Vale BibleWorks

In case you haven’t heard, and you’re interested in Bible software (which means you probably have heard, but anyway), BibleWorks has ceased operations as of 15th June, except for supporting BW10 with compatibility updates. I’d like to commiserate with other users who will miss BibleWorks, and are now left with two main paid rivals for serious Bible study in the original languages, Accordance and Logos, along with alternatives like the free StepBible, which I like to use for quick student study tasks in the classroom, because it will do everything needed at that level, and students can take their understanding of the tool home and use it straight away without a major financial investment. But it is not sufficiently developed to act as the main Bible study tool for me, and I have been purely a BibleWorks user for about 18 years now, opting not to even venture into the Logos cosmopolis. Accordance is attractive to me, but became an option later in that it was originally tailored for the Apple universe, and I’ve dwelt in the Windows one. What I’ll miss most is having a package devoted to primary text study, rather than to the assembly of a suite of secondary resources that, I have observed, can often be overpriced in the two rivals’ offerings, or else sometimes represent resources that can be found cheaply or freely elsewhere. BibleWorks stuck to what it was good at, and though a little dated in appearance and involving a learning curve before its full power could be unleashed, is lean and lightning quick in its sweet spot of textual search functions.

So, where to from here? I can imagine that new, imaginative digital solutions will and probably already have appeared for serious biblical study. There are some nichy options, like the sophisticated analysis tool for the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, Shebanq, and its associated HB/OT text analyzer, Bible online learner, which is fantastic for grammatical and syntactical analysis. For other such tools, see my Pinterest page on digital tools for Bible study and another focused on biblical Hebrew. Yet the Big Three were the main options for heavy-duty study in the original languages, and BibleWorks’ demise leaves the bulk of the field to Logos and Accordance. I will be keeping my BibleWorks 9 running as long as possible, having baulked at a US$200 upgrade for little else than insurance that I will get those compatibility updates, and then will eventually have to shell out for one of the others. I hope that’s ten years from now, at least. I’ve invested heavily in using the notes function of BibleWorks, to the level of a quasi-commentary on a lot of the chapters of the OT. But those notes files, despite their .bww extension, are simply rich text files, and easily cross-compatible, so they won’t be lost. For fellow BibleWorks users wanting to make the jump to either Logos or Accordance sooner rather than later, there is good, compact advice about this over on the Bible and Tech blog.

Advertisements

The Elephant in the Room of Old Testament Biblical Theology

Human beings can get used to nearly anything. People can learn to live under oppressive regimes, grow accustomed to wearing jeans that an earlier generation would have immediately thrown out, and adopt tap-and-go technology without a second thought. Familiarity breeds invisibility.

By such a means an Old Testament elephant has achieved a striking invisibility. My students in Old Testament Foundations, a first-year subject that covers Genesis–Kings, have the task of creating a thematic portfolio as their assessment piece, and may choose one of four themes, each with an associated student text in OT biblical theology:

  1. The story of Israel, utilizing the text by the same title by Pate, Duvall, Hays, et al.
  2. The presence of God, using T. Desmond Alexander’s From Eden to the New Jerusalem
  3. Covenant, using Sandra Richter’s Epic of Eden
  4. Kingdom, with Bartholomew & Goheen, The Drama of Scripture

I must confess to not having read each of these student texts from end to end; I have only browsed portions in connection with student work or class preparation. But wait, I’m working my way towards the elephant: that utter surprise lurking within the pages of our Old Testament that should leave our jaws hanging, but which through familiarity and a dull reading fog, we fail to notice.

800px-Paraceratherium_transouralicum

Not elephants, but the more interesting and even bigger Paraceratherium, member of the Pleistocene megafauna (
ABelov2014 (https://abelov2014.deviantart.com/) via Wikimedia Commons)

Continue reading

Winners are Grinners?

The Gospel of Jesus and Christian Celebration in 1 Corinthians 1

The Gospel of Jesus and Christian Celebration in 1 Corinthians 1

The glitter has settled on the 2018 Commonwealth Games, here in Australia’s own home of humility, the Gold Coast, and all we have now are fast-fading memories of close contests and come-from-behind victories in the pool, on the track and in the velodrome. Judged by the wisdom of the leather lounge, there seems no greater adrenaline rush than victory over one’s rivals in an athletic contest.

640px-Carrara_Stadium,_Gold_Coast,_Queensland_05

The vicarious thrill of such contests is so universal that Paul can appeal to a foot race to illustrate dedication to the task of Christian life and service in 1 Cor. 9:24-26. Yet the thrill of outperforming our fellow runners is not a motive Paul wants to encourage. What is, behind the fanfare, something of an ego trip is not compatible with the spiritual ideals Paul has long imbibed from Old Testament Scripture. Paradoxically, the Christian life is a race that leaves no room for boasting.

Continue reading

Reference Manager Comparison

Following up from the previous post, which offered a link to a prezi on (postgraduate, and primarily text-oriented) research workflow, with a digital tool emphasis, here is a similar link to a prezi that compares Endnote and Zotero in particular, and notes the existence of an integrated word processor and reference manager tool called Comwriter.

