I had the great pleasure of visiting with Sandra Stewart Kruger, Moira Bucciarelli, and Charles Haws at SBL headquarters in Atlanta last week. The offices of SBL Grand Central Station are nestled in a wooded area just a few minutes away from Emory University. One wall of each office consists of a picture window that looks out on the forest primeval. If we hadn’t had so many interesting things to talk about, I would have simply stared off into the deep green with ears cocked to hear the sound of monkeys from the adjacent primate lab.
I wanted to get a sense of the level of SBL’s commitment to a variety of things that are priorities in my mind and those of other SBL members who bring biblical scholarship to the attention of the online community through blogging. Examples:
(1) The importance of an international focus. A biblical blogger, if she writes insightfully and is willing to interact with others in comment threads and by email, tends to attract an international audience whose thirst for quality biblical scholarship is remarkable. There is much that SBL is already doing to keep a high international profile. The annual international SBL meetings are the most obvious example. On the other hand, no one has yet seen fit to create a high-quality online encyclopedia of the Bible in the English language. In that sense, Wibilex, put together by the German Bible Society, provides an excellent model. Which raises the larger question of:
(2) A strong online SBL presence, a site that showcases the work of its members, reports on controversies that roil its ranks, and celebrates the life and work of biblical scholars upon decease. The suite of SBL online resources continues to improve in all of these areas and more. New resources are in the planning stages. Perhaps the most valued online resource already provided is the Review of Biblical Literature. SBL is committed to building its online presence, and is open to ideas in this sense. Suggestions from SBL member biblical bloggers, I am convinced, will be carefully considered.
(3) A family-friendly environment at SBL meetings. I’m not sure the important thing is to offer childcare (though some professional conferences now do). It is the case that I’ve enjoyed bringing teenage children along with me to annual meetings, and they have enjoyed participating in the social life dimension of a meeting. They would have to be crazy to want to attend a scholarly presentation; on the other hand, there is no better test of communication skills than to talk about a biblical text in a thoroughly informed way to a bunch of teenagers. Do they get what you are saying? Can you say something to them that grabs them and doesn’t let them go?