On Meeting Other Bloggers at SBL . . . Initial Thoughts (and your thoughts of me!)

As my series of SBL posts indicate (see below), I was fortunate enough to meet and speak with a number of fellow bloggers at SBL in New Orleans.  For some reason, I am always intrigued by how a person looks, especially when I have long known them only by name, perhaps having my own construct of what they look like floating numinously in my mind.  Oftentimes I will google a scholar, such as von Rad or Gunkel or Wellhausen or even Childs or Barr, to see what they look like.  Similarly, meeting people always offers surprises . . . take, for instance, Rob Kashow’s utter surprise (shared by Mike Whitenton), at the deepness of my voice (see HERE).  So, in an unthoughtful though reflective moment, I submit to you my list of “knee-jerk first impressions” of the bloggers I met (and my apologies if I mistakenly left you off this list; if I did, let me know and I’ll be glad to share my thoughts).  But first, two ‘extended’ examples:

Jim West: I start with JW first for no particular reason (just to get that out of the way first, for our #1 biblioblogger, wink).  I had already heard from a trusted friend and mentor that JW was quite different than his online persona.  And I find myself wondering right now whether it is just that . . . a persona.  There is a discontinuity (and perhaps others–I’m looking at you, Joseph Kelly–can attest to this) between the abrasive, name-calling individual I read on screen and the quiet, dare I say meek individual I encountered in person.  Let me clarify: Jim was a delight in person.  I enjoyed razzing him (asking him to call me a git or dilletante, which he sheepishly and nervously refused to do, and which I think says a lot).  He seems to be a genuine, kind, gentle man, but the man I met does not match the rhetoric I often see coming from his blog.  That is fine, we all have ways of expressing ourselves.  This, however, was quite unexpected.  I now have a very different sense of JW.  Quite the long knee-jerk, eh?

Chris Heard: I was glad to meet Chris for the Pepperdine/SBL recording series.  Having recently followed his youtube videos, I had a better sense of things.  My only regret is that we were unable to talk in any sort of depth; both our schedules were insanely busy.  But Chris ended up being quite what I expected: a kind and thoughtful scholar out to help younger scholars such as myself.  Many thanks!
I must admit also (and I trust Chris will call me a geek for this) that meeting him was quite exciting for me.  Readers of this blog will know of my deep appreciation for his Dynamics of Diselection (see HERE), so I confess to a bit of nerves before meeting him.  He simply has been quite formative for my own work on Genesis.

(Ok, now I can begin to get to providing a bit of the internal monologue, near as I can recall, about meeting my fellow bloggers; this is what went through my head):

Jim West: “Really?  That’s Jim West?  The man in person and the man on the screen do NOT synch up, at all.”

Chris Heard: “Omigosh omigosh omigosh!  It’s Chris Heard.  This is too cool!  Hey, he’s shorter than I expected.”

Mike Whitenton: “Wow, I think I met someone whiter than me!  Surely he’s related to Conan O’  Brien.  He’s a tall fella, too.”

Rob Kashow: “Hey, this guy is way better looking in person than his blog picture would lead you to believe.”

Doug Mangum: “Those are some seriously wicked awesome chops!  Why can’t I grow facial hair?!”

Joseph Kelly: “You look familiar but I have no idea why. I swear I’ve met you before.”

Brandon Wason: “In that suit, with that hair greased and spiked like that, this guy totally looks like an Italian mob boss.  ‘Hey, you talkin’ ta me?!  Fahgettaboutit!!’

Kevin Scull: “Love the hair.” (Unfortunately I can’t explain this one, but it is what I recall).

Chris Tilling: “Oh look, it’s Chris Tilling, someone who’s never read my blog I’m sure.  I bet he has no idea who I am.”

Pat McCullough: “Lordy that guy is huge.  I did not expect that . . . he could totally take me!”

Art Boulet: “I’m jealous; I wish I could totally rock the bald head look.  But my wife tells me I probably have a lumpy head.”

Brian Bibb: “Hmmmm, he looks younger in his pictures” (my sincerest apologies, Brian!).

