Biblical commentary project

Building on the experience of developing a primitive hypertext commentary (Amos – Hypertext Bible , http://bible.gen.nz), now nearly complete, the intention is to set up an organization to be responsible for overseeing the composing and publishing of a series of hypertext commentaries which will eventually cover all the books of the Jewish and Christian Bibles.

This series would take advantage of its electronic format to address a wide audience:

can all use the same collection of resources.

This format will also allow extensive use of color images and sound files where these aid comprehension. Electronic publication also permits the resource to be distributed cheaply.

The overall concept has been demonstrated to meet a need. In the second half of November 2002 the Amos material received an average of over 700 visits per day. Users who have subscribed to the project newsletter include university teachers, their students, pastors, priests and rabbis as well as parishioners and lay leaders.

Goals

To stimulate the production of, and to publish, at affordable prices, hypertext commentary and other new media resources for biblical scholarship and Bible study, which:

  1. respect the role of the various biblical canons as Holy Scripture for Christian and Jewish Communities
  2. represent accurate and careful biblical scholarship.
This wording seeks:
to define the role in a clear way but to avoid being limited to current technologies
to describe an inclusive orientation (not limited to one religious tendency)
but to ensure respect for the text as Scripture
and ensure commitment to high standards of scholarship.

Timeline

2002
Board appointed.
Structure and software requirements begin to be established.
2003
Funding sought for project costs.
Structure and software requirements established.
Referees and potential writers identified (this list will be open-ended).
Software testing.
Refereeing system set up.
Writers commissioned for a few biblical books, image database established (at least incorporating the existing images from the collections of Tim Bulkeley, Ayson Clifford and R.J. Thompson).
Later in 2003 commentary writers and editors begin to list requests for encyclopedia articles.
2004 onward
Encyclopedia articles and partial commentaries begin to appear
2005 onward
“Finished” commentaries published.
Further authors identified.

Board

The board as far as possible represents institutions rather than individuals, these were chosen to reflect the double desire to be academically respectable and to provide a resource that is useful to the communities for whom the texts are Scripture.

The board will probably deal with its business in one face-to-face meeting each year, email is used between physical meetings for matters where concensus can be reached.

Software and project structure

The commentary will work from an XML database generating the material displayed to users. The OSIS standards will provide much of the XML needed, at least for dealing with the biblical texts. However, an early task will be to define the structure of the data and how it will be interrelated. The taxonomy will include commentary of various sorts e.g. linguistic, literary, background information will need to be distinguished; in addition there will be Bible encyclopedia material, photos (which can be incorporated into articles but which ideally will also be linked directly to biblical passages).

This work will be “translated” into requirements for the software coders. The working system will incorporate not only the final display mechanisms but also means whereby authors can generate appropriately coded text, and a means to manage refereeing of contributions.

Encyclopedia articles, including Bible dictionary type material as well as treatments of broader topics (like particular approaches to the text: form criticism etc.), will be available to be used by all writers of comment. Once work has been refereed and “published” it can be referenced and linked from any other section of the project (as well as by outside authors).

Needs

To begin providing commentary and encyclopaedia articles to cover the whole Bible, software should enable scholars with no coding expertise to prepare material, and appropriate stylesheets display the results. We hope to achieve much of this in 2004 (during Dr Bulkeley’s sabbatical). Using Computer Studies student projects and volunteers, will achieve this at low cost.

However, once the software is working, editorial and other administrative tasks will take significant time. We are seeking funding for two people:

So we need:

Funding

Initially grant funding will be sought for the costs of setting up the software system. As the project gathers momentum ways will need to be found so that it generates the money needed to keep progressing. Possibilities include: