Stephen Carlson (10/05)

Blogger of the Month for October 2005

Jim West of Biblioblogs.com Interviews Stephen Carlson

Editorial Note: Stephen Carlson is the author of the weblog Hypotyposesis: Sketches in Biblical Studies at http://www.hypotyposeis.org/weblog/.

BB: Stephen, thank you very much for agreeing to be our first “biblioblogger” interviewee on Biblioblogs.com. And thank you too for your really exceptional work.

SC: You’re welcome. I’m flattered even to be considered.

BB: My first question to you is, when did you start “blogging” and what drew you to it?

SC: I started in October 2003. Mark Goodacre and Jim Davila were already doing it and I wanted to join the bandwagon.

BB: In your estimation, what comprises a “biblioblog” in distinction from other blog types?

SC: A “biblioblog” is blog that mainly discusses the kind of topics that would be of interest to people attending the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature.

BB: You are a Lawyer by training and profession- and yet your abilities in Synoptic studies are impressive and your contributions to the field of New Testament research excellent. What drew you to Synoptic studies and why aren’t you a Professor of New Testament somewhere?

SC: I’m not teaching NT because I went for a J.D. instead of a Ph.D. I was drawn to synoptic studies because I really enjoy solving puzzles and the synoptic problem seemed like an interesting puzzle to attempt using insights from the law. That was ten years ago and the puzzle still seems interesting. My new book,The Gospel Hoax: Morton Smith’s Invention of Secret Mark, is part of that effort.

BB: Where do you imagine that “biblioblogging” is heading?

SC: Without doubt, it is growing. In fact, it is getting more and more difficult to keep current with what’s going on. One thing that has yet to catch on with biblioblogging, however, is the concept of the team blog. So far, biblioblogs are largely individual efforts, but I’d like to see some experimentation with team blogging.

BB: Do you think it is a phenomenon that will last or will it soon be eclipsed by another sort of internet dialogue? I realize that this particular question calls on you to be something of a prophet- but we know you are up to the challenge.

SC: I’ve been involved with on-line activities in one way or another since the mid-80s, and, in terms of internet dialogue, the internet blog does an effective job of balancing the advantages and limitations of the on-line—much more so than individual emails, bulletin boards, and mailing lists. So, I’m confident blogging will last. Nevertheless, I would like to see more scholarship become available on-line, and blogging is just one part of the whole picture. For example, we’re right on the cusp of having technology facilitate scholarly projects that are more collaborative. For example, Roger Pearse got a group of people together to translate Jerome’s chronicle. Perhaps team blogging or selected-membership “wiki”s are the way to go, but I think we’re still very much working out what.

BB: In your mind, what is the most important aspect of blogging for the academic community?

SC: Do your homework.

BB: And now, what is the one weakness about blogging that you wish bibliobloggers would address?

SC: Regularity of output. Speaking for myself, it always pains me to see a week go by without having blogged a word.

BB: Other bibliobloggers regularly delve into personal events and activities; yet seldom do you. Is there a particular reason for this?

SC: Perhaps it is the midwestern or Scandinavian modesty that my parents raised me with, in which the only socially acceptable thing to brag about is the educational accomplishment of one’s children. By the way, did you know that my oldest just started kindergarten?

BB: No I did not! Congratulations!

BB: Do you feel that personal issues are inappropriate for “biblioblogdom”?

SC: I think it depends. Personally, I’m fascinated about the ins-and-outs of the scholarly vocation and I appreciate any insights on what that’s like.

BB: Without wishing to put undue pressure on you, which biblioblogs do you find most interesting? Why?

SC: My increasingly out-of-date blogroll has a good selection of them and I’ve never been one to restrict in my interests. Obviously, for keeping me up-to- date on the big forgery scandal, Jim West’s Biblical Theology, is essential. Mark Goodacre and Jim Davila’s blogs still hold pride of place for me. Because I love solving problems, I also like those blogs that raise intriguing questions (e.g. Rick Brannan’s ricoblog and Loren Rosson’s Busybody). Scot McKnight’s Jesus Creed is great too. My biggest “guilty pleasure” among non-biblioblogs is Angelo Mercato’s Sauvage Noble—where can I go to satisfy my craving for Indo-European philology?

BB: Does the term “biblioblogger” capture the essence of what you are doing, or would you use another term for it? And what would that term be?

SC: The essence of my blog is what could be discussed at an SBL meeting, so I think the term does capture what I’m doing. I must admit that I initially didn’t like the term “biblioblogger” because I thought it meant bloggers who love books, but my attempts to promote something like “biblicoblogger” never really caught on—even with me.

BB: You have a book coming out soon and it has been lauded in the pre-publication blurbs that I have seen. If you were re-writing the book right now, are there substantive changes you would make or have you changed your mind in any substantive way?

SC: In terms of substance, I am not aware (yet) of anything I would change. It is a real credit to my editor, Carey Newman, for lining up not two, but four, outside, anonymous reviewers to referee my manuscript. These are in addition to the professional forensic document examiner I hired as a consultant. All of these experts made the case stronger than it was in my original manuscript. As more people begin to read the book and understand the nature of the case, I’m sure they’ll be ready to point out with evidence, pro and con, that I missed or misunderstood. Then I’ll know better what I should have written differently.

BB: Finally, tell us anything you would like to about yourself that you feel readers of your blog should know in order to understand more fully “where you are coming from”.

SC: John P. Meier’s Marginal Jew has been very influential to me when I was learning how to go about critical, Biblical scholarship. In particular, Meier mentioned that he had this fantasy of an “unpapal enclave,” in which a group consisting of a Roman Catholic, a Protestant, a Jew, and an agnostic would meet together in the basement of a well-stocked library and hammer out what they can agree on. I too share that dream, except that I would expand Meier’s “unpapal enclave” to include an evangelical, a Unitarian, and an atheist and try to develop arguments for positions that could be acceptable to the whole group. Come to think of it, I may have just described the composition of biblioblogdom, so maybe my fantasy has become a reality.

BB: Thank you Stephen for your time and thank you again for being our initial interviewee. We are extraordinarily confident that people will be fascinated getting to know you a bit better.

SC: You’re very welcome.

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