Keeping Things in Perspective

In mid-June, I posted a review of Paul Silvia’s book How to Write a Lot with an additional tool for tracking writing progress. Yet, for academic work, non-productive non-writing time can be at least as important as important:

Is academic writing more important than spending time with your family and friends, petting the dog, and drinking coffee? A dog unpetted is a sad dog; a cup of coffee forsaken is caffeine lost forever. Protect your real-world time just as you protect your scheduled writing time (Silvia 132).


In this post:

Paul Silvia
Paul Silvia

Historical Backgrounds

Over the coming weeks, I plan to write a series of posts that outline some background issues that seem particularly relevant for New Testament interpretation. Of the numerous points of historical background that could be included here, four dimensions of the period leading up to the turn of the era will initially receive attention. These background dynamics will include: (1) the Greek conquest and its continuing effects, (2) the Maccabean revolt and the Hasmonean period, (3) the Roman conquest, and (4) sectarian developments within Judaism. As the series grows, if other areas suggest themselves as being particularly salient, thoughts about additional topics will certainly be welcome.

Lastly, as a final “programming note,” in this series, discussion of the hermeneutical justification for this background material’s relevance and its possible role(s) will be left to the side and addressed separately at some other point. For the present, an assumption of value, at least within the context of a certain kind(s) of interpretive activity, may simply be made, though some indicators of one possible means of justifying this material’s significance may be found in this blog’s first post.

Site Updates

For the past several weeks, I have been working on some reasonably substantial changes to the site that should make it more useful and beneficial. With these changes completed and my comprehensive exams on the horizon (in both a hermeneutical and a temporal sense), I hope to begin regularly posting again quite soon. For anyone who may be interested, the following are among the most significant of changes to the site:

  • The Bookshelf is now visual. Instead of an increasingly long list of text-only links for the publications mentioned on this site and other helpful works, the Bookshelf now uses book cover thumbnails with the author(s) or editor(s) names captioned below.
  • Complementing the new design for the bookshelf are the “In this post” sections that have been added. This section provides for each post a kind of quick reference bibliography that can be consulted more extensively if one so desires. This section allows any in-text references in the posts to be more abbreviated and, hence, less intrusive, while at the same time providing an additional means of informally facilitating content control and readerly review.
  • The Bookshelf page and the “In this post” sections are now powered by the Westminster Bookstore and DealOz.com. Although Governor Perdue has recently sent the update to the North Carolina Sales and Use Tax back to the North Carolina General Assembly, Amazon.com has preemptively terminated North Carolina-based blog affiliations as infeasible for them under the pending, proposed revisions to the sales and use tax code. In addition, on the positive side, the Westminster Bookstore and DealOz.com have several good features that should make them more useful based on how their resources are being used on this site.
  • Links to http://bible.logos.com have been implemented for the biblical and most of the apocryphal literature. It seems that there may still be some quirks with some of the apocryphal literature (e.g., the additions to Daniel and Esther); otherwise, things seem to work quite smoothly.
  • Added Widgets
    • Series of posts are now tagged, and the series names appear in a sidebar widget.
    • The “Current and Recent Reading” section from the Bookshelf has moved to a sidebar widget.
    • In addition, I have added added a widget that lists select new and forthcoming publications.
    • At the end of May, Google rolled out a blog “bundling” service, which I have used to create a bundle on the sidebar for this blog and the other blogs listed in the blogroll here. Google Reader Blog BundlesSubscribing to this bundle should automatically subscribe you to the New Testament Interpretation feed as well as all of the other feeds in the blogroll. Whether you use Google Reader or anther feed reader, if you already subscribe to one or more of the blogs listed on the blogroll here, the read/unread statuses of posts in the bundled feed should automatically synchronize with the unbundled feed and vice versa. Once you subscribe to the bundle, you can also customize the specific bundle feeds that you want to receive. At this point, as changes are made to the blogroll, individual bundle subscriptions will not automatically update. To update an individual, bundle subscription, you will need to resubscribe to the New Testament Interpretation bundle itself.
  • According to my records, the following blogs have been added to the blogroll since the last blogroll update:
  • A Student Resources page has been added as a parent page for the previously independent New Testament Greek, Other Websites, and Theological Writing pages. Links in older versions of the writing handout will be automatically redirected to the new Theological Writing page location.
  • The New Testament Greek page has been updated to revive what had apparently become dead links, add files that had previously been corrupted, add audio files for the optative mood, and add miscellaneous other files.
  • Finally, the site has a new theme and a new logo. The image is clipped and edited from a photograph of a leaf from Codex Sinaiticus online at the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts. Beginning on the seventh line from the top, is Luke 10:26, which, in the NA27/UBS4 text, reads: ὁ δὲ εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτόν· ἐν τῷ νόμῳ τί γέγραπται; πῶς ἀναγινώσκεις; (And he said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read it?”).

Codex Sinaiticus Update

A while back, I mentioned that Mark for Codex Sinaiticus had been digitized and made available online. The Codex Sinaiticus Project website now reports that “[f]rom 6 July 2009, the Codex Sinaiticus website features all extant pages of the Codex.” In addition to the page images, which have been available for some time at the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts, the Codex Sinaiticus Project website allows users to modify lighting options and view transcriptions and translations for the manuscript.

