impressions both of the USA in the nineteenth century and, at the least indirectly, offers interesting criticism of both the New World and the Old.

Quotations from The New York Times of October 11th 1902.

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Thursday, January 17, 2008
  In which my head swells to inordinate size, and then bursts!
Cori (from Librivox and To Posterity - and Beyond!) just pointed out to me that my reading of Kipling's Stalky & Co had been reviewed at the Internet Archive. The Reviewer: Vladadog - whom I don't think I know at all, rated it 5 out of 5 stars and wrote:
Subject: A really excellent series of stories!

This was my first LibriVox download and what a wonderful introduction it was! Tim Bulkeley did an excellent job reading the entire book. His reading was as good as many professional audiobooks I've bought and the sound quality was also well done. I grew up loving Stalky & Co (they were the original "Marauders" before JK Rowling invented James Potter & Co for her series and Stalky still wins hands down, without any magic at all!). If you haven't read the stories then this download is a great introduction. And if you have read the stories this is an excellent way to enjoy them again.
Stalky has now had 5,673 downloads since 30 April 2007, so I'm delighted, and hope other listeners are too!

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Friday, January 04, 2008
  Seniors and gadgets
Dave Warnock drew my attention to the post by Cory Doctorow on BoingBoing HOWTO make a Senior Remote with only five big, friendly buttons such a simple neat and useful idea. But why, oh why does no one manufacture the things? Cory's post is itself drawing attention to the original (I think) by anonymous on Indestructibles
Senior Remote
Mod your mom's TV remote to make it senior friendly.
My mom was born in 1931. She is from the generation of radio and WWII. Her eyesight is failing and she isn't good with anything electronic. TV remotes confuse her. This mod came to me after she called me one day, claiming her TV remote stopped working. It turns out, she inadvertently hit the button that activated the VCR functions. She didn't know or couldn't see the button to reactivate the TV functions. So I decided to "dumb" down the remote to only three functions: On/Off, Channel and Volume.
Which reminded me of another simple modification to an electronic gadget which could make it user friendly for older folk. An MP3 player with big buttons, and ideally a bigger screen font. I first explained in 2005 why I'd like to find a source for these. If they were cheap enough I'd buy 50 or 100. But no one seems to make them, and it has to be a small mod to make a cheap MP3 player user friendly for a whole new market. Add Librivox for talking books, add PodBible for talking Bible... or as Dave wants to add recordings of the service for shutins... the possibilities are huge. So, why does no one make them?

My post back then "Tim needs an MP3 player with large buttons" was in response to an amusing meme from Maggi Dawn, incidentally several of the real candidates still appear, Tim [still] needs help and a theme... plus ca change...

PS Back in 2005 I wrote: BTW if you choose to run with this meme, could you please quote the phrase "Tim needs an MP3 player with large buttons" as I'd love to see that come up top on Google when some other Tim decides to try the meme! Who knows a manufacturer might see one of those posts and actually make one! I'd like to still echo that, both to please make the link, and the hope that some manufacturer might see and take note - there is a market for these things.

Update: So, players with big simple buttons exist, designed for pre-schoolers. The Fisher Price one is a bit on the expensive side and I can't see an NZ stockist, some of the US stores have cheaper ones though, so I'll look when I am in Thailand unless someone can point me to a suitable source here.
Thanks to Stephen and Anonymous (though your DSE link did not work for me bringing up other products :(

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007
  Audio Blog Posts
I have posted a couple of new items to the 5 Minute Bible site this week:

After a long gap for marking since the previous post:

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Friday, November 16, 2007
  Learning with style!
Several things have got me thinking about human difference. One was our recent staff training day (the middle of the marking season is also "naturally" the prime season for extra meetings ;-)

We focused on "Learning Styles" with input from Dr Peter Gossman from AUT University's Centre for Educational and Professional Development. He introduced the concept of learning styles through a question about which medium we'd prefer to use to learn about a rotary engine. He showed us:
  • a series of pictures of a cut away of the motor at work
  • an animated GIF
  • a page of text describing its workings
  • a model which one could turn and watch
Interestingly our preferences for these correlated pretty well with our scores on a test of learning styles. He also had us do a VARK questionnaire. There are dozens of different approaches to measuring learning styles, and they do not agree among themselves, nor do all the tests match their respective theory, so this is a fun playground for empirical educationalists ;-)

However, the VARK approach is conceptually simple. People tend to prefer to learn in four modes:
  • Visual: diagrammes, pictures, colour coding...
  • Aural: the people who download my 5 Minute Bible podcasts presumably, and those who like to talk about what they are learning
  • Read/Write: the bookish ones, who write good notes in words (my notes were kind of mindmaps with few words)
  • Kinesthetic: the ones who fiddle with their pens while others are talking, and who walk about or wave their hands a lot...
Now of course everyone is a mixture, and some are more mixed less biased than others! But, still in our group of a dozen or so all four styles were evident. When he spoke about Kinesthetic learners being hard to cope with in the classroom, Miriam was sitting next to me clicking her pen, while I was rolling mine in my fingers - from what he said, he is lucky we and a few others weren't wandering round the room! (Kinesthetic learners do not like sitting still being talked to, or even with ;-)

This stuff was fascinating to me, I spent a decade in tertiary education (BSc, BA, PhD and a year of missionary training) and almost all of it was either oriented to the read/write learners (books, articles, essays...), the aural learners (lectures, discussions, arguments over a coffee...) with just a little for visual people (the occasional photo or diagramme). None, nada, zero, zilch was formally oriented to my learning style! Though since I passed, either the visual stuff (my second preference) helped a lot, or I managed to roll my pens enough to learn something...

Now it gets really interesting...

My teaching, has largely copied my teachers. It is VAR but little K. Actually I think its the reverse, RAVing nuts (since according to our time estimates we expect students to Read and Write much more than they Talk/Listen, and Visual material is still regarded as a nice extra added on to enrich the words!

Wouldn't it be nice if our classes catered for ALL our students!

Next year's Intro to the Bible at Carey will do a better job than most, my secondary style "visual" has always been "allowed" so the material is pretty visual already, and Karen (who has experience and training teaching children!) has developed some great exercises where the students actually do (as in move, kinesthetic experience, real doing) things...

So, which learning preference(s) are yours? (Do the test at the VARK site to find out it really only takes a few moments.)

Does the teaching/learning that you do/endured match your preferred style?

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Monday, October 29, 2007
  Posting audio to a blog
Phil (of Narrative and Ontology) asked below how I post the audio files to my 5 Minute Bible blog. The answer is that I fudge it. Blogger does not make audio easy and I didn't have time to learn Wordpress, or money to use a paying service (like Evoca) so I use a free Flash MP3 player (I forget which one I used, but the JW MP3 Player) looks fine. I also use podifier to create an RSS feed that is compatible with iTunes as well as the feed that Blogger makes for me.

If it wasn't for RSS feeds and blogging software, on an "ordinary" website, like my Children's stories I just use the MP3 with an M3U textfile to stream the MP3 directly!

I'm sure there are easier ways... so why not tell me, and Phil in the comments, you might make both our lives easier ;-)

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Saturday, October 06, 2007
  Humour in the Bible?!
In September I was so busy looking at posts (preparing the Carnival) that I never noticed how many comments Lingamish managed to provoke with his stirring (in several senses) post Funny Stuff in the Bible - I still haven't counted but it is a lot! The earlier attempt, Whoa to you who laugh, stirred up quite a hornets nest too ;-) What an opportunity missed! I could have guided all that traffic to my series of podcasts on Humour in the Bible, still some of the ideas suggested by the staunchly unsmiling L ;-) may encourage me to extend the series...

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Friday, October 05, 2007
  Psalm 22 (and an excuse ;-)
I've posted a new item on my 5 Minute Bible site, though it is titled "Complaint Psalms: Part One" it actually follows from an earlier post "Arguing with God: Jer 12:1-4" which began looking at the complaints (not "confessions!) in Jeremiah. This post begins to talk about the most often quoted complaint in the Bible, Psalm 22. I plan to follow it up with more in the series over the next while...

That, together with being terribly busy catching up after our lovely holiday in Thailand, explains why I have still (despite encouragement) posted on Psalm 68. I know, I must... maybe I will before the marking wave of the end of the semester breaks over me. But for now please make do with complaints, I love to tackle the mysterious and ancient praise song, but "I am a worm and not a human" and just at present not up to both tasks!

