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Archive for January, 2007

Being Dugg

Last week’s post on New Testament social networks appeared on the front page of news site Digg over the weekend, giving us a month’s worth of traffic in a few days’ time. We want to reflect on what happens when a Christian blog experiences a fleeting burst of popularity from non-Christian or even anti-Christian sources.

Unlike some sites, this blog doesn’t focus on evangelism. It doesn’t overtly try to convert you to Christianity, largely because we assume that most of you are already Christian or at least sympathetic to Christianity. But every public Christian endeavor has an element of evangelism—you can’t help it: non-Christians watch your actions, hear your words, note your attitude.

Blogging magnifies this scrutiny. Anyone from anywhere in the world can come across any of your posts for any reason. What impression do you leave? Are your visitors, if Christian, encouraged or strengthened in their faith? If non-Christian, do they leave without thinking less of Christians, Christ, or the church?

Living a Christian life is a heavy burden (and, paradoxically, a freeing one). We’re not holding this blog up as a model by any means—but if you wonder why we don’t court controversy by getting involved in disputes or why we don’t respond forcefully to ESV critics, it’s because we do our best to cultivate our blogging around ethics of love, meekness, and generosity. (And we’re not saying that we always succeed.)

Tim Challies recently wrote about talking to the secular press about the church, a topic with parallels to blogging:

I don’t know of many people who would talk to the press about the problems in their families. If I found that a local reporter was attempting to write a negative story about my wife, and if she approached me asking me for stories about Aileen that she could use, I would never help her! I would explain that I love my wife and would never do anything to hurt her. Likewise, I love the church, for we are a family, and I would be very hesitant to air out her dirty laundry in front of the world.

Similar principles apply to blogging, but blogging is more direct, immediate, and raw than talking to the media. You don’t need to think about what you’re saying—you can simply write it up and press “Publish” for everyone to see. The long tail of the Christian blogosphere is full of comments that (we hope) people wouldn’t say to fellow Christians face-to-face. Something about digital communication suppresses the better angels of our nature.

We’re not arguing that you should avoid saying anything critical or controversial on your blog or stop discussing sin—sin is the human condition. You can’t have repentance and salvation without sin. Rather, we ask you to consider how your words will sound both to your regular audience and to random visitors. Your blog is a microphone to the world. If you could say one thing to thousands of people at a stroke, would it be your latest blog post?

Many of you read 1 Corinthians 13 in church this Sunday. It applies as much to blogging as it does to other areas of the Christian life. An excerpt:

And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love is not arrogant or rude, but rejoices with the truth. If only we always lived up to our ideals.

We’re going on at length about this topic because of some of the reactions we got to our Dugg post as it made its way into the wider blogosphere. First, we want to make clear that we appreciate all the positive comments we received.

At times, however, the intrinsic Christianity of our post ran into the casual atheism prevalent in the tech blogosphere. What struck us was the offhand treatment of the New Testament as a work of fiction, typified by a comment (beware coarse language if you follow the link) on Digg that lumped the New Testament with “Dune and Galactica [science-fiction universes] and other popular tales of fiction.” Other commenters didn’t restrain their outright hostility to the Bible.

Our post didn’t address (and probably couldn’t have adequately addressed) the concerns that these people had, yet we hope that God has used and will use the post to his glory. We wish you well if you feel called to minister to the tech blogosphere; you have your work cut out for you.

Even if you don’t consider your blog a ministry, it serves as one. And, as we found out, you never know when one of your posts will become popular or how people will interpret you. We try to keep James 3 in mind as we blog:

Not many of you should become teachers [or bloggers], my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body… but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so….

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom…. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.

We ask your forgiveness when we don’t live up to these principles. We’re constantly amazed (and grateful) at how God uses sinful human beings for his glory. We praise God for whatever small contribution we make to his kingdom; at the same time, we’re thankful for each one of you and for the parts that you play, whatever they may be.

January 31, 2007 | Posted in: Uncategorized | Author: Crossway Staff @ 9:15 am | (3) Comments »

Reverse Interlinear New Testament Review Roundup

Here are links to everyone we could find who’s blogged a review of the ESV English-Greek Reverse Interlinear New Testament:

