Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Blog blips, gaps and breaks

Sorry there's been so little blogging lately. The academic life, or my academic life at least, tends to throw up extraordinarily busy periods every now and then and this has been one of them. And now the blog is taking a complete break until early July. I look forward to seeing you again then and catching up on all those comments promised "in due course".

Monday, June 21, 2004

Where are Felix Just's webpages?

Sadly, there has been no sign of any of Felix Just's web pages on the internet for the last couple of weeks. Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts, Loyola Marymount University are just showing "File Not Found" notices on all his material, homepage, E.N.T.E.R., his Johannine studies pages and so on. I have tried getting in touch with Felix but have not heard anything and I know that others have too. Let's hope that the sites come back soon, and that all is well with Felix. In the mean time, everything still seems to be accessible from the Wayback Machine, who last updated their record on 4 June 2004:

Felix Just, S. J.: Homepage

Johannine Literature Web

Electronic Educational New Testament Resources

Update (20 January 2005): at Felix Just's request, I am adding in a note of the new location of his webpages here, since at present this post comes up top in some searches, and it is important that people find their way to the proper destination. So go here for the website:

Homepage of Felix Just, S. J.

Review of Biblical Literature latest

I sometimes wonder if it is worth my while posting these here since I'm sure most of my readers will receive the email alerts, but it may be that it provides a prompt to click through to a review of interest, so here they are anyway, and reformatted a little from the email message SBL send out. These are those listed under the New Testament heading:

Braxton, Brad R.
No Longer Slaves: Galatians and the African American Experience
Reviewed by Thomas B. Slater

Cignelli, L. and R. Pierri
Sintassi di greco biblico (LXX e NT): Quaderno 1.A: Le Concordanze
Reviewed by Dirk Jongkind

Dawes, Gregory W.
The Historical Jesus Question: The Challenge of History to Religious Authority
Reviewed by Susan Lochrie Graham

Geyer, Douglas W.
Fear, Anomaly, and Uncertainty in the Gospel of Mark
Reviewed by Daniel C. Claire

Griffith, Terry
Keep Yourselves from Idols: A New Look at 1 John
Reviewed by Jan G. Van Der Watt

Horsley, Richard A. and Neil Asher Silberman
The Message and the Kingdom: How Jesus and Paul Ignited a Revolution and Transformed the Ancient World
Reviewed by Tobias Nicklas

Olbricht, Thomas H. and Jerry L. Sumney, eds.
Paul and Pathos
Reviewed by Ronald F. Hock

Park, Eung Chun
Either Jew or Gentile: Paul's Unfolding Theology of Inclusivity
Reviewed by James Miller

Via, Dan O.
What Is New Testament Theology?
Reviewed by Jan G. Van Der Watt

Wright, N. T.
The Resurrection of the Son of God
Reviewed by Michael R. Licona

Feedburner RSS Feed

In Bible Software Review Weblog, Rubén Gómez noted that he now had an RSS feed available via Feedburner. It puzzled me a little at first since I've been reading Bible Software Review Weblog in the Bloglines aggregator for some time. I then noticed that Blogos commended Rubén for this addition, noting that he would remove him from his "Sites I Wish Supported RSS" list. So I looked on that list, and there was the NT Gateway Weblog on the list too! In my ignorance, I had not realised that the Atom feed provided by blogger, was not adequate for everyone's needs and for every aggregator. So I have followed Rubén's lead and have subscribed to the amazing Feedburner, which takes an Atom feed and transforms it into a Feed that everyone can enjoy -- and lots more too. So if you need an RSS feed for this blog, here's the URL:

And I've added a little icon on the left too so which also provides this URL for the site feed. Thanks to all concerned for (inadvertently) alerting me to this useful resource.

The Future of Electronic Synopses

In a useful post on Bible Software Review Weblog, Rubén Gómez asks about the future of electronic synopses of the Gospels, quoting a little section of my The Synoptic Problem: A Way Through the Maze (London & New York: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001) and commenting:
Now, as critical apparatuses become available in electronic format, I hope we'll be able to take advantage of that fact and go at least one or two steps further. Ideally, I'd like to be able to reconstruct each one of the main witnesses (uncials, papyri and so on), and display them in parallel columns. This would be extremely useful for text-critical issues (of which, I must say, I'm very fond of). In other words, one should be able to search for all the variant readings of any of the witnesses consistently cited in the Gospels, say B (03), for example, and build a whole B - Vaticanus - column alongside the standard critical text, Textus Receptus, Alexandrinus or whatever. These readings would have to be inserted at the appropriate point in the text, while the rest would read the same as the base text. This would match exactly the table that appears after Mark Goodacre's quote above (in Greek, of course!)
Yes, this is just the kind of thing I was referring to. In fact, I have often discussed the possibility of creating an electronic synopsis of the Gospels with my colleague here in Birmingham, Prof. David Parker, who is particularly interested in this from the text-critical side. You can see him beginning to think along these lines in his Living Text of the Gospels (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997). We have also been discussing this with Catherine Smith, a post graduate student here in Birmingham. What we are interested in is the possibility of producing a synopsis that could be genuinely interactive, i.e. in which the user chooses which parallels to view and how to view them, i.e. whether to place Matthew, Mark or Luke in the middle. We also feel that a good electronic synopsis would enable one to choose which texts to view alongside which texts, whether Vaticanus, Bezae, Sinaiticus or whatever. It's something that could really open up study of the Synoptic Problem, textual criticsm and New Testament studies in general.

