Blogger of the Month for May 2006
Brandon Wason Interviews Tyler Williams
Editorial Note: Tyler Williams is the author of the weblogCodex Blogspot at http://biblical-studies.ca/blog/.
BW: Thank you Tyler for being this month’s Blog of the Month. We appreciate your willingness to participate during the most hectic part of the academic year.
Tell us about yourself. Where you are from? What is your religious tradition?
TW: As my readers will know, I was born the morning of April 1st, 1966 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. I grew up in Edmonton, cheering for the Edmonton Oilers and the Edmonton Eskimos, playing soccer, baseball, football, squash, and rugby, and doing pretty good in school, although I never really applied myself until college. My parents divorced when I was quite young and I was not raised within any religious tradition (does secular hedonistic pagan count?).
I became a Christian and started attending church in my last year of high school primarily through the influence of a girlfriend (I was captain of the football team and she was head cheerleader — isn’t that just too corny!). She encouraged me to come to church with her and while I resisted at first, she wore me down and eventually I started to attend. Her church happened to be a North American Baptist church (a conservative to moderate evangelical denomination) and that became my religious tradition. Today I would describe