The World Wide Web (WWW, W3, or the Web) has become an
increasingly visible and active part of the Internet in the past two years.
The number of colleges, universities, seminaries, museums, journals, organizations,
and individuals who have Websites has grown at an amazing rate. This article
is an attempt to break the barrier for beginners who may feel it is a waste
of time or see no value in it for teaching or research. Issues addressed
here include: introducing the Web and why biblical scholars should care, levels
of access, typical problems in using the Web, a classified list of approximately
200 of the most useful Websites I have located (including their URLs or addresses),
suggestions for using the Web in teaching biblical studies and the ancient
world, and a glossary of terms.
What Is the World Wide Web and Why Should I Care?
The Internet is the linking together of computers around the world through
highspeed telephone lines. The World Wide Web (a.k.a. WWW, W3, or the Web)
is the Internet's way of linking together the data on Websites (what an individual
or a group gathers at one address) located all over the world loaded on local
computers. But because Websites share a common (relatively simple) way of
marking a document (called HTML
), one can move between these Websites with the click of the mouse or the
typing of an address (known as a URL
); this is what makes it a "web" rather than simply a number of isolated
computers. The contents of these multitudinous Websites are as varied as
the individuals, organizations, and institutions who create them. But because
of the ease and commonsense approach of the Web (originally begun in Switzerland
in 1992 to facilitate communication between scientists), by 1996 more than
3,000 schools had loaded their own Websites (Williams 1996:39). For all
that follows, note that I have included a brief glossary of technical terms
at the conclusion of this article.
Numerous Websites have appeared with information to benefit both scholars
and students in the form of text, graphics (photographs, line-drawings,
art work, etc.), audio and video. Almost all sites provide
to other related sites, creating a boundless web of connections. Many
Websites even include long menus of related sites, called
which allow the viewer to simply click on a word or icon to move to another
site. This interconnectivity means that you can move quickly between materials
loaded on computers all over the world: an exhibit of art and artifacts in
the Louvre Museum (Paris), to a bibliography on women in the ancient world
(Oriental Institute, Chicago), to a chronology of Roman mints and mint marks
(University of Wyoming), to a virtual tour of the archaeological site at
Puteoli/Rione Terra (Italy), to a Hebrew keyword search in the Talmud Yerushalmi
(Israel), to a full-text book review in Ioudaios-Review (Lehigh University),
to a search for a colleague's telephone number (Emory University).
While much of this material is also available in "hardcopy" (books and
journals), some of it is not. There are no concordances available, for example,
for the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, the Nag Hammadi codices, or the New
Testament Apocrypha; but these are all searchable by keywords (in English)
on the WWW. The Babylonian Talmud is available on CD-ROM and it is searchable;
but many libraries (let alone individual scholars) do not own copies. Archaeological
discoveries have been posted on Websites far in advance of their availability
in journals. Museum collections which are not available in print are on the
Web. And journals are beginning to appear which are only accessible electronically
(e.g., Ioudaios-Review, TC: A Journal of Biblical Text Criticism
, and Bryn Mawr Classical Review). The rapidity of growth in the
Web is astounding. In June 1993 there were 130 Websites; by December 1995
there were over 40,000 (Williams 1996:39); today their are millions!
On a personal note, for years I saved in file folders the columns (mostly
written by Robert A. Kraft) called "Offline" from the Religious Studies
News. Some of them were torn and faded, and I could never seem to go
back and find the one I wanted. But now I can throw the entire file away
since all fifty-three of them are loaded on a Website. But more than that,
I can electronically search them for topics in which I am interested.
Besides accessing what is already out there on the Web, both teachers and
students may want to create their own Websites to accompany courses, to
make works in progress available to a class or colleagues, or to create a
unique set of links relating to a particular interest or topic. Below I
will discuss several ways that having one's own Website(s) can facilitate
integrating students into the Internet process.
Douglas Oakman and I are currently constructing a Website to accompany
a textbook we have written; the book is titled Palestine in the Time
of Jesus: Social Institutions and Social Conflicts (Fortress Press, 1998).
