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Proof of what is unseen

Two Reasons to Watch the Authorized Documentary on FaithlifeTV

Mark Ward

The Authorized documentary has been out for a few months now, and lots more people than I ever expected have seen it.

But I’m hearing that a number of friends, even close ones, haven’t seen it yet.

Hey, it’s okay. I normally don’t watch documentaries with redheaded presenters either.

But apparently hair-color discrimination is not the reason otherwise interested parties are staying away. I’m hearing that they just don’t want to go to the trouble of signing up for the 14-day free trial. They bail when they see a credit card form.

Let me tell you why you should unbail. It really is pretty simple. Just two reasons:

  1. If you read this blog on purpose, you will like the Authorized documentary. I’m not saying the film is any good; I’m saying that if you like By Faith We Understand, you can’t not like the same thing documentarized. If you like stuff like this; that’s on you. But remember: there are jokes in it. It’s equal parts info- and -tainment. I keep getting notes from people who have gone to the trouble of signing up who say (this is a direct quote): “I expected to see interviews and hear supporting arguments discussed in an intellectual, logical manner. What I didn’t expect was all the humor and creative pieces that were used that made the video very interesting, entertaining, and engaging.”
  2. There really is a lot of great stuff on Faithlife TV. My family loves Torchlighters, the kids’ cartoon series from Voice of the Martyrs. It’s really special. We’ve also enjoyed a series of Christian nature shows, the excellent and informative Fragments of Truth documentary, Josh Harris’ recent “I Survived I Kissed Dating Goodbye” documentary (which I 98% recommend—just one interviewee weirded me out), Bible Agent 7, and all those old releases from Unusual Films I forgot I hadn’t seen in so many years. My kids also beg me to show the Bible Project videos for family devotions, and those are on FaithlifeTV, too. It’s not Netflix, okay? But there really are some gems, particularly if you, like me, are always in search of something that will entertain and edify at the same time.

I have some reason to believe that my film is doing good for the body of Christ, and I’d love to hear what you thought about it—and not just praise. I want to do more of this kind of thing, and I’m more than open to critique, especially from friends and readers.

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#BibleTech 2019

Mark Ward

I spoke at my second BibleTech Conference in Seattle this past week, and it was an enjoyable time. I’m afraid I made the mistake of putting in three paper topics, assuming the organizers would pick one. They picked three. And I did a Q&A for Authorized. And I interviewed two Bible translator nerds for a new podcast, still under wraps. =) Busy time. Loved connecting with new people and having the chance to talk at leisure with coworkers. You should come—and put in a paper topic—next time.

Here are quick run-downs of the three talks I gave.

1. Visualizing Textual Critical Data for English-Speaking Laypersons: Lessons from KJVParallelBible.org

It was a true delight to announce at #BibleTech the official launch of KJVParallelBible.org, a tool for teaching textual criticism to English-speaking Christians. That same morning, the first of the conference, an accompanying article was released at the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog.

2. Tagging Meaning and Not Just Form

I asked:

  1. What are the most fruitful ways we as Bible software creators can tag Scripture for meaning and not just form, beyond the ones that have already been done?
  2. What are the best ways we can make this tagging useful and accessible to those who should be searching for meaning in a Bible software world in which everyone is used to searching instead for forms?

I gave real-life examples from Logos, such as the recent need I had to find out how the KJV translators translated λέγω (lego, “I say”) when it is a historical present. Tagging for meaning (historical present) and not just form (historical present) is what enabled me to do this work.

In this session I was mainly tossing out examples and hoping that we together could come up with good ideas for the future. I was not disappointed. Participants (mostly but not only fellow Faithlifers!) did a great job with this.

3. A Media Ecology of Bible Software

I really poured time into this one, and the night before I gave it I had a fun talk with a group that included our CEO, Bob Pritchett. He said a number of things that stimulated me to do some rewriting. He’s super thoughtful, and quicker on his feet than nearly anyone else I know. Here’s an audio recording for my blog reader.

My Favorite Sessions

The sessions I enjoyed the most were those by Jen Miles and Stephen Smith, though others were of course great!