Does anyone use Gmail?

AKMA asks "Does anyone actually use gmail for anything? So far, I don’t, really." Yes, I think it's pretty good. The 1,000 mb. of storage is obviously the real attraction, but I like their labelling idea; and its search facility is, as you'd expect, excellent. So I'm pretty sold on it, I must admit.

Universities attempt to tackle plagiarism

This article in yesterday's Observer reports on the rising problem of plagiarism of internet resources in university students' work:

Universities declare war on the copycat exam cheats
Mark Townsend and Mark Hudson
A sophisticated cheat detection system is being considered by 140 universities, including Oxford and Cambridge, as new research reveals that more than 90,000 students regularly plagiarise essays.

All major universities are planning to introduce software to catch cheats in an attempt to protect the credibility of degree qualifications. Many lecturers are concerned by a growing market on the internet offering students customised essays for sale.
It is something we've seen on the rise here in Birmingham too and I cannot help thinking that some colleagues are better at spotting offenders than others. One of the things that I find encouraging about the current article is that it will help to target students who are going to the sites offering customised essays for sale. It's actually pretty straightforward to spot blatant interent plagiarism if you are at all familiar with internet resources, and Google regularly lends a helping hand, but my own major concern is with these sites that sell their services because these are more difficult to track.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Mary Boys on The Passion of the Christ

Thanks to David Mackinder for alerting me to this, from the latest issue of Cross Currents:

Why Many Christians Don’t Have a Problem with The Passion of the Christ
by Mary C. Boys
Cross Currents Vol. 54 No. 1 (Spring 2004)
[Note: incorrectly referenced as Winter 2003 at the bottom of the article]

Mary Boys was one of the seven members of the famous "ad hoc committee" of seven scholars who were severely critical of an early script of the film. The article makes interesting reading and I will be commenting on it in due course.

Note also the editorial in the same issue, with an excerpt from it below.

by Carey Monserrate
In the case of recent history, it is tempting to maintain (as a number of critics already have) that with The Passion of the Christ Mel Gibson transported audiences back to this originary domain of aesthetic experience, in which the most primitive impulses of ritualized creation-destruction are powerfully linked to a tribal religious feeling, in this instance through the isolated representation of extreme physical violence and death in a sacralized context (calling to mind René Girard’s mimetic theory and Eric Gans’s complementary notion of generative anthropology).2 To do so would be to risk discounting the heartfelt responses of the millions of Christians around the world who received Gibson’s film in the spirit in which it was apparently intended: as a devotional work designed to elicit reverence, compassion, humility, and a visceral appreciation of the ethic of sacrifice associated with the Biblical Jesus’ divine redemptive mission.

Yahoo!Groups goes RSS

There's a useful new feature now available on Yahoo!Groups -- each e-list now has an RSS feed. If you follow e-lists and also use an aggregator like Bloglines, you'll need no further explanation and you may well find this as welcome as I have done. You don't need to allow the emails to build up in your inbox any more -- you can simply follow what's going on in all the lists you are interested in by subscribing to their RSS feeds. One disadvantage, though, is that they are only providing headlines and a couple of lines of content, enough -- on the whole -- to let you know if it's a message you are likely to want to read further, but perhaps less convenient than it would have been to have all of each message availble.

If you don't yet use an aggregator to read blogs and more, the one I prefer, and I've tried a lot of them, is Bloglines. You can register there and then begin to explore. You subscribe to a blog feed just by writing the URL into a box and pressing a button. You can then read each blog entry within bloglines without having to surf from one site to the next, which, with the proliferation of useful blogs, would be a bind. You can also receive emails through bloglines and now read your e-lists too.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Terry Larm on Hebrews

Thanks to Martin Webber for this one: adjusted URL for the following:

Terry A. Larm, “Hebrews 10:1-18: Jesus Christ, the Final Sacrifice”, Theological Gathering 2 (Winter 1997)

Adjustment made on Epistle to the Hebrews page.

Christ of Faith and History blog

Charles Miller gets in touch to announce his new blog:

Christ of Faith and History
Over the coming weeks and months I hope to provide a useful and authentic tool for students and scholars. In the meantime, I will simply provide various links, scattered somewhat haphazardly, to sites and resources that I find informative.

UK Schools Classics Threat

Sorry to see this in today's Guardian:

Teachers angry at plan to ditch Latin and Greek
Rebecca Smithers, education correspondent
Classics teachers reacted angrily yesterday to a decision by the biggest exam board in the country to drop Latin and Greek from its GCSE and A-level syllabuses in England and Wales.

The move by the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance (AQA) means only one awarding body, Oxford, Cambridge and RSA (OCR) will offer the subjects at GCSE and A-level.

The exams regulator, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, defended the move as "a business decision" which was justified because of the decline in the numbers of candidates taking the subjects.
Update (21 June): Comments from Rubén Gómez in Bible Software Review Weblog and Tim Bulkeley in Sansblogue.

