Monday, November 28, 2011

SBL 2011: Bible in Ancient and Modern Media

I still have a bunch of notes to post on the recent SBL meeting, and I'll get them out as time allows.
On Sunday afternoon (2011.11.20), I went to the Bible in Ancient and Modern Media presentation where the theme was: "The Bible and Digital Media." Here are rough notes, but they can provide an idea of what transpired.

Presenting first was Michael Hemenway (MH): “From Codex to Kindle: Reimagining the Book”
Cited McLuhan
  • Print technologies are vehicles of stability, closed,
  • Digital technologies are open, dynamic
MH pointed out the romantic remnant of book collections like Shelfari using a bookshelf with book cover displays or Kindle using page numbers. (BTW, what shall we use to reference locations in digital editions?) He imagined a time when our own writings become part of our digital libraries, fully searchable and integrated with all our other books… (which basically is what Logos already offers with its Personal Book Builder).

Margaret E. Lee (MEL) presented: "A Digital NT for Sound and Performance"
Cf. her Sound Mapping the New Testament 
Because the NT was composed for performance, its meaning is not (primarily) in its words but its sounds. How can we better present an auditory NT? Issues of suitable graphic interface, pronunciation schemes, challenges to fluency of Hellenistic Greek.

Printed versions distract us by encouraging focus on grammar, semantics and the versions further distract us by division into sentence, verse, paragraph, chapter. All of these reflect editorial decisions and matters that are foreign to the auditory nature of the text. We need tools to analyze auditory compositional elements.

MEL presented a preliminary prototype of a digital NT that was created by one of her students at Tulsa Community College. It was a digital "document" (MEL prefers "document" as a term instead of "text) that had links to all sorts of media presentations of the Greek, including a reading of it in Koine. The display featured oral divisions rather than the traditional chapter/verse.
I have not read her book, and this was the first time I'd really encountered her approach, but it struck me that it would be quite sympathetic with Runge's type of discourse analysis.

Next, Eva Mroczek (EM) on "Digital Culture and the Death of the (biblical) Book: New Metaphors for the Study of Scriptures in Jewish Antiquity"

EM referenced the work of Katherine Hayles. Our notions of textuality are shot through with assumptions specific to print, although they have not been generally recognized as such. The advent of electronic textuality presents us with an unparalleled opportunity to reformulate fundamental ideas about texts and, in the process, to see print as well as electronic texts with fresh eyes.

Quoted K. Van der Toorn Scribal Culture and the Making of the Hebrew Bible (p16)
The books of the bible were not designed to be read as unities. They rather compare to archives. A biblical book is often like a box containing heterogeneous materials brought together on the assumption of common authorship or chronology.
=== In antiquity, we really need to think of ‘book’ as metaphor.
Used example of Robert Frost ‘education by poetry’ on metaphor.

Consider 11QPsalmsa
We think of pss in modern digital categories: cache, archives, repository.

Ben Sira generally recognized as first authored book in Jewish antiquity
But the way he understands "author" is not same as way we understand author today. He is not asserting authorial authority but understands himself to as an heir of traditional wisdom.
In Sir 50.27 in Hebrew fragment, it is not called a book (as it does in Greek).

EM encouraged us to think of "book" as a project rather than a product.
(cf PACE project on ancient cultural engagement)

I found Mroczek's presentation to be the most interesting. I suppose I have understood authorship of the biblical books in modern terms rather than in the way it was understood in antiquity. Perhaps that is why the gospels are anonymous? Did the gospel authors mainly see themselves as a transmitters of common knowledge?

Though I am sympathetic to Lee's emphasis on the orality of the early Xn documents, I do think we can discern shifts even among the gospels. I'm convinced that Mark reflects an oral tradition and presentation, but Luke is much more conscious of the literary nature of his work.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Review of the AAR-SBL Mobile App