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Saturday, August 04, 2007
  Mouth-feel and the Bible
How do you (I/we) read the Bible? Since many of us are biblical scholars, and others are students, theologians and the like (I'm guessing from the readers of SansBlogue whom I know about from the comments you leave - I suppose it's possible there are a hundred lurkers who are all bakers, or candlestick makers but somehow I doubt it ;-)
  • the short simple answer is "with our eyes"
  • the longer, more complex answer is "carefully".
Withering Fig has has a nice post Of Ancient Texts and Hypertexts which begins from noticing how we read hypertexts differently. (Though perhaps we should note that many of us read newspapers and magazines more like we read hypertexts - and perhaps some of us [I did NOT say this, so do NOT quote me!] read academic articles similarly, until we have to respond to them in an academic article of our own ;-)

But goes on to describe the different relationship to and feel of a biblical text if it is read aloud. He wonders:
if it might be better for me to read the words aloud. Let them wrap around me. What does the scansion tell me? Where does the stress fall naturally? Perhaps rhythm is more important than word order.
Since biblical texts were written to be read, that is read aloud to an audience - not scanned more or less carefully with the eyes in a study, and since many of them may well have existed orally before being written at all, this question seems to me a no brainer. Never mind the syntax, get the mouth-feel first. Then analyse. (Since the Bible is an ancient text, separated from us in time, culture and by language, we MUST analyse.) Then, return to reading the text, and get the mouth-feel again informed by the analytical study.

Incidentally, I think much the same applies to non-scholarly readers, hear the Bible as well as looking at it. Just looking at the Bible risks making you into a Bible idolater, hearing the Bible risks making you try to follow its advice - much more dangerous, and worthwhile... but that's another post.

PS: See also How to avoid reading books for advice on reading academic texts in non-linear manner!

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Monday, July 16, 2007
  Reading Job
William Blake's imagining of Satan inflicting boils on Job.
William Blake's imagining of Satan inflicting boils on Job. (From Wikipedia)
A few people are planning to produce a reading of (an English translation of) Job (freely available for anyone to listen to or use) where each character has a different voice. So one reader will "be" Job, while another "is" Bildad... Librivox will provide the hosting, etc. all we need are readers. We have a few but need a few more. So, please, if you read English well consider volunteering to record one part of Job - all you need is a microphone (e.g. the one you use for Skype) that connects to your computer and a free download of Audacity the sound recording/editing tool. It is fun, why not try it?

Or if you don't read well yourself, suggest the project to a friend. You could read just a chapter a week, or get inspired and read ten over a holiday weekend, it is up to you... For more details just either email me (tim at or visit the Librivox forum for the project.

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Friday, July 13, 2007
  How come our people don't read the Bible any more?
Mark Brown (Bible Society in NZ) is posting in parts a "talk" he gave, to "a Christian Leadership Conference on the topic of Bible in the church today" in part one he points out the shocking statistics on Bible reading among Kiwi (and even worse[!] US Christians).
The Bible Society undertook some research that displayed only 21% of the more than 2,000 church attending participants read their Bible daily. Twenty one percent. Twenty two percent stated they read it at least weekly with the remaining 57% which absolutely should blow you away. I hope it does, because this is a crisis. The remaining 57% saying they either read the Bible occasionally or hardly ever – 22%. Now similar studies recently conducted in the U.S. stated that only 12%. In this study in the U.S. which is quite large, 12% said they read the Bible regularly. Twelve percent! This is an issued that faces the Western Church and I’ve had the opportunity of doing a little travelling, chatting to colleagues in other western Countries, in the U.S., U.K and even Australia. And this is the problem they face. This is an epidemic.
Mark also candidly shares his personal experience, in which the central problem was "that through my theology training the Bible had moved from my heart to my head." This is a huge problem (at least for a theological educator!) though one I will hope to return to in a later post. For now, I just want to note now what happened when we discussed Mark's question in our local church elders meeting a while back.

The oldest elder began the conversation: "Why don't people in our church read the Bible like they used to?" After acknowledging the issue, we swiftly moved to the usual "answers", push SU Notes etc.. Then we recognised that many (but not all) people don't actually READ. They can all read, we have nearly if not 100% functional literacy, but people use that literacy to scan newspapers, webpages or magazines, they do not read books. We also recognised that many of these "non-readers" (as well as many young "readers") can be seen jogging and on buses with their ear buds feeding them music... The result PodBible, audio Bible for the iPod generation!

