Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Richer Than You Think

Ever looked for a way to make sense out of all those crazy stats about global poverty? It's hard to turn all those numbers into something people can grasp, let alone show people why everyone thinks Americans are rich. Enter The Global Rich List, a project of a London creative company using World Bank statistics. The site lets you enter an annual salary in multiple currencies and then ranks you globally. It's surprising. And challenging.


Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Arkive

Now and then, I need pictures of animals. Sometimes, I need pictures of very specific animals, and on occasion, I even need video. Granted, it's not so common, but when you want to use an illustration about a Madagascar Grass Owl, there's nothing like a photo. Enter the Arkive--a collection of image and video documentation aspiring to someday capture every species on the planet. Take a peek sometime and imagine all the ways it could be useful.


Thursday, March 1, 2007

The Jesus Tomb Reopened Closed

Every so often we find our culture trying to come to grips with the claims of Christianity. The motives vary, but some are truly seeking him. Such was the case with the Gentile woman of Mark 7—a topic we're discussing this Sunday. She was on the outside, but she wanted in.

As it happens, such is also the case for many who are listening to the controversy around the alleged discovery of Jesus’ bones. Some on the outside want in. Others want the inside not to exist. This isn’t the first time someone has said our faith is misplaced, but this time even many non-Christian scholars are on our side.

It’s funny how life works—so often the very things we’ve been studying are exactly what we need for the struggles that are coming. Sometimes the outsiders bring up the conversation that could lead them into the community of Christ. It’s almost as if a sovereign God was involved in our lives (hint, hint, nudge, nudge).

In preparation for that discussion, I will continue to use this post to index some primary materials and voices concerning this controversial documentary. I don't pretend to possess the expertise of many of those I link below, but it's at least useful to me to bring them into one place.

PDF document packet from Discovery Channel (includes Dr. Kloner's documentation of the ossuaries)
Short article explaining what an ossuary is (see last paragraph)
Short overview and key links from Phil Gons
Excellent tomb history and timeline from Dr. R. Kirk Kilpatrick
45 Pithy Comebacks from Todd Friel via PastorResources
A Critique of the Statistics, Etc. from Jay Cost

Amos Kloner interview (the archaeologist who oversaw the site when it was discovered in 1980, frequently quoted on both sides of the argument)

It makes a great story for a TV film. But it's completely impossible. It's nonsense. There is no likelihood that Jesus and his relatives had a family tomb. They were a Galilee family with no ties in Jerusalem. The Talpiot tomb belonged to a middle class family from the 1st century CE.

Richard Bauckham [excellent via Christendom](Professor of New Testament Studies and Bishop Wardlaw Professor, St Andrews, Scotland)
We should note that the surviving six names are only six of many more who were buried in this family tomb. There may have been as many as 35. The six people whose names we have could have belonged to as many as four different generations. This is a large family tomb, which would certainly have been used for quite some time by the same family.
Darrell Bock [post 1, 2, 3 and audio interview at bible.org](Research Professor of New Testament Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary; Professor of Spiritual Development and Culture, Center for Christian Leadership)
Let's repeat this: they had to SECRETLY buy the tomb space from someone, prepare an ossuary over a year’s period and then choose to adorn this ossuary of Jesus with graffiti-like script to name their dead hero. Surely if they had a year to prepare honoring Jesus, whom they had highly regarded, they would have adorned his ossuary with more than a mere graffiti like description.
Ben Witherington III [post 1, 2, 3] (Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky)
Mary Magdalene is called ‘Maria’ constantly in first century Christian literature, and indeed well into the second century as well. She is never called Mariamene or the like.
Andreas Köstenberger (Professor of New Testament and Director of Ph.D./Th.M. Studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and Editor of the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society)

If you had been Jesus and (for argument’s sake) had had a son, would you have named him Judas (same as Judah or Jude), like the man who betrayed you?

New York Times (NYT again and better reasoned, see below)
And his logic can seem like circular — to the point of fallacious — reasoning.
In other words, because this is Jesus’ tomb, the nearby tombs are likely those of his followers; because those nearby tombs are likely those of his followers, this must be the tomb of Jesus.

Washington Post (excellent, thanks to Daniel from Dr. Witherington's blog)
"I'm not a Christian. I'm not a believer. I don't have a dog in this fight," said William G. Dever, who has been excavating ancient sites in Israel for 50 years and is widely considered the dean of biblical archaeology among U.S. scholars. "I just think it's a shame the way this story is being hyped and manipulated."
Herald Sun (Australia)
Christianity Today
National Geographic
Discovery Channel
Chicago Tribune (with no outside research or sources cited)
Rob Tornoe (political cartoonist, best cartoon of the controversy)

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Jesus Tomb

This is a duplicate of my post on a blog dedicated to our junior high staff:

Thanks to Erik for pointing this out! As it happens, one of my professors was supposed to be at the press conference and couldn't make it, but he's already seen the documentary and has some excellent comments here. Watch for more from him here. Seminary comes in handy!

