Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Daily News

Though it was in many ways a rather uneventful day, it still seems to have gone quickly.

Tonight I met with my partner in Lexel Software, Kris Pate, and we discussed the SBL trip over hot wings at the local Lone Star Wings establishment. Enjoyed it. Most of the discussion centered around details of the NET GEMS project.

And on a completely unrelated note...I am a full time employee of a company called RealPage. We do web development using Sql Server 2000 and C# for managing multi-family housing. My group is looking for two .NET programmers. If you live in the Dallas area, have a little experience, have skills in Sql Server 2000 and C#/.NET, and need a job, send me an email. And yes, I want you to do this. I get a referral bonus if someone I refer gets hired...

Monday, November 29, 2004


Just finished watching "Miracle" and I highly recommend it. Good for the whole family. Russell does say "Communist bastards" at one point, I think, but I can't remember anything else.

Now, to work!

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Starting a Mono project

One of the future events in the NET GEMS project is the development of a cross-platform tagging program. I started that tonight (but don't worry, Hall, I won't let it keep me from the tagging :) ... I promise). I plan on doing this just a little bit at a time because I have so much else to do right now, which includes preparing the text for tagging and preparing our morphological database. And then, of course, there is tagging to do as well! This should keep me busy, especially since I also have family and other responsibilities as well. But, it is something that needs to be done, and it will give me familiarity with the dev environment I'll need when I do some of the other many projects that are running around in my head at the moment.

I'm doing this using Mono, the cross-platform C# development platform developed around the ECMA standardized parts of the Microsoft .NET programming platform. In Mono interfaces are built using Gtk# (extension to the Gtk+ libraries already available) and Glade# (extension of the Glade interface building tools). I already had Mono and the Visual Studio add-in already installed, so all I needed to get was the Glade Interface Builder and I was ready to go.

It is definitely different from the Windows Forms development that I've gotten used to, but hopefully it won't come as too much of a system shock. The Glade builder is definitely a change; you don't place widgets based on coordinates like in a Winform development project. But I'm sure I'll get used to it.

There's really only two major headaches that really need to be beaten for me to be sure this way of doing cross-platform develpment will work: Gtk# needs to meet my needs as a GUI toolkit and there needs to be an easy way to install the Mono framework, the Gtk# libraries, and Mono projects. The first I should know sooner than the second.

I plan on putting tidbits about Gtk#/C# development every once in a while, as I accomplish something. If you are not a code-oriented individual, you will probably find this stuff rather boring...

What I've Learned So Far:

First, since all the widgets are stored as xml and not a part of the code itself, you have to import the widget from the xml file. This is actually pretty easy:

[Widget] Gtk.Entry theNameOfMyWidget;

After that you can do whatever you want. In this case, an "Entry" widget is like a textbox, so you can do something like the following:

theNameOfMyWidget.Text = "This text goes in the textbox.";

Also, here is the equivalent of a Windows Forms "MessageBox.Show('Hello, World!');" command:

Gtk.MessageDialog dialog = new Gtk.MessageDialog(MainWindow, DialogFlags.Modal, MessageType.Info, ButtonsType.Ok, "Hello, World!");

At least that's one of the constructor overloads for the class. I haven't figured out yet how to hook up the button to a method yet, but hopefully I'll figure that out pretty quickly.

Now I'm off to watch "Miracle" with the wife. Later.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

SBL purchases and commentary, Part 1

I saw lots of super cool books while at SBL, and was even able to buy some!

Dead Sea Scrolls:

The Dead Sea Scrolls Reader: Exegetical Texts. Edited by Parry and Tov (Brill).
The Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls by VanderKam and Flint (Harper San Francisco).
The Archaeology of Qumran and the DSS by Jodi Magness (Eerdmans).
The Pesharim and Qumran History by Charlesworth (Eerdmans).

Perhaps the most interesting of these to me is the Brill volume. It is in a series that I haven't seen before. Each volume is done in a diglot fashion, with Hebrew/Aramaic on the left and an English translation on the right. It is very similar to the DSS Study Edition co-published with Eerdmans in that respect, though the translations are different, which is why I bought the volume. The series is arranged by topics, where each volume groups DSS texts. The groups are as follows: Texts Concerned with Religious Law, Exegetical Texts, Parabiblical Texts, Calendrical and Sapiental Texts, Poetic and Liturgical Texts, Additional Genres and Unclassified Texts.