Ref Mgr Prezi Sshot

You’ll have to forgive the minority of instructions that are specific to our institution here in Australia, Melbourne School of Theology (MST), along with its parent accrediting body, the Australian College of Theology. The three resources treated here are those that feature our in-house citation style. Some other interesting ones include Mendeley, ReadCube, and Docear, which combines reference management and writing with a mindmapping function, though it isn’t easy to learn, in my opinion.

One point of interest in the prezi is a comparison of the relative advantages of Endnote v. Zotero, two of the most popular reference managers. In a word, Endnote has more power under the hood for large library management and mass-editing, and offers a lot more free space online, while Zotero is more user-friendly and versatile, with better notetaking, tabbing and linking of records, and of course, it’s free, even when you’re not a student. That’s hard to beat. More details in the prezi!

Research Workflow Revisited

A few years ago I prepared a prezi to explain research workflow to students at our college, and I recently refreshed it for a seminar to some of our postgraduates. It really hints or suggests a workflow rather than fully explaining it, and it indicates some of the digital tools that may come in handy. The focus is on literary studies, in connection with my own more specific field of biblical studies. I offer the link to the prezi here again for those interested.

Research Workflow Prezi 02-2018

I have also revisited two main reference managers in recent times, Endnote and Zotero, comparing their virtues in their latest versions, so stay tuned and I’ll offer that prezi with my summary of their relative strengths, life permitting.

Philosophy of Creation Class Discussion

I recently conducted a class on Creation, Fall and Redemption, with the emphasis on creation, for a colleague’s Essentials of Philosophy class. Our conversation ranged over a number of important issues in the Christian philosophy of creation, helped by some particularly sharp and engaged students. I offer the Powerpoint here in case it’s of help. (Just discovered I have to upgrade if I’m to include the audio.)

Note of a change: I’m putting the file directly into WordPress, so anyone who couldn’t reach it before should be able to access it now.

Creation, Fall, Redemption – Ess’ls of Philosophy

I’ll have to look into that audio! I received some very intelligent questions.

The key philosophical question about creation in my mind over the past 12 months or so is, “How long of a leash does God give the created order?” That is, is every event in the world God’s doing quite directly, as Luther tended to think? Is apparent cause and effect in nature really something of an illusion? Jonathan Edwards was quite strong on this too, and the classic figure who really unplugged natural events causally from one another, I understand, was William of Ockham with his ‘occasionalism’, as it’s called. Natural law, in this model, is a way of describing the regularities in God’s actions. Then if God chooses to be ‘irregular’ and do miracles, he’s not breaking any higher law, as it were. It keep the Lawgiver in charge of the laws. That’s attractive, and protects the sovereignty of God.

But there’s also something to be said for God giving creation its own, robust existence – allowing the natural world enough autonomy that one thing can really lead to another. Billiard ball A striking billiard ball B will send it off at the appropriate angle and speed without God needing to ‘micro-manage’ that interaction. Creation is programmed to behave regularly by God, in the way it will need to if human and other life is to be possible:

As long as the earth endures,

seedtime and harvest,

cold and heat,

summer and winter,

day and night,

will never cease.

Gen. 8:22 (NIV)

Genesis 1 perhaps hints at God’s delegation of causal power to creation when it says, “Let the land produce vegetation” (Gen. 1:11), or animals (1:24). In any case, there are theological virtues that may be argued for this position as well, e.g. that it gives better assurance that we as human beings are given real existence involving genuine moment-to-moment continuity. If we follow a full-blown creatio continuua model, we might find ourselves saying that God effectively creates the world anew moment by moment. The risk there is that we become like video images, an illusion created by a rapid raster scan rate.

So for God to give natural bodies and living creatures a real moment-to-moment existence and continuity would be a true condescension and giving on his part – to introduce into existence other real entities where previously there had been none besides Him. Pondering that will rock your philosophical socks. But there is risk at this end too. Make the position too strong, and you have a creation that, once made, no longer needs God in order to ‘do its thing’. Further still, and you’re into process theology, where God is another cork in the stream of time, trying to manage things as best He can, like a very good chess player who still doesn’t know exactly what the opponent will do. I get that there are bits in the Bible where God speaks of a future that’s unresolved because of the human freedom factor (e.g. Jer. 26:3; 36:3), and we ought to take those seriously. But to imagine God as lodged in the stream of time just because we are is small-minded. I recommend Crysdale & Ormerod, Creator God, Evolving World, for an intelligent treatment of this issue. For a scientist out near the edge of a creation that’s too independent, in my view (i.e. risks dabbling with deism), but raises the same sorts of issues check out:

Van Till, H. J. “Basil, Augustine and the Doctrine of Creation’s Functional Integrity,” Science and Christian Belief 8 (1996), 21–38.

O God, Where Are You Now?

So runs the title of a David Crowder Band song from the 2005 album A Collision. The full title is appealingly quirky:

“O God, Where Are You Now? (In Pickerel Lake? Pigeon? Marquette? Mackinaw?)”

(Now that I check the liner notes, who should have written that but Sufjan Stevens! A pretty well-known guy in alternate/folk circles. Anyway…)

So sometimes God can feel very distant, stubbornly silent or rather inert. We feel as if we’d be glad for any kind of communication from God, even if it consisted mostly of rebuke. At least we would know where we stood. Continue reading