Category Archives: Academia

Communicating Your Message

If you care about something, you want other people to know about it. This means that the way you present your information is important because it can mean the difference between true communication occurring and boredom or confusion. Unfortunately, many presentations (especially at conferences) fail miserably at this task. If you think your content is important, you need to pay attention not only to what you talk about but how you do it.

Many people think that Powerpoint (or Keynote) presentations assist in communicating ideas and facts. It’s true that visual information that accompanies oral presentations can help — but it has to be done well!

Here’s a youtube video of how NOT to use Powerpoint.

And here’s a slide show that shows how creative visuals can supplement (not compete) with the speaker’s words. Ideas and information will be better retained when this kind of dual presentation is employed.

The creator and presenter of this slide show, Beck Tench, works for the NC Museum of Life and Sciences. Follow her on Twitter at @10ch

Review: Divine Presence Amid Violence (Walter Brueggemann)

Divine PresenceFollowing on the heels of my review of EisenbraunsWar in the Bible and Terrorism in the 20th Century (Part One, Two, Three), I read Walter Brueggemann’s Divine Presence Amid Violence: Contextualizing the Book of Joshua (Published by Cascade Books, a division of Wipf and Stock Publishers). Can you detect the theme of some of the books I am reading? Violence, especially when it touches on areas of religion, is a very hot topic when we consider current events in the news. It is a dilemma to condemn a present-day issue of violence when a similar type of violence seems to be condoned in some parts of the Hebrew Bible.

In this book, Brueggemann takes a brief (the text of the book is only 65 pages) look at an “exceedingly difficult text” (p. 11) in the Hebrew Bible: Joshua 11.

In the introduction, Brueggemann discusses how the conviction that Scripture is revelatory (by communities of Jews and Christians) is necessarily appropriated differently because of differences of contexts and cultural settings. He believes that the current state of hermeneutics convinces many (including himself) that there is “no single, sure meaning for any text.” Thus, the “revelatory power of the text is discerned and given precisely through the action of interpretation which is always concrete, never universal, always contextualized, never ‘above the fray,’ always filtered through vested interest, never in disinterested purity” (p. ix). If this is true of the interpretation process, then, according to Brueggemann, it should also be true of the process that forms, shapes and presents the text. Brueggemann suggests that because of this, revelation is never “simply a final disclosure, but is an ongoing act of disclosing that will never let the disclosure be closed.”
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Imaging the Qeiyafa Ostracon

There are many websites and blogs discussing all manner of interesting things about the Qeiyafa ostracon. I have hesitated to add to the noise conversation.

However, I would like to point you to an article (available as a PDF for download here) which details the science behind the imaging of the ostracon. I find this fascinating (and a great change of pace from the speculation contained in some of the other articles).

The article is SPECTRAL IMAGING OF OSTRACA by Gregory Bearman & William A. Christens-Barry, PalArch’s Journal of Archaeology of Egypt/Egyptology, 6(7) (2009). Abstract:

By analogy with ancient texts, infrared imaging of ostraca has long been employed to help improve readings. We report on extensive spectral imaging of ostraca over the visible and near infrared. Spectral imaging acquires the complete spectrum for each pixel in an image; the data can be used with an extensive set of software tools that were developed originally for satellite and scientific imaging. In this case, the spectral data helps explain why infrared imaging works to improve text legibility (and why not in some cases). A better understanding of the underlying imaging mechanism points the way for inexpensive methods for taking data either in the field or at museums.


Stephen Chapman on Canon

Word and World

A little bit before SBL 2009 in New Orleans, Stephen Chapman sent me a copy of his recent article in the journal Word & World (Volume 29, Number 4, Fall 2009, 334-347). The theme of this issue is Canon. If you can get your hands on it, I’d recommend reading it. Here is the abstract for Chapman’s article, “What Are We Reading? Canonicity and the Old Testament.”

Contrary to the standard step-by-step model of the formation of the Old Testament canon, the process was more fluid, on [sic] ongoing recognition of the authority of certain books, based on their use. Hints at early canonical moves are evident already in the Old Testament texts themselves. All of this is important to Christian readers because, without the Old Testament, the church cannot properly know who Jesus is.

Chapman provides a helpful outline of the history, rationale, and details of what he calls the standard model of Old Testament canon formation and contrasts this with an alternative model (which asks if canon is “more about authority than closure”). Chapman credits the work of James Sanders and Brevard Childs as influential in the development of this alternative. A pull-quote in this second section of the article asks, “Must a canon by definition be literarily unchanging, officially approved, and nationally applicable?”

I realize I am not summarizing the entire article here, my purpose is to point out the article (and the volume) as worthy of your time if you are interested in Canon issues.

The editorial, by Frederick J. Gaiser, is available in full-text (PDF) online here.

Slippery Slope

Steve, the writer of the blog Undeception, recently wrote a post about inerrancy, entitled “The Place of Fear in our Bibliology.” The gem that stood out to me in this piece, though, could be applied to many issues. After lamenting how many times he has heard the “slippery slope” argument as an excuse to not explore a line of questioning, he says:

When one offers up the “slippery slope” argument, it is likely that they’ve failed to comprehend that it’s possible the truth lies at the bottom of the hill, not the top.

Should Schools or Students Choose Bible Software?

At the recent New Orleans SBL meeting, one of the “hot” sessions was the Software Bible “Shootout” in which five different software options demonstrated their method for solving a series of challenges. Read Rick Mansfield’s summary here. More discussion here (with lots of further links).The software vendors represented were: Logos, SESB, BibleWorks, Accordance and Olive Tree.

You can look at each of the resources in depth at your leisure. My question today is not which one handles what challenge better, but rather, who should determine which software you use?
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A New Month brings a new Carnival (XLVIII) and a New Top 50 List

Clayboy (Doug Chaplin) does a terrific job this month with the Biblical Studies Carnival XLVIII. I’m happy to see such a representation from the Hebrew Bible this month. He also successfully sifted out all of Jim West‘s photo journals of the SBL meeting and listed the best reports of sessions at that meeting in New Orleans.

And, the Top 50 Biblioblog list is out for the month of November. The monthly Top 50 Biblioblog list is now a six-month listing, the current list is here.

Pete Enns on Mesopotamian Myths and “Genre Calibration”

Pete Enns is the Friday “guest voice” again at Science and the Sacred (the BioLogos blog).
Science and the Sacred blog

This week he is discussing the cognate literature (such as Enuma Elish, Atrahasis, and Gilgamesh) of the Hebrew Bible. Why is this helpful?

Placing Israel in its broader cultural and religious context has been referred to as the “comparative approach.” This is a sometimes-maligned term, as it is unfortunately understood by some to imply that Israel was simply copying or “borrowing” what was around them. This is not the case. Rather, the literature of Israel and that of her predecessors and neighbors reflect a common way of looking at the world. The value of these ancient texts is not in telling us from where Israel got her ideas. Instead, they help us understand what kind of a text Genesis is. I like to refer to this as “genre calibration.”

Read the entire post here.