For those who have no idea what I'm talking about, James Cameron (director of Titanic) is hosting a documentary on the Discovery Channel this Sunday. The promo asks, "If the bones of Jesus were found in Jerusalem, would that destroy the Christian faith?" They believe they have indeed found them, and those of his wife and son. Yes, that would pose quite a problem, since we believe in a BODILY resurrection and all!

Relax. They didn't find what they think they found. But there will be quite a bit of media attention on this in the next couple of days and you may even get some difficult questions from students. Remind them that we never need to fear a real search for truth.

Dr. Bock said this morning in class, "It's like a 21 slide PowerPoint presentation and each slide is contested. For the claim to be true, every slide must build from the one before." Take a peek at his blog or feel free to direct students there to read along with you. If you'd prefer a quick overview, here's a sampling of highlights:
1-It is almost untenable that a Jewish family from Galilee would purchase a family tomb in Jerusalem.
2-The names being used are not agreed upon--there are some significant difficulties with the equating of Mariamne with Mary Magdalene.
3-There is no agreement that this is actually a family tomb.
4-You'll have to see his post the rest, including some truth about DNA evidence. Be sure and go to the main blog as well for his updates. You'll hear him quoted quite a bit this week.

SO, since we're looking at Jesus and comparing him to who the culture thinks He is on Sundays, we're going to hit this head on in class on Sunday. I'll play some video from either CNN or Discovery and we'll let the kids try to help find solutions. As always, you're welcome to come (especially if you're on the Sunday Team)!

[staff meeting reminder removed]

UPDATE: There's a good article here, including an observation by a prominent Jewish scholar. AND, this blog (Ben Witherington, PhD.) is also full of excellent material for dealing with the claims. Be sure and look through the many comments and responses (Dr. Witherington is a friend of Dr. Bock).

UPDATE 2: Ben Witherington has finished the book that will accompany Sunday's documentary (wow, I know) and has an excellent new post on his blog. The arguments are concise and pointed and include an except from an email Dr. Bock read in class yesterday describing some problems with the "Mariamne" derivation being suggested. This is my new "go to" for laying out the case with precision.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Book Search

Ok, I know this outs my nerdness, but it's just cool. I've known Google was working on it, but I had no idea of its power until last weekend, when I was doing some research on a Greek word and really needed to check its use by Herodotus. Seriously. I warned you. Anyway, I was having trouble with Perseus (long story) and Ι was desperate. I typed in "Herodotus" and "σκῆπτρον" (it didn't find the word I needed, but I knew this one was used with it--not perfect, but still cool). It brought up the reference I needed--to the paragraph--and highlighted. Amazing.

It's a rare day you need a word like that, BUT imagine trying to find a quote, or a famous line. OR imagine tracking down a primary source. And you'll be amazed at how much material they already have online. Many things with expired copyrights are out there as usual, but there are just as many newer books either being allowed or ignored. For you theologians, there is a surprising amount of biblical material (think of those old commentary citations you've wanted to track down--like Baur and Schlier). Of course, a lot of it is German!


Monday, February 12, 2007

Silent Movie

What a great idea for running through pics of the last big event or to handling less-than-exciting announcements! This guy took the first three Star Wars films and boiled them into a minute-fifteen. I'm betting we could easily do the same with a collection of mission trip pictures or a montage of new construction footage. It's a nice reminder of a lower-tech way to tell old stories and make them "new." Seriously--wouldn't this be a great way to use Braveheart or Gladiator as an illustration?

Link via TestPatten

Friday, February 9, 2007

Block Posters

It's not exactly ePingo, but if you need an image big, fast and cheap, then this is a pretty cool option. This site lets you upload a photo or diagram and then generate a multi-page PDF you can print out and paste together--as big as you want. Sure, you could do this with some fancy software, but for those of you without Illustrator, this is a win.

Link via The Presurfer

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


This little trick is probably old hat to many of you, but don't you ever wonder how some of your friends seem to know so much current information? They say they get it from blogs, but when you try to read more three a week, it seems overwhelming. That's where the secret comes in--they don't go to any blogs. Instead, they subscribe to them using a nifty piece of web software called an aggregator [wiki].

