Articles for the Month of July 2010

Hypertext and FOSOTT

James has added a strong plea (to the mix of posts on the idea of a Free Open Source Old Testament Textbook) that any project not be limited to mere textyness. While, naturally, I agree (after all the Amos: Hypertext Bible Commentary was at least in part a partial intro textbook in (early) hypertext form, I would also like to see a core to the project that can produce a texty text book, for such a limited text is convenient for both teachers and students in a class setting.

So I’d see James’ plea as adding weight, and perhaps the possibility of dedicated new material, to Marks addendum to the Textbook idea.1Mark explains this well with an example in another fine post The “Textyness” of the Textbook in a Digital Age:

Let’s say you are talking about the topic of form-criticism and introducing Richard Bauckham’s recent contributions about the involvement of alleged eye-witnesses.  You could record your own audio or video about this, in which you attempt to summarize his position, or you could watch and listen to the man himself doing it for you.  Examples of this kind could be multiplied.  My point is not that we should stop producing new resources — of course not.  But rather that we should start thinking seriously about the integration of good existing resources into our new model.

On the other hand, Mark’s latest post The Shortcomings of Traditional Textbooks in the Digital Age, and Our Invitation gives a clear vision of how such an Open Textbook with its associated richer collection might be significantly different from and better then merely another (but free) textbook:

The traditional textbook’s difficulty is that however strong its author, it is still that author’s views that are presented, in all their particularity.  What the textbook of the digital age can produce is something that is genuinely multi-authored as well as multi-media, a resource that encourages the university student to think critically from the earliest point by listening to different voices speaking on the same subjects.

  1. See Neopublishing, FOSOTT and gateway sites formy take on why these are different but hopefully related projects. []

Neopublishing, FOSOTT and gateway sites

Isn’t it exciting that at last there might be movement in the direction of a really simple and significant piece of what AKMA neatly neologises as “neopublishing“! By now you know that it all started with a twit that was published on Brooke’s Facebook page (see his blog Anumma for the belated expression of this in public “Open Access Intro to OT“) that happily was seen by AKMA. And that Mark offered (in The Future for Textbooks Online) his own slant on AKMA’s take on Brooke’s ideas. Doesn’t this sound like the resume of an episode of one of those teenage soaps one’s daughters watch?

In the latest round of posts, AKMA (Funding Neopublishing) highlights some really interesting ideas for funding such a project, and since this is a high demand, low(ish) cost project the idea of (almost) crowdsourcing the funding ought to be possible :) While Mark, always the gentleman and peacemaker, seeks to convince (himself and?) us that AKMA’s multiauthor multiple possibility neotextbook is really much the same sort of teaching tool as his own proposal for a gateway site focused on the needs of beginning students and intro classes. They aren’t, but both would serve really useful purposes. FOSOTT as a textbook would allow consistency of design, format and presentation making the assimilation of the basics of the discipline easier for beginners. An Intro Gateway as a collection of links to quality (somewhat?) assured resources selected for usefulness to beginners would be great for the further reading that we hope all students will do, and that the smart ones actually do do.

Incidentally, to display my own peacemaker tendencies, I think both Mark and Bob (in his comments to Mark’s most recent post) have it right: Mark point that there are now (on at least most topics) far more quality resources and enough to make a workable “further reading” list for an intro class is correct. Bob is also right though that Google works better as a search engine, and so can offer more complete coverage than even the NT Gateway or iTanakh can manage (just note the cost though for an intro class, teachers must spend more time educating students to be critical).1

  1. Yes, we say that this is what we do, but really we sometimes resent the time spent explaining how they should have known that the latest Indiana Jones stunt is not worth the price of the salesman/archaeologist?’s hat, since that time would have been much better spent downloading more of our precious learning into their poor feeble brains. []

Articulated texts

Articulated trucks are easier to turn ;) photo by crabchick)

In this post I am NOT thinking of the clear or muffled ar-tic-u-lation that my speech teacher prized, but the other sort. And, teaching “Understanding and Interpreting the Bible” this week the topic of textual articulation came to the fore. First in trying to explain the nature and function of a “conjunction”  to students who have no understanding of grammar (not even those who attended secondary schools with “Grammar” proudly flaunted in their historic names).

Conjunctions, I said are the (often little) words that join and articulate text. They tell us how the parts work together. As such they are very important clues to what a text is doing.

They are. And all1 languages have them. But2 not all languages have them, or use them, equally. And3 they certainly do not use them in the same places. Different languages and different speakers articulate their texts differently.

For this week on spotting the workings of text at a local level, we studied 1 Tim 6:17-19. Most of our students do not learn Greek or Hebrew :(4 so we were working on an English text and with English grammar. 1 Timothy 6:19 provides a nice example:

thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.
ἀποθησαυρίζοντας ἑαυτοῖς θεμέλιον καλὸν εἰς τὸ μέλλον, ἵνα ἐπιλάβωνται τῆς ὄντως ζωῆς.

