On Aesthetic Sensibilities and Changes to my Book

So a little while ago I noted that I decided to collate a bunch of my reviews on books about Christology and produce a slim volume that I self published with Lulu. I got the original version in and it was offensive for a number of reasons.

Reason #1 – A plethora of typographical errors. From the first page of the first review to the back cover there were a number of typos that I had managed to overlook. The problem with editing one’s own work is that they know how it should read/look so they read in such a way as to mentally apply corrections that haven’t actually been applied. The typos ranged from punctuation to grammar to spelling. It was awful.

Reason #2 – The format. I had initially began each chapter with the full bibliographic details of each book under review. On my blog this wasn’t really a problem as this was my preferred method in the latter part of my review writing. In a book format it just looked awkward. In addition to this I had formatting issues that were caused by downloading Lulu’s template for a 6×9 book. That brings us to…

Reason #3 – The fonts and spacing. I had created the original file on Lulu’s template in MS Word. My preferred font is Minion Pro for English and the SBL fonts for Hebrew and Greek. I also like my spacing at exactly 1.15 and I prefer for there to be spaces between footnotes. Well, when I uploaded my completed Word document to Lulu’s servers they changed everything to Times New Roman and single spacing! The only fix was to upload a PDF file. The issue there was that when I saved it as a PDF it saved as an 8.5×11 document. Lulu then shrank it down and it created margins that were unacceptable and a font size that was smaller then I wanted.

So in order to fix everything I ended up importing the document into Pages, which is Apple’s proprietary word processing program. I began by getting rid of full bibliographic information at the top of every page. Instead I inserted chapter numbers, the title of the book under review, and the author of said book. This made it look much more like a real book and a lot less sloppy. Here’s the difference:

I then combed through the manuscript innumerable times in order to fix the typos. I also caught some mistakes in formatting that I had initially missed. All of my original font choices were restored and I tried my best tp standardize certain things such as section headings and the way I cite page numbers, footnotes, scripture, etc.

Finally, I added some front matter (e.g., copyright page, dedication page) and in the final version a bibliography of the books reviewed. This is where all the information removed from the beginning of each review now appears. So while I’m calling this final version the “First Corrected Edition,” it’s technically the second.

But how did I manage to get everything the way I wanted it when I uploaded to Lulu’s servers?, you ask. Well, Pages exported the PDF document exactly according to the template that the document was created in. So no more 8.5×11. This was 6×9. And the PDF allowed for all of my fonts and spacing. In the end I ended up with something that looks a lot more professional and doesn’t offend my aesthetic sensibilities.

Pick up a copy if you’d like to check it out. 

B”H

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Phil Long (@Plong42) Reviews my Book

Phil Long as reviewed my book Christology in Review over at his blog Reading Acts. It’s a favorable review—thanks be to God—but Phil was surprised to see that I didn’t review the Michael Bird edited How God Became Jesus. To be honest, I’m surprised that I haven’t reviewed it either. I read it when it first came out and I began a post (which I believe is still in my drafts) summarizing each chapter but for some reason I never got around to finishing it. It’s been so long since I’ve read the book that I’ll have to go back and read it again!

Thanks to Phil for taking the time to read and review the book. I have produced a corrected edition in which I have fixed all of the typographical errors I spotted in the original version. I also fixed the format, which I wasn’t happy with in the original version. It looks and feels much more like a real book now. I’ll be sending Phil a copy of the update when they come in. I’d also note that I’ve added 2 other reviews to this corrected edition and a bibliography of the books reviewed. The latter became necessary since I removed the bibliographic details from the reviews themselves.

I’ll post on all that another time.

B”H

Diligence and Vices: Andreas Köstenberger on Plagiarism

In light of the recent discovery of Andreas Köstnberger’s plagiarism of D. A. Carson’s Pillar commentary on John in his own BECNT volume I thought I’d check what he had to say on the issue in a book of his that I recently picked up called Excellence: The Character of God and the Pursuit of Scholarly Virtue. In a section entitled “Diligence and Vices” Köstenberger says:

The lack of diligence leads to such vices as plagiarism and laziness. Plagiarism generally becomes a temptation when a student of scholar fails to put in the diligent work necessary and suddenly finds that the deadline is fast approaching. Once there is no time left to do original research, plagiarism can seem like the necessary quick fix, but there is hardly a more deadly ethical violation of the ethos of academic work. If you plagiarize, you are engaging in a form of theft, stealing the intellectual property of others.