The Website will have links to numerous documents and graphics not included
in the book, for reasons of space, price, and availability. And since textbooks
normally include only black and white photos, the Website can include color
photos and audio. It can also be updated as new Websites appear for additional
links. Furthermore, new bibliographic items can be added at any time.
So how does one make this vital connection to the Internet and the Web?
The most basic way to connect is by modem
: that is, an electronic hardware device which acts as an intermediary between
the personal computer and the telephone line. A modem allows the personal
computer to communi- cate with other computers via these telephone lines.
Modems come in two basic forms: as a separate box connecting the computer
and phone-jack with telephone cables (an "external modem"), or a "card"
mounted inside the computer (an "internal modem"). The speed at which a
modem transfers data is calculated in "baud rate"
; and the maximum speed is determined when it is manufactured. Fifteen
years ago they were operating at 300, 900, and 1200 baud; today the typical
modems available operate at 9600; 14,400; or 28,800 baud (but note that 9600
baud has become obsolete for effective Internet communication). Those who
work at home or who otherwise do not have direct access to a main-frame computer
linked to the Internet (e.g., at a university or corporation) will need to
use this form of access.
The second (and much easier) way to connect to the Web is through a more
direct connection at an Internet "node,"
such as those available at most colleges, universities, and large corporations
(many seminaries have been able to take advantage of nodes at universities
in their locales). This type of connection means avoiding slow telephone
lines by having a direct hook-up to the school's mainframe computer and its
highspeed lines. But it also requires an "interface" between the two computers,
an "ethernet card" mounted internally in the computer. The software required
to make an ethernet connection operational is called an "ethernet driver,"
and is usually provided by the school; but they can also be purchased at computer
Once the connection is made, a Web "browser"
is used to move around on the Web. A Web browser has numerous functions
(e.g., a place to type in the URLs of Websites, searching a Website by keywords,
retracing your path, and printing). Several browsers are available, perhaps
the best known being Netscape Navigator (just "Netscape" for short); but Mosaic,
HotJava, and Arena are also popular browsers. Williams charts twenty browsers
by: name; manufacturer; Website address (to find out more); and whether it
works with MacIntosh, Windows, UNIX, or all three (Williams 1996:82). Netscape
has maintained its leadership because it works with all three of these computer
platforms and has kept up with improvements. The minimum configuration for
using Netscape on a personal computer is: 1) a 486SX computer; 2) 4 MB of
memory; 3) MacIntosh or Windows; and 4) a mouse.
But what about those who do not have the basic hardware? This is not the
end of the line. Computer access (and Web access) is now available at numerous
other venues: public libraries; college, university, seminary libraries and
computer centers; and lately even coffeehouses! Retail locations (like coffeehouses)
generally charge fees by time, while libraries generally provide free access,
but may charge for printing files.
Levels of Access
Once connected, one discovers that there are still multiple levels of access.
The most basic form of access provides text only. This means that what one
sees on the computer screen is only the text portions of a Web page, not
the photographs, line-drawings, art work, backgrounds, or other graphics.
Where photographs and graphics should appear, one sees only a notation.
This level will be available no matter what sort of computer, software, or
connection is used. The next level is graphical: not only the text, but also
all the graphics loaded at a Website are accessible. But the highest levels
of access include audio and video. Video access requires that one
video software to access the video portions of a Website. Currently, very
few Websites incorporate video elements; but this will likely increase rapidly
in the near future.
Despite the wonders of Web access, one often finds glitches in the operation.
Here are a few of the problems I have encountered; I suspect that there are
more that can occur.
The slowness of viewing, downloading, and printing can be very irritating.
There are several variables in the speed of these processes:
Viewing and Downloading
the speed of your modem (when applicable)
the complexity of the data transfer (e.g., large, intricate
the number of people accessing the same Website
the geographical location of the Website you are accessing
the speed of your computer
the speed of the computer where the Website is located
the speed of your printer
the size of your printer buffer
The quality of the photographs and other graphics also has several
the quality of the originals loaded on the Website
the color range of your graphics card
the resolution of your monitor
the quality of your printer
Some Websites include small photographs or maps which are "clickable"
(linked): clicking the mouse on them activates a "link" to an enlargement
of the photograph. But note that the enlargement usually does not include
the identification or explanatory text. If you plan to print the graphic,
then you will need to print both pages. Many photos, however, are quite
small and do not have larger versions available.