Verbal Aspect in the Greek of the New Testament by Stanley Porter (Lang).
Levels of Constituent Structure in New Testament Greek by Palmer (Lang).
Acts: A Handbook on the Greek Text by Culy and Parsons (Baylor U Press).
I, II, III John: A Handbook on the Greek Text by Culy (Baylor U Press).

I was so happy to get Porter's dissertation, and for only $25! I thought that was a steal. And the second looks interesting as well. As you might have guessed, the last two are part of a new series by Baylor University Press. Each volume is a word by word, clause by clause analysis of the Greek NT. This is obviously very interesting to someone of my interests! These are the only two volumes currently available.

Random Books:

1 Enoch: A New Translation by Nickelsburg and VanderKam (Fortress).
Galatians: A Commentary by Tarazi (SVS Press).
Engaging the Online Learner by Conrad and Donaldson (Jossey-Bass).
Classical Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism by Chilton and Neusner (Baker).
The Nag Hammadi Library, ed. Robinson (Harper San Francisco).
In the Beginning: A Short History of the Hebrew Language by Hoffman (NYU Press).
Formation of Christian Theology, Vol 1: The Way to Nicaea by Behr (SVS Press).

I've never interacted in depth with Eastern Orthodoxy (just a little reading and some notes in my Christian history books), so I decided to get a Galatians commentary by an Eastern Orthodox fellow just to see a little about how they think. The last volume is also published by the same Eastern Orthodox press. Everything else just seems pretty interesting, or had a lot to do with one of my major interests (inter-testamental Judaism and the formation of early Christianity).

I've got a few more that got packed in the booth's moving van. I won't get that for a few days. I'll post about those then.

Finally, home in Dallas.

I am now back from my trip to SBL and to my parent's house for Thanksgiving. It is nice to be back. But now I have a lot to catch up on. I had 1600 email messages for me when I arrived (99% of them were spam, of course) and 3100 unread rss feeds. This will take a while...

Friday, November 26, 2004

Visiting Parents, On Being Disconnected, Movie

I'm visiting my parent in SE Texas and will be until tomorrow. Because they are still on dialup I am feeling rather disconnected from the world. I'm used to being online just about all day long, during my work during the day and at night. Being online for 10 minutes a day is a real change. And sometimes an inconvenience. Sometimes the best way to find out something is to just hit Google, which isn't convenient all the time here. But I'll surely survive. And since I don't use an online feed aggregator, I'm away from my RSS feeds as well. So I'm not sure what's going on in the world.

Went and saw "National Treasure" last night. I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Farewell SBL

SBL is now over. I am now visiting my brother in Houston. The conference was a huge success, I feel. This morning I had a couple more very interesting encounters.

First was Paul Nikkel of www.deinde.org. We had a very nice conversation about open source ideas and the NET GEMS project. I'm very glad you dropped by, Paul. It was nice to meet you.

I also had the pleasure of sitting down with Mike and Mike from Bibleworks. They gave me a little preview of what's coming down the pike for them. Of course, I can't tell you. But that shouldn't surprise some of you, since I've been saying that a lot recently about various things. Just know that it is very cool and you should be looking forward to it. And they are very nice guys, too. I'm glad I can like them and their software.

I got a number of really good books at SBL. Frankly, that's the best reason to go. The exhibit hall is filled with such great things. Later on I'll give highlights. I don't even have half of my books with me at the moment. Later!

Monday, November 22, 2004

SBL, Evening, Day 4

Today was a very exciting day. I got to talk to lots of interesting people.

Of course, the day began early. Once I got to the exhibition hall I got to start talking more about NET GEMS.

My first demo was to Joel Green, professor at Asbury and editor of the Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. Enjoyed talking to him and he had some complementary things to say.

A little later I. Howard Marshall dropped by, though I didn't get a chance to talk to him myself. Bummer.

My next demo was for Donald Hagner, author of a few NT commentaries. He gave us some nice encouraging words on the project, which is always appreciated.

My next interesting encounter was while I was trying to help the economy by shopping for books. I ran into one of my old college profs, Stephen Wyrick. I got to talk to him a little, but I'm hoping he'll get to drop by the booth tomorrow. I hope to talk to him again.

Then I gave a demo to Erik Heen of Lutheran Theological Seminary. Nice comments...yes I know you're tired of hear that.

Hall and I were finally able to meet up with Mike and Mike from Bibleworks to talk about the NET GEMS project and some of their current work. Can't, of course, give any details here. BTW, Bibleworks rocks.