Jen is a friend and coworker, and the one thing that most stood out to me in a uniformly excellent talk (based on her D.Min. research) was that careful surveys place half of Americans at “basic” literacy or lower. Only 13% are “proficient.”

Stephen Smith was hilarious, and he categorized very helpfully the kinds of topics that people search for in the Bible. Fascinating (and a little scary). He works for Bible Gateway. He also told us about a super-cool project he’s working on, the Expanded Bible. This would be a fantastic tool for teaching people about the number of minor (and the few major) decisions that go into Bible translation.

One Joke

I got my own best laugh during the Q&A after the Authorized documentary showing. A new friend asked, “Do you think we’ll ever again have ‘one ring to rule them all’? One Bible translation that the great majority of English speakers use?”

I said, “Yes. The Lexham English Bible.”

Of course.

And just think of the possibilities. Some day we’ll have LEB-Only people—LEBOs. I can’t wait.

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Kindle Price for Authorized Going Up 67% in Four Days

Mark Ward

I am told that the Kindle price for Authorized: The Use and Misuse of the King James Bible will be going up on April 1. Get it while you can! Gift it to others!

At the Shepherds Conference two weeks ago, standing at the Lexham table all day, I got to hear multiple stories of what the Lord is doing with the book. I came away rejoicing each evening.

I also just heard that the companion documentary has been nominated for “Most Creative Documentary” at the International Christian Film Festival. It is by no means clear it will win: it’s a crowded field. But in the much smaller “Best Bible Nerd Documentary Featuring a Redheaded Presenter” category, Pacific Northwest division, I think I’ve got an okay chance.

UPDATE: I accurately represented what I was told, but apparently somewhere above my head the decision was changed. Authorized remains $5.99. I think this is awesome, because it helps me get my message out to more people!

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Come to the Bible Tech Conference

Mark Ward

I put in three talk proposals for the Bible Tech Conference, thinking that they’d accept one. They accepted all three. So I’ve been busy using precious free time (and, okay, a little work time around the edges!) in the last few months preparing those talks, and I hope you’ll come.

  • Visualizing Textual Critical Data for English-Speaking Laypersons: Lessons from KJVParallelBible.org. I will officially launch the complete version of this site at this conference, along with a projected accompanying article at a big blog—I’m excited!
  • A Media Ecology of Bible Software. This has been the focus of my prep time, because I’ve been wanting to dig into this for a while, and BibleTech is the place to do it. I’m going to talk not only about what Bible software gives us—we all know that, and marketing departments everywhere are highly focused on communicating those benefits over and over; I’m also going to talk about what Bible software takes away from us. How do I, an employee of Faithlife, plan to do that? Treading carefully, I can tell you. And I’ll give a spoiler: in the end my point will be not that we should take a step back from Bible software (I won’t, and can’t) but that we should both design and use it with an awareness of what possibilities it precludes.
  • Tagging Meaning, Not Just Form. Logos does this so well, and yet it’s a bit hard to explain until you use it. I’ll talk about present realities and (hopefully) future possibilities in this space.

Before I came to Faithlife as an employee, before I even knew that was a possibility, I was asked to give my Why Bible Typography Matters lecture there in 2015. It really was great. I made one lasting friendship and several other professional connections. Come to the beautiful Cedarbrook lodge, and get ready for extreme Bible nerdiness.

Use the code FAITH and you’ll get a little discount, I’m told.

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“The Horse Is Dead, Sir.” “Well, Beat It Some More.”

Mark Ward

Faithlife just posted a blog interview they did with me about Authorized. Is there more to be said? Maybe a little! I got my first academic review of Authorized, and though I’m waiting to see if my response will be published in the same journal (the editor was amenable to this idea), I give a sneak peek of that response in this interview.

Check it out!

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Review: The ESV Preaching Bible

Mark Ward

The new ESV Preaching Bible is another win for Crossway. They gave me a copy to review (no strings attached, of course—well, actually, there were two ribbons in the Bible for bookmarking, but they weren’t attached to any stipulations from Crossway, just to the supple binding…) This new Bible represents a few little tweaks to the format I’ve been using myself for preaching for the last four years, and they are genuine helps.