HT: Chris Weimer

Blogging and Biblical Studies: Thoughts from N. T. Wright and Thomas Kuhn

In his Justification: God’s Plan and Paul’s Vision, N. T. Wright reflects:

It is really high time we developed a Christian ethic of blogging. Bad temper is bad temper even in the apparent privacy of your own hard drive, and harsh and unjust words, when released into the wild, rampage around and do real damage. . . . [T]he cyberspace equivalents of road rage don’t happen by accident. People who type vicious, angry, slanderous and inaccurate accusations do so because they feel their worldview to be under attack. Yes, I have a pastoral concern for such people. (And, for that matter, a pastoral concern for anyone who spends more than a few minutes a day taking part in blogsite discussions, especially when they all use code names: was it for this that the creator God made human beings?) (Wright 26–27; cf. Köstenberger, “Internet Ettiquette”; Köstenberger, “Internet Ettiquette, Part 2”).1

This bow shot at “(information) superhighway rage” is, of course, quite fitting, as is the recognition that, for all its usefulness in certain areas (e.g., facilitating information exchange), the internet itself often poorly facilitates other things (e.g., sustained content quality control; on a slightly different facet of the issue, see Goodacre, “April Fool’s Jokes”). Such things are clearly in the forefront of Wright’s mind in the quoted statements and may help to flesh out the role of biblioblogging in relation to presentations in more traditional media. For instance, consider the following quotation:

Today in the sciences, books are usually either texts or retrospective reflections upon one aspect or another of the scientific life. The scientist who writes one is more likely to find his professional reputation impaired than enhanced. Only in the earlier, pre-paradigm, stages of the development of the various sciences did the book ordinarily possess the same relation to professional achievement that it still retains in other creative fields. And only in those fields that still retain the book, with or without the article, as a vehicle for research communication are the lines of professionalization still so loosely drawn that the layman may hope to follow progress by reading the practitioners’ original reports (Kuhn 20; italics and bold added).

Biblical studies certainly “retain[s] the book” in such a fashion, and biblioblogs can have a similar function, even if how they fit among more traditional, academic activities is not always clear (cf. Goodacre, “Academic Blogging”; Carlson). Although internet access is not always free, subscriptions to blogs are as free as RSS readers, and as internet access and use of blog subscriptions continue becoming more common, the quantity of people interested in biblioblog material at its regular cost (i.e., free), should continue growing also. Consequently, this increase in the accessibility of material related to biblical studies could continue significantly widening at least the circle of listeners for biblical studies discussions (if not the circle of participants in these discussions also), but whether this increase in accessibility will be beneficial is entirely relative to the value of the content on the biblioblogs themselves. As biblioblog quality approaches the quality that has come to be expected in more traditional media, the blog medium itself becomes something quite different from the “blog as site for spuriousness” that Wright so correctly criticizes—it becomes something more akin to Thomas Kuhn’s “vehicle for research communication.” Since the sciences about which Kuhn was writing and the general humanities setting in which biblical studies and biblioblogging sit have different dissemination media and subject matter, however, several additional and potentially beneficial options emerge for forms that biblioblogs and their contents might take (see Köstenberger, “Genre of ‘Blog'”). How precisely to sustain this kind of interchange where it does exist and how to encourage it where it should exist are thorny questions indeed, and in some cases, behavioral regeneracy may be a necessary starting point (cf. Col 3:7–8).

Yet, in addition, might not self-consciously situating biblioblogging in some kind of “Great Conversation” among present students, past students, and the biblical literature itself provide a measure of guidance? With the current nature of the blog medium, this conversation will certainly be impersonal—a conversation among “gravatars” is certainly not the same as a conversation among “real” people present with each other at the same time (cf. Wright 27). Yet, on the other hand, the letters and signatures that have connected people for centuries are, for instance, at least in some ways, not so very different from blogs and gravatars.

The metaphor of biblioblogging, within a “Great Conversation,” as a “working group” is probably too formal and scholastic, but it does portray the activity as a collaboration that produces something beneficial. Thanks to resources like those that Brandon Wason and John Hobbins, Daniel and Tonya, and perhaps most particularly, the Biblioblog Top 50 (with its accompanying Google searches of all biblioblogs and all biblioblogs and related blogs), “beneficial somethings” on the biblioblogs are continuing to become easier to find by more people, once these “somethings” are added to the conversation in any given place. With the rise of resources like these ones and a push (whether from individual bibliobloggers or from a more organized, “peer review” format) to maintain good content quality, biblioblogging should be able to be a valuable activity for bloggers and readers. Indeed, not least for those of us in the Protestant tradition, whose first forebears regularly pushed to get more people more information with which to make more informed decisions about matters of biblical interpretation, the blog medium has, despite some of its deficiencies, the attractive potential to serve simultaneously both church and academy, as well as any others who “log on.”


1 Incidentally, InterVarsity has made the chapter from which this quote comes available in a PDFon their website.

In this post:

Thomas Kuhn
Thomas Kuhn

N. T. Wright
N. T. Wright