My next exciting NET GEMS demo was for the famous Douglas Moo. We had a pretty long demo and he was exceptionally encouraging. Certainly glad he dropped by. And as a side note, I never figured he would be as tall as he is.

I think my final demo was for Frank Theilman of Beeson. He was very positive about the project and encouraged us in a few ways that we could increase the quality of the project. I'll say more about that later. But, thanks mucho Frank.

We had a very nice dinner afterwards in the hotel restaurant. The most exciting part of the dining experience were our special guests, who I could only tell you about if I wanted the NET folks to kill me :). Sorry about the secrecy, Tim. But I hope to be able to speak freely on this in the coming months. Other special guests included Darrell Bock and Dan Wallace, the last of which gave us and our special guests a nice demo about some of the work CSNTM had done recently.

Afterwards a small group of us went and smoked cigars. And then my day drew to a close. Now I'm blogging and will be looking at a couple of my really cool books before I collapse in exhaustion.

New Blogger

BTW, we now have a new biblioblogger. Hall Harris, who is NT prof at Dallas Seminary and chief editor of the NET Bible is now blogging at http://nagolder.blogspot.com/.

SBL, Morning, Day 4

We ended up staying up last night till 1:30, which is not unusual. I'm definitely going to need the rest of the Thanksgiving holidays to recover from this trip.

One person I forgot to mention yesterday that I saw was Will Rutherford. Will is working on his PhD at the moment somewhere in Europe (sorry, don't remember). Will and I were in a couple of classes at DTS and together did a lightning run through Wheelock's Latin. Smart guy. Good to see you Will.

Now I'm off to the exhibition hall. This is the last full day of SBL, so hopefully I'll get in plenty of good conversations.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

SBL, Night 3

Today was not quite as eventful as yesterday, though it was still enjoyable and I got to meet some nice new people.

The first was Roger Omanson of the United Bible Societies. He spent most of his time talking to Hall, though I did get to show him the NET GEMS demo.

A Cambridge University Press guy came by this morning pretty earlier and had lots of interesting things to say. Most significant was a discussion of the KJV. Apparently the "galley proofs" for the 1611 KJV were found and they're planning on publishing an "original" KJV, along with a companion volume describing the textual history of the KJV. Pretty cool. This will undoubtedly make lots of KJV-only folks rather upset.

Next was a very good discussion with a fellow named Robert Milliman, a prof at Cederville U. Got to show him a demo of the NET GEMS project. He was very encouraging, and I enjoyed talking to him quite a bit.

I then got a complete suprise visit from one of the project directors of the Online Critical Pseudepigrapha, Ken Penner, which I have blogged about before. This is a great project. Anyway, I got to talk to him for quite a while. I very much enjoyed it, and it was good to meet you, Ken.

I later snagged Kirk Lowery to talk about syntactical markup standards, xml, and OSIS. We had a good discussion as well. They're going to be working towards a language neutral syntactical markup standard and I am very interested in this. I'm hoping we can be very involved.

Later I was finally able to track down Stephan Pfann, based on the recommendation of Hall. Pfann has been doing some excavation work in Qumran and does a ton of work on the Dead Sea Scrolls. We had a nice, but short, conversation about the scrolls and how to get into studying them more in depth.

I got back to the booth, however, and was sad to learn that James Dunn had come by in my absence. Bummer to have missed him.

Throughout the day we were blessed with other random people as well, like Dan Wallace and Darrell Bock. Good to see them around, though I didn't really get a chance to talk to them.

After the day of selling the new NA27/NET diglot we went to eat at a local Italian restaurant. Very good. Rather expensive. But, I didn't have to pay, so I loved it!

I took a break from a meeting to come make this entry. I should probably go back down to the lobby and continue my long night. Maybe later tonight I'll be able to make an entry about my book purchases. I've got some good stuff...

Saturday, November 20, 2004

SBL, Night 2

Technically the night isn't over yet, but I figured I would go ahead and post my nightly entry. If anything else happens, I guess I'll post again!

The day started at promptly 7:30. Without breakfast Hall Harris and I walked the three blocks from our hotel, through the riverwalk area, to the convention center at about 8:30. And the hectic day began. The booth workers were as follows: Hampton Keathley, Todd Lingren, Greg Harrick, Jeff (sorry, don't remember your last name), Hall Harris, Dave Austin, Dave Foran and Chris Goodman. Hope I'm not leaving anyone out.