Here’s what the Bible looks like on the inside. First prose:

Now poetry:

But to see what this Bible is really aiming at, you need to compare my existing Heirloom Single Column Legacy Bible (left) with the new Preacher’s Bible (right):

ESV Heirloom Legacy
ESV Preaching Bible

Here’s what you ought to notice:

  1. The text is a point bigger in the new Bible (10 vs. 9), which is good, because I’m nearing 40 and people have told me, peering over their bifocals, “Beware, you’re nearing 40.” The average pastor is over 40, too. Lexicon was made to work at smaller sizes, so, aesthetically, I still like my old Heirloom; but, practically, the Preacher’s Bible is better for what I actually use my physical ESV for, which is heralding the words of the living God to the gathered assembly.
  2. The margins are also bigger, without making the Bible feel (to me) like it’s a whole lot wider. But (I assume), to make up for the bigger type size, the bottom margin extends a little further down the page. I don’t mind this; I don’t write in my Bible anymore. I’m not against it; I just find I prefer electronic note-taking systems.
  3. The headings are included in the text in the Preaching Bible rather than in the margin as in the Heirloom. And I think the new Preaching Bible’s choice is indeed helpful for contextually careful reading—something I do while preaching, I do. I like having visual cues for where I’m at. (I like putting the headings in the margin, too—the text block is nice and compact that way. Each approach has its strengths.)
  4. The verse numbers are given a little extra kerning on each side so that they stand out more. They’re also a bit bigger. Apparently finding verse numbers in paragraphed text is a problem preachers have while preaching, though I can’t say I’ve faced it myself. But, as they say, “You’re nearing 40.”
  5. I don’t have access to the specs on the paper, GSM and all that. But the new Bible’s paper looks whiter to me (the Heirloom is slightly yellow, in a rich and not a sickly way), and the new Bible’s paper feels a little sturdier. The ghosting on the new Bible is not as bad as that on the older one I have. The line-matching in each helps with ghosting, of course.

Here are the specs on each back cover. First my old(ish) Heirloom:

Now the new ESV Preaching Bible:

The black goatskin cover I got on the Preaching Bible was incredible. It lies almost flat—flatter than my first-gen Heirloom Legacy.

The Preaching Edition lies almost flat (photo courtesy Crossway)

And it feels buttery-smoother than the Heirloom. Ooh, it’s so nice to touch! And it smells good, too! The Heirloom was a bit squeaky; not the Preaching Bible.

My only suggestion: so sue this almost-40-year-old, I like having words of Christ in red. It looks uh, cool—and I think it helps me find my place on the page while preaching. Concerns that it leads people to invest more authority in the red type than in the black are overblown, in my opinion. “Red-Letter Christians” (I don’t necessarily mean the specific group which uses that name, but the idea that Jesus’ words carry more authority than the rest of the Spirit’s words in Scripture) would be perpetrating their reductionist hermeneutics with or without typographical excuses. So can I have my red letters back?

I recently saw another new Bible in goatskin from another publisher who got input from a famous preacher on how to design the interior, and the Bible just didn’t come together well. It was really fat—too fat. (The Preaching Bible is fatter than the Heirloom, but it feels right—actually, the Heirloom feels a little too thin.) And the decision of this other publisher to start each verse on a new line, already risky, was handled poorly. In the one ESV edition I’ve seen which does this, Crossway still managed to make clear paragraph breaks. But this other preaching Bible (I’m being vague here so as not to disparage people I otherwise really like) tried the bolding-of-the-first-verse-number approach to paragraphing, which I think is unhelpful. The whole point of a paragraph division is that it’s visual and intuitive.

Crossway says they got input from 1,000 pastors on designing their new Preaching Bible, and apparently a thousand heads are better than one. But what I find interesting is that the resulting Bible is not really all that different from Crossway’s previous wins. Either they (rightly) disregarded some of the advice of these pastors, or those pastors, via the wisdom of the crowd, ended up merely making helpful little tweaks on an already beautiful and useful format.

Keep it up, Crossway.

We love you.

XOXO

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