This is simply a short post to say that even though I’ve just started on my thread on the burial of Jesus, I need to take a two-day hiatus (yesterday and today). Yesterday was completely blocked out because I had to go to Leiden, in the Netherlands, for an editorial board meeting. I’m staying in London for the summer – my wife Sarah is teaching her six-week Duke-in-London theater program (the students discuss a play – after reading it and writing something on it – every morning, and then that evening they actually go to see it on the London stage; about 30 plays altogether; it’s a *fantastic* program, and Sarah is completely energized by it); getting to Leiden from here is remarkably easy. It’s about an hour by air to Amsterdam from Gatwick airport, and then a short train ride into central Leiden.
Leiden is a great city, and I really need to spend some time exploring it some time. It is filled with gorgeous canals, there are old parts of the city, and everyone seems to be riding a bicycle. It is very English friendly for those of us who don’t know Dutch. And the people are people-friendly as well. A very nice place. But as has happened before, I was in and out in a single day.
This is why: I am one of the editors-in-chief for a journal called Vigiliae Christianae which is published by E. J. Brill, located in Leiden. Vigiliae Christianae is one of the premier journals in the world dealing with Patristics. Literally, “Patristics” refers to the “Fathers” of the church, but the term is normally used by academics to refer to the study not just of church fathers (i.e., the orthodox writers from after the New Testament, from, say, Tertullian and Origen, through Augustine and Origen, and Gregory of Nyssa and John Chyrsostom and Ambrose and and and ) but to the history, literature, and theology of the Christian church from, say, the second century up through late antiquity up to (but not including) the early middle ages; the emphasis *tends* to be on the fourth to sixth Christian centuries. I’m not an expert in that field, as you probably know (it’s amazing how many things I’m ignorant about), but I do work in second and third century materials (up to, say, Constantine), and so cover the earliest conceivable period covered by the field.
The editorial board of Vigiliae Christianae consists mainly of Europeans – right now, three from the Netherlands, one from Germany – and, well, me. I’ve been on the board for maybe six or seven years, and the reason is that they wanted an American connection since so much of the work in the field is done in the English speaking world, and especially the U.S. My friend William Petersen was my predecessor on the board; he was an American who did his PhD in the Netherlands and was one of the leading experts on the Diatessaron, the Syriac edition of the Gospels from the second century – which we no longer have – which combined the four Gospels into one BIG mega-Gospel, that for a long time was used by Syrian Christians instead of the four separate Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – (it’s an *unusually* complicated field of study, trying to reconstruct the Diatessaron from our fragments in all sorts of exotic languages; one has to be phenomenally gifted in ancient languages even to work in the field; and Bill was that). He was also a NT textual critic and we had been colleagues in that field for years, before he had an very sad and untimely death in 2006. Anyway, when Bill passed away, the board asked me to join, and so I did.
The journal publishes literary, philological, historical, and theological articles of a specialized nature in early Christian studies. For years it was the leading journal in the field. It still is one of them, with a distinctive focus that differs from others, as the field itself has grown. For years I was an associate editor for the Journal of Early Christian Studies, started (for all practical purposes) by my dear and close friend Elizabeth Clark, who has now retired from Duke; it covers similar territory as Vigiliae Christianae but is possibly more theoretically oriented (in terms of literary and cultural theory) whereas VigChr is possibly more philologically/traditionally oriented. If that doesn’t make sense, well, never mind!
Vigiliae Christianae publishes five volumes a year, filled with hard-core articles. As an editorial board member I get asked to “referee” articles in my fields of expertise. That is to say, an author writes an essay, submits it to the journal, the General Editor (now Jan den Boeft, and amazingly gifted Latin scholar who has been doing this for many years) decides that it is something that I would be able to evaluate, asks if I’m willing, I almost always am, I read the article and write up a report, with the bottom line being whether it merits publication in the journal or not.
My personal association with the journal goes pretty far back: my first academic article was published in Vigiliae Christianae: “The Gospel Canon of Didymus the Blind.” This was a paper that I wrote my first semester in graduate school, for a seminar that I took with Bruce Metzger – a semester-long study of the “Canon of the New Testament.” Metzger liked my term paper, suggested I publish it, recommended Vigiliae Christianae – and that was the start of things for me in the publishing field, just over 30 years ago now!
In any event, I meant for this post just to say that I was taking a two-day break, but possibly it’s useful for some of the readers of this blog to see this side of academic life on occasion.