Incidentally, PodBible has been "down" for a week, but is working again now, so if you know someone who tried and failed, please explain it was circumstances with our hosting company, involving high usage, and a catch 22 that compounded a Murphy situation (which I probably won't explain more for fear of bursting into exhausted tears ;-)

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Sunday, June 17, 2007
  Matthew 5:17ff. : How to read the Old Testament
I preached to Titirangi Baptist Church today, basically the same notes as I used for the sermon they videoed in College Chapel for the Careymedia DVD on the Sermon on the Mount.

My text was Matthew 5:17-48. A long, complex, and difficult passage! Basically I focused on the opening: where Jesus affirms unequivocally that he came to "fulfil" the Law and Prophets, and NOT to abolish them. Noticing how Jesus develops this in a series of examples where what he demands of us is stronger and harder than what Old Testament law requires. He closes the section saying: "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Mat 5:48) It's too long (at 30mins plus question time!) for 5 Minute Bible so I am posting it here:
BTW the previous session I did for a Careymedia DVD was on Song of Songs for the DVD "Church Then and Now" (for other extracts see here).

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Friday, June 08, 2007
  A Few Maxims For The Instruction Of The Over-Educated
When recording (for Librivox) a review article of Oscar Wilde's, I found myself both delighting in his cleverness, and detesting his brutality. So I also recorded his "A Few Maxims For The Instruction Of The Over-Educated" as an antidote to his cruel, devastating, if funny, wit in the review. The "maxims" recording has now been "published" as part of a Short Story collection (whose editor was generous and willing to include such a non-story orphan). Listening to it again I suspect I may post, over the next few days, about how a few of them relate to the interests of this blog...

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Thursday, May 24, 2007
  Job reading
Bob had problems with the free site that the files were stored on (see post below "Performing Job") so, I have uploaded them here:Please do listen and comment on which you would prefer for a "dramatised" reading of Job (by dramatised I mean simply with each speaking character in the poetry read by a different person, and the prose read by a "narrator". Things to consider are poetic quality, comprehensibility and so on... please listen rather than read the text as I suspect hearing works differently from seeing, and that archaic English works better when heard!?

BTW since the project is on Librivox we have to use a translation that will allow us to put the result in the public domain.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007
  Performing Job
I'm trying to get a (virtual) group together to perform Job at Librivox. The idea is that several of us will each record a "part", Job, his friends, God, narrator, Eliphaz. Then we'll put it together. For Librivox the result has to be Public Domain, so we need to use an appropriate translation. The candidates (out of copyright or copyright free) seem to be KJV, ASV, WEB another Tim (Tim1983) has read ch.19 in each of these, as a trial. If the idea of an audio reading of Job in different voices interests you (whether you might consider taking part or not) would you pop over to the forum and download and listen to the three, they are under 3MB each, and comment on which you think might be our best choice.


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Saturday, May 19, 2007
  Biblical Studies and its "market"
The students in BSTHEO316 "Biblical Texts in Context" that I am teaching with Prof Wainwright are asked to keep a reading blog, and to comment on each others'. One of the students, Ryan Pellett (who gave me permission to quote him here) wrote this as part of his reply to a post about:

Sugirtharajah, R.S. "Scripture, Scholarship, Empire: Putting the Discipline in Its Place." Expository Times 117, no. 1 (2005): 2-11.
It seems to me and this is just a generalisation that theologians have some amazing insights into the Bible their work is so wordy and unreadable or widely unavailable that it’s only read by other academics. Its also seems that half the time of a theologian is spent taking small and not so small pot shots at other theologians.

Before I started this course I had never heard of any of the people we now study, and I would say it would be the same for most of you in the class. Unless you actively seek to know more, as we have done by studying theology, you never come across all this insightful work which brings me to my point.

What is the goal of a theology and theologians?

Is it to win the battle of popularity and bragging rights by publishing more books, however unreadable by the average person, and proving more of your pears ideas wrong then they can prove of yours?

Or is it to disseminate their insights to the church community as a whole so that we can benefit from their work. I know which one it should be but since I have never seen or heard of them in the 20 years I have spent at various churches I would have to say it’s the former which is a shame.