Friday, June 11, 2004

A Throttle to Knowledge? Response to AKMA on "Links Pages"

[See update]

In a comment on a recent post, AKMA mentions a conference paper he gave recently:

Cards, Links and Research -- Teaching Technological Learners

The article deals with the question of the metadata that the researcher has traditionally been able to glean from getting books out of libraries -- looking at the call card, the condition of the book and so on. He laments the lack of such obvious metadata in the case of internet resources and makes a proposal for a possible solution, involving "vote links" and the "seeded search". His central concern is to address the need of encouraging students to develop their critical sensibility to internet resources, to teach them to find ways to distinguish between different resources. AKMA's paper is a stimulating read and his proposals for the future are pretty interesting. While sympathetic to AKMA's desire to find fresh ways of encouraging students to develop their ability to discern good internet resources, what I would like to respond to in this post is not AKMA's proposals for the future but his diagnosis of what is wrong with the current situation. I would like to dispute the key premise of AKMA's article, that the "links pages" like my own "entail certain definite pitfalls". First, let us focus on the reasons AKMA feels that their days are numbered:

(1) It is hard work for the maintainers of these pages -- they are "back-breakingly labor intensive". AKMA suspects that "links-pages will in a short while have to give way to the sheer brute accumulation of information."

(2) The solutions cannot be ever more narrowly-focused subject matter since creating such resources will likewise be massively labour intensive.

(3) The really big problems with the "links-page", though, are not practical but pedagogical. They invest too much authority in the "links-page maintainer" and restrict the flow of the student's attention:
A links page functions as a throttle to knowledge; even as it promotes awareness of responsible research on its topic, its job is to restrict the flow of attention. That runs diametrically against both the path of information technology and the course that human inquiry ought to take. Although knowledge constitutes much more than the mere accumulation of information, one essential ingredient in durable, flexible learning involves distinguishing sound from unsound information — a capacity that one can’t develop if one always encounters information that’s already been filtered.
I would like to respond to AKMA's exposition of the problems with "links pages", but first a terminological matter. By "links pages", AKMA means resources like my New Testament Gateway, Felix Just, S.J.'s Johannine Literature Web, Torrey Seland's Resource Pages for Biblical Studies, a page by Sheila McGinn for which he does not provide a URL (but see my previous link for her homepage) and the Wabash Center Internet Guide. I am not sure that the term "links page" is a helpful one for these sorts of sites. To be frank, the term is potentially disparaging given that these sites are more than simply pages of links. They are more usually described with terms like "gateways", "mega sites" or "super sites", to distinguish them from the simple "links page" where an individual simply lists a few links of interest, the kind of page that is often appended to an individual's homepage. In what follows, I will use the term "gateways" and "gateway resources" for these major sites and I hope that it will become clear why I regard the good gateway resource as far more than simply a "collection of more-or-less annotated links". With that terminological matter dealt with, let me move to the more substantive issues.

AKMA compliments the hard work, diligence and charity that goes into gateway resources. Given that a lot of work does indeed go into developing and maintaining a gateway, I appreciate AKMA's appreciation of that effort. But I would add that ideally the gateway resources are not simply consulted because of that diligence but also because of the perceived expertise of the authors of the gateways in question. In other words, the reason that I might be interested in what Felix Just, S. J. selects on Johannine Literature is because I respect his ability to discern higher quality resources. Further, while it is encouraging to have the hard work of developing such resources acknowledged, I would discourage anyone from worrying too much about the effort people like me put in to them. I can only speak for myself, but there is no need to worry about my social life, and I manage to keep my own site going not because I have a troop of student helpers (I don't), but because I enjoy doing it. As I have often said in the past, when I stop enjoying developing the NT Gateway is when I will stop doing it.

But on the work-load effort, AKMA's essential point is, if I understand him correctly, that given the huge current work-load, and given the ever-expanding internet, it is unlikely that gateway resources will be able to keep up. They will collapse under the pressure. But I think that what one has to ask here is whether the signs are that the gateways are buckling under the pressure or whether they are allowing and encouraging their own organic development to face the present and future challenges. My own optimistic outlook is that they are changing, adapting, evolving, in the face of the new pressures, and their evolution is enhancing their quality rather than detracting from it. The most obvious way in which this is happening is with the arrival of blogging. The reason many of us were interested when Torrey Seland began his Philo blog was that we already knew and respected Torrey from his Resource Pages for Biblical Studies, especially its Philo resources page, for which the blog was an obvious complement. When I began the New Testament Gateway in 1998, I could not have foreseen that blogging would in fact enhance all sorts of elements on the site. Let me illustrate. I have rolled several of the older features of the NT Gateway into the NT Gateway Weblog, in particular the Featured Links page, the Notices page and the Logbook. All of these were doing things that could be achieved more successfully in a blogging environment and with a little less effort and much more fun. Updating the NT Gateway and weblog is now much more enjoyable than it used to be, not less. Who is to say that in another five years time there will not be a similar boon to the managers of gateway resources, and which we will also think seriously about utilising?

The use of blogging as an enhancement of gateway resources helps in another important way. AKMA acknowledges that annotations in a gateway resource provide helpful metadata, but feels that "useful annotations are uncommon". Regardless of the relative use of the annotations on the gateway, the blog allows one to comment additionally, more expansively and less formally on the resources getting listed on the site. Moreover, comments features, related blogs and academic e-lists can and often do pick up on given resources on which one has blogged, so adding to the array of metadata on that resource. I might add that when blogging a resource, I often use my informal comments as the basis for the more formal annotation on the site. In summary, the synergy between gateway, its related blog, as well as other blogs and e-lists, greatly enhances the array of metadata generated by a particular resource. Far from the "links page" gradually becoming moribund, the ideal gateway opens up not only a world of quality resources but also a vast range of metadata to help scholars and students to pinpoint the best and most useful resources.