The first person of interest that I met was the fellow biblioblogger Stephen Carlson, of Hypotyposeis fame. I'm really glad he stopped by, though we couldn't talk for very long. His lecture was coming up and he was understandibly a little anxious about it. Hope it went well for you.

Soon after I noticed that the first bit of Biblia Hebraica Quinta has come out, but only a few bucks. Pretty expensive. I thought about ordering the volume (they already sold out), but I decided to wait. Unfortunately the full thing won't be out till around 2010.

I cut short my looking at an LXX lexicon at the American Bible Societies booth to go listen in on a conversation between Hall and N.T. Wright about the new NA27 diglot. I was hoping that I might learn something by osmosis just standing close to him, but that doesn't really work. He couldn't stay long, so I wasn't able to ask any juicy questions. Bummer.

Next I was blessed with a brief conversation between Roy Brown of Accordance software. He had apparently read my recent posts to the Lexel site and enjoyed them, though he did mention one thing that he was displeased with. I'm sure I'll be posting about that sometime later. We had a short but good conversation. He invited me over to the Accordance booth to check out some new stuff that they are coming out with, and I'm sure I will tomorrow. Very nice guy.

Later Chris Skinner and Kelly Iverson came by. Chris was an intern with Dan Wallace the year before I was, and Kelly was one of my fellow interns. We chatted for a while and that was nice. They are both at Catholic University of America working on their PhDs right now and seem to be enjoying themselves immensely.

Next I had a good conversation with a guy from SIL named Jim Clark. Gave a demo of the NET GEMS Project and what we're doing and discussed the very cool and important work that they do. Thanks for coming by.

Later I saw Joel Willits walking down the aisle, so we stopped and chatted a bit. Joel graded some of my work at DTS and is a pretty cool guy. He's currently working on his PhD at Cambridge. Unfortunately our conversation got cut short because I gave a quick demo of the NET GEMS stuff to someone that I'm not sure I can talk to you about because of possible confidentiality reasons.

Later I wandered around the large exhibit hall looking for the BibleWorks booth. I found it and had a nice talk with Michael Tan about C#, C++, .NET, and Mono. It was of course good to talk to him. He's very nice and I really dig their software. My personal favorite.

Just a few minutes later I met with Rick from Logos, another bibliobloggers (couldn't find your blog as of this post, Rick -- don't have my rss feed engine here on the read). We talked a little about what we were both working on. Enjoyed it. Nice to meet you.

The most exciting event of day happened at the very end. After it was over I was, frankly, ecstatic. And no, I can't tell you anything about it! I want to SO bad. All I'll tell you is that it had something to do with the NET GEMS project. Great news! Important news! I probably can't say anything for a while though. Sorry. I just had to say something on here about it, though. Just to make you wonder...

Other than that I was standing in the NET Bible booth talking about the new diglot, or I was wandering around looking at books.

Tonight we (Gregg, Dave F, Chris, Todd, Pati Wallace, and myself) went to Fudruckers to eat. Good hamburgers.

Now I'm sitting here relaxing. My legs hurt, so this is great.

Friday, November 19, 2004

First SBL Night

I arrived in San Antonio about 9:30. I sat in the lobby for about 20 min., then the BSF folks got back from dinner and the discussions began.

Pretty interesting, of course, though I can't really tell you much. But that is to be expected :)

The only noteworthy thing that happened that I can talk about is something that happened pre-SBL. On the trip I saw a sign that just really made me angry. It said something like this (paraphrasing since I apparently blocked the exact wording from my mind due to anger):

"Drop the porn,
Instead be reborn."
Jesus, John 6:?

Okay. Who is this supposed to appeal to? "Oh, they put up a sign that rhymed. I think I'll repent." Give me a break. Most unbelievers probably think what I do when I pass signs like it; these people are idiots. Really. Stuff like this only makes Christianity look cheesy. It makes it look Christianity's strength is in stupid billboards. This makes the church look stupid. And this doesn't even take into account the issue of making a stupid statement like this and assigning our Lord's name to it. Please don't do this any more. Aaarrrgghhhh!

But tomorrow will be a new day. And a full one. Will report tomorrows non-confidential happenings when our last night meeting is over. It is now 1:30 and time to go to bed.

Off to SBL

Well, I'm off to what is without a doubt one of my favorite yearly events: the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature. Because of it I haven't been able to blog too much in the last few weeks, but several of you out there know what that is like :). And a good bit of interesting stuff has been said lately, but it will just have to wait!

