(A personal note.)

Things got quiet around here for much of July as I became unexpectedly but delightfully busy. One outcome of July’s work was, I am pleased to say, a job. In September I am happily taking up the post Research Fellow in Biblical Literacy with CODEC, a research centre of the University of Durham based at St John’s College. Many wonderful people and much great work being done there and I look forward to being a part!

I have also been preparing a few reviews for the blog. On the biblical studies front is Christoph Schaefer’s, Die Zukunft Israels bei Lukas (BZNW 190; Berlin: De Gruyter, 2012). On the tech front are two Ipevo product reviews with screencasts, one of their latest doc cameras and an interactive white board system. The tech reviews will appear shortly.

And there is always much to be written, not least my thesis! In the next week or so I am finishing a paper to be presented in Sept at the BNTC, by far my favorite biblical studies conference. I am also working on a response article–a topic which affects a key verse in my Luke-Acts research–that I will submit to a major journal in my field in the next couple of months.

Larry Hurtado writes of a freshly minted PhD with research promise from Edinburgh who will return to his home country to take up a post that lacks the resources to provide a robust research environment. He envisions a means of supporting such scholars in their research and makes a plea:

…for a charitable trust or foundation, a well-off individual, or a body of committed individuals to take up this vision:  A scheme to which scholars such as my excellent student can apply to have the opportunity to take an extended research leave, relocating to a place where they have access to an excellent library and opportunities to confer with other scholars in their subject.

It is a shame to invest in helping students get their PhD and then simply leave them immersed ever thereafter in the heavy teaching and administration duties in their home setting in countries that lack adequate research facilities.

Where? Expositus.org. And you can help us launch by participating in our KickStarter, now live HERE:

Expositus.org helps humans learn about the humanities.

Humans need the humanities–subjects like history, literature, religion, and philosophy that are at the heart of culture, the soul of human existence.

With a platform for discussion and resources designed for both scholar and learner, Expositus prospers a community that, together, can help advance and share our knowledge of the humanities.

With so much our data ‘out there’ or accessible to someone/thing ‘out there’, are we left to simply ‘delete all’ or shrug our shoulders? The following article by Harvard’s Jonathan Zittrain suggests that using encryption technology, one could ‘seal’ data until a specified time, securing it even from subpenas, etc., with technology that secures crypto-currency like bitcoin. I have my doubts, but it is worth a read.

The gist:

Those anxious about the increasing use and scope of legal pressure against archives include researchers, librarians, and journalists who point out the value of protecting sources who wish to make a record for posterity, and the difficulties of ever procuring documents and interviews from those sources if the fruits are only one subpoena away from disclosure. On the other side include those who simply want to solve awful crimes and have those behind them made to answer on the law’s timetable rather than their own.

Are we stuck with either having to destroy our secrets or leave them exposed to near-instant disclosure? It might be possible to split the difference: to develop an ecosystem of contingent cryptography for libraries, companies, governments, and citizens. Instead of using new technologies to preserve for ready discovery material that might in the past never have been stored, nor deleting everything as soon as possible, we can develop systems that place sensitive information beyond reach until a specified amount of time has passed, or other conditions are met.

Thanks to Accordance for allowing me to review what I have found to be the most powerful electronic version of the NA28 available at the present time.

In the video below, I demo and review some of my favorite features. Accordance users may also pick up a tip or two on using the software in general (e.g., cmd-J in the search bar will yield possible search terms).

In short, you will not find a more searchable, usable NA28 module on another software platform. And importantly, the Accordance version essentially includes everything the print edition has, including the introductions and appendices (I’ve written on the importance of the appendices elsewhere).

A word about other versions: At time of writing, a full NA28 with apparatus is not yet available in either BibleWorks or Logos. BibleWorks has the NA28 tagged text (I have it)–BW is working on releasing the apparatus–but in contrast to the Accordance module, its tagging is primarily morphological and it does not include the introduction or appendices. The Logos version is under development and will include the apparatus, but all indications are that it will not include the introduction or appendices.


The analogy is crude but apt, and I think other institutions are guilty, too:

The Online Oxford Dictionary (2013) defines “twerk” as an informal verb that means to “dance to popular music in a sexually provocative manner involving thrusting hip movements and a low, squatting stance.” The journalistic field, threatened by its shrinking economic capital, is dancing to the popular music of consumer-driven logic, for it appears—at least so far—that this is the only way to survive. Still dependent on an advertising-driven model, online journalism finds itself having to chase online traffic, a routine made possible and further enabled by web analytics. In order to attract an audience no longer loyal to legacy news, journalism dances in a provocative manner—publishing stories about the wildest celebrities, uploading adorable cat videos, highlighting salacious headlines—hoping to attract attention, to increase traffic. For media critics, this is a low, almost squatting stance, for an institution that relies a lot on respect and reputation. For a few others, this is journalism trying to survive. Journalism—to some extent—is twerking.