I would also dispute the notion that gateway resources inevitably vest "a problematic authority" in the author of those resources. I can only speak of my own experience of maintaining a gateway site, but working on the NT Gateway is all about the business of engaging with peers, students and outside enthusiasts about what works and what does not work, what should go in and what should stay out. It is not just a question of the everyday, interactive process of looking out to see what others are recommending on the web, in blogs, in e-lists, but is also a question of listening and testing. The vast majority of resources listed on the New Testament Gateway appear there because I have been directly alerted to them. Sometimes this is by the authors of those resources but often it is by enthusiasts who have already tried and tested the resources they are suggesting I add. These are the unsung heroes of the gateway resource, those people who do not just enjoy an internet site in the privacy of their study but who want to share it with the world, and who know that a good way to do this is to get it onto a gateway.

In relation to this, I am not particularly enthusiastic about AKMA's terms "filtered links" and "filtered links approach". The term "filtered links" sounds tautological. Are not all links, by their very nature, filtered? That is what makes them "links" and not "sites". AKMA's objection is to an illusion; the argument is with a caricature of how a good gateway functions. AKMA configures the situation negatively -- he focuses solely on the gateway's restrictive purpose, on what it leaves out. It filters, it restricts, it throttles:
Filtered links not only hobble our students’ intellectual growth — they also militate against the trajectory of technological development, which tends toward the proliferation of information and alternatives. Filtering tries to build a bulwark against information flow — but at the cost of denial, of inflexibility, and of an antithetical approach to technological possibilities. Rather than devoting our energies to holding back the flood of information, we and our students need to learn from the technology how best to navigate, to negotiate, to discern among the myriad alternatives for research.
But why should we configure the purpose of gateway resources so negatively? The negative imagery is unhelpful because it does not describe the way authors view their gateway resources and, more importantly, the way their users see them. The term gateway is popular in this context because of the positive connotations of the implied imagery. Such sites are intended to open the gates and welcome the user to a world of knowledge, providing a way in not to a restricted zone with a rarefied atmosphere, but to a multitude of valuable resources, many of which themselves provide gateways to further valuable resources.

But of course the gateway resources select some sites and reject others. In this sense they do engage in the business of restricting the flow of certain information, and all strength to their arm for doing so. All academics are necessarily engaged in the process of distinguishing between materials on the basis of their quality. On the whole, the bibliographies at the end of our books are our selections of books and articles that we regard as worthy of attention, and on the whole we restrict ourselves to listing those and not others. It does not mean that we are not well aware that there are likely to be many others that we have not had the time or the good luck to come across. The point is that our bibliographies are restrictive but not prescriptive. They are not saying that this is all you should read, but that these are some resources that I have read and found worth engaging. So too the internet gateway. It is not prescriptive. The intention is not to limit the number of resources that anyone might want to look at, but to provide some helps to the user about good places to start, possible ways to navigate through a difficult topic, a range of different resources on a given theme.

I suspect that most users of gateway resources appreciate that while their authors are attempting to be as comprehensive as possible, the sites are never going to be exhaustive. And with this realisation comes appreciation of a key function of the gateway, that far from discouraging students to distinguish for themselves between good and bad internet resources, they actually help to educate them in how to do this. The student writing an essay on the Historical Jesus is not simply let loose to google in the dark until they have come up with a few scrag ends of dubious worth. The gateway gives them some starter resources, some hints, some pointers, a way to feel their way into the topic. It is just the same discipline as the age-old teaching tool, the Reading List. Even the brightest students benefit from being given a few good pointers on their essay question, pointers that ultimately help them to hone their own skills in looking more widely for materials on their own outside of the tutor's Reading List. Which of us has not been delighted when a bright student has supplemented the material on the reading lists with fine resources they have sought out themselves? I see just the same process taking place in the students' use of gateway resources.

Finally, I would like to comment on the future of gateway resources like my own. We had some discussion of this future on the biblio blogs back in January (see my post More on the future of the Megasites and the links to the other parts of the discussion there) and AKMA mentions one of the contributions to this discussion, from Torrey Seland. I hinted at the time, largely in agreement with Jim Davila, at something that more mature reflection confirms is the most valuable way ahead: to see the megasites as evolving, constantly embracing new, organic ways of responding to the new pressures and challenges. As I've commented in this post, blogging has been an unexpected but very welcome way of integrating many of the older elements of the NT Gateway into a format better suited for them, at the same time allowing and encouraging me to do many new things. I also feel that there is a great deal to be said for encouraging anyone who combines the requisite expertise with enthusiasm to develop particular areas of interest. As I commented on another occasion (Another idea on supersites), I would not begin to think of trying to emulate those with the requisite expertise who already have particular areas well covered, e.g. Steve Davies on the Gospel of Thomas or Torrey Seland on Philo or Jim Davila on Paleojudaica.

I am grateful to AKMA for his fascinating paper and in particular, I have been delighted to find myself stimulated to respond to his comments on the present and future of the "links pages". If I am in disagreement with his diagnosis of the problem with the gateway resources, it is not because I am not acutely aware of the need to think seriously about how they function at present and how they will develop in the future. In the end I could not agree more about the need to find innovative ways to encourage our students to develop the requisite critical sensibility to the vast multitude of different resources.

