The recent partnership between the Society of Biblical Literature and “Bibliobloggers” (a designation that seemingly implies a formal organization, although no such organization exists as of yet) announced by Jim West and the SBL itself has generated much discussion. While many folks have wholeheartedly embraced the affiliation, a few have expressed reservations, including John Hobbins, Chris Heard, Alan Lenzi, and Doug Mangum. My initial reactions—a little uncertainty as to the nature of the evolving relationship, but hope for some exciting new developments—are pretty similar to those of Brandon Wason:
I’m still not entirely sure what the implications are of such an affiliation, but I do think it is something that should excite us. This represents a recognition from SBL that what we do on biblioblogs works hand in hand with the mission of SBL: to foster biblical scholarship. That’s why most of us blog. So I’m happy to hear about this new affiliation and I look forward to seeing how it affects things.
I find the respective responses of Mark Goodacre and Jim West (both members of the steering committee organized by Jim) to potential dissenters especially telling. For his part, Mark adopts a sensitive, conciliatory stance:
I understand the points of view expressed here [in the posts of John and Chris], and I would hope that we will take on board some of the concerns expressed, but my own feeling is that you really don’t know quite how something is going to evolve until you have given it a try. I don’t think we need to be pompous or exclusionary or prescriptive, but we can collaborate, listen and learn. We have plenty of time before the Atlanta SBL in 2010, which is the earliest occasion on which the group can meet, so the discussion does not need to be rushed. Some of the very issues mentioned by John and Chris would in fact be pertinent to our discussions, and I would add that the interest that came out of the session on biblioblogging at the SBL in 2005 is testimony to the potential value of a broader, continuing discussion.
Jim, with a zeal that even Phineas might envy, denounces any continuing complaints:
[T]ake part in the SBL Blogging Program Unit, or don’t. It really is just that simple. If you choose to take part, great. If not, nothing is accomplished by your childish and small minded ongoing campaign of whining and sniveling.
Simply put, Mark discusses the matter as if all parties—even those who may not be unequivocally enthusiastic or supportive at this point—have something to offer to the conversation, while Jim belittles anyone unwilling to immediately join his project on his terms. Despite my desire to increase biblical scholarship and literacy in any way possible, I don’t think I’m alone in my preference for the former approach. As long as Jim continues to employ this type of unnecessary vitriol rather than genuine dialogue, the question posed by Ed Cook in the comments to Chris’ post will persist in many circles: “Isn’t this whole thing just a roundabout way for Jim West to gain academic respectability that he can’t otherwise achieve via presentations and publications?”
UPDATE: Bob Cargill has posted some nice comments here.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Mark Goodacre has added to his earlier thoughts here.