Edson C Tandoc Jr, “Journalism is twerking? How web analytics is changing the process of gatekeeping,” New Media & Society 16.4 (2014): 559—75.

UPDATE: Some related issue are taken up here, in a summary of the leaked (intentionally?) doc where the NY Times self-reflects on how to improve on the digital side of things. By-and-large, the suggestions are far from ‘twerking’. A few interesting excerpts:

Meanwhile, outlets like The Huffington Post “regularly outperform” the Times in terms of traffic, simply by aggregating and repackaging Times journalism. Regarding the deployment of this strategy around Times coverage of Nelson Mandela’s death, a Huffington Post executive said: “You guys got crushed. I was queasy watching the numbers. I’m not proud of this. But this is your competition.” (p. 44)

…Those departments are not tiny: roughly 30 people in analytics, 30 in digital design, 120 in product, and a whopping 445 in technology, with around two dozen teams of engineers. (p. 63)

…“Another [desk head] suggested that the relentless work of assembling the world’s best news report can also be a ‘form of laziness, because it is work that is comfortable and familiar to us, that we know how to do. And it allows us to avoid the truly hard work and bigger questions about our present and our future: What shall we become. How must we change?’” (p. 72)

…“‘We’ve abdicated completely the role of strategy,’ said one masthead editor. ‘We just don’t do strategy. The newsroom is really being dragged behind the galloping horse of the business side.’” (p. 72)

…The big question: How can the Times become more digital while still maintaining a print presence, and what has to change? “That means aggressively questioning many of our print-based traditions and their demands on our time, and determining which can be abandoned to free up resources for digital work.” (p. 82)

…On the Michael Sam story, which was brought to the Times and ESPN, the report says the Times “package was well-executed and memorable, but some of our more digitally focused competitors got more traffic from the story than we did. If we had more of a digital-first approach, we would have developed in advance an hour-by-hour plan to expand our package of related content in order to keep readers on our site longer, and attract new ones. We should have been thinking as hard about ‘second hour’ stories as we do about ‘second day’ stories.” (p. 84)

…On finding and developing digital talent, the report has a variety of recommendations for things inside and outside the building, including finding ways to empower the current staff to do more, identifying the top digital talent in the newsroom and giving them opportunities. But the Times also needs to “accept that digital talent is in high demand. To hire digital talent will take more money, more persuasion and more freedom once they are within The Times — even when candidates might strike us as young or less accomplished.” Another idea? Make a big splash: “Make a star hire,” because top digital talent can help bring in similar-minded people. (p. 96)

Getting Back Slowly

April 18, 2014 — Leave a comment

My good intentions to get back to “regularly scheduled programming” here at the blog were not realized as my family has dealt with some medical issues in our (now) six-week-old son. Fortunately these difficulties are not too serious and can ultimately be corrected. So let me revise my previous forecast and say I’ll be getting back to it slowly! As I said before, there is more to come on the Bible software front (e.g., a NA28 module review on the Accordance platform), and soon some exciting news about the launch of a new project that you will want to be involved with!

King-Jesus-WifeThe latest issue of the Harvard Theological Review (free from here) has the long awaited articles regarding various analyses of the so-called Gospel of Jesus’ Wife papyrus, including a point-countpoint-counterpoint between King and Depuydt (TOC below). From Harvard Magazine:

The April 2014 issue of the Harvard Theological Review (HTR) includes King’s article (originally slated to be published in January 2013) discussing the fragment and its importance to understanding early Christian debates about whether wives and mothers could be disciples of Jesus. The issue also contains a counterpoint by professor 
of Egyptology and ancient Western Asian studies Leo Depuydt of Brown University, who writes that he is certain that the text is a modern forgery. Depuydt’s analysis, which predates the scientific findings, points out that a forger could have written with lampblack on ancient papyrus. Infrared microspectroscopic analysis of the ink and papyrus, however, found nothing to suggest that they had been “fabricated or modified at different times.” In a rebuttal, King finds Depuydt’s textual analysis unpersuasive.

The Magazine further summarizes:

Now the scientific dating of the papyrus and the ink (which is not ink at all, but rather lampblack, a pigment often used in ancient Egypt for writing on papyrus) indicate that both are consistent with an ancient origin.