Update (Friday, 9.44 a.m.): Stephen Carlson posts an excellent response on Hypotyposeis.

Further update (Saturday, 11.32 a.m.): Torrey Seland comments and AKMA responds. Comments in due course.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Student blogs

On Biblical Theology, Jim West draws attention to a blog called U of London Bachelor of Divinity: Davide's Notes, which describes itself as "Notes on what I'm studying / what I studied in the (loose) context of the Bachelor of Divinity degree at the University of London". Rubén Gómez picks up on this in Bible Software Review Weblog and comments:
I think blogs like this one are a very interesting development in the field of Biblical Studies. Up until fairly recently, external students enrolled at the University of London, particularly those living outside Great Britain, did not have much chance to exchange opinions, share news and links, and encourage and be encouraged by fellow students. Now all that has changed. Maybe not everybody is aware yet, but the fact is that the Internet has potentially revolutionize the way we learn, study and live.
Like Rubén, I have some familiarity with the London BD External since I'm an external examiner to the programme. I am encouraged to see this as an way of navigating through the course. But what interests me about this blog is the experiment in student blogging. It makes me wonder whether this is something that could be tried on a larger scale, not just with externally registered students but also with internal students. Perhaps individual students could be encouraged to keep their own temporary blog during the course of their studies in the way that some students are currently asked to keep a "logbook" as part of the assessment for courses. Or perhaps one could have a group blog? One of the things I have found a bit disappointing in my own attempts to engage in innovative teaching methods has been the use of the e-list for given courses. Students have on the whole been pretty reluctant to get involved with discussions on e-lists I've set up to go with particular courses (e.g. see the ASTER Project Case Study on one of my courses). Would they react differently to blogging? Has anyone experimented with student blogging as an element in or a supplement to teaching and assessment on a given course?

SBL Inventory Sale

If you haven't yet looked at it, the SBL has a pretty good sale on at the moment -- six pages of books at $5 each plus postage and packing. It includes old issues of Semeia, the SBL Seminar Papers, the SBL Dissertation Series and twenty years worth of JBL:

SBL Inventory Reduction Sale

Passion Synopsis

Thanks to Catherine Smith for this link. The American Bible Society have produced a simple synopsis of the Passion Narratives in the Gospels in English (CEV) and Spanish (VP):

The Passion and Resurrection Narratives from Matthew, Mark, Luke and John

It is aligned at the verse-by-verse level rather than the line-by-line level so its use is primarily to get a general impression rather than to do more detailed work. And only major parallels are shown. One helpful feature is that you can press a button on each page to generate a PDF of the Synopsis in question.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Open Source Scholarship odds and ends

Further to my post on the Open [Source] Scholarship discussion last week, some odds and ends are worth mentioning that have cropped up, or that I have come across, since then:
Apologies if I've missed any gems along the way.

On-line database of New Testament Manuscripts

Thanks to Ross Scaife for sending this over. It is based at Ross Scaife's Stoa, which I've just mentioned:

Online Database of New Testament Manuscripts
A Tyndale House Publication

This very useful new resource is the work of Michael Jones and this is how Ross describes it on Stoa:
This project was written to facilitate the writing of the dissertation of Michael Jones, a graduate student at the University of Cambridge. All of the material in this database has been available in print form for some time; but there was never an easy way to search through the manuscripts using multiple parameters. There are two options for searching the database: searching passages or searching manuscripts. Pressing ‘Search Passages’ with the desired book (e.g. ‘Luke’), chapter, or verse (or a combination of all of these) typed into the appropriate field will return all manuscripts that contain the particular passage. Likewise, pressing ‘Search Manuscripts’ will return only the manuscripts with the parameters you enter.

For this project Michael adapted the code he had previously written for the CHS project on Homer and the Papyri.

Stoa Consortium goes blog

The Stoa Consortium has a fine new blog-face, if that's the right way to describe it. Essentially, if you go direct to Stoa at, its front-end is now a blog with its own RSS feed:

The Stoa Consortium

There are lots of things of interest on Stoa. One that I visit often is Diotima, Materials for the Study of Women and Gender in the Ancient World.

Tom Wright interview

Jenee Woodard mentions this on Textweek. It's just published in Christianity Today:

The Dick Staub Interview: Tom Wright's Theology for Everyone
The author of the Christian Origins and the Question of God series is also writing a theology series for the masses.

Reflections on disseminating one's theology to clergy rather than undergraduates (Tom was clearly teaching at the wrong Oxford college):
One of the reasons that I left the academy some years ago and went into full-time work in the church instead was that I found I was getting more of a buzz myself out of meeting clergy who were at the [coal] face, if you like, than simply teaching undergraduates who wanted to know "How soon can we finish this tutorial and then I can get off and play tennis?"
Getting political:
I've sometimes heard Americans say we don't understand kingdom because we live in a democracy, and it's you Brits who have a king.

That's a very shallow analysis because I know America got rid of kings when they booted George III out 230 years ago, but in terms of today's world, when you look around and say, who in today's world has the kind of authority and the kind of empire that George III had, the answer is George II, your current president. You actually have something much more akin to the sort of monarchy that we had then, even though it's democratically elected.
On resurrection and life after death:
What the New Testament is on about is what I call "life after life after death." That is, resurrection life after whatever state we go into after death. The New Testament teaches a two-stage post-mortem eschatology. And it goes on and on about resurrection and says very little about the intermediate state, which we can call heaven if we like. It's very interesting that so much Western Christianity has focused on the intermediate state so much that it's forgotten that there is an ultimate resurrection. It thinks that heaven is all there is.
On homosexuality:
The question is more, when you do the serious historical work and discover what the early Christians thought about why God gave us the gift of sexuality in the first place, and how it reflects who we are as human beings, then the question is more, "Did they know anything about the issues that we face? And if they did, do we have to do what they say?"

