July 19, 2005

Google Maps and Bible sites

I recently discussed with others whether bible software companies should consider opening up their API's to allow for 3rd party innovation. Quite frankly, the first one that does will quickly overtake the landscape, in a way similar to how Google Maps has gone from nothing to THE tool to use in such short time.

Look at this mashup of a Google map utility that displays satellite images of Jesus cities and provides scripture links. The example is very elementary but it demonstrates how one could create a map for an entire range of pedagogical and church uses. Some tips on how to get started can be found there.

It illustrates the tension between web applications and traditional computer apps. For example, Accordance has a nice Atlas module... unequalled in any other bible software on any platfom, however, I can't create in it a map where sites are linked to specific scripture texts I assign. It's simply not an option, and there's no way for me to customize it to do so. One can't even do pushpins, I don't think. We can't predict the uses folks might come up with, and if the Open Source model has taught us anything, is that innovation catches on fire in such an open API environment.

Still, I notice that the Accordance Map module is on sale right now... I'd grab it if you don't have it. And perhaps more customizing options will be coming in the future.

July 18, 2005

Reliance upon consensus

The recent discussions regarding the notion of scholarly consensus are helpful, I think. (See Mark's post for a catalog of some of them.)

I'd like to make two points:
1. We depend on consensus. And by we, I mean me. To an even greater extent, church pastors and just-beginning-junior-schoars, of which I am both, depend on the summary assertions of scholarly consensus in order to build upon understanding. Bible scholarship is a big picture that gets painted, a story that gets told, and it is only through reliance upon consensus that we can create and shape the story, so that we can in time expore different facets, consider the nuance, and decide for our own.

In my Intro NT course in seminary, I was told about 2SH, and then (is "minority" the right word here?) assertions were mentioned. When I took my first course in Synoptics, I studied the issue in depth. I marked my Synopsis. I read the material. I began to formulate my own opinions, opinions that have even begun to change (grow?) in the last few years. This is the way it should has to be.

Frankly, we can not decide for our own on every issue within Biblical scholarship--not even the most senior scholars can do that. One simply does not move from extensive study to the necessary intensive study of every single topic. We depend upon others' dating of material, generic conclusions, authorial speculations, etc. This is why we must be careful in these discussions to not suggest scholars, commentary writers, etc. should not appeal to consensus.

In the absence of it, we are empowerd to say nothing.

2. Having said that, a real downside is that the senior scholar is innately resistant to being convinced by an argument that overturns a consensus assertion when it would seem to render her/his past publications that assume that opinion outdated and hardly worth reading anymore. (The exception might be, of course, if the challenge to consensus is the work of their own scholarship.)

July 16, 2005

New Discoveries -- Approach with Caution

AP runs a story today about 2 Biblical Scroll Fragments Found in Israel, in the Judean desert around the dead sea, presumably from the Bar Kochba revolt period. I find it interesting, and actually quite appropriate, that it was only 143 words into the article before we find the word "forgery(ies)".

It is a sign of the times, and a good one, I think--that skepticism has regained its proper place.
If experts end up telling me the fragments of Leviticus are genuine, that will be swell. I don't doubt it will be the case. Still, one ossuary and two gospels later, I think we should approach with caution.

July 15, 2005

Anunciación un Nuevo Biblioblog

The Macintosh Biblioblog has a rather small niche, I think, and I leave the larger, wider (and important) issues to the broader bibliogloggers, including announcing new blogs. However, noone has mentioned so I would like to draw attentnion to "Mi Convivencia Teológica" (My theological coexistence), David Ford's blog. David is an intelligent man... despite the fact that he passed me in a recent exam, this is evidenced by his smart customizations on his template, his use of unicode in his posts, his breadth of topics he's blogged on so far, and his recent move to local hosting (off of blogspot).

I have suggested to David that his blog is incredibly valuable. As a NT professor in Peru, Ecuador, Columbia he is poised to make us aware of the state of biblical studies in the academic and ecclesiological context from Latin American where some of the most invigorating theological discourse is taking place.

