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The SBL and the Blog

I just finished spending five days at my annual professional meeting, the Society of Biblical Literature, this year in Atlanta.   This is a very large conference, probably about 6,000 people here for it – not to mention another 6,000 here for the American Academy of Religion conference that is held jointly with it.

For both conferences this is a chance for professional academics in their various fields of religious studies (New Testament, Hebrew Bible, early Christianity, early Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Religion and Culture, Religion in the Americas and so forth and so on – lots and lots of fields) to come together, attend academic papers on various topics (dozens of papers read by scholars all at the same time throughout the convention center), have meetings for various organizations, talk to editors, browse through the enormous book display hall where publishers in the field display all the recent books, and so on.   This is not a conference for lay-people interested in the topics: it is heavy duty scholarship.  But for experts in biblical studies, it is a mecca.

I used to attend the conference purely for the academic content, going to papers in New Testament exegesis, early Christian history, textual criticism, and so on.  I still do *some* of that, of course, since that is, after all, the point of the conference.  But even more these days – here in my 33rd year of coming! – I use it as a chance to see old friends in the field and former graduate students.  I get booked virtually day and night seeing people and catching up.  It’s a highlight of my year.

I participated in a couple of panel discussions at this year’s conference.  One of them was, interestingly enough, about blogging.   There are numerous scholars or religious studies, of course, who have blogs on their fields of expertise, including a number of experts on the New Testament.  Among the latter are blogs run by various friends/colleagues of mine:  Mark Goodacre, Larry Hurtado, and James McGrath.  You may want to check these out.   The panel discussed the possibilities and problems with blogging.  And so talked a bit about the Bart Ehrman blog.

Preparing for my remarks led me to think about a few things about this blog that make it different from all the others, and to reflect on how it is going.  Here let me say a couple of things that make this blog distinctive:

  • This is the only blog that I know of that is focused almost exclusively on disseminating scholarly views of the NT strictly to people who are not scholars of the NT. That is, my blog is meant for the non-professional.  The others are to a certain extent as well, of course; but the mission of my blog seems to be a bit different, an attempt to take even taken-for-granted-among-scholars-and-long-known-views and present them to people who have never heard of such things.
  • Mine is the only blog by a biblical scholar that, to my knowledge, charges money for the right to join. This approach, in other words, is virtually unheard of.

And here are a few of the successes and problems and issues distinctive to this blog:

  • I am very happy to report that our membership is continually growing. We currently have 4800 members.  That’s fantastic – more than I thought.  But I want to keep growing.  If you have bright ideas, let me know!  And PLEASE: spread the word among your family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, doctors, dog-walkers, cable-repair guys, and so on….
  • This year we will meet one of my financial goals. I have wanted the proceeds of the blog to hit $100,000.  And it looks like this year it is going to happen.  It would *NOT* happen were it not for the extraordinary generosity of some of the blog members who have made donations on top of their membership fees.  The blog *depends* on these donations.  Please think about donating yourself, as we build up the amount we raise.   And many, many thanks to those who have donated.  I wouldn’t be doing this if it were not for you.  And I want to set higher and higher goals, as all the funds go to important charities dealing with people in desperate need of help.
  • The major challenge for the blog is personal – how I can keep it going. It’s a huge commitment and my time is crunched.  So what else is new?  And whose time is *not* crunched?!?   But still.   Every now and then a member will complain that I don’t spend enough time engaging with them and writing full comments back to everything they say.  I wish I could.  I just don’t have the time.  Look at it this way: suppose I offer to spend, say, just five minutes a day responding to each and every member who wants me to interact with their views.  And suppose only one out of twenty blog members take me up on that.   That would be 240 five-minute responses a day.   And that would be 1200 minutes of responses.  And that would be 20 hours.  A day.  If I did this only for one out of twenty members.   Uh, well, that ain’t gonna happen.  So many apologies for not being able to be even MORE involved than I am, but there’s only one of me!  I either need to get cloned soon or we need to figure out how to squeeze more hours in the day and more days in the week and more weeks in the year!!!

I think the blog is going great.  I hope you do to.  Please donate to it.  (Hit the Donate button).  And get more of your friends, family, and acquaintances to join up.  (Remember: it is VERY easy to give Gift Subscriptions to the blog as well: just click the Gift Subscription button and go from there).   Finally, thanks to all of *you* who make this entire enterprise possible!


Thanksgiving Reflections 2015
The Teaching of Jesus

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Comments

  1. Avatar
    Adam0685  November 24, 2015

    Given the volume of comments you receive to your hundreds of blog entries, NOT responding to comments apart from a few in the readers mailbag weekly blog would be reasonable, I think.

  2. gmatthews
    gmatthews  November 24, 2015

    I got a notice in the mail this past summer about the SBL meeting with a discount on the fee to attend. It listed a ton of scholars who would be there including yourself. I think I got it due to my BAR subscription. I don’t recall it saying anything that would have made me think it was highly technical. I was curious what it be like and I briefly thought that if I felt like taking some vacation time from work I wouldn’t mind attending it, but from what you say it’s really only for scholars only?

    • Bart
      Bart  November 24, 2015

      I think you must have recieved a mailing about the Biblical Archaeology Society FEST, not the SBL meeting. Big difference! The former is/was indeed for the interested layperson.

      • gmatthews
        gmatthews  November 24, 2015

        Yep, that looks like what it was.

  3. Avatar
    rivercrowman  November 24, 2015

    Keep up the good work Bart!