Multi-paged documents, extra-large graphics, or series of photographs
often break at irregular points when printed. This sometimes results in
separating a photo from its label, or even breaking the photo in two.
Sometimes a Website is moved to a new URL or closed down altogether.
When they move from one location to another, an error message will often
appear with the new address. The most considerate owners provide a "link"
to the new address from that error message. But the viewer needs to keep
in mind that in this sense Websites are not like books or journals which
may go out of print: if Websites are not maintained, they may be shutdown,
analogous to burning all the copies of a book!
Printing graphics (e.g., photos, charts, graphs, drawings) may be
accomplished with laser, bubblejet, or inkjet printers. Dot-matrix and
daisywheel type printers are not likely to produce satisfying results.
What Is Available?
An excellent place to start on the Web when interested in the ancient world
is at ABZU, the Website for ancient materials at the Oriental Institute (University
of Chicago) maintained by Charles E. Jones, the OI's bibliographer (reference
librarian). ABZU is located at the following URL (the address of a Website);
note that all Websites begin with http://
and are often "case sensitive"
(viz. you need to distinguish between lower case and upper case spellings):
Jones has organized a fine site with links to numerous other sites relating
to the ancient world, primarily focused on Mesopotamia and Egypt. Many of
the sites listed below I discovered first on ABZU. But keep in mind that
Websites routinely expand or change their holdings, and new sites are loaded
daily; so this is an rapidly evolving medium.
For the most part, the Websites in the following classified list have numerous
pages of text and graphics. Because of their special value, I have listed
a few individual images from larger Websites; those listings which locate
a single image are identified as such (e.g., photo, sketch, map). The Geopolitical
sub-headings (e.g., Ancient Near East) are organized from general to specific;
the others (e.g., Museums, Ancient Documents, and Professional Societies)
are organized alphabetically. The Websites are organized in the following
Museums with Significant Ancient Art and Artifact Collections
Ancient Document Collections (searchable)
Papyrology and Epigraphy
Ancient Near East
Canaan, Israel & Judah, and the Hebrew Bible
Greece and Hellenistic Empires
Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls
Roman-era Palestine, the New Testament, and Early Christianity
Getting More Help
I have only provided the barest necessities in this article for how to
connect to the Web, how to browse, and where to find key Websites. But you
may be ready for more specific definitions and fuller explanations, or you
may want to go on and create your own Website. This entails much more than
I can deliver here. For more information, refer to one of the basic handbooks
listed here (full references in the bibliography). I do not list multiple
resources to overwhelm you, but to identify multiple possibilities, given
the limitations of any library or bookstore.
The Internet (General)
Campbell & Campbell (1995)
Krol & Klopfenstein (1996)
Levine & Baroudi (1996)
Levine & Young (1996)
The World Wide Web
Pfaffenburger (1996a; 1996b)
Writing HTML and Creating Websites
Teaching and the WWW
So you want to get beyond browsing on the Web and actually use this material
in the classroom. What might be done with it? That is partially a function
of each teacher's imagination, creativity, and teaching abilities. But I
can offer a few suggestions. To begin with, one might take a look at the
Website constructed by James J. O'Donnell (University of Pennsylvania) which
introduces the use of Internet resources in the classroom: "New Tools for
Teaching" located at the URL:
Note also the articles by Blurton (1994) and Bruce (1995) on the use of
the Internet in teaching and research, and Backer & Yabu (1994) on the
use of hypermedia for instructional purposes. The article by one of my Theology
Department colleagues, John O'Keefe (1996), on using electronic discussion
groups in teaching theological courses you will also find helpful. For the
use of the Web in other Humanities disciplines, see the paper by Bob Whipple
(1996), as well as articles by Manrique (1993), and Pask and Snow (1995)
and McIlhone (1996).