I always hated trying to navigate the SBL paper catalog and when it's an AAR-SBL catalog, it's even worse. When you get to the annual meeting, you do get a condensed version, and that is more helpful, but this year marked the first time that a mobile app (iOS and Android) was available for the meeting. It was quite handy. It could be updated with latest changes. You could look through the meeting lists and add ones to "My Schedule" which made it easy to see when and where to go and see time conflicts. It included maps and lists of exhibitors. For both meetings and the exhibit hall, there was a great little locator link showing you where to go. If a meeting had any extra information attached to it (info on speakers or abstracts of presentations), that was available too. You could even attach notes to meetings within the app. There was even an included Twitter feed (#sblaar). All great stuff! Downsides? It was a bit slow and sometimes would freeze on my Droid X. The calendaring part would always start at Thursday rather than the day/time where you last were looking. I also couldn't find any way to export My Schedule (e.g., to Outlook or Google Calendar) or to add an appointment that wasn't a meeting to My Schedule. Still, a very handy app, and I strongly encourage AAR-SBL to offer it again next year.

Zotero (Everywhere) and a good idea for the next AAR-SBL

Took the redeye home from San Francisco to Washington Dulles and trying to catch up on a bunch of things...
Moscone Convention Center - Entrance to Exhibit Hall
One of the best parts of the annual AAR-SBL meeting is to wander through the Exhibit Hall. It's great to see the new works that are being featured. You are bound to bump into someone you know. Plenty of little freebies to collect. I, of course, always check in on all the Bible software vendors.

I managed to restrain myself and come away with only a couple books, but there were a lot of books I wanted to remember for future reference. Instead of trying to write down author / title / publisher information, I thought it would be easier to use my Droid X and scan the barcode. At the time, what I ended up doing was using the Amazon Mobile app which allows me to scan the barcode and look it up at Amazon. One thing this accomplished is that I could quickly see the Amazon price and compare what sort of convention discount the publishers were actually offering on the book (and some certainly were and some were not). Second, and actually more important for me, I could add the book to my Amazon wishlist. (I had set my 'Academic Books' to be my default wishlist, so they all went straight there.) Now, when I got home, I pulled up my wishlist, clicked up the books, and was then one more click away from having them saved in my Zotero collection with full bibliographic information intact.
You can click to enlarge the graphic to see my somewhat eclectic / esoteric list. You will also see that I dumped everything in a SBL2011 collection, but from there, I used drag/drop to add them to any of the other collections you can see in the left pane. It's a beautiful thing.

I've been a big fan of Zotero, and it has become my default means of collecting all my bibliographic data, adding notes and tags to the resources, links to Amazon or Review of Books in Religion, etc. In the past, Zotero has required you to use it within Firefox, but they announced in August the beta releases of standalone versions for Windows, Mac, and Linux. (Click for the download links. I've used the Windows one, and it has been stable.) There are now also connectors so that Chrome and Safari users can use Zotero in those browsers. You really have no reason not to use Zotero now.

I should have thought to check ahead of time, however, to see if there were any mobile Zotero apps, and indeed there are. Check them out here. In particular, I would have liked to use Scanner for Zotero (Android) which would allow me to scan directly to Zotero. BibUp functions similarly for iPhone.
UPDATE: Avram Lyon, author of Zandy, indicates in the comments that his Android app now also handles ISBN barcode scanning.
(If anyone has used either of these, I'd appreciate hearing your comments.)

Future of Markan Scholarship Put in Jeopardy

The blog title is intentionally provocative, but, given all the Markan scholars in the room, we can all be glad that no tragedy occurred during the SBL session: Discussion of Kelly R. Iverson and Christopher W. Skinner, ed., Mark as Scholar: Retrospect and Prospect. (That link is to the book and includes more info as well as a PDF download of the table and conducts and the introductory chapter.)
The panel gathered around the table included:
Kelly Iverson, Christopher Skinner, Rikki Watts, Francis J. Moloney, Tom Shepherd, Kathleen Corley, Philip Ruge-Jones, David Rhoads, Joanna Dewey, and Donald Michie.
I also saw Elizabeth Struthers Malbon and Ched Myers present, and there were probably others as well whom I didn't recognize. There are, of course, many other noted Markan scholars, but that still is quite a room full!
I have used Mark as Story as a required text in my Gospels course, but I also have a bit of history with it. Back in 1977-78 when I was learning Greek at the University of Illinois with Vernon K. Robbins, he shared with us in class a draft translation that a colleague and friend of his was working on for us to comment upon. That translation eventually was published by David Rhoads in the 1982 release of the first edition of Mark as Story: An Introduction to the Narrative of a Gospel.