What is more, once a scholar’s reputation has been marred by plagiarism, it is virtually impossible to regain credibility. Even if those whom you harmed by plagiarism forgive you and you avoid losing your job and you avoid being expelled from an academic program or institution, you can never turn back the clock, and your reputation will likely suffer permanent damage. What is more, you bring dishonor to the God whom you serve and with whom you have chosen to publicly identify. Of all students, it is those engaged in biblical and theological studies who should hold to impeccable standards when it comes to respecting and referencing the work of others.

Like other forms of sin, plagiarism may seem appealing when tempted, but it is never worth it. Why would anyone working on a theological degree plagiarize? As mentioned, as a form of intellectual theft, plagiarism is completely at odds with the study of God and his ways. Ultimately, plagiarism is a selfish act that says, “I want a degree, or recognition, without putting in the work, and I don’t care if I hurt or deceive others in the process, as long as I get what I want.” This hardly is good character, and even if repented of, still casts doubt on the character of a person who committed this kind of act, especially if repeatedly and egregiously.

Andreas J. Köstenberger, Excellence: The Character of God and the Pursuit of Scholarly Virtue (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011), 98-99.

This reads like both prophecy and memoir. I wonder if it ate at him while he penned these paragraphs knowing that he had stolen from one of his mentors. I wonder how readily he’ll accept the reproach brought on his name and character by his intellectual theft. Also, I’d note how easy it was to attribute this material to its author. It’s not a difficult thing to do and there is absolutely no harm in quoting others. Just give them the credit for the things they’ve said.

B”H

My Mike Brown Moment

Dr. Michael Brown often shares his testimony of God saving him as a teen from a life of drug abuse and rebellion. He talks of how he would voraciously read the Bible and memorize verse after verse in order to evangelize and apologize (in the sense of defend) but when some Jewish counter-missionaries showed up at his house they’d tell him that his knowledge of the Scriptures in English just wouldn’t do. This led Dr. Brown to studying Near Eastern languages and literature at NYU and eventually earning a PhD in the field. Now he can speak to the counter-missionaries with as much knowledge of the language as they have, and in many cases more because he can appeal to the languages that influenced Hebrew.

I share this to say that I had a moment like this yesterday as I stood in my barbershop. A nice Sephardic Jew came in and complemented us on the shop and its name (Zebulun Jesus is Lord Barber Shop) and shared a bit about what the Scriptures say about Zebulun. He told us that he’s a descendent of Judah and that the Syriac Jews have kept meticulous genealogies for over two millennia. Then he asked if we knew the Bible well enough to discuss it. My pastor (who owns the place) and I said yes and then our discussion began.

As my pastor, who has been working in the midst of the Jewish community in Lakewood, NJ for over 20 years began to share the gospel and why we believe that Jesus is the Messiah this man kept interjecting and telling us why he didn’t think so. There came a point in the conversation where he said, “Listen, I couldn’t care less what you believe because it doesn’t effect me, just like what I believe doesn’t effect you.” He continued to say, “You have your interpretations, and that’s nice, I’ll listen, but this is my book. I know the language and I read it in the original so trust me when I say that I know it better than you.”

At that very moment I decided to take the study of Hebrew seriously. I’ve been dabbling for years but I’ve never devoted the time or attention to the language to be able to say that I “know” it. I can read the words, sure, but I don’t know what most of them mean. I couldn’t tell you hardly anything about rules of Hebrew grammar or syntax. I know how to use a lexicon and all the resources at my disposal but put a Hebrew Bible in front of me and there’s very little I can do. I can’t stomach this any longer.

So I’ve pulled out my Basics of Biblical Hebrew Grammar, Workbook, Flash Cards, and DVDs and I’m going to give this a real go. The plan is to wake up early every day and devote at least one hour in the morning to it. I am more than willing to accept any and all help that any of my dear readers want to offer. But the bottom line is that I need to become well versed in the language.

B”H

Recent Goings On

So much has been happening and I’ve not kept my faithful readers abreast of it all.

First, thanks to those of you who have stuck with this blog during its dormancy.

Second, I’ve received a couple of books over the past few months for review. Yes, I still plan to review books when I have the time. My Twitter followers have been made aware of these but my blog readers have not.