I have about run out of options for finding money/roomate/logistics to go to SBL this year in Philly, so won't be at the much-talked-about session on biblioblogs, however, I think that one would do well to mention this as exactly one of the core benefits of this medium of the blogosphere. Scholars are able to stay abreast of a current and dynamic digest of an aspect and perspective of biblical studies otherwise overlooked. I think of many of my feed links a CNN-Headline news on one particular area of interest.

July 14, 2005

Puedo leer a español

At least so says my Theological Spanish examiner, David Ford. After 48 hours of translating (much more difficult than the cursory "reader comprehension questions" I have to say), I relented and by the grace of God and the luck of the Irish (which is odd since I'm Norwegian), I passed my Theological Spanish reading exam. Muchos Gracias, mi profesor, Prof. Ford. Si usted no conoce David, blogeré sobre él pronto.

Again thanks to those who offered help, and who also offered general encouragement on going agains the grain. Some offered well-centered concern on why I pursued Spanish (presumably instead of French). True, we know so much more is written pertinent to our research in French, but then again, it is circular argumentation. How will we really engage the scholarship of Latin America until more of us are able to draw upon it fluently?

My program is pleased we were able to make these arrangements. And now I have one more thing in my record to demonstrate that all-important "progress in the program". I still have much work to do, pero hoy, soy muy feliz.

doo doo doo doo doo doo doo We did it... Hooray!

Lo hicimos.
(Yes, I have a 3 year old daughter and learned some of my Spanish from Dora.)

July 13, 2005

Trying Out Bookends

I'm doing some bib work right now, and have decided to give Bookends a try before upgrading my Endnote. We'll see if it satisfies. Right now I'm using the ever-helpful connection to other libraries, Amazon, Library of Congress, etc. feature to easy entry of info.

One real absence I see so far is the ability to add info to bib entries you already have in the software. For instance, connecting to an academic library pulls the best and largest amount of bib info into the entry. It's not ideal, since you still have to do alot of manual input. For instance, and editor of a compiled volume is invariably listed in the author category. But, libraries of course don't have the nifty cover jacket picture that Amazon does, so, I'd like to do a second search at Amazon and add select information, namely, the picture. I can't see a way to do this.
I don't suppose this qualifies as submitting a feature request, since Jon from Sonny Software made a comment on the Mac Biblioblog a few months ago that he doesn't read this blog.

I do wish I could use Delicious Library or Booxter to enter books, as I discussed here, but let's face it... the books I'm using don't have bar codes to scan. They're either too old or don't have the dust jacket still.

And on the subject of bib entry:
Is it possible to start a campaign to put the year published on the title page? The title page has everything else In need to look at when doing bib work, and it seems to me that eliminating the need to turn the page would increase my productivity by 50% (though too often I do also go looking for the LCN.

July 12, 2005

Automating tasks (such as indexing) in your WP

Danny at deinde.org started a discussion about creating a scripture index. As a Reasearch Assistant for a rather prolific book-publishing scholar, I was responsible for the scripture index for a handful of texts (such as Boring, Berger, Colpe, The Hellenistic Commentary of the New Testament). Since we were consistent in reference form through the book, it became more and more refined of a process. A search would find simple verse references such as "v." and "vv." and then those are given full form citations like "John 1:2". I had little routines written for each step and then in the end it would all just run and Voila!
I mostly accomplished it with VBA in Word. It's been a couple years, and it'd take a long time to dig the code up again and try and get it ready for anyone to use it.

Through my dealings with getting books in order for the publisher, I was always astounded by how "behind the times" they were. They couldn't open this format. Or, they wouldn't know what a macro was if it jumped up and bit them. I know of entire bible software modules prepared by staff who don't even know perl!! I can't imagine paying someone to do text preparation who can't use the most standard text manipulation tool. It confounds me, really.

This is the reason that I can not use Mellel, and that Word is still the superior WP for real work. The lack of a script or macro facility is simply non-overlook-able/inexcuseable. I'll stop making up words now.