It would be a more intellectually authentic position to say, the New Testament says that homosexual practice is not what Christians ought to engage in but I disagree for these reasons. I can understand that position. I can't actually understand a position which says the New Testament is either silent or open on the subject because, frankly, it isn't.

Get educated and live longer

My blog @ mentions this article. Good news for the educated! This is from BBC News, with the relevant paragraph excerpted:

The secrets of long life revealed?
Why do some people live longer than others?
People with PhDs live longer than those with masters degrees. Those with a masters live longer than those with a degree, while those with a degree live longer than those who left school early.

Monday, June 07, 2004

SBL Forum June

The SBL Forum has published new content for June and the focus is on "the social contexts of biblical scholarship":

SBL Forum
The books of the Bible are written and read in social contexts. This month SBL Forum focuses on the social contexts of biblical scholarship and features topics as diverse as clothing and identity in the Greco-Roman world and the interpretation of parables in an African university, plus reflections on supervising the dissertation, teaching at a liberal arts college, and more.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Open [Source] Scholarship discussion continues

It is a sign of how far the biblioblogs have come, and in a very short time, that there are enough of us to have a discussion with several participants. This thread began with Deinde's Paul Nikkel's Why is Open Source Scholarship So Threatening? and has featured useful contributions from AKMA, Stephen Carlson and Tim Bulkeley. For a summary of the discussion so far with links, see Tim's Open Scholarship or Free Scholarship? and then note two more recent contributions since then, Paul's An Open Return and Tim's Back to the future? Paul Nikkel and the "threat" in Open Scholarship. One thing I would like to return to, since Paul brings it up again, is the language of "threat" and "fear". He asks repeatedly why it is that scholars, like Darrell Bock and John Oswalt quoted in his original post, find Open Source Scholarship "threatening" or "frightening". I suggested that this is not actually the right language. It is not that scholars find open source scholarship threatening; rather they are concerned by issues related to the quality of a given product. So in the specific case of the WEB (World English Bible) which was originally under discussion, Bock is presumably trying to point out that the NET Bible is of superior quality because it has a group of recognised scholars with credentials working on it. I don't think that he is threatened by the WEB, much less frightened of it. Rather, he is concerned that the academic quality of the WEB is likely to be inferior to the academic quality of the NET Bible because of the people working on it.

I think it's important to get these perceptions right because it will help those of us working a lot with electronic resources to understand some other scholars' resistance and negative feelings. What those working with open source scholarship need to do is to persuade the as-yet unpersuaded of the real value of their projects. In this respect, the WEB may not be the best place to start. One of the reasons I'd like to see making a comeback on the web is that they take seriously a kind of open source model, but do not open their doors to any Tom, Dick or Harry to do work for them. Indeed in terms of necessary skills the bar is set pretty high before you can even hope to contribute to their project.

In other words, would that some scholars were more afraid of or threatened by open source scholarship. The problem is rather that some are not inclined to take it seriously enough. I suspect that this is partly due to ignorance and partly due to the fact that some projects do not think clearly enough about persuading this key element of their target audience of the value of their work. One way of doing this is to make sure that one's project gives off a decent number of "signals", some account of how quality control is maintained, of who is leading the project and why their views are worth hearing. I have suggested one obvious and straightforward way of giving off a good signal in a project like this and that is to emply an advisory committee, to name them and post their names upfront.

The discussion in the different blogs has embraced issues of open scholarship more generally and has included some sophisticated distinctions between different kinds of open scholarship, e.g. AKMA's breakdown. I'd like to add one comment here on a quiet revolution that is taking place on the "Open Access" front and it is seldom commented upon. This is the steady but striking revolution of individual scholars providing on-line reproductions of their own already-published articles on their homepages. When I began indexing this kind of thing on the NT Gateway in 1998 there were only a handful of scholars who did this. K. C. Hanson springs to mind as one of the pioneers. But now, only a few years later, there are dozens of scholars who are doing this. I am not thinking about scholarly web sites in general, or work in progress in particular, but of scholars who have already had a given article published in JBL, CBQ, NTS or the like but who want to provide wider access to it by providing a reproduction on their web page. I think that there are three reasons why this is now becoming more widespread and why it will continue to grow:

(1) The ease of PDF conversion and the free availability of Acrobat Reader makes providing accessible electronic versions of articles very straightforward. PDF is on the rise. The provision of full HTML versions of articles is on the decline.

(2) An individual scholar often owns the copyright on his/her own published article. Even if they do not, publishers have repeatedly proved to be happy to grant permission for on-line reproductions of material on a scholar's homepage. So there are not the problems here associated with making available other people's work on-line -- and that can be hard work and involve a lot of negotiation.

(3) There is growing awareness that if you want more than a handful of people to read your article, you need to get it on the web. A while ago Stephen Carlson pointed to Steve Lawrence's Online or Invisible, which persuasively sets out the case for getting your work on-line.