Eduard von Grützner's Falstaff from Wikipedia

Actually the NIV makes the point more dramatically opening the verse “In this way” where the Greek just has a participle. Hebrew texts offer even more of these challenges, since the paratactic constructions favoured by the language use fewer written markers of syntax.

At which point I’ll call back my speech teacher, a grandiloquent old act-tor, for it is only by articulating a written text clearly that we can begin to understand it. For where written grammatical markers of syntax are lacking only clear articulation can “make sense” of the text.

  1. Or at least, all that I have studied so far. []
  2. Yes, I know this is the second time I have started a sentence with a conjunction :) I do hope all prescriptive grammarians are spinning like tops in their graves, or soon will be, since prescriptive grammar is unnecessary and unwanted. Well actually it is not, I need to know that starting sentences with conjunctions is “wrong” for my use of this construction to be chosen for effect, and not mere carelessness. So prescripts you may cease your rotations forthwith :) []
  3. Yes, a third! When you are on a roll it is hard to stop ;) []
  4. No, I don’t know how someone can be a serious Bible student without the languages, either. Though I note that only Greek was compulsory at Oxford, and that I failed to take Hebrew, to my shame. To Oxford’s shame I believe that even Greek is now not required for the Honours School of Theology :( []

Free Open Source Old Testament Textbook project

From AKMA and Mark I learned that Brooke Lester had asked his Facebook friends, “I know the answer before I ask, but: Do we have no good, critical, open-access Intro to Old Testament textbooks?”

I have no idea what Brooke said, because this conversation is not on Anuma, and I’m not in the favoured few friended on Facebook. But both Mark and AKMA’s replies are brilliant, and brilliantly different. I read AKMA’s first, and he outlines exactly how such a project, that he calls FOSOTT Free Open Source Old Testament Textbook project would work. Basically with different people contributing chapters, and eventually a collection of variant chapters offering different perspectives and approaches to choose from and build your own textbook. As AKMA points out most of the infrastructure is ready and print on demand would make paper copies easily obtainable. I also love AKMA’s suggestion of podcast editions, short video intros and other optional extras. I’d add three details that I did not notice in AKMA’s presentation (which you must read!) some form of peer review or selection of authors1 so that the quality is not compromised and an archive of earlier editions so that versions are stable and therefore citable2 Thirdly I’d like to see strong guidelines for authors so that there is a measure of consistency in the topics treated and headings used, because such a straitjacket though a crimp on authors’ creativity would make life easier for poor beginning students ;)

Mark’s suggestion is a beefed up and focused version of his NT Gateway (or perhaps more precisely of Chris Heard’s iTanakh) such a site, collaboratively curated, that pointed students to suitable selected material already available on the web would also be brilliant.It has the advantage of avoiding the need for yet more spiffy wheel designs, but the disadvantages of lack of consistency and difficult printability.

I can envisage using both in different ways. FOSOTT as a textbook, that students are required to read selected chapters from week by week, they can choose whether to read online or buy a print copy, and the beginner focused Gateway site as a suggested further reading resource.

I therefore volunteer to write a chapter for FOSOTT, I can start writing at the end of next year (2011) when my current writing projects end, and if FOSOTT gets underway would prioritise it over another “volume” of HBC or other projects.

  1. Notice that here I strongly disagree with a commenter who suggested starting the textbook as a Wiki – not because I don’t like Wikipedia, I love it, but because there is so much crud “biblical” material around and I want a resource I can use to help my students see what “good” looks like! []
  2. As a teacher I need this so that I can check students bizarre quotations in their essays. []

Soul Bar and Bistro: Cuisine – Villa Maria Restaurant of the Year

Soul is on the waterfront overlooking the boats

Soul Bar & Bistro
Viaduct Harbour,
ph: 09-356 7249,
Lunch & dinner 7 days  (5-31 July) $70

Entrée Smoked salmon with salsa verde & toasted sourdough

Main Jerusalem artichoke  risotto with truffle, parmesan  & a poached egg
OR roasted Harmony pork chop, Puy lentils, silverbeet & apple purée

Dessert Tamarillo brulée
OR Kaimai Creamy Blue – Waharoa NZ & Soul’s oatmeal biscuits

Choice of two wines:
Villa Maria Single Vineyard Ihumatao Verdelho 2008
Reserve Marlborough Chardonnay 2007
Reserve Noble Riesling 2009

The starter again quaintly designated “Entrée” was simple and nicely balanced, understated elegance, with a tasty pesto and a strong olive oil drizzle that set off the salmon beautifully.

The pork chop was huge, but pronounced really good. The artichoke risotto continued the understated balance, with nice touches like the little crispy bits (I do not know the technical term, and the waiter understood what I meant) made from  very thinly sliced bread rolled thinner and deep fried. I would never have thought of using Jerusalem Artichokes in a risotto (starch on starch) but it went so well.

The Tamarillo brulée was a nice finish to a really good meal.