For all you non-attendees, I plan on blogging every night. I hear our hotel rooms have internet access, so I'll give a blow-by-blow account of everything, at least everything I can share publicly. So, hope to see some of you there. I'll be at the NET Bible / Biblical Studies Foundation booth for the next few days.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

It won't be easy. Most good things aren't.

I always like a challenge. How boring would life be if everything just fell at your feet? Well, I guess it would be nice sometimes, but there is a great deal of satisfaction in hard work. Though I have some words of disagreement to say in regard to what Ruben Gomez has said about my last post on the NET GEMS project, he certainly sees the difficulty in what we are trying to accomplish. Kudos for the sober mind.

I suppose it shouldn't be surprising that the same issues in regard to open source ideas found in the software industries would also rear their head in this very related discussion. "Free" versus "quality" is something I have thought about quite a bit in that regard. I think that, as a general rule, most things that are commercially produced in the software industry are of at least slightly higher quality, all things considered, than things that are not commercially produced. They more often have the advantage of having funds to pay people to make their software more reliable, easier to use, and better documented. All these things contribute to make a higher quality product. The commercial world has a distinct advantage in such projects. They have money. They have deadlines. The bosses have the ability to say "get this done, or you're fired." This we must recognize. But we also must recognize that there are notable exceptions to this rule, Linux being the best known.

We are going to be that exception. I believe thoroughly that we will succeed in our task. But you know what? If we don't, I want at least have the satisfaction that I tried my best to do the right thing. I see a better world. I'd rather fail miserably trying to succeed than to not try, despite the difficulties ahead.

Now, the "free" versus "quality" issue is real. We must recognize that. We considered various possibilities on how to organize this work to as to highten quality. One idea bounced around in the ranks was to let anyone participate. I guess it would be more like the famous wikipedia project in that regard. But, we decided not to do that. As everyone probably knows, reputation in the biblical studies world is probably a bigger thing than quality in regard to widespread usage. I buy books all the time based on reputation without any real understanding of the content of the book. Some authors write consistently good work, and so I read as much as I can of what they write. We decided that it would be crucial to the reputation of the work that we not keep the project open to all who want to participate, because we all can imagine folks who are unqualified who would come and mix in terribly bad data with the good. We also decided to take a significant editorial role. We decided to make sure all work is associated on a per-contributor basis. That way we can more easily communicate about individual choices in tagging. All this because, to me, something like this isn't worth doing if it isn't worth doing well.

I think, Ruben, you hit the nail square on the head in regard to the biggest issue that this open scholarship movement is going to have to deal with: publishers still control some of the most basic building blocks of what we need to be using, like Greek texts and the like. I think that is something that is going to significantly have to change. But, I must apologize, because I can't say anything more on this at the moment. For the same reasons I said little in the docs on a distributable text, I can't say anything yet here. I'll be sure to say something when I am at liberty to do so. Hopefully that will be really soon. Sorry for the very unsatisfying response on this point...but it is hopefully only temporary.

And you make another good point about Bible software. The problem is not the software primarily; it is the content. That is where it all must begin. That's why we're doing this sort of thing. In my mind it is all about good content. I'll usually use an inferior program if it has better content, unless the program is so bad or offends my sensibilities as a computer user and programmer. Of course that's one real difference between open source software and open scholarship. One is about making functional software. The other is about making the good content. I think that makes what we're doing a little harder.

This is getting to be way too long of a post, but I guess I have a little more to say that is significant. First, getting this done in a reasonable time span. That is an issue, but not one I'm too worried about. I don't want the project to lag on too long, of course, because then it might just get tiresome. But on the other hand, we don't want to hurry this. We realize that this is going to be a huge time investment and will take a while. We're happy with that.

And finally, who is our target? You mentioned contributions as the crumbs of scholar's intellectual energies. You know, you're right. We don't really want that. I don't want people to come do this half-heartedly. I don't want people who can't really involve their minds in the process because of everything else they're doing. Here are the three main types of people I see this appealing to from a contributor's perspective. First are those who because of passion for the subject matter want to see a change in who owns scholarship. This is really the driving force for me. I bet it will be for others. Second are those upcoming scholars who want to make their mark in the world. Most publishers won't touch a seminary graduate with a ten-foot pole, whether or not he's really qualified or not to do quality work. This kind of project will give up and coming folks a chance to contribute. Third are those who have really wanted something like this when they were learning Greek. I can't tell you how many times I said to myself "I really wish someone would come out with a thorough, word-for-word syntactical analysis of the NT Greek text." Some tools exist in print that go this direction, but none that ever satisfied me. And none that are nearly as thorough as we intend this to be.