But this raises another important question. This quiet revolution is enabling scholars to have their cake and eat it, to get their articles into the peer-reviewed mainstream journals with all the advantages that that brings, but then to have the same articles on the web with free access to all, with all the advantages of the dissemination of their scholarship to a wider public. Under these circumstances, the appeal of bodies who publish solely on-line is diminished. It's one of the reasons that (solely) on-line journals will tend to struggle to get quality submissions unless their focus is specific enough to corner a particular market.

More on the new blogger

On Paleojudaica, Jim Davila responds to my comments about blogger. I see Jim's point about the "disimprovement" over the date adjusting / not adjusting when one re-opens a post. I don't think that I was aware of that before -- I'd thought blogger used to keep the old date there too. I also commented that:
The archiving is greatly improved by separating off posts into single pages with single URLs, which means that when one searches for a given post you can go straight to it rather than getting to the page on which it appears.
Jim responds:
I'm confused by this: for me the individual posts always came with their own URLs in the old Blogger. I had to configure the Atomz search engine to reflect this, but that only involved an extra line or two of code.
The difference is that Blogger now generates a different kind of archiving by individual post if one wants this. So, for example, have a look at the permalink to this post. It links you to a single page with just this post on it. The advantage of that is that a general search engine like Google can pinpoint the individual page and so take the searcher to the specific post, rather than to a page containing that post (and several others). Jim's Atomz search does overcome that problem nicely by taken one directly to the individual post on a given page, but Google will not.

Let me give an example of what I mean. I recall having made a post about Joe Zias and crucifixion and I want to find it. So I type into Google "crucifixion, zias, blog". My post comes up on a single page, so that I can access it straight away: February 20: Two More Passion Articles: Caron, Crossan, Zias.

Citing Electronic Resources in Research

I commented recently on Denver Journal's latest including their New Testament Exegesis Bibliography. On Bible Software Review Weblog, Rubén Gómez comments and now adds a response to an email from David Lang about the fact that many do not know how to reference electronic resources:
As for the comment that "even if a student or scholar properly cites an electronic resource, most of that student's professors or that scholar's peers may not KNOW the conventions for citing electronic resources, and so may regard such sources of information to be less credible or more difficult to verify than good, old-fashioned books", I think that's exactly the point I was trying to make. Many people have not made the "switch" to electronic-based research yet, and it's about time we all did. Beginnings are always difficult, and standardized citing conventions may still be in a state of flux, but we have to hang in there. I believe we have to encourage the use of digital tools, and apply to them the same critical thinking approach we should use when we work with any other sources.
I agree with all of this and would add a couple of points:

(1) The citing of internet resources at least is now, I would say, beginning to gather a conventional format along the following lines:
Author, Title, URL, accessed on [date].
Some add "available from" in front of the URL and there are other minor variations, but I would say that this format is now becoming fairly standard in published work. It's the convention we insist on for students here in Birmingham, though it's often an uphill battle getting them to adhere to it.

(2) It is essential that scholars lead the way on this and explain to their students how to discriminate between good and bad electronic resources, how to reference them and so on. I've seen too many examples of scholars thinking that the internet must be bad because they are not leading their students but getting led by them. Happily, one hears less of the "it's all rubbish on the internet" these days. Less happily, there are many who still do not take electronic resources seriously and are falling well behind some of their students on this.

Short Introductions: Sample Chapters

As regular readers will know, I am a fan of publishers placing sample chapters of their books on the web to enable you to get a taster before buying. Here's another I've just come across:

The New Testament: A Short Introduction:
A Guide to Early Christianity and the Synoptic Gospels
W. R. Telford
One World, 2002:

Chapter One: The World of the New Testament: The Roman Empire

And also from One World:

Paul: A Short Introduction
Morna D. Hooker
One World, 2003:

How Important Was Paul?

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

The Passion's Passionate Despisers

Bible and Interpretation link to this article in the latest First Things:

The Passion's Passionate Despisers
Kenneth L. Woodward
First Things 144 (June/July 2004): 8-11

In the main this article is an interesting retrospective on the passionate reactions to The Passion of the Christ in the media and it touches on several of the issues I have written about in my The Passion, Pornography and Polemic and which I develop at greater length in my forthcoming piece "The Power of The Passion of the Christ: Reactions and Overreactions to Gibson's Artistic Vision". There is one particularly interesting set of remarks here on the question of the different viewers' differing reactions to the film:
The day the film opened, Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie was in the audience in a sold-out theater in Times Square watching The Passion of the Christ unfold. Yoffie was deeply offended by what he saw as Jewish stereotypes. “The Jews in this film are evildoers,” he later wrote to his colleagues on Reform Judaism’s website. But he also noticed the woman next to him sobbing throughout the film, and gradually came to the conclusion that such Christians are responding out of deep belief and “really do not understand the charge of anti-Semitism and what Jews are talking about.”