  • Nick-Nacks, Notes, and Notions (Oct 25, 2006). “I highly suggest this New Testament—It is logical and useful, even for those of us who will spend a lifetime struggling with anything other than English!”
  • joethorn.net (Oct 25, 2006). “For those who have never learned Greek this can be a way to begin to familiarize yourself with the original language, but I would strongly encourage one to get Greek Tutor, or take a class at a local seminary to get a healthy grasp on the basics. This Reverse Interlinear would also be helpful for those currently learning Greek, or who want to brush up on fading skills.”
  • Logos Bible Software Blog (Oct 27, 2006). “A new release this week shows just how much has changed since Logos began 14 years ago. Back then, everyone in the Bible software industry had to be content with getting content from publishers’ backlists (sometimes the deep backlist). The time between the print and electronic edition of a title was typically measured in years. That has changed. Today, content is being published in multiple formats simultaneously… and sometimes the electronic edition precedes print!”
  • Captain’s BLog (Oct 28, 2006). An inside story of how GodBlogCon attendees got Reverse Interlinears just for showing up.
  • Challies.com (Nov 9, 2006). “As one with rudimentary Greek skills (based on only one year of Greek while I was in college a decade ago) I have found the Reverse Interlinear remarkably helpful in helping me track down the meaning and usage of words in the original language. I have been using both the New Testament and the Old Testament for some time now through Logos Bible Software and they have proven almost indispensable to me in my research projects. I am glad to now have a printed New Testament I can carry with me.”
  • SmartChristian.com (Nov 9, 2006). “The ESV Reverse Interlinear New Testament is simply excellent. I have been using it for a few weeks. I received it as a gift from Crossway [at GodBlogCon].”
  • Christdot (Nov 14, 2006). “When dealing with reference books/Bibles, one of the most important things is readability of the type. Font choices can make or break a reference book, especially if there is a second language involved. On this front, I need to applaud Crossway books. They created a text that is very easy to read and follow in both languages. The Greek font is on the level of most New Testaments that I’ve looked at. The overall the layout of the text is neat and well spaced.” [Editor’s note: Logos did the typesetting, and they deserve a lot of credit for how pleasing the layout is.]
  • Oversight of Souls (Dec 4, 2006). “I think this will be a great tool for various sorts of people. People who do not know Greek but want to can use this New Testament and dip into Greek as they have the opportunity. I have already recommended this to a doctor friend who simply out of personal interest took a crash course in Greek. This New Testament provides a good way to begin or maintain some element of contact with Greek. In the same way it can be a useful tool for first year students.”
  • Reformissionary (Dec 19, 2006). “I’ve used it a few times now and like it a lot. If you know Greek well then this product may not be very helpful. I will probably not use it much myself since I have one of those intense Bible programs on my laptop. But for those who don’t have a great grasp on the Greek, this can be a fantastic Bible study tool. I’m especially thinking of small group leaders and Bible study teachers in my church.”

Thanks to everyone.

January 29, 2007 | Posted in: Uncategorized | Author: Crossway Staff @ 9:14 am | Comments Off »

Mapping New Testament Social Networks

The recent launch of Many Eyes, a data visualization site, lets us make a start toward mapping New Testament social networks:

A network diagram showing co-occurrences in the New Testament with Jesus as the hub.

The live visualization at Many Eyes lets you pan and zoom around to your heart’s content. (You need the Java plugin for your browser to be able to interact with the visualization.)

The data set behind the visualization isn’t perfect. While it disambiguates people with the same name (John the apostle and John the Baptist, for example), it only tracks occurrences in the same chapter. In other words, just because two people appear in the text near each other, that doesn’t mean they have a relationship. So you have Joseph the Old Testament patriarch linked to Jesus even though they obviously weren’t contemporaries. You’d need an ontology about New Testament names to map deeper relationships.*

But it’s a start and may help you make some useful insights. This data set only includes three or more co-occurrences. We also uploaded a complete list of co-occurrences in the New Testament, but the data set breaks the visualization software at the moment. And there are so many nodes that it isn’t that useful. But feel free to play with our data sets and come up with interesting visualizations of your own.

We’ll leave you with a treemap diagram of similar data:

A treemap diagram showing co-occurrences in the New Testament. Again, Jesus is the most prominent figure, with links to David, Abraham, Timothy, and Peter being most plentiful.

In treemaps, each section has a label (e.g., “Jesus”), and the size and color of the enclosed boxes show the relationships. For example, Peter, Moses, and Paul are the most common names linked with Jesus. Why Paul? Well, Paul has a habit of introducing himself and greeting people in the name of Jesus when he begins his letters. The association of the two is either a feature or a bug of the data set, depending on your perspective.

Via O’Reilly Radar.

* Also see the post at Blogos for a way of using Many Eyes to look at parallel Gospel passages.

January 25, 2007 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Bible News,Digital News,News | Author: Crossway Staff @ 1:16 pm | (115) Comments »

WordPress Upgrade and Trackback Changes

WordPress 2.1 came out Monday, and it’s now powering this blog—no more WordPress 1.5.x for us. Upgrading went without a hitch and took all of four minutes. Sorry for any duplicate posts you see in your feed reader.

Trackbacks Now Closed

We’re also changing how we handle trackbacks: they’re now closed for all posts.

Why are we eliminating trackbacks? First, spam: the signal-to-noise ratio for trackbacks is abysmal, and while plugins exist to help you deal with trackback spam, they’re not ideal.

More importantly, however, is comprehensiveness. Less than 25% of blogs use trackbacks, so visitors to our posts wanting to get a sense of the blogosphere’s reaction were only getting a sample. (As we searched for old links, we found over 400 blog posts that hadn’t trackbacked us.)

We still hope to link to posts that link to us; we subscribe to searches that inform us when someone blogs about a post of ours, and we expect to link to those blogs from our site.

January 24, 2007 | Posted in: Uncategorized | Author: Crossway Staff @ 9:05 am | Comments Off »

New “Bible for Life” Radio Spots (January 2007)

We’ve released six new spots in the “Bible for Life” radio campaign. Each one-minute spot has someone reading a passage from the ESV and meditating on it.

This month features Melody Carlson, Jeremy Redmon from Big Daddy Weave, one about Jonathan Edwards, and others.

Listen to all the spots at www.bibleforlife.org.

January 22, 2007 | Posted in: Uncategorized | Author: Crossway Staff @ 12:17 pm | Comments Off »