And all we really need is for some people to tag a limited amount of text. If a lot of people want to tag everything, well, more power to them! But we only need so many people saying "this noun is the object of such and such preposition." For some, contribution to this project will be very small, and that's okay with us.

Just so I can rest my fingers and go watch a movie with my wife, I guess I'll stop here! All in all, Ruben, its not that I think you're wrong; your words reflect wisdom and knowledge of the real world. I just think you're a little too pessimistic. But I very much appreciate your comments! If you have more, I would love to hear them.

[Update: 11/12/2004]
Oops...forgot to actually link to Ruben's post! Sorry. Thanks, Dave, for pointing that out. I added the link in the first paragraph, or you can read it here.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Lexel Software and the Biblical Studies Foundation Team Up

Lexel Software (www.lexelsoftware.com) and the Biblical Studies Foundation (www.bible.org -- the NET Bible guys) are teaming up to bring more content to the web. I am the president of Lexel Software and have known several individuals who work for BSF for several years now. We are joining together to help the community product content that the community can use more freely.

Our first joint project is a syntactical markup of the Greek New Testament text, called the NET GEMS project ("NET Greek-English Morphology and Syntax" is what that stands for). This is an effort in which we want to involve the community. And there are a number of other efforts that we plan to participate in later down the road in which we want the same. To that end we've published some documents about what we're doing.

I know that some of you in the blogosphere very much want to see more content freely available on the web. I've read posts in some of your blogs that say as much. Well, so do we. As such I want to request that all interested please read our publications and offer your critiques, whether positive or negative. If you want you can direct them to me through email (if that is most appropriate), though blog-speak would often be sufficient and would allow others to see what you're thinking as well as I. I am convinced that we can do more with community involvement and with technology than we are doing now, and Lexel Software and the Biblical Studies Foundation are committed to making sure that happens.

Here is what we have posted so far. All of this is only on the Lexel Software website at the moment, though at some point I believe that they'll be adding some of this to the bible.org website.

An essay entitled "Doing Online Collaborative Biblical Studies," which is a collection of thoughts I have had on my own or in conversations with others on some general principles that we could follow.

An overview of the NET GEMS project, which will tell you a little more about the project.

And the guidelines and procedures we intend to follow with the NET GEMS project. It is in many ways a fleshing out of the first essay for this particular project.

I really would like to hear all of your thoughts on such matters. We'll be giving a demo at SBL which will eventually go up online, so if you're there please stop by and ask for me (note: I won't be there at ETS, just SBL, though someone else can show you around the demo). Hope to hear from many of you soon. And if you have something to say on a blog, just in case I haven't discovered yours yet, please send me an email. Thanks!

What OS are you?

Breaks at work are good. I must say, I was very surprised by this OS test I just took. Is this, coupled with my recent Mac purchase, a sign?

You are OS X. You tend to be fashionable and clever despite being a bit transparent.  Now that you've reached some stability you're expecting greater popularity.
Which OS are You?

New essay posted on CSNTM

Posted a new TC related essay by Dan Wallace at the CSNTM website concerning 1 Thess 3:2. Figured some of you might be interested.

Monday, November 08, 2004

A world with no conservative/liberal split

Sometimes you think you're just talking into cyberspace. I hoped that wouldn't be the case since I haven't posted much recently. But I was assured by a kind criticism of my post on Sanders that this wasn't the case. It makes me feel good...

Thanks, Danny, for your comment, even if I disagree. Of course the disagreement may be caused more by where we chose to go to school than what is actually true in the world of scholarship. If DTS can in any way be seen as a fair representation of part of scholarship, than there is certainly a split. I can't tell you how many times I heard something bad about the liberals, or a contrast between those at DTS with those outside. And as it turns out it was often about some of those old school debates. "If you don't believe in inerrancy, you're a liberal!" Now, it was generally the case that you don't get that rhetoric as much when you were dealing with generally more informed scholars at the school. But, you could often see the division. Sometimes it was hard to see, but it was often there.

I guess another thing to look at would be the attendance of societal meetings. SBL itself attracts all sorts of folks, but ETS is much more homogenous in its membership. Would you consider them conservative? Maybe not, but I would think that such a designation would be largely appropriate.