Boring part you can skip unless you want to learn how this works:
Many websites and practically all blogs create a separate version of themselves called a feed (when you see XML or RSS or ATOM, those are types of feeds--mine is here). This feed actually notifies the internet (kindof) anytime the blog changes. Whenever you open the aggregator, it loads anything that has changed since the last time you looked, and it organizes everything so you can quickly scan what for what seems worth reading today.

OK, what you need:
Some new web browsers incorporate features like this, but if you want to keep up with more than a handful of sites, nothing beats software like Bloglines. You tell it what sites to watch, and it does the rest. You just log in whenever you have some time to read.


Monday, January 29, 2007

CIA World Factbook

Sometimes old tools are the best tools. I remember stumbling onto this great resource back in 1999 as we prepared for a trip to Peru. Ok, that's not so old, but it seems like the World Factbook has been a staple of mission teams for many years. You don't get information that would benefit your day-job in espionage, but this is a wonderful tool for quick reference on every country on the planet (and it was updated just last week). So, if you're preparing a trip for your teens or want to help your class pray for a missionary, here's the place to find everything from a color map to a .gif of the flag.

Link (and yes, it's a secure site!)

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Professional Cartoonists Index

This one may not seem to fit our Crosstie.org theme, but take a peek and you'll see a wealth of great ways to introduce world events, understand political debates or review the year. Cartoonist Daryl Cagle [wiki] has been indexing political cartoons from around the world for about six years and has an amazing collection that express a range of views and opinions. They lampoon everyone from Katie Couric to James Brown and give us a glimpse of ourselves from perspectives across the pond. And they're searchable! Two great new features are a separate site where you can pay for any cartoons you want to use/own ($3 for in the classroom), and a special selection of free toons for teachers.

The site used to be linked from Slate Magazine, but it is ultimately held under the auspices of MSNBC.


Sunday, January 21, 2007

Public Domain Images

Yep, that means free for use. Although I'm sure you're always careful to check copyright on any images you use, this may help ease your conscience!

The Wikipedia is sometimes maligned because of its open editing community, but it remains one of my favorite sites and we'll talk more about it as the year goes on. This page in particular is a treasure trove. Be sure and check out the research resources box near the top right while you're there--it links to public domain sounds and a couple of other goodies.

Link via Micro Persuasion

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Edison Motion Pictures

The federal government isn't always the model of efficiency, but it takes the internet seriously. After all, they invented it (see). It may have started with a military bent, but the interests of academia quickly overtook it. And now our own Library of Congress is an aggressive leader in online archiving. Okay, "big deal," you might say. But you probably don't know about all the videos.

It's a little difficult to browse and I'm not going to highlight the whole thing tonight, but the Edison Collection alone is a treasure trove of goofy introductions, historical novelties and observation exercises. The whole thing is silent and every last one is downloadable in multiple formats--safe to play on your laptop or iPod far from a wireless connection.


Monday, January 15, 2007

Spell with Flickr

Stencil C O O is in Collectables L
This isn't rocket science, but it is an easy way to spice up your PowerPoint. Many people add keywords (tags) to items on Flickr (a web 2.0 photo-sharing sight). Erik Kastner uses those tags to index photos of letters. His site lets you quickly piece together words from said photos and even copy the code for use online. It'll make more sense if you go look.

Link via somewhere I forgot (possibly Neatorama or Micro Persuasion)

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Google Maps Mania and BibleMap.org

If you haven't yet visited Google Maps, then you're missing out on a wonderful and simple teaching tool. With the satellite view and some quick photo editing, you can quickly orient students to a region of the world and then zoom in (even more so with Google Earth). BUT, that only scratches the surface. Because of Google's developer-friendly philosophy, there are many derivative uses. For example, sites like www.Biblemap.org take a standard map and work it through a customized interface or set of pre-defined criteria (called mashups). These do everything from map your own photos (here) to find the nearest Starbucks (here). This site indexes many of those derivative uses and features a special post on "50 Things to do with Google Maps Mashups."

Link via Micro Persuasion

Friday, January 12, 2007

Emerging Culture Toolkit, IVP

You can't access this purely online, but if you have questions about emerging culture (think church and how it addresses postmodernism), then this toolkit is a great resource. It's a bit pricey for an individual, but it would make a lot of sense for a class or ministry. We've debated taking some of our staff through it, but haven't found a person to drive it yet (I know, but I'm kindof full up right now). The kit includes some very well-considered interviews from a range of voices both inside and outside the emerging church conversations. And it's smart--produced by InterVarsity Press.

Link to IVP