Williams identifies eight reasons he thinks that the Web (and the "Information
Superhighway" in general) is ultimately an asset for education rather than
a liablity (1996:33-38). I list his main points; but he discusses each of
these in more detail and provides interesting anecdotes:
The Internet presents real-world examples of integrated knowledge
The Internet facilitates collaborative learning
The Internet offers opportunities for telementoring
The Internet is all about communicating
The Internet can cater to different learners in different ways
The Internet is a culturally, racially, physically, sexually blind
Exploring the Internet can rekindle a teacher's interest in learning
We have an obligation to society [viz. get the word out so that
the economically disadvantaged do not get left behind]
Before swallowing Williams' (or my) advocacy for the Internet and the
Web, it may be appropriate for you to reflect on caveats to each of these
points. For example, number 4 glosses over things the Internet may also
entail: economics (e.g., the Web as a sales medium), politics (who has access;
government regulation; censorship), and gender division (Williams notes that
only 15% of Web-users are female, 1996:39). For a more extensive critique
of the Internet's social and educational implications, see Silicon Snake
Oil: Second Thoughts on the Information Highway (Stoll 1995).
Consider the following as some basic ideas for integrating the Web into
instructional and departmental development.
Create a Website of your own for each course (note that this saves
much paper), which could include:
a brief statement of your educational philosophy and goals
your own research interests
bibliographies (simple or annotated)
maps, charts, photos, and other graphics augmenting lectures
links to important Websites on the course topic
For an example of such a course-Website, see the one prepared by James
J. O'Donnell (for "Cultures of the Book") at the University of Pennsylvania:
His colleague at the Univerisity of Pennsylvania, Robert A. Kraft, has
been one of the real pioneers in employing electronic media in scholarly
pursuits of all kinds. For years he wrote the column "Offline" in the Religious
Studies News, and he was one of the founders of the computerized discussion
group IOUDIAOS-L. Kraft uses his homepage
in a somewhat different way than O'Donnell; he links his homepage to
(locations with long text files, which are not "hypertext"
) where he keeps articles he has written, papers by colleagues, lists of
assignments, etc. His homepage is located at:
Invite someone skilled in the use of the Internet and the Web (an
instructor from the school's academic computing center, a reference librarian,
a colleague, or a talented student) to spend a session with the class to teach
the basics of searching on the Web using "search engines"
(e.g., Yahoo!, Magellan, Excite, Lycos, and WebCrawler).
Provide the students with a starting point on one the "meta-sites"
(Websites with large master menus leading the browser to numerous other
locations; e.g., ABZU or the Vatican Museums) and ask them to track down
different sets of resources relevant to the course (e.g., documentary data,
art work, archaeological sites, photographs) and have them integrate these
resources into a class presentation.
Encourage (require?) students to use Web materials as a resource
for their research papers.
Have students search the documents from the Ancient Near East (on
ANET), classical Greece (on Perseus), or early Christianity (on Noncanonical
Homepage, or Christian Classics Ethereal Library) for material relating to
one of your upcoming lectures (e.g., ANE laws on homicide; healing in Greek
writings; the archaeology of Caesarea; the sacred sites of Corinth).
If you do not already know the basics of HTML or Web-design, coordinate
with a Web instructor to teach them to the class in order to encourage their
own Website construction.
Break the class into small groups and have each group (or individual?)
construct a Webpage
which might include:
links to important Websites and graphics on their assigned topic
their own brief introductions to (or analyses of) key topics
an interview with an expert in the field
a basic chronology of the subject
discussion questions for the rest of the class
a quiz over assigned reading
a bibliography (simple or annotated).
Williams suggests having students evaluate some of the best Websites
they discovered while browsing. This entails both data-gathering as well
as critical thinking (even if it is not deeply philosophical). Keep in
mind that he is addressing teachers from elementary through university-level.
Issues he suggests the students address are:
What was the name of the Web page?
What was the Internet address (URL)?
List four positive things about this page.
How might the content of this page be improved?
What topic/subject area might this page be most useful for?