Now, I'm not doing the "call them liberal if they disagree with you" thing. I had a prof in Bible college who liked to say that and that certainly happens. I'm really speaking about ideologies. I can't say that I've spent enough time around those who are called "liberal" by the DTS folks to really know what's going on in their heads, but I can tell you that there really is a conservative ideology that is distinct from what I'm reading in their opponents. To a greater or lesser degree, at DTS it was frequent that I could see a professor who was, from my perspective (and thus my opinion), "trying to be conservative." This may not happen at your school but I see it as plain as day here in Dallas.

If such characterizations are useful, well...that's a different question altogether. Are there serious ideological differences that are close along the lines of the old conservative/liberal debates? I would say so. And I think having labels is useful, when they're not just used pejoratively.

And is the term sometimes relative? Yes. Is N.T. Wright a conservative. Yes. No. Depends on who is asking. I'd call him a conservative, but I know a number of professors and students who would not. There are a number of British "conservatives" who do not believe in inerrancy, for example, and that defines them as "liberal," or at least one who leans liberal or a moderate.

And yes, you are absolutely right that the area of Second Temple Judaism is no longer the exclusive domain of the "liberals," or whatever one wants to call them. If I implied that I did not mean it. This is the question that I have to ask: is "conservative" scholarship as a whole referencing the works of Second Temple Judaism or are they really thinking Second Temple Judaism. Do they quote it for anecdotal value or does it really affect their thinking and exegesis? In some cases the latter will be the case, but from my experience it is the former that is most common. Case in point: the New Perspective. I see a gut reaction from what I would label American "conservatives" against the ideas espoused by NP dudes. Is it because most of them have really examined the evidence and come to a firm conclusion? There is not a single professor at DTS that I know of that would have held to the NP on Paul. And I don't really ever remember hearing many positive comments either. This could be because professors at DTS all happen to agree on something that they've all thought through thoroughly. Or, and I think this is more likely the case, there is an underlying paradigm that naturally leads them to disagree with it. I'm not trying to make blanket statements that all "conservatives" feel that way or anything. Some of the profs at DTS are very intelligent folks. I'm just saying that I think this mindset still exists, though the conservative mindset is greater, much greater than old issues like inerrancy and such alone.

So, I'm just going to have to stick with my distinction. I still think it exists. I think it is real. Unfortunately, it is often used negatively as you said. That is not at all how I mean it. I like a lot of the contributions of those generally termed "liberal" by those generally termed "conservative", and vice versa. Of course, as I said earlier, this may have more to do with the difference between where we both went to school. But, ultimately, I guess labels are a relatively minor issue anyway and not something really worth fighting over :)

Be well.

Wright's Castle

The "Biblical Theology" blog had an entry about Wright's desire to keep his castle. As Bishop of Durham he's entitled to said castle, but they are thinking about selling it, which Wright is fighting against.

All I've got to say is this: I wish I had a castle.

Reflections on E.P. Sanders, primary sources, and ancient Judaism

Goodacre posted a link today to E. P. Sander's recent intellectual autobiography entitled "Comparing Judaism and Christianity: An Academic Autobiography." I needed something good to read this morning before getting to work, so I thought I would give it a try. I have read some of his Paul and Palestinian Judaism but most of my exposure to Sanders was through word of mouth (which has usually been either "man he was smart and changed the world of scholarship", "he was liberal," or a combination of both) or through footnotes (which generally said the former rather than the latter).

I'm glad I read the article. Here is my favorite quote:

"When I began lecturing at McMaster University, I tried to present a Bultmannian Paul. I soon realized that this just did not work (the theory did not fit the text) and that I needed to do something else. By then I had learned THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON OF MY LIFE: you really know what you learn for yourself by studying original sources. I would never have come to my understanding of the Rabbis by reading secondary literature." (page 14)

Amen. Related was the clear idea that came through was that ancient Judaism was essential to understand if one wants to understand the NT. Time had built up a false understanding of Judaism, and therefore any contrast between the false Judaism and Christianity is necessarily going to skew both.

I came to a conclusion a while back that is related, but I'm going to wait to say anything about that until I've made two more points. There are two things that happened to me in seminary that got me thinking in that direction. First, DTS invited I. Howard Marshall for a lecture series at the school. It was pretty interesting. It is just about the only chapel messages of which I can remember the topic, actually. Anyway, a friend of mine and I asked Marshall if he would eat lunch with us one day after the lectures. And he agreed. It was a nice lunch and one thing really stood out to me from that conversation. One of us asked him what he would have done differently in his scholarly life. He said, in rough quotation, "Study Second Temple Judaism more."