    • Avatar
      martyvidnovic@gmail.com  December 1, 2015

      I, personally, have absolutely no idea how you find the time to do all the things you are currently doing; teaching at UNC, writing all those books, the blog, debating, going to conferences, et al … especially el al … do you ever sleep?!

      Get some rest,
      Marty

      Oh … be sure and respond to this post 🙂

  4. Avatar
    bbcamerican  November 24, 2015

    Wow, the fact that you even respond to any of us directly at all, in addition to posting a substantive blog each day, goes above and beyond what I would ever do. As far as I am concerned, I would pay many times over the yearly membership fee for the value I am getting from the blog. With all due respect, whoever complains about your “lack” of responding to posted comments needs a serious reality check. And they need to get a job. And a haircut. And they need to get off my lawn!

    On a personal note, but related to the blog, I have recently begun efforts to get in better physical health, specifically to lose weight. I have already lost about 40lbs. but still have about 60lbs more to go to get where I want to be. I am posting about my weight loss efforts to my social media circle and asking the people who are willing to make a monetary pledge to keep me motivated towards meeting my goal. Once I reach my goal weight (200lbs), I will encourage these folks to contribute their monetary pledge (whatever amount it might be) directly to this blog. I won’t reach that goal this calendar year, but at least it might be a “little drop in the bucket” for next year’s donations.

    Thanks for all that you do, Dr. Ehrman. This blog is a treasure!

    • Bart
      Bart  November 25, 2015

      Congratulations on your gains (or losses!)! Go for it!!

    • Avatar
      Alfred  November 26, 2015

      50.c a pound from me. Let me know when you get there. Being able to see your feet when you look down is great believe me!

  5. Avatar
    JBSeth1  November 24, 2015

    Hi Bart,

    The thought just occurred to me that perhaps someone else would be willing to help you with this blog. Have you considered asking someone else, someone who’s opinion you are generally in agreement with, to join you on this blog, in responding to answering some of the questions.

    Perhaps for example, Mark Goodacre, or one of your former students, would enjoy joining you on this blog, and occasionally providing answers to some of the questions on their own.

    John

    • Bart
      Bart  November 25, 2015

      Yeah, I’ve thought about it. But I think it would create more problems than it would solve. So far it is manageable!

  6. Avatar
    Tom  November 24, 2015

    If each of we 4,800 donated $5/mo, you would realize over $250,000 per year.

  7. Avatar
    Mhamed Errifi  November 25, 2015

    hello Bart

    i would like to correct something in your post mecca is written with capital m

    http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/Mecca+for

    • Bart
      Bart  November 25, 2015

      Thanks. I’m using the term metaphorically, not in reference to the city itself.

      • Avatar
        Wilusa  November 26, 2015

        Re using “mecca” metaphorically…might it be better to use the word “magnet,” to avoid any possible insult to Muslims? (In something I was writing a while back, it occurred to me to say a particular city was a “magnet,” rather than a “mecca,” for certain types of people.)

  8. Avatar
    dragonfly  November 25, 2015

    It sounds like the answer might be no, but would you know of a blog like this but on the hebrew bible for lay people?

  9. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  November 25, 2015

    The blog is going very, very well. I do worry about you burning out. Since I live in the Bible belt where nothing historical ever gets discussed in churches and, in fact, where questioners/searchers are viewed as enemies lacking “faith,” your blog is a tremendous “blessing,” especially your interest in explaining widespread scholarly views clearly and concisely to non-scholars. Thanks

    • Avatar
      randal  December 2, 2015

      I agree. Thanks Dr. Ehrmam for this blog. I also live in the Bible belt and it is such a blessing. The sad thing is that I cannot discuss any of this with my fundamentalist friends and family because of their intolerance.

  10. Avatar
    Jeffreycb  November 25, 2015

    Thank you for spending the time on the blog. I look forward to reading it every day and usually learn something each time I read it.

  11. Avatar
    gonzalezmario246  November 28, 2015

    Hey Dr. Bart, is there any way for a lay person to have knowledge for these meetings and other meetings?

  12. acircharo
    acircharo  November 29, 2015

    With todays modern automated pay methods; electronic withdrawals, PayPal, etc. it would be fairly easy to setup a monthly withdrawal program to pay, say $5 or $10 per month. I know I would pay that; for what you get in return it’s really short money. And $5 is hardly enough to buy a half caf/half decaf, Mocha mocchiado or some such thing at Starbucks! I say let’s go for it! Deus Le Volt!

  13. Avatar
    Pattycake1974  November 29, 2015

    My concern is that if the blog becomes bigger, over time you won’t be able to interact with us like you do now. Then, I will be very unhappy.

  14. gmatthews
    gmatthews  December 1, 2015

    I was just catching up with Larry Hurtado’s blog and I see he made a post on the SBL. He mentions a presentation by one of your PhD candidates, Jason Staples. If I’m understanding correctly Hurtado says Mr. Staples’ presentation was on Romans 9-11 and his contention that to Paul “Gentiles” were actually a subset of Jews being various “lost tribes” returned from Babylon and assimilated back into Jewish society and who were only barely Jewish by this point in time. Interesting idea that I’ve never heard before. Is this a new idea or has it come up before? Please tell Jason I enjoyed his blog entries and he should update it more often!

    • Bart
      Bart  December 1, 2015

      Yes, it’s Jason’s idea, and when you see his arguments, it’s pretty darn convincing.

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