Monthly Archives: November 2011

Blogroll Modifications

I’m retiring my link to A Lutheran Beggar, since the most recent post is almost 2 years old.
I’m changing the American Papist link to go directly to the proper blog feed.
I’m updating Ben Witherington’s blog to its new location.
I’m retiring the Historical Christian link and replacing it with a link to Aimee Cooper’s new blog, A Catholic Worldview.
I’m altering and moving the link to Vaticanus since the old link was broken and now you can view a facsimile edition of it online.
I’m retiring the link to Wan Wei Hsien since it is broken.


A Few Books I Bought

I thought I’d tell you about a few books I just bought.

1. The Art of Biblical Narrative by Robert Alter. This is a bit of a classic. I’ve wanted to read it for a long time, but never got the chance. Alter is a literary critic, but this little book made a big impression back in the eighties. I hope to enjoy it.

2. Back to the Sources: Reading the Classic Jewish Texts, edited by Barry Holtz. I’ve been using the Mishnah and some rabbinic commentaries in my research, but I’m no expert in early Jewish literature. I’m hoping that this book will be a great introduction to reading this collection. I also hope it is more accessible than Introduction to the Talmud and Midrash by Strack and Stemberger. I found this book rather forbidding. It assumed you knew a lot about the topic it is trying to introduce. Maybe it will make more sense after reading Holtz.

3. The Golden Legend: Readings on the Saints, volume II, by Jacobus de Voragine, trans. William Granger Ryan. I got the first volume last year and I’m happy to have both now. I got interested in the Golden Legend after visiting the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC. The medieval section of the museum is rich with saint story paintings, but unfortunately, I found myself hopelessly unfamiliar with the stories presented. I was constantly scrambling to identify saints by their traits and symbols. Many of the stories depicted and the symbols collected around each saint are derived from the Golden Legend. It was extremely popular during the Middle Ages and from it flowed much religious art right at the time that Late Medieval Tuscan painting was born. That is, the book prompted lots of art at a time of great transition in Western art, when painters were moving from iconography to more realistic painting. I think reading the Golden Legend will give me a better understanding of the art of the time.

In addition, I recently grabbed Roland De Vaux’s book Early History of Israel  off my shelf and started reading. I’m hoping his scholarly and Catholic perspective will enhance my understanding of the Old Testament.


Metzger’s Textual Commentary – Which edition to buy

I just had an interesting book purchasing experience. I wanted to buy the famous Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament by Bruce Metzger. But when it came time to make my purchase, I could not figure out which edition to buy. There seem to be three different editions, but now I think there are actually only two.

1. First Edition of the Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament by Bruce Metzger, published in 1971.
2. Section Edition of the Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, published in 1994. ISBN: 3438060108.

The 2nd edition is, of course, the best one to use. However, some people on the internet complain that it omits some information from the first edition. On Amazon and other online retailers, you’ll also find a 2006 edition by Hendrickson Publishers called “second revised edition” or the “ancient greek edition.” It also has a different ISBN:1598561642. I searched and searched and could find no academic reviews of this 2006 edition. I also looked at the electronic versions of this resource for the big Bible software programs (BibleWorks, Logos, Accordance) and they all use the 1994 edition. So, as far as I can tell, the 1994 edition is the last, final, definitive edition. The difference in ISBN’s comes from the fact that the 343*** edition is leather bound and the 157*** edition is hardback. So, I bought the 1994 edition since I like leather more than cardboard.

UPDATE: Well, Amazon said it was 1994, but it was actually 2005. It is the Metzger/Ehrman Fourth edition. I also found a very important book review of this 4th edition. I printed it out and am keeping it in the book as a reminder of the changes Ehrman made to Metzger’s work–some good, some bad. The review can be found here: Daniel Wallace, Review of The Text of the New Testament, JETS 49 (2006) 821-24.


New Amazon Kindle Lending Library

One of the reasons I have eschewed the Kindle from Amazon is that you can’t use the device to check out ebooks from your local library. Many public lending libraries now lend ebooks. They can be read on PC’s, Android devices and things like the Sony eReader. But they have never worked on an Amazon Kindle. I suppose some people might have found a way to convert proprietary file formats from libraries to work on Kindle, but I doubt it. It’s a big turn off for a book lover not to be able to get FREE library books on your electronic reading device when you can pick up real books at the library or use a compatible device. Rather than working with the library community, Amazon just performed an end-around. If you have an Amazon Prime membership (which I do) you can now read books in the Amazon Kindle Lending library for free. The catch is, you can only read them on a Kindle device. Weird, huh? Part of the draw of Kindle is that you can read your books on your Kindle, your PC, your phone or whatever device that can run the Kindle app. But with this lending library, the books are ONLY available on a Kindle device. To read a loaned book on your phone, you’ll have to pony up some cash and buy it. That seems to go against Amazon’s philosophy of ubiquity, but hey, free books! Now, of course, not everything is available in the lending library and it would take some time to sort through the available books to see if it is worth it. The content of the library seems to be mostly new stuff like NY Times bestsellers. But if you read a lot of new stuff and own a Kindle, the Prime membership could be worth its weight in gold. This new library will really change both the book selling market and the library scene. Revolutionary? Perhaps. I think a lot of public lending libraries that pay gobs of money to grant their patrons access to ebook collections are going to be up in arms. It also reveals a changing dynamic in Amazon’s business model. Their goal is to get people paying subscription fees (the annual $79 Prime fee) forever. If they get enough people to jump in and they continue to crush the competition, they’ll be free to crank up that annual price over time. I’m very curious as to what the pundits will have to say about this one. I also wonder if publishers are going to throw a fit. But knowing Amazon’s style, they probably worked out some kind of contract with publishers ahead of time. It’s bizarre to think that books are going the way of Netflix online streaming, but here it is in front of our faces.