Wipf & Stock sent along Kevin Giles’ The Rise and Fall of the Complementarian Doctrine of the Trinity. I was made aware of this volume from a post on Scot McKnight’s blog. The material he quoted had Giles quoting Denny Burk so I naturally tracked the original material down and found that Giles was taking Burk out of context and misrepresenting him. Burk confirmed as much on Twitter when I brought it up to McKnight. So I’m looking forward to a more than likely scathing review of this book. I’ve admitted to being unnecessarily harsh to Giles’ work in the past but then I reread it or read something new and think that maybe it was necessary.

The other volume I received for review came courtesy of Mohr Siebeck. It’s Benjamin Pacut’s Redescribing Jesus’ Divinity Through a Social Science Theory. Tim Bertolet had good things to say about it so I’m hopeful that it will be good.

Thirdly, in other news, Fortress Press has partnered with an organization called Givingtons and they’re running a ridiculously discounted sale on a bunch of books. I had initially ordered a copy of David Congdon’s The Mission of Demythologizing: Rudolf Bultmann’s Dialectical Theology. Okay, so this has a $99 list price. Amazon sells it for just under $70. They had the Kindle version available for like $7 for a while but I’ve never once read any of the Kindle volumes I own. I can’t see starting now. So I was pretty much out of luck with this one. Until this sale. I found out about it on Facebook from Congdon and proceeded to order his book for a paltry $9! I also added a book on Incarnation.

But then some wacky stuff started to happen. Two weeks after placing the order I emailed customer service to check on the status of the order since nothing had even been shipped. I was refunded the money for Congdon’s book with the explanation that they were out of stock and didn’t expect to receive any from the publisher. This was disappointing. But they assured me that they were sending the other book. I told them thanks, but no thanks, and canceled the entire order. The other volume was merely an add-on.

So I took to Twitter and lamented the state of affairs. I also emailed the customer service rep and asked why people who had ordered the book after I had received a copy while I had been declined. You see, I know for a fact that there were people who missed out on the initial sale and ordered during a second wave. They had received books while I had not. I was given an unsatisfactory answer. But Congdon was good enough to contact his people at Fortress and get to the bottom of it all. I ended up being contacted and told that they were getting a new batch and that I could order it again, this time with free shipping for my inconvenience! So that I did. I also added a book on a non-sacramental reading of John 6.

Fourthly, I got off Facebook. I had initially signed up to meet my wife. We met. We dated. We married. The end. I still have the account; I just deleted the app.

product_thumbnailFifthly, I’ve self-published a collection of book reviews on books about Christology. It’s called Christology in Review: A Layman’s Take on Books about Christology. You can purchase a copy here if you’re so interested. It’ll cost you $6. Almost all of these reviews are available for free on the blog. I have added a review essay of Bart Ehrman’s How Jesus Became God, which is a bit more detailed than the review I have on the blog. I’ve also slightly edited the content of the some of the reviews and have done my best to format them all similarly; at least where possible.

And that’ll just about do it for this update.

Oh, and I’m happy to note that my brother from another mother Fr Esteban Vázquez is back to blogging! It’s substantive stuff too; not drivel like this!

B”H

Home Library/Office Tour

I wanted to do this for a while. I had some time today. One day I’ll get a good camera and give this thing some real production value.

B”H

In the Mail

I forget who posted about the ESV Reader’s edition of Paul’s Letters but once I learned of its existence I just knew that I needed a copy for the bedside table. When I looked around I saw that CBD had the best deal so I went with them and in the process I discovered that they have a Reader’s edition of the Gospels as well!

I nearly talked myself out of getting both volumes by reasoning that I already own the six-volume ESV Reader’s Bible as well as the single volume edition of the same. But then I took a good hard look and noticed some significant differences. The six-volume set has Acts bound together with the Gospels! And Paul’s letters are bound with the Catholic Epistles as well as Revelation!

These observations made all the difference in the world so I went ahead and got Paul’s Letters and the Gospels. They’re glorious! All of these ESV Reader’s editions are glorious. Crossway has done an outstanding job with these Bibles.

In addition to these two volumes I also picked up a copy of the third volume of John Frame’s Selected Shorter Writings. I managed to find a damaged copy of Tim Keller’s Preaching and what must have been an overstock copy of Frank D. Macchia’s The Trinity: Practically Speaking, which I spent only $0.99 on!  

B”H