Friday, September 12, 2008
  Amos reviewed in BTB
I have just received another review of the Amos: Hypertext Bible Commentary "volume", this time in Biblical Theology Bulletin, by Anselm C. Hagedorn of the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. I will quote the concluding paragraph:
However, these concerns are probably not the ones of the users whom Bulkeley had in mind for his commentary. There is certainly a wealth of information to be found on this CD, but the present reviewer remains sceptical whether a disc can really be an adequate substitute for some standard books such as a Hebrew Bible, a lexicon, and a concordance. Also in his goal not to offer a chosen path of interpretation for the user, Bulkeley runs the risk of losing his user/reader altogether. Sometimes it would have been helpful to know what Bulkeley actually thinks about the text, since I seriously doubt that the intended user without formal training is able to judge the scholarship adequately. All these quibbles aside, amongst the commentaries available for a general theological readership this is clearly one of the better ones.
First the detail: Hagedorn says he "remains sceptical whether a disc can really be an adequate substitute for some standard books such as a Hebrew Bible, a lexicon, and a concordance." The Logos and Bibleworks programs of course demonstrate that it can ;) But I do not see HBC_ as a competitor with these. A commentary complements such tools.

The issue that Hagedorn raises with his comment that "Sometimes it would have been helpful to know what Bulkeley actually thinks about the text" is a significant one, and one about which I still have mixed feelings.

On the one hand it is frustrating that most reviewers of the commentary assume that I believe that the book of Amos was somehow written very close to the period in which the prophetic speeches it contains are set. I don't. I am still convinced that something like Wolff's reconstruction of the redaction history of the book is likely, Coote's simplification of Wolff sometimes seems better because simpler, but at other times recognition of the complexity of everyday life convinces me that even Wolff's scheme is probably an over-simplification. But we do not and cannot know. We can make intelligent guesses, like Wolff's, about the history of the redaction of the book (though by the time I finish reading Van Seters I may be convinced we can dispense with the notion of redactors ;) But all we can know is the book, and the setting in which it presents "Amos", that is what I choose to read... My readers attributing to me a naive historicism is frustrating.

But on the other hand, I have been delighted when in one week an Orthodox Rabbi and a Messianic pastor write to me thanking me for the work, I chuckle when in the same month small groups of Brazillian Catholics were using my commentary in their study of Amos, while somewhere to the north of them whole Sunday Schools of Southern Baptists were doing the same! On the whole I would not choose to exchange this delightful (if ironic) understanding of Scripture by such diverse groups to undo the misunderstanding (of my position on the possible/likely history of composition and transmission of the book) by scholars.

It will be interesting when other writers for the series have written and we can compare how different judgement calls on this issue work.

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


Monday, May 28, 2007
  Bible References in Blog Posts
There's an interesting, and potentially extremely useful (if for most Biblical Scholars a tad technical) discussion in the last few days which could make citing the Bible in blogs very much easier and better. Basically the problem is that currently if you (or I) cite a Bible reference in our blogs either:
  1. nothing happens, and the user has to manually look up the reference for themselves
  2. you (since I do not yet) subscribe to a clever plugin that converts you reference into a link to an online Bible that the plugin writer fancies (often the ESV) which the reader is stuck with even if they hate the XYV and would prefer the original Aramaic (it was that part of Daniel you cited wasn't it?)
Sean (Blogos) Annotating Scripture References in Blog Posts: a Modest Proposal is a neat simple "microformat" approach. Now at this point some of you are pricking your ears up at the trendiness of microformats (though most of you read Sean and already) but the rest are looking glazey eyed and yawning ;-) Actually microformats are really seriously good for you! They are: ""simple conventions for embedding semantics in HTML to enable decentralized development." Do not yawn, there in the back, what that means is:
  • they are "simple" so even dumboes like you and I can use them, they are not just for technogods
  • they are "conventions" so we can choose whether to use them or not, but if we do good things happen, like when we follow the conventions of the form of literature we are writing
  • they "embed semantics" - that means that they "know" what you mean, and other services can understand that your reference to Amos 5:13 is just that, a reference to a Bible verse or passage
  • this enables "decentralised development" - which means that today, tomorrow or in two years time, Jo or Joe can write a cool tool which sings the Bible in properly cantored Hebrew, or presents a PDF of the beautifully illuminated page from the Book of Kells, or whatever... and you can use it, or your user can use it - even if you have never heard of the tool.
Now, is that cool or what!?

Here are the three posts so far that discuss the proposal. Do take a look. Forget yawning at the techno-speak, but think about how this will work from a user's point of view. And encourage this development, so it does go on to become a convention. Because that is what is needed for it to work.

Sean's "modest proposal":
and suggests some neater simplifications:
Sean responds and agrees:
WARNING: the post above was written by a technical ignoramus, but it will be corrected and updated as soon as anyone with greater knowledge explains the need!

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Ideas for the Bible Dictionary (from SBL) ::

This post is partly a note to myself, partly a hope that you will help me evaluate and work through a couple of ideas for the Bible Dictionary project that came out of sessions at SBL.

HBD and Bible Software

Someone suggested (sorry I never got a note of your name, if you read this please email me so I can note and remember you!) that we talk to Logos or BibleWorks about the possibility (once we have a first edition of articles) of putting the Dictionary into their software as well as making it available on the web. For the software company it would give them a good recent dictionary (currently they are all "aging", either old and out of copyright like ISBE, or elderly like The Anchor Bible Dictionary) that they could include even in basic packages. It would give us another funding source either for starting or (more likely) for running costs and development.

Semantic markup

As part of Sean Boisen's presentation for which he promises the slides soon, he showed us a cool implementation of his NT names data being used to sort and display names from the NT according to different categories. So, e.g. interested in Ephesus one could find out what other cities were in the same region, or which characters lived or visited the city (in the NT). I began to imagine making use of such a facility as part of the interface for the Dictionary...

Basically Sean's NT Names is (IT geeks please bare with my inaccuracies, ignorance and oversimplifications) a system of classifying names - of people and places so far - according to their relationships. So Timothy is an "associate of" Paul, but the "son of" Eunice, "lived in" Lystra, he "visited".... etc. A user who can navigate through this web of data while "inside" a Bible Dictionary has a whole load more options for exploring!

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