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Meeting of technology, religious text subject of lecture

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Posted: Tuesday, January 14, 2020 5:07 pm

“Text and Technology: The Impact of Technological Advancement on the Production of Religious Texts” will be presented by the Rev. Joe Weaks at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 23 at the Ellen Noël Art Museum.

The event is free. Weaks is co-pastor of Connection Christian Church with his wife, the Rev. Dawn Weaks.

Weaks’ lecture is tied in with the museum’s exhibit “Sacred Scripts: 1,000 Years of Religious Texts,” on display through Feb. 23.

Weaks will talk about how new technologies in the Western world impacted the production of religious texts and shaped the religious communities to which they belong. Weaks has a PhD from Texas Christian University and has taught at the college and graduate level before returning to pastoring.

“Every year, I go to the Society of Biblical Literature annual conference, which is the academic professional society for religious professors, basically, including Bible professors. Every year or two, I present a paper,” Weaks said.

In the next month, he will have an article published, plus he is on the board of the museum.

“During my studies, one interest I developed was the difference that technological developments make in how the religious communities receive and transmit and even think about their sacred texts. In the first century is when the New Testament was being written. Those letters and the gospels were written in the first century and dipping into the second century,” Weaks said.

“That’s around the time when the codex was invented. Before that, they had papyrus and parchment to write on at that period so it was either dried animal skin that they would develop into a scroll or they would have certain kinds of reeds and they would cross the fibers and make the predecessor to paper. But they were mostly made into scrolls and that’s how you read …,” he added.

If you think about the New Testament, each book was separate, but the codex made it into more of one book.

The main advancement Weaks said he will focus on is the invention of the printing press, which made the Bible available to the masses.

“The mass production of religious texts means it’s economically possible for more common people to have access to reading, to looking at the text of the Bible. Before the printing press, that simply wasn’t the case. The church as a whole, the people in the church, they never read out of the Bible. They didn’t have access. We’re not just talking about literacy rates. We’re talking about economic access, and so today for instance in the church, we so take for granted we say read your Bible every day, or read your Bible every week. That would have been crazy talk 500 years ago,” Weaks added.

Electronic media is another development. Now people can search for references to water in the Bible, for example.

“That’s a way of studying that wasn’t possible before so that kind of technological invention also transforms how one can think about how you study and read a religious text and all along with that is what each of those technological changes does to the art form,” Weaks said.

These days, we don’t think of authors as writing in longhand on paper or napkins.

“So previous to the changes in the last 500-600 years, it included the actual creation of a document, and for the community of faith that included artwork on the document itself and manuscript art. That could be what you call a lost art because of the printing press,” he said.

Ashley Flores, development and marketing manager at the museum, said Weaks is well known around the museum.

“He helps us out a lot at the museum and we just appreciate him being able to share his knowledge (with) our community regarding religion and how it ties into our exhibition. It’s awesome that we know him,” Flores said.

Odessa, TX

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