Yoffie’s modest exercise in what literary types call “reader-response theory” is a useful way to survey the reactions of the nation’s celebrity pundits. In Vanity Fair, everybody’s favorite urban atheist, Christopher Hitchens, called Gibson a fascist and the movie an “exercise in lurid masochism.” In the New Republic, Leon Wieseltier let loose with another of his contemptuous screeds against Christianity in general, medieval Catholicism more generically, and Gibson’s “wretched hero” in particular. “A sacred snuff film” was his most inelegant shot. From the other side of the political aisle, columnists William Safire (New York Times) and Charles Krauthammer (Washington Post) found the movie sadistic as well as anti-Semitic. Indeed, “sadist,” “masochistic,” “pornographic,” and their variants were the most common adjectives in the lava-laden commentaries published in the Boston Globe, USAToday, and Slate.
I think that there are ways of adding to, nuancing and balancing the helpful reminder of reader-response here and these involve avoiding the temptation to view the film against the grain, to temper one's inevitable concerns about charges of anti-Semitism and excessive violence by paying careful attention to film itself, to attempt to avoid the lapse into polemic and overreaction. This is developed in more detail in my forthcoming article, but let me give one example that is fresh on my mind after having watched the Emma Awards on BBC2 on Sunday night. Maia Morgenstern, the actress who plays Mary in the film, collected The Passion of the Christ's award for best picture, and gave a delightful speech, explaining that it was her son's twentieth birthday that day and that her family had only allowed her to go to the awards on the condition that she came back with something. She was then quite overcome also to win best actress. But I was reminded again that Morgenstern is a Jew whose grandfather died in the holocaust and whose father was a holocaust surviver. This casting choice for the most sympathetic character in the film deserves serious attention and cannot be lightly brushed aside (some reviewers) or ignored (the majority).

Denver Journal latest

Some new items on the Denver Journal:

Denver Journal Volume 7 (2004)

Note in particular:

New Testament Exegesis Bibliography (Craig L. Blomberg & William W. Klein)

This is an annually updated feature of the Denver Journal and focuses on useful material for students of the New Testament, largely but not entirely from an evangelical perspective, and focuses especially on commentaries. Well worth checking up.

The following book reviews have been published so far:

Brown, Dan, The Da Vinci Code: A Novel
Reviewed by Craig L. Blomberg

Dunn, James D. G., ed. The Cambridge Companion to St Paul
Reviewed by Craig L. Blomberg

Schreiner, Thomas R. 1, 2 Peter, Jude. New American Commentary, vol. 37
Reviewed by Craig L. Blomberg

Johns, Loren L. The Lamb Christology of the Apocalypse of John
Reviewed by David Mathewson

Witherington III, Ben, with Darlene Hyatt Paul's Letter to the Romans: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary
Reviewed by Craig L. Blomberg

Update (Wednesday, 12:13): On Bible Software Review Weblog, Rubén Gómez writes on the New Testament Exegesis Bibliography:
Fairly standard list, with lots of good books. But my question is: why isn't there a single reference to any Bible software, multimedia software, courseware or such like? Does this mean that there is no single software tool that deserves to be recommended? It baffles me that this should still happen in 2004. Come on, ladies and gentlemen! there are currently some excellent applications that scholars and students should not only know about, but use extensively.
This is a good point. There are no internet resources either, which potentially reinforces the impression that "proper" research only takes place with books on a desk. What I think we need to be doing is pointing students to the best electronic resources so that they can learn to be as discriminating with those as they are with print resources.

New Blogger Grumbles

On Paleojudaica, Jim Davila grumbles about the upgrade to Blogger, which I use too. I've actually quite enjoyed the new format myself, but perhaps partly because I don't have the paragraph-break problem Jim mentions, perhaps because I don't work with a Mac. On one of Jim's points, the date and time one, you can make an adjustment manually by clicking "More Post Options . . ." at the bottom of any given entry and then adjusting the time. I find this useful because I often write half a post, get disturbed and can't get back to it for some time, sometimes after I've published others in the mean time (e.g. now I have one pending on the Open Scholarship issue). In fact I tend to think of there being broadly two types of blog entry, the one notebook style entry which goes up quickly in five minutes or so and the other the mini-essay post, which takes a little longer and has more of one's own prose in it.

A couple of things I like about the new blogger: the archiving is greatly improved by separating off posts into single pages with single URLs, which means that when one searches for a given post you can go straight to it rather than getting to the page on which it appears. I've also noticed that other users of Blogger are now using its Comments function. I still have comments from Haloscan which date back to the time before Blogger provided their Comments system. Ideally I'd like to move to that too, but it will mean losing all the Haloscan comments.

Dr J. I. H. McDonald (1933-2004)

This sad news from Larry Hurtado:
With sadness, I report that my beloved colleague, Dr. J. I. H. McDonald (1933-2004), died peacefully early on 24th May, after a difficult battle with cancer over the last year or so. His funeral service was held in Edinburgh 28 May. He retired several years ago as Reader in New Testament Studies and Christian Ethics, and continued actively in scholarly work, having been appointed as an Honourary Fellow of the School of Divinity. In more recent years until his illness was diagnosed last year, he served as Editor of Expository Times, leading it through a major re-design, and steering this well-known publication through the changeover from the Edinburgh-based T&T Clark to the London-based Continuum Group.

Ian's book-length contributions in New Testament studies and Christian ethics are widely known and cited:

Jesus and the Ethics of the Kingdom, co-authored with Bruce Chilton (SPCK, 1987)
The Resurrection: Narrative and Belief (SPCK, 1989)
Biblical Interpretation and Christian Ethics (CUP, 1993)
Christian Values: Theory and Practice in Christian Ethics (T&T Clark, 1995)
The Crucible of Christian Morality (Routledge, 1998)

He was a regular attender at meetings of the SNTS, and will be known and missed by many colleagues internationally. Those of us privileged to have worked with him will particularly miss this genial, informed, thoughtful, and dependable colleague. He leaves his wife, Jenny.