Book versus Database?

I have been quite busy lately with comps and preparing a sermon (I preach once a summer when all the pastors are away on vacation, I figure I better keep up a little bit of my homiletics in case I find a job at a seminary), so I haven’t been able to post. However, a couple of posts by fellow bloggers converged into an idea I have been thinking about lately so I thought I would share while I wait for my Dewey’s pizza from last night to warm up in the oven.

First, Tyler Williams is giving away his second copy of Barry Bandstra’s new handbook on Genesis 1-11. All you have to do is share a good anecdote about teaching or learning biblical Hebrew. Nothing interesting ever happened when I took biblical Hebrew so I guess I don’t have a shot. 

I pulled Bandstra’s book off of the “new books” shelf at our library this Spring, and I was going to write up a little review of it, but I just couldn’t do it. The idea of these handbooks is to take a linguistic approach to the text and mark up everything. I mean everything. Now, for a book like Jonah or Amos (the first two in the series) that you can read through in a short period, that’s a fine idea. But, for Genesis 1-11 it takes over 600 pages. Bandstra introduces readers to the concept of Functional Grammar in about 30 pages, which is probably the most useful part of the book. Then you get hundreds of pages of tables and comments analyzing each verse from the perspective of Functional Grammar. I made it about 100 pages. What I would really like would be a longer book about Functional Grammar with some biblical examples showing me how it helps better understand the Hebrew. 

This brings me to the second post, Charles at Awilum musing over free scholarship. Charles wonders whether the new trend toward open access is going to cost us somewhere else (there’s no such thing as a free lunch). He also wonders what will happen to publishers. Mike Heiser from Logos left a comment basically suggesting that publishing is going to have to adapt. In an electronic format, publishers don’t add value through the editing and printing process, but the mark-up process. Providing dynamic content rather than the static page. 

Now this would be perfect for the Baylor series. If what they want is to mark-up linguistic features of the text, then they should be producing databases, not books. Bandstra has put in tons of good work analyzing the text, but it is basically useless to me since it is one dimensional. If I am interested in his analysis of a verse, I can find it. If I want to know what types of things can be the patient of a certain verb, I can’t.  This is similar to my slight frustration over the electronic CAD. There is so much great data there, but it is flat and lifeless (though also free and still very useful). Oh well, my pizza is done, then back to Hammurapi…

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2 Comments on “Book versus Database?”

  1. Jay Says:

    Perhaps Mike Heiser and the other folks at Logos will read this and get the wheels turning . . .

  2. Peter Bekins Says:

    And hopefully I can collect a finder’s fee (or a free copy)…


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