SBL Fonts Presentation at SBL

SBL Fonts Presentation at SBL 2011
Christopher Hooker provided a helpful background on electronic fonts tracing back to ASCII, the older SP fonts, and to the new SBL fonts. He noted such issues as:
  • Limitations with ASCII, especially that could only handle 256 characters
  • The difficulties with keyboard input, especially with non-standardized inputs in the old True Typefonts
  • The difficulties with keyboard input for right-to-left languages
Christopher Hooker
The solution was Unicode that provides standardization for glyph mapping and explicitly included classical and historical texts. The beauty of Unicode is that it is fully cross-platform and has an expanded character range that allows for 1,048,576 characters. Hence, even scripts like Ugaritic or Eygptian Cunieform have standardized locations.
With the pre-Unicode fonts, switching to type in another language really meant switching to another font. With Unicode, what you primarily are doing is switching to a different keyboard. (Note this means a virtual keyboard accessed by the software, not a physical keyboard.) You really don't want to have a font that has all million plus characters, because it really is overkill that may slow things down if you embed the font. (If you do, try Lucida Sans Unicode.)
Here is where the SBL Fonts--SBL Greek and SBL Hebrew-- come in to play as specialized, Unicode fonts with character sets intended for biblical scholars. Hooker was particularly proud of the sophistication and comprehensiveness of the SBL Hebrew font.

What's next? They are working on the SBL BibLit font which will be the comprehensive font set incorporating Greek, Hebrew, and Latin characters. Further, it will also have the full set of transliteration characters (IPA extensions). Unfortunately... there is no release date BUT Hooker did his whole presentation using SBL BibLit. He assured us we are close to a release date.

Beyond SBL BibLit, they are looking into figuring out the best ways to make such fonts available for mobile devices. They are also working on the development of other ancient language fonts. (No particular priority list has been established yet for additional character sets, but SBL would welcome input on scholarly needs.)
Hooker then ran through the process of installing and using the SBL fonts on both Windows and Mac. You can download the fonts and get other installation info at the SBL Fonts page.

As we are waiting for SBL BibLit, I recommend using Cardo (free) which includes full sets of Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and transliteration characters. (BTW, if you haven't updated Cardo since April 2011, there is an updated version now available along with additional bold and italic sets.) If you aren't entirely comfortable trying to install the keyboards (especially setting up the right to left scripts) I recommend that you use the Tyndale Unicode Font Kit. It's available for a variety of platforms--Mac, Win, Linux--and provides additional instruction on its use. 

If you only type in Greek or Hebrew occasionally, I have previously suggested using Logos' free Shibboleth program with its graphical interface. (Rather than working within any program, Shibboleth runs separately, and you type/copy/paste into any other application.) Additionally:
  • Tavultesoft Keyman (a wonderful program for $19) integrates into your system so that you can type in brilliant Greek and Hebrew right in the program. No need to copy/paste...
  • Tavultesoft also has a free online notepad for typing in any language you want. If you want to use Greek, you have four different keyboards to choose from. (Where is that psi?) I find "Greek Classical" to be the most usable.
  • The free online composer at is very nice, and note that it is even smart enough that if you type a sigma followed by a space or punctuation, it will convert it into a final sigma. One problem with TypeGreek: if you are typing and don't know what character you need, you hit the "Alphabet Key." This provides the layouts, but when you go back to the previous page where you were typing, it will be all gone.
  • The free online composer at GreekInputter2. The keyboard is a bit less intuitive, but you can display the layouts so that they are visible while you type in the box.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Accordance at SBL

Accordance at SBL
David Lang at the Accordance booth
I actually do have Accordance 8 running on my PC under emulation, and I like to use it for its map module, but since I'm mainly a PC (and now also Android) kind of guy, I don't spend as much time with it as I do other programs. Still, my students who have Accordance love it, and I like to keep up with the Accordance folks are doing, because they have been leading the way on a number of fronts in Bible software. Besides, they are just nice guys at Accordance and fun to visit.

Accordance is now at version 9.5, and probably the nicest new feature is the Dynamic Interlinear capability. Contrary to the complaints I heard a few times at sessions that Bible software doesn't offer actual 'texts' of manuscripts (as compared to simply providing critical editions), I was interested in seeing how this works with their collection of manuscripts. Here's a graphic from their website that gives you an idea of how it looks.
BibleWorks9 offers a similar set of manuscripts and tools for text criticism, so scholars do indeed have options for original manuscript analysis.

Be sure to check out the Accordance web site to catch up on the latest enhancements, new resources, and continued development of their iPhone/iPad apps. BTW, you may also want to check out the recent review of Accordance 9.5 by Rubén Gómez.

BibleWorks at SBL

Mark Cannon and Glenn Weaver at the BW display
BibleWorks at SBL
I visited with the BibleWorks people here at SBL. Business has been good with the new BW9 release, and they continue to plan for the future with new resources and features. One thing I've heard in 2 sessions here at SBL is people lamenting that there are no actual digital texts, i.e., editions of actual manuscripts. I've been happy to point out that we do have precisely that now in BW with the NT transcriptions project. Sinaiticus not only is fully transcribed but it is even morphologically tagged. (Accordance offers a similar mss collection. Logos for now only has the Comfort/Barrett collection, also available in both BW and Accordance.)

SBL: Bible Software Shootout 2 - Revenge of the Teacher

SBL Computer Assisted Research Section: 
Bible Software Shootout 2 - Revenge of the Teachers 

Keith Reeves introduced the session and highlighted that this session was not intended to be a shootout resulting in last man standing. Rather, the approach this year is to come at the topics 'backwards' by seeing how teachers are actually using the software in the classroom.


Two professors from Calvin College, Dean Deppe and Carl Bosma, presented on their use of Logos in their classrooms.
Calvin College has a 2 week gateway course that is a required part of the curriculum to introduce Logos to the students. An important aspect of the instruction is both learning how to use the program and to start the process of using it to take notes.
  • A 1 hour introduction
  • Four 2 hour sessions explaining features with MDiv students
  • Three 3 hours sessions with MA students.
Deppe showed examples of how he has used Logos. (Cf. Deppe's All Roads Lead to the Text: Eight Methods of Inquiry into the Bible for his work on using Logos for exegetical examples. I have now acquired the book and will provide a review here, hopefully before the new year.) He demonstrated how he thinks in terms of various lenses for viewing the texts using various Logos tools: Personal Book Builder to collect notes, Collections for searching, Passage Analysis, highlighting, layouts, visual filters including sympathetic highlighting, tools that can be used for students who don't know Greek or Hebrew, etc. He showed an interesting example of highlighting of verb tenses in Romans 7 along with quite a number of layouts he has created for working with grammatical, exegetical, background, related texts (e.g., DSS, Josephus, Pseudepigrapha).
Bosma showed how he used Logos for notetaking and linking to local and web resources.

  • It was clear that both Deppe and Bosma have a great deal of experience working with Logos. It was good to see they are actually using it.
  • Deppe especially had a tremendously customized version of Logos enhanced by many of his own layouts, collections, etc. Unfortunately, it is not possible to share layouts with other users (at least at this time). When I try to model my use of Bible software, I would like my students to be able to follow along, so the ability to share a similar look would be important.
  • It's great that Calvin College has the required training sessions. I know enough about the use of Logos to see that the kind of things Deppe and Bosma had done reflect at least a high intermediate level of skill. 
  • Though it wasn't pointed out in the session, I like that Logos is available for Windows, Mac, iPhone/iPad, Android, and as a mobile web resource at