Is theological dissemination going to be left to people like us who take what we learn from the masters and spread it ourselves to those in our churches?
A large part of the problem, Ryan, is that the academic systems in which we operate either do not give us credit for writing "popular" works, or only give us small credit. So, the recent "Performance Based Research Funding" exercise in NZ which grades lecturers seems to give more credit for the more esoteric publications, and little or no credit for writing aimed at ordinary readers. Such writing does not count as research, but there is no other grading system in which such work does gain brownie points!

As a result of the way these systems discourage "popularisation", good biblical studies scholarship is seldom communicated in places that non-specialists read. Except by a few scholars, some of whom deliberately write books that will communicate to non-specialists. These scholars usually do not have stellar careers - they are most often employed by church-based theological colleges (seminaries), and so tend to be more conservative.

However, the way in which generations of pastors have failed to communicate much of what they studied has also led to a huge gulf between (almost) any sort of academically rigorous biblical studies and the way the Bible is read and used in church.

In Conservative churches, where the Bible is still regarded as the (or a very important) authority, the way in which scholars cite Bible passages to support points they are making has been understood as prooftexting. Most people in churches who seek to follow "the Bible's teaching" believe that one or two Bible verses can be read alone and mean something! Then add the approach to Scripture (largely driven by 20th century American Christian fundamentalists) that sees it as all of a piece, dictated word for word by God, and something like a makers manual for a car. By now you have effectively killed the Bible and turned it merely into a convenient cudgel to be used for beating your opponents to pulp.

In "Liberal" churches the situation is, if anything, worse. The Bible is seen as a merely human book, that it ceases to hold much authority at all, and is at best a source of some carefully selected or Bowdlerised stories to tell to Sunday School children (of whom there are very few left to listen). The resulting Politically Correct censored Bible has little of value to say, for its message is merely be good people and be nice to each other!

Now, after my moan, the good news! Thanks to the Internet it is easier today to get hold of good, stimulating, intelligent material about the Bible than ever before. There are dozens, perhaps now hundreds, of blogs written by biblical scholars. Many of them, like those listed in the side bar of this blog, and those they list in turn, present a good level of scholarship in ways that are easy to read. Soon there will be a wave of bibliopodcasts (or whatever we come to call audio files presented by biblical scholars). For now there are few, and most are not regular bite sized chunks, but solid meaty lectures. However do try guiding people to hear Amy Jill Levine of Vanderbilt Divinity School talking about Jesus and Women. Then they'll be begging you for tickets to her Auckland lecture!

And if that's too long for them, send them to hear my latest experiment 5 Minute Bible podcasts. They attempt to break complex ideas about studying the Bible seriously into short "bites".

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007
  Wired and those voices in your head
The Gaget Lab blog at Wired magazine has a short but thought provoking post on how DRM and greed among the publishing classes may have killed the e-book goose, before it could start laying eggs. The item also has a nice (little) link to Librivox, where my rendition of Stalky and Co. by Rudyard Kipling has now passed 1,000 downloads in just over a week!

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007
  Podcasting: rich and pure
If anyone still needs convincing that "podcasting" has a place in education (or if they enjoy fine Scot's accents!) try Stephen Walsh's interview with Donald Clark from UFI. He describes the unique blend of "high bitrate" (you can hear emotion, stress, accent...) and purity (there are no distracting images, context etc....) of an mp3 delivery of content. Plus it is fun to listen to two enthusiasts chat!

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007
  Audio comments
Hmm. Thanks to those of you who via Text comments, and emails, warned me that the audio comments feature was not working. It wasn't. But now it is... I have not changed anything, just slept on it overnight (I had a long meeting in the evening so could not fix it then.)

So, I assume the problem was the Evoca end... I will try to watch the system and see if it is reliable enough to use. I will also try MyChingo to compare. In the meanwhile do keep trying, and letting me know if it is broken!

PS: Comment by Mike

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Monday, April 23, 2007
  Stalky and Co. (schoolboy humour)
I've been reading Stalky and Co. for Librivox as my non-family non-work hobby recently, the nine chapters are ready for proof listening, so please if you enjoy a touch of schoolboy humour from time to time do pick a chapter and listen - just let me know the time of any stumbles or mistakes you spot! Thanks...

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