The wines were delicious, the Verdelho went really well with the risotto, but I was less convinced by some of the other matches, and also wonder if 2 from 3 is a cop out. It would have been a fairer comparison, and more fun for us to list the wines against the courses and then say 2 from  3 – after all food and matching is part of what it is about!

Again though a lovely meal, very good service and superb value :)

BTW in case you are wondering at two expensive meals in two days, the previous week Barbara was on holiday, and we were both sick and so hardly stepped outside the door, some holiday! This is part of the make up :)

Prego: Cuisine – Villa Maria Restaurant of the Year Competition

In the evening there is parking next door, but on a rainy lunchtime we arrived like drowned rats :(

226 Ponsonby Rd,
ph: 09-376 3095,
Lunch and dinner 7 days $65

Entrée Crispy skin pork belly  & pistachio nut roulade on  peppered beetroot & spinach with peach aïoli with Villa  Maria Single Vineyard Omahu Gravels Viognier 2007
Main Pan-roasted duck breast, vanilla mashed yams, sautéed cavalo nero, tamarillo compote  & black fig molasses, with Villa Maria Cellar Selection Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2005

This was a brilliant matching of food and wine, with the viognier strong enough to partner the heavier than usual starter. (Why do Kiwis call starters Entrées when in France, USA and the UK this word refers to the main meat course? Isn’t it time we either grew up and said “Starter” or learned to use the foreign term more or less correctly?) The superb Syrah also complemented the duck well. In neither case did either the food or the wine overpower the other.

The service was also excellent, when we arrived in a windy downpour staff explained that the vacant table might suffer a draft and explained our choices. The young woman who served our table was attentive (even spotting a grimace from Barbara and checking that the problem was not with the meal) and seemed enthusiastic about the food. Service was prompt (apart from the inevitable wait at the start, late on a busy lunchtime), efficient and not obtrusive.

The starter was interesting, though I would have liked the pistachio to be more evident, and think the pork skin should have been crisp (as indeed the menu suggests) even when served round shredded meat. Despite those quibbles this dish was interesting, and a fine match for the deep and interesting wine.

The main was a delight. The vanilla yams and the fruity juices complemented the duck as well as being interesting in their own right. The wine again worked with the food rather than one or the other “winning” :)

Food: Very good
Wine matching: Excellent
Service: Excellent

We can’t wait to try the next one!

Lament, complaint or confession: Prophets and “their” books

Brooke commented on my post Did Jeremiah confess? Or: Laments, complaints & confessions?

There’s a somewhat analogous issue in Dan 9:4b-19, with the pious deuteronomistic prayer that contrasts theologically and ideologically with the apocalyptic narrative framework. The scholarship has move over time from:

a) those who deny the issue (“Daniel wrote it, there’s no contrast, take your fancy pants form criticism and go away”); to
b) those who see a “ham-handed pious redactor” who “inserts” the prayer (these are the ones who are getting the goat of the traditionalists); to
c) those who say, “Hey, if the author of Daniel 9 knew the genre of the post-exilic deuteronomistic prayer of community penitence, then maybe he incorporated or wrote such a prayer himself.”

What is the relationship between a book and the "people" it contains? (Photo by kelly taylor)

Indeed the trajectories of scholarship on the two books seems to have been similar. In Jeremiah too most of the ink has been spilled over issues of the historicity (of the words seen as ascribed to the prophet Jeremiah in the late sixth-early seventh century) and more recently the history of the text (seen as growing over time rather like a snowball or a hymn1 ) However, my interest in whether the texts traditionally called the “Confessions of Jeremiah” is not in these areas. I wonder how these texts are intended to function as components of the larger text known as the book of Jeremiah (mainly I am interested in the MT edition, though it would also be interesting to look at whether these sub-texts function differently in the other well-known edition – found commonly in the LXX).

This is partly a question of genre. If the composer(s) of the book thought of these texts as “complaints” then they would function differently than they would if they were thought of as “laments”. But perhaps they were used as “confessions”. In this case the genre attribution would only in part depend on the form, which is close to the lament/complaints in Psalms, but also on how the passages function in the book. Is Jeremiah (the eponymous character in the book, not the putative sixth-fifth century person) lamenting something, complaining to God or confessing?

I hope to use the book of Amos, which contains texts that do all these things, as a point of comparison. The speaker of the book and/or their God laments (5:1-3), “Amos” complains (7:1-6) and the speaker of the book confesses (1:2; 4:13; 5:8-9; 9:5-6).2

  1. Many hymns that were commonly sung in churches in the 20th century had had verses added over time, many too had had wording adjusted and adapted over the years, as well as in some cases being translated from other language originals []
  2. I had not noticed before writing that, but it is all the major characters of the book who are involved here, among the actors in the book only those satirised and the land are left out. []

I write like…

It has been years since I did one of those answer some daft questions and find out which great theologian you are like thingies, so since some of you have posted these:

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

I tried. But this is all I got :( Who or what IS a David Foster Wallace? I already knew I wrote like a total unknown – well until I hit the biblioblog top ten last month, that did wonders for my self-esteem. (Another of the things that is always bigger in the USA ;)