Because the fragment is so small, carbon-dating it proved troublesome. Researchers at the University of Arizona called into question their own results—which dated the papyrus to several hundred years before the birth of Christ—because they were unable to complete the cleaning process on the small sample of papyrus with which they were working, and felt that might have led to spurious results. A second carbon-dating analysis undertaken by Clay professor of scientific archaeology Noreen Tuross at Harvard and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute dated the papyrus, and a separate one (also believed to be of ancient origin) with text from the Gospel of John to approximately A.D. 700 to 800.

The relevant articles to GJW in this issue HTR 107.2:

Karen L. King, “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife . . .’”: A New Coptic Papyrus Fragment (131-159).

Malcolm Choat, “The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife: A Preliminary Paleographical Assessment” (160-162).

James T. Yardley and Alexis Hagadorn, “Characterization of the Chemical Nature of the Black Ink in the Manuscript of The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife through Micro-Raman Spectroscopy” (162-164).

Joseph M. Azzarelli and John B. Goods and Timothy M. Swager, “Study of Two Papyrus Fragments with Fourier Transform Infrared Microspectroscopy” (165-165).

Gregory Hodgins, “Accelerated Mass Spectrometry Radiocarbon Determination of Papyrus Samples” (166-169).

Noreen Tuross, “Accelerated Mass Spectrometry Radiocarbon Determination of Papyrus Samples” (170-171).

Leo Depuydt, “The Alleged Gospel of Jesus’s Wife: Assessment and Evaluation of Authenticity” (172-189).

Karen L. King, “Response to Leo Depuydt, ‘The Alleged Gospel of Jesus’s Wife: Assessment and Evaluation of Authenticity.’ ” (190-193).

It has been awfully quiet around here the past week and a half, and for good reason! My family of three became four (about 10 days ahead of schedule), and I am just now wading back into my work. Still more to come on the Bible software front, including a bit later this week.


I am nearing the halfway point of Watson on a close read (i.e., every word, every footnote), and I found Markus Bockmuehl’s recent JTS review to be a nice summary overall. I also agreed with many of the his critiques. One small point I wish Bockmuehl would have expanded (even with just an extra sentence):

In particular, the argument from the implausibility of non-Markan, non-Q ‘coincidences’ may well attract critical attention from the friends of Q. But from another perspective it also seems less compelling the more one accepts the influence of a lively culture of individual and collective memory and performance…

GospelWritingBockmuehl follows this up by noting how little Watson deals with orality and memory–a criticism with which I agree. But this bit I’ve reproduced above seems to me unclear. The first sentence is true enough. But the second only partially. On one hand I agree. For example, the ‘coincidence’ (on the 2ST) that Matt and Luke both include genealogies (independent of one another) could be tempered by allowing for the influence of orality/memory. On the other hand, collective memory, orality, or performance seem to me unable to forcefully explain why, according to Watson, Luke and Matthew both favor the Q structure over Mark. Watson’s big point in the relevant section is that Matthew and Luke agree strikingly often in how they incorporate non-Mark material into the Markan framework–a coincidence if in fact Matthew and Luke did not ‘know’ each other.

So yes, I think a few of Watson’s Q ‘coincidences’ can be tempered when considering orality and collective memory, but other ‘coincidences’ less so, especially those dealing with authors’ editorial procedures that follow from 2ST.

A few other excerpts from Bockmuehl:

Heuristically if perhaps unwittingly, Watson’s position on Thomas resembles the approaches of Robinson, Koester, Funk, Crossan, and others who believed that the earliest gospel sources consisted primarily of disembodied sayings with at this stage little or no interest in the person of Jesus or in ‘what he did and suffered’ (which for Aristotle defined history, Poetics 1451b 11).

…At the same time, the ‘authoritative core’ argument matters especially for the four gospels. Questions of their early date, apostolic attribution, and content may of course be historically contestable; but they did in fact matter to second-century Christian writers—and the answers given did not apparently vary over time. But those ancient questions and answers are here dismissed as (it seems) methodologically irrelevant, historically worthless apologetic after the fact.

…Conversely, and perhaps more importantly, the second and third centuries already produce scholia (or indeed commentaries) on John, Matthew, and Luke—whereas it is presumably significant that none of the apocryphal gospels ever appears to have attracted any commentary tradition.

…And yet there is not a shred of evidence that any of the four gospels were ever serious candidates for exclusion (even Mark, who was rarely read; or John, whom a few crotchety anti-Montanists in Rome apparently disliked)—or, conversely, that any others (even Thomas!) were ever seriously considered for inclusion or achieved remotely comparable breadth of literary circulation, liturgical reception, or exegetical comment.