Update: So I looked further into the details and the Amazon Library is not as golden as it seems. You get to “check out” 12 books per year, that’s one per month. It says there are no due dates, so why would you ever “return” a book. That’s a bit of a mystery to me. It seems like you would want to keep every one of your 12 annual books in your library and not return them. I’m sure this will get hashed out as people start using the library. Maybe an un-returned book will expire after  year or something, but that would seem to undo the “no due dates” claim. What if you’re a slow reader and you check out a 2000 page book? Will they take it away when your on page 1701?

Ok, I think I figured it out. It says you can only “check out one book at a time.” That means if you don’t read a book a month, then you won’t be able to check out 12 per year. Seems like a good service for short books you can read in a few weeks, but not for long stuff.


Good Catholic Music

Today it is hard to find good Catholic music at mass. Many parishes have few, if any, well-qualified and committed musicians. The musicians they do have are often over-worked and underpaid (with 3 or 4 weekend masses, plus weddings and funerals). And then the musical selections they have to work with, well, lack quality, diversity and compositional excellence. Most Catholic parishes use hymnals published by GIA (Gregorian Institute of America) or OCP (Oregon Catholic Press). While detailed critique of these hymnals is not something I’ll indulge in right now, suffice it to say that the selections available in these hymnals are very limited: Traditional hymns are left out or their words are altered or neutered. Contemporary hymns are plentiful, but usually by only a few composers who are not necessarily world-renown apart from the GIA and OCP publications. Some of the hymns have theological/doctrinal problems. Some are just vapid.

The limitations of these hymnals do two main things: 1.) They discourage musicians who love great music from participating in parish music groups. They don’t want to be forced to perform sub-par music. This lack of musicians is frustrating for parishoners who then complain about the quality of the parish music  group. 2.) They discourage parishoners from singing (many of the contemporary hymns are not well composed for congregational singing).

Ok, so in response to all of this (and maybe I will discuss some of the problems in detail at a later date), a few good-hearted souls have decided to try to help us all out by publishing new hymnals not within the GIA/OCP monopoly and by performing alternate music that, shall we say, is a little more impressive. I have already mentioned one initiative (The St. Augustine Hymnal), but I’ll introduce you to a few more. I’m sure there are more efforts out there to produce good Catholic music, so if you know of any besides what I mention here, please comment below.

1. Adoremus Hymnal

The Adoremus Hymnal is a 14-year-old effort by Ignatius Press, which is not a music publisher, to provide a simple, traditional hymnal for Catholic parishes. It has the Gregorian Mass VIII and a decent selection of older hymns. It is limited by the fact that it does not include the Sunday readings cycle (which many parishes like) and it does not have a plentiful selection. That is, it’s a rather thin hymnal and many parishes would like a thick one. They are publishing a new edition for the new mass translation.

2. St. Augustine Hymnal

The St. Augustine Hymnal, which I have seen in one edition, is a new attempt. It comes in several editions and boasts a broader selection of music, some from the GIA/OCP monopoly. But it is published by its own outfit, the International Liturgy Publications (ILP). I leafed through it and I like it. It has both traditional and contemporary music–a good mix. The only trouble I see is that there are way too many compositions by one guy, Vince Ambrosetti, the founder of ILP. But you’ll find a broader range of hymns and fewer hymns with doctrinal or theological problems in the St. Augustine Hymnal. It is a great first step in the right direction.

3. Corpus Christi Watershed and the Vatican II Hymnal

I just learned about Corpus Christi Watershed. They are a singing group out of Corpus Christi, TX and they have a fantastic sound. I highly recommend checking out some of their videos on their Vimeo page. They have published a new hymnal called the Vatican II Hymnal. I have not held it in my hands yet, but it looks like it has quite a few mass settings and lots of traditional hymns. Some of the mass settings are by Kevin Allen, the leader of Corpus Christi Watershed. They have done a lot of work to include traditional Gregorian chant and Gregorian-style forms. It seems like a great effort and I think I’ll be purchasing a copy to look through the details. The only limitation I see is that the hymnal does not contain any contemporary-style hymns or songs, which many parished would probably like.

4. Songs in His Presence

Songs in His Presence is an effort associated with ILP. They have published a few CD’s and song books, especially Psalms settings called “Psalms in His Presence.” Using the praise and worship style, their goal is to put forth music that is singable, contemporary, doctrinally correct and easy to use in a parish. I must say I’m biased since I know a lot of the people involved. The main limitation with this group is that they have not published a full hymnal. The most readily useful stuff for a parish would be their psalms settings since the congregation won’t need song books.

I think there are probably more efforts out there at producing good Catholic music. These are the ones I have discovered. I just hope that pastors, bishops and parish music directors will begin finding and using some of this music. I think new efforts in this direction will go a long way to renewing music in the Catholic parish, shaking off the GIA/OCP duopoly, getting more qualified musicans involved and encouraging parishoners to open their mouths and sing!