Claude Mariottini: “I love the way this guy says his name!  I wish I had a cool accent.”

Brooke Lester: “You look remarkably like one of our ethics profs at Baylor.”

Daniel and Tonya: “Master linguists in my presence; don’t mention Hebrew.  Oooo, he’s going to come to my paper, and it’s making a translation argument.  Uh oh!”

Ken Brown: “Really?  I thought this guy was older than me.”

Mike Kok: “This guy looks super young!  I’m only 28 and I’m feeling old . . . ”

Inside my head . . . it’s a scary place sometimes.

And now . . . dear reader, I extend the same question to you.  If you met me at SBL, what was the narrative running through your mind?  Levity and  honesty, all in good fun!

For Those Attending the SBL Biblioblogging Dinner . . .

And, the caveat . . . those who want to talk to/meet me . . .

I just wanted to let you all know that I have another commitment that evening at 6:30.  For this reason, I will probably have to leave the dinner between 6:30 and 6:45.  Now that JW has noted (which I think is great) that there will be a ‘mingling’ period first, and then patrons will be free to eat whenever, I am hopeful that this open period will allow me to meet, as quickly as possible, a great many of my blogging buddies.  So (and I don’t mean this arrogantly in the least), if you want to meet me or talk with me, the earlier the better; I will likely have to leave by 6:30ish.

Fair enough?

(Do, though, feel free to grab me in the book exhibit if you see me and introduce yourself; or better yet, attend my paper at 9:00 am on Tuesday morning!)

And my ranking is . . . (Biblioblog Top 50 for October 2009)

This month saw some upward mobility again . . . to # 39, up 7 places from #46 last month.  Truth be told, I am simply relieved not to have fallen out of the top 50, given that my blogging time has been at a premium as I continue to write the dissertation to finish–which I will, and my advisor Bill Bellinger agrees–by the Spring 2010 semester.

So my thanks again, readers, for your time, energies, and thoughtfulness.  Keep commenting!

Onward and DOWNward? My Ranking Is . . . (Biblioblog Top 50: September 2009)

The rankings are up.  I dipped from being at 19 (though they say 20, I am fairly certain I was at 19 last month) to 46.  A big drop!  As I commented there, this may be the first month I will truly express serious doubt at the Alexa ratings.  The last few days have been successful in matters of blog traffic; it confuses me then that my ranking went quickly from being in the 700,000’s to the 900,000’s.  Very odd.  But, in the end, I am not going to gripe.  This is all in fun.  I’m just registering my puzzlement.

Here’s to October!  Onward . . . . AND UPWARD!!

Keep reading!


Another milestone: 20,000 Hits! (and another celebratory video!)

About a month and a half ago I noted that I had reached the milestone of 10,000 since my move to wordpress.  I am glad to announce that now, approximately only 7 weeks later, I have logged another 10,000 hits, bringing the total hits to 20,000.  While I know this is simply the case on any given day at ol’ JW’s blog, I’m quite pleased.  So, again, I thank those who take the time and energy to read, comment, and engage.  I have learned a great deal from many of you, and I hope you also have learned something from me.  Looking forward to the next 10,000!

Some of you  may recall the hilarious (in my view!) video I posted to celebrate the 10k milestone (click the link above to watch it if you missed it).  Unfortunately, I don’t have anything as funny this time, but I would be remiss if I didn’t post up a celebratory video.  And so here it is, the music video for a song entitled “To Blog or Not to Blog.”  Pretty catchy, isn’t i?

Forthcoming on Hesed we ’emet

Life has been busy.  Teaching and writing has occupied much of my time.  I, however, have not and will not neglect my loyal readers.  Here is a bit of what is forthcoming . . . .

Scholarly Interviews

James Crenshaw – Duke University (retired) – a former teacher of mine; I am awaiting and looking forward to his responses.

Nancy deClaisse-Walford – Mercer – a tremendous Psalms scholar and graduate of Baylor’s Ph.D. program in OT.  This will be  a great interview; she is very much a participant in what I would call cutting-edge Psalms scholarship.

Laurence Turner – Newbold, UK – a recent acquaintance I have been fortunate enough to make, Dr. Turner has published some very strong work on Genesis, including the Jacob cycle.  I have had the good fortune of getting his feedback on some of my work thus far; it will be great to get two Genesis minds together for an interview!

Is there anyone in particular you would like me to try to interview?  Ask away, I may know them or have a connection.

Book Reviews

I am steadily working through these volumes as well.  See the “book reviews” page above.  Whatever is unlinked will have a review posted up in the near future.


More on my teaching.  Today was my students’ first test (but that’s all I’ll say; no breaking FERPA here!).  But do look for me to continue to post on–and learn from others far more experienced than I–about the experience and blessing of teaching!

Your Choice

What do you want me to cover?  No guarantees I will be able to do so competently, but I am always open to ideas.

I hope you all are well!

Bibliobloggers and SBL Partner Up Officially

In what is truly wonderful news, SBL executive director Kent Richards released the following statement this past Friday:

Bibliobloggers an SBL Partner I’m very pleased to announce, after discussions with Jim West that the Society of Biblical Literature and Bibliobloggers have become affiliated. We look forward to partnering at our North American and international meetings every year.

This partnership will make possible the fostering of biblical scholarship and communication among members of both groups. The affiliation will enable Bibliobloggers to meet and hold sessions in conjunction with the SBL meetings.

Individual bibliobloggers who are members of the Society of Biblical Literature and who wish to identify themselves as affiliates of SBL may post the affiliation on their blog.

I want to thank Jim and his colleagues for their efforts. This is a partnership long overdue, and it’s great to see it come to fruition.

Kent Harold Richards
Executive Director”

It will be interesting to see how all this spins out, but this is wonderful news.  To make the connection known, I have added a new banner on the ride sidebar.  Do check it out.

So, what do you think?  How can/will this affect blogging?  And, who will be the first to propose a session (and how in the world do you do that anyways?!?!).

H/T: Jim West.



For Whom Do We Write (II): A Rejoinder to Dr. Jim Linville

Recently on Jim Linville’s ever-entertaining blog, he has interacted with my post “For Whom Do We Write? On Biblical Scholars and the Church.”  Needless to say, I strongly feel he has either misunderstood, or misrepresented, my position (and those who know me well can attest to this, if my own words are deemed unconvincing for some reason).  My original post has been the subject of some debate and misunderstanding; I am hopeful this will serve to clarify some matters.

Dr. Linville says the following:

Anderson, writing from a confessional perspective to a religious audience, does not address secular biblical scholars but discusses biblical scholarship in its relationship with the church. He writes against an elitism in theologically centered biblical research.

One final clarification: I do not mean to imply by the previous sentence that one’s scholarship must be governed by the norms and doctrines of the church.  In fact, quite the opposite; biblical scholarship should seek to inform the church. Any good and responsible theology is, at bottom, biblically based.   …    The church and/or the synagogue may accept this word or it may not.  But it is a word that is worthy of being shared.  What good, then, is biblical scholarship if it stays within a particular, “elite” circle? If we are indeed the “elite” in this regard–and we may indeed be–then does that not all the more imbue us with a responsibility to not only our own faith community, but any faith community who will hear us? 

For Anderson, academic biblical studies is at least in part an educational instrument of the church and synagogue. He is clearly not speaking for me. As an atheist, I recognize no particular obligation to teach “any faith community” anything. That is what pastors, rabbis, theologians and popes are for. It is hard to gauge how Anderson views academic biblical studies in its relation to secular research into human societies (including religious studies).

He seems to think of it as a confessional enterprise but one that operates on a very exclusive educational and intellectual level. Thus, he does not explore the issue of legitimacy that confessional approaches to the Bible face from the wider secular religious studies guild. As noted already, Avalos and Noll would raise these issues sharply while it seems that Davies would prefer to minimize their divisive impact. As noted by Davies, however, the secular biblical academic faces the dilemma that the audience that cares most about the Bible are believers. Davies, however, does not really develop his thoughts about the minority audience, i.e., other scholars engaged in wider religious studies. 

I would argue that secular biblical scholarship would do well to accept the loss of Anderson’s “faithful” audience if the results of secular research strains the relationship with the church or synagogue too far. Non religious scholars should do more to recognize their intellectual home in wider secular researches into human history, culture and religion. This would involve championing comparative studies and the methodological discussions that this would require. It would also mean becoming familiar with research into other religious traditions from around the world and encouraging students to look beyond the ancient near east or the theological heritage of the west when planning their degree programs. It would also require helping students and scholars in other disciplines, better identify sectarian influence in biblical studies. There is a reciprocal relationship that needs to be more strongly developed. Studies of ancient Israelite and near eastern religion can be assisted by familiarity with research into the wider phenomenon of religiosity. Likewise, biblical scholars should not hide their lights under a bushel, nor should they be content to let it shine from a steeple. It should be seen by other religious studies scholars as offering a valuable and academically sound illumination on the complexities of religion. 

I responded in the comments as follows:

Jim, thanks for interacting with my post. That said, I am surprised by how far from the truth you are in your description of my take on this matter. I might suggest reading elsewhere on my blog, or checking out my current article; I hardly think I’m doing cookie-cutter biblical scholarship, nor am I doing cookie-cutter theology.

Your first paragraph describing my post is a huge overstatement. First, if you read my work you will know the confessional perspective is by no means at the fore nor seminal for my interpretive work. I don’t wish to hint that I have no biases in reading of texts–we all do–but these are hardly them. Your description states the polar opposite of what I intend to say in the piece you quote at length.

You say I argue that “biblical scholarship needs to be reconciled with the needs of the church.” Absolutely not. The block quotation you provide should clarify this; scholarship written that is governed a priori by the norms and doctrines of the church is irresponsible, in a word. That’s not what I’m after. It appears to be a matter of trajectory. The church (or synagogue, or what have you) is not ‘the pope’ for my scholarship. Rather, my scholarship, I hope, will inform these communities of faith in meaningful and at times troubling ways. I trust you have read Brueggemann, Jim. Think of my scholarship in a vein similar to his massive OT theology; unsettling, yet biblical. Haunting, yet ignored. I see my role as keeping the church, synagogue, etc . . . . even the atheist, as you identify yourself . . . . honest in its engagement with the text and what the text says about God. There are hairy moments. And as I seem to have been saying a lot recently, God, Jesus, and the Cross should not be whitewashed.

You also say I argue against elitism. Well, yes and no. I’m unsure “elite” is the best word here, but I have been privvy to some very poor exegesis on my tv on Sunday mornings and elsewhere. As a biblical scholar, I am formally trained and thus have a higher competence than others who are not in these matters. There is thus a sense of responsibility that seeks to insure others are ‘getting it.’

You write that for me “biblical scholarship needs to be reconciled with the needs of the church.” Again, hardly. The block quotation you cite should clarify that in its first sentence.

Put simply, what I was trying to communicate is a call to the church, synagogue, etc. to bear in mind the weight of the academic pursuits biblical scholars undertake. It is a call (bad word choice, eh?) to communities of faith to be responsible, realistic, and honest in their engagement with the text. I don’t hear a lot of sermons on Job. I don’t see a lot of people claiming God is complicit in deception, like I do. I do, though, see a lot of whitewashed images of God, Jesus, and the cross. And while I do hope tremendously that my scholarship informs other academics and advances the field in meaningful ways, I also hope it clarifies for others another characterization of God that is quite biblical. The call is to the church to take these images and handle them responsibly, not to the scholar to write “in service” to the church where “in service” actually means “in servitude to.” That’s hardly me. Servitude to the church. No, not me. Service to academia and communities of faith. Yep. Sounds like me. And if one or the other . . . . or both . . . . of those groups dismisses what I say, then they do. All I can do is offer the voice.

I hope this clarifies my view a bit.  Thoughts?