The best thing about this Web site is? (Williams 1996:203)
Create an on-line (e-mail) discussion group for the class (see O'Keefe,
If you teach at a college or university with an Internet node, ask
the academic computing center for the names of professors who are currently
utilizing the Web in their teaching. If you teach in a school that uses a
local university's Internet system, call that university's academic computing
center for local contacts. Ask these other professors for suggestions on
what has worked for them in the classroom. Reference librarians are also
good resources for contacts and are often knowledgable about what is happening
Get your department to work together in various ways:
create a department Website which could include:
teaching and research interests
office location and office hours
phone numbers and e-mail addresses
when they will be on sabbatical or leave
course offerings for the upcoming semester/s
requirements for majors
links to Websites relevant to your department's foci
share newly discovered Websites regularly at departmental meetings
share teaching strategies using the Web and e-mail discussion
For an example of a departmental Website, see the one John O'Keefe constructed
for the Theology Department at Creighton University:
The WWW is another tool for the reseacher and teacher. It is not a substitute
for anything, but an additional mode of communication, data-gathering, and
creative presentation. It is simply to our advantage as scholars to broaden
our access, present our material more imaginatively, and provide alternative
media for learning.
Glossary of Terms*
[* My thanks to Jim Boyce for help on technical matters throughout this
baud rate: the speed of transmitting computer data from one computer to another
over telephone lines (see modem below)
bookmark: a file with a URL name; browsers can create a whole
list of files with URLs to which you want to return repeatedly; clicking
your mouse on a bookmark means not having to type the URL each time
browser: software (e.g., Netscape Navigator, HotJava, Mosaic, Arena, MacWeb)
that facilitates moving around the Web with numerous functions (e.g., a place
to type in the URLs of Websites, searching a Website by keywords, creating
and deleting bookmarks, retracing your path, printing, stopping data transfers)
case sensitive: the need to distinguish between lower case and upper case spellings;
many URLs are case sensitive
download: to transfer data from of one computer onto another
FAQ: "Frequently Asked Questions"; a heading on many Website menus
gif: "Graphics Interchange Format"; a type of file for graphic images
which may be used on a Website; photos and other graphics have to be scanned
and converted into a gif-file or a jpg-file in order to be loaded on a Webpage
gopher: an Internet program that locates document sites (gopher sites) displayed
as "tree-style" menu; gopher sites are accessible through the Web, but they
are not hypertexts
homepage: the initial page at a Website, often with a menu to other parts of
"HyperText Mark-up Language"; the coding language used for creating Websites
"HyperText Transfer Protocol"; the way Web pages are transferred over the
Internet; every Web URL begins with http://
a document with links to other Websites, or activations of audio, video,
or photo-enlargement features within the Website
jpg or jpeg:
a form of compressed graphic image file which may be loaded on a Website
a place on a Website (identified by underlining, highlighting, coloring,
or a button) to click the mouse to go to: 1) an enlargement of a graphic;
2) another part of the Webpage (including footnotes); or 3) to another Website;
it is this series of links which make a Website a hypertext document
a piece of electronic hardware which allows two computers to communicate
through phone lines; they are either "external modems" (a box plugged into
the computer) or "internal modems" (a card plugged into the central board
inside the computer); they are rated by how fast they communicate data, calculated
as "baud rate" (e.g., 14,400 baud)
a local mainframe computer at a school or company which acts as a connecting
point for personal computers to the Internet
to electronically convert text or graphics into a computer file; this is
accomplished with either a "hand scanner" which is rolled over the material,
or with a "flatbed scanner" on which the material is placed like a photocopier;
scanning requires a combination of hardware and software
a software program which allows searches of the entire Web (e.g., Yahoo!,
Magellan, Excite, Lycos, and WebCrawler)
upload: to move data from your computer onto another computer,
including a Website (see download)
"Universal Resource Locator"; the address of a Website; every Website's
URL begins with http://
an entire Website or any particular section or division of a Website
Website: a location of data files (text, graphics, video, or a
combination of these) on a computer node accessible through the Web
World Wide Web (WWW, W3, or the Web): a media system of interconnected
Websites on the Internet; the Web allows the user to move from site to site
(or section to section within a site) with the click of the mouse on a series
Adair, James R. and Patrick Durusau
1995 "Offline 49." Religious Studies News (May).