Roy B. Brown from Accordance demonstrated how he and his colleagues have used the program. (His presentation is available HERE.) He noted that the use of the software is dependent on the audience. He used Amos 1.1-6 as an example.
Preparation: How can Accordance be used for preparing, creating handouts, etc. He noted a variety of resources available and the easy way to export material for printing, incorporation in other programs, using its Slideshow mode, displaying collections of photos, maps, etc.
Presentation: The Slideshow mode was particularly helpful in Brown's own presentation to the group. It's a great way to present while staying within the program. (I have found that I regularly am jumping back and forth between PowerPoint and the Bible software as I teach.) He showed the sort of resources he would use for teaching Amos 1.1-6 to a popular level and then repeated the exercise as he might use it with a more advanced level group who know Greek and/or Hebrew. One of the things he demonstrated was the Inference search which looks for passages that might stand as allusive parallels.
Participation: How can Accordance be used most effectively in an interactive environment? Brown provided an example of how one might start with the Amos text and move from resource to resource by means of simply highlighting words and using the extensive integration of links to maps, lexicons, timelines, graphics, dictionaries, etc. One can even rather effectively conduct searches in Hebrew without know Hebrew.
Some of the things that struck me in this presentation were:
  • They have accumulated an excellent collection of related resources for biblical study: grammatical/syntactical,
  • The program was quite fast when running searches and switching between resources.
  • The integration of resources and the intuitiveness of accessing them is excellent.
  • The program is quite attractive overall.
  • They have made the program accessible to both an academic/technical and popular level audiences.
He also demonstrated a recently added feature: a "dynamic interlinear." While standard interlinears (based on the English) and reverse interlinears (based on the original language), their dynamic interlinear provides linking to up to eight tagged English versions and includes all the tagged information including syntactical tags. For the NT, he showed how this dynamic interlinear could be used to line up various NT manuscripts for comparison.

  • Brown did indicate that it is possible to share Accordance workspaces which would make it much easier for students to follow along.
  • It was an impressive display of linked resources that Brown demonstrated, but I'm also wondering what the total cost of all those resources is. Yes, it probably is cheaper than buying hard copy edition,and one can, of course, gradually build up one's Accordance library of resources, but I doubt many students would be able to afford it all at the outset.
  • Accordance is available for Mac, iPhone, and iPad. (It can be run on Windows under emulation.) Buy the Mac version, and you get the iPhone and iPad versions with it running all your Mac resources.

OliveTree Bible Software - BibleReader

Steven Johnson and Matthew Jonas, both from OliveTree, presented. Johnson provided an overview of the program while Jonas spoke more about its classroom use. They presented how it works on an iPad as well as demonstrating a beta version of the program for MacOS. They are certainly multi-device aware and offer (or are working on offering) the program for a variety of platforms: Macs, iWhatever, Kindle, Nook, PC, Android, etc.
Two main concerns for BibleReader are approachability and having everything available, everywhere, all the time. How quickly can someone start using the program? They try to have as simple and as intuitive interface as possible. Further, while there are some differences particular to each platform, they also try to have the interface as similar as possible so that students will be able to follow along regardless of platform. Everything is automatically synched, so that annotations and such are preserved as a user moves between their various devices. The Resource Guide was an effective center for moving around to related resources: related verses, commentaries, topics, dictionaries, images, maps, notes, charts, etc.
Do note that the program really has its roots as a Bible reader, so it is easy to switch to a simple reading view though all the resources are still easy to call up. Jonas demonstrated the features that allow BibleReader to be personalized: notes, highlighting, bookmarks, book ribbons, etc. They use their own cloud sync service to keep everything current, but you can also use an Evernote sync service.
For students, it's easy to get started with BibleReader using their 'freemium' model. The basic program is free and available for the various platforms. They also are looking at integrating social media tools. (E.g., it's only available on Android for now, but it is possible to share verses via Google+, FB, Twitter.)
  • It is indeed a clean and intuitive interface.
  • It was impressive during his presentation how Johnson switched between devices. The program was consistent but still took advantages of the platform's capabilities. (E.g., iPad multi-touch, use of gestures)
  • While OliveTree certainly has a full collection of Greek and Hebrew resources, it strikes me as intended to be accessible for a somewhat more popular audience level.

Overall comments, questions, and observations:

  • It was an interesting choice on Logos' part to have instructors who use Logos present rather than company representatives. They did a good job, but it was a different presentation compared to the others.
  • How easy is it (or to what extent is it desirable) for instructors to share resources with students? How desirable is it to do this? I find that I usually do want to share what I am asking them to learn about the use of the program. I think it is important, therefore, to have easy ways to share workspaces/layouts, search parameters, etc.
  • It is great to have a 'buy once' policy which allows you to transfer your resources to the variety of platforms you use. All three companies basically offer this.
  • I also see how we are moving to a situation with students using a variety of platforms, and most of them are more portable: tablets, iPads, and smartphones. Logos leads the way here, and only OliveTree will compare with it (once they make the desktop versions available). It is important to have one's resources available regardless of platform and to have them available everywhere. I also find, however, that when I am doing in-depth work, I really want a lot of screen space, so I still favor a desktop or laptop setup.
  • I do believe that cloud syncing and backup will become a standard. This involves not only the syncing of resources but of one's personalizations. Logos and OliveTree lead the way in this respect. 
  • BibleWorks was noticeably missing from this shootout. Since it is the program I am most familiar with, I can affirm that it can pretty much do everything the other programs can do and other tasks as well. And it does it all for cheaper considering the resources it includes. Still, there are some limitations to BW. It is a Windows program (that can be run under emulation on a Mac), but it cannot be used on a mobile, handheld device. Given the way the program works, the bigger the monitor the better, so I'm not sure it would be very useful on the small scale of a mobile device. Second, I have encouraged BW to make it easier to sync one's personalizations (e.g., annotations, searches...). It can be accomplished, but it requires the use of another cloud syncing service like DropBox or SugarSync. (I use SugarSync, and it works beautifully. I add my BWNotes, ase, and timeline subdirectories to the sync list, and it keeps everything up-to-date between my home and work computers. BTW, if you sign up for a SugarSync account after clicking on that link, we both get an extra .5Gb of storage in addition to the 5Gb free starter account, so please do so!)
 Bottom Line: Thanks to the CARS (no longer the CARGroup since we are now a CARSection) for organizing this section. While it did give the companies an opportunity to demonstrate capabilities of their programs, it also provided some excellent ideas about how the programs can and are actually used in classroom settings.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

AAR-SBL 2011 in San Francisco

SBL 2011
Saturday, 19 November: I am at the annual AAR-SBL meeting held this year in San Francisco. It was a six-hour flight, but I picked up three hours getting here, so we will see how long I last today... I'm planning to post blog reports as much as I am able.

The first session I attended is "Engaging the ‘Wired-In Generation’: Knowledge and Learning in the Digital Age" with Tersa Calpino presiding.

Mark Goodacre:
“Pods, Blogs, and other Time-wasters: Do Electronic Media Detract from Proper Scholarship”
Pods and blogs and elists are not really a waste of time as long as you are finding some personal usefulness from them. Cf. Goodacre’s blog post for examples of how his work has turned out positively for him.
Why do I blog? Personally, I have found:
  • It provides incentive to articulate, organize, and summarize things I’m working on. I'm quite sure I would not have 'published' much of anything if it weren't for the possibility offered by the blogging platform.
  • It serves as a repository of work I have done. I use it for myself for looking up work I’ve done.
  • When I get questions about a particular topic, oftentimes I’m able simply to point the inquirer to a blog post instead of having to compose a whole new response.
  • It has served to expand my horizons of collegial discourse. It is gratifying to be part of a global discussion
  • It is perhaps peculiar to my Bible and technology focus, but I have been provided with software or resources that I can review.
Christian Brady (Targuman)
“On the Internet No One Knows You’re a Graduate Student, Or How Social Media Can Help You, Build You Up, and Tear You Down”
There are good reasons to maintain multiple personalities on the web. CB is not advocating anonymous identities but ways to organize different aspects of ones work. You do need to be mindful of potential readers and possible repercussions. (“Blogging can be similar to vomiting online.”) Do take it seriously and treat your readers seriously as well. You also need to be ready to accept rejection.
Kelley N. Coblentz Bautch
“Videoconferencing in the Classroom: Broadening the Horizons of Students through Interactive Scholarly Exchange”
KNCB has had positive results using videoconferencing and other social media tools in the classroom. E.g., she has brought in virtually experts in particular fields. It is exciting for students to engage with authors of books they have been reading or to bring in international perspectives.

Jim Davila (PaleoJudaica) was a last minute replacement and talked about his experiences online. One recent development is the increasing comfortableness students have for sharing online. It does mean, however, that educators perhaps have more responsibility helping them think about their online expression.
  • "I hate Twitter... Nothing is more perfectly designed to enable people to say every stupid thought that comes to mind."
  • "I don't have time to listen to podcasts. I would much rather read."
  • If we really wasted so much time in the 90's on elists, then we've done okay. Are blog posts much more ephemeral than a published article?
  • Blogging can be good... If you have one, have a reason for doing so. Identify a niche.
  • "Never write anything down that you can't picture appearing on the front page of the New York Times."