Second was my thesis. My friend Ragan proposed a problem that I sought to solve. The book of Hebrews is focused in many ways on how the coming of the New Covenant has replaced the old, very much like Paul. But unlike Paul you don't see any discussion of the Spirit as a transformative agent for obedience like you do with Paul. And the question is, what's up with that? The quest involved a long search through mostly useless secondary material. The material, I should say, wasn't useless, but it was clearly insufficient when it came to the topic. Actually, I found that practically no one had ever said anything about this (I actually found, I think, one person, but if you are interested you can take a look at my thesis which is online at www.christonomy.com -- shameless plug). So, I decided to pour my time into the study of the primary sources of Second Temple Judaism. I ended up spending most of my time reading large amounts of Pseudepigrapha and the Dead Sea Scrolls. Not only did I find lots of fodder for my thesis, I also found what I think is an incredibly important quotation from Enoch that my friend Ragan was able to use in his thesis (which was on the identification of Babylon in Revelation as Jerusalem, which is also online at www.christonomy.com -- yes SHAMELESS). I learned two things from my thesis experience that will forever shape the way I think. First, I am convinced that there is a wealth of information in the primary sources of Second Temple Judaism that greatly enhances our understanding of Judaism at the time and Christianity as an emerging group. Second, I am convinced that very, very few people in conservative circles actually read the primary sources.

So, here's my conclusion. I think those outside of conservative circles have come to grasp the importance of actually studying the primary sources of Second Temple Judaism, though not fully. But conservative scholarship has not. This is why I now have the tendency to avoid most of conservative scholarship. Don't get me wrong. I think some of them are brilliant men. I am friends with a number of DTS professors who are very well educated and have spent time in the primary sources. But for the most part I think most of conservative scholarship is myopic, especially in its lack of concern for understanding Second Temple Judaism and time spent in the primary sources. You can get through a ThM at DTS with spending practically no time at all in that material (I think it was required reading in only one class, and that was only for a project or two). This is very, very bad, and is something that conservative scholarship needs to correct. I do think that conservative British scholarship is much better in this regard than American scholarship. N.T. Wright can be taken as a great example in this regard. But, by in large, I am quite convinced that this is the case.

Right now I am almost entirely focused on programming and Greek syntax. One day I really want to get seriously into research in this area and hope the time will be available. Maybe I'll even go back to school to continue my education in this regard. But in the meantime I'll just have to sit down with my copies of Charlesworth's Old Testament Pseudepigrapha or Garcia Martinez's and Tigchelarr's Dead Sea Scrolls and read for my own personal fulfillment. And maybe I'll even say something online once in a while :)

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

I own the Mac; it does not own me!

For the first time ever, I have now become a Mac owner. Just because Macs are so incredibly expensive I didn't buy a G5. I managed to find a 1.25 Ghz G4 at Fry's for a good price, so I got that.

Actually, I made the last entry and am now making the current entry on said Mac. The only strange thing is that the colors are different on the blog. Only slightly, but different.

Now, there are a number of things I like. The built in networking is nice. I was able to turn the computer on and it automatically saw my Netgear wireless router and I was ready to go.

It is very thin. That's cool. Very thin and light. Aesthetically it is also very pleasing.

And, of course, Firefox runs on it! That's a must for any good OS :)

But no, I don't plan on converting to avid Mac-ism. I don't like it that much and I can't justify spending this much money on hardware. But, I need to do cross-platform software development for biblical studies, so it only made sense to actually get one.

I started the process of getting Mono up and ready to go. Mono itself is installed but I'm in the process of getting Monodevelop up and running. I'll report when that's done.

The Political Humanist

I've made a few comments about politics though I have tried to stay away from the topic here in the blog. But it's the morning after election day. At this point Bush is predicted to have 269 electoral votes and will surely get more. Kerry hasn't conceded yet; he's waiting for a few more votes to be counted in Ohio. But, hopefully that will come soon so I can go to bed.

I'm happy. No, I'm incredibly happy. Not only has Bush taken the presidency again (and with a better margin, it seems, than last time -- at least in the popular vote), but the Republicans are gaining in both House and Senate. Since I am rather Republicany, this is very good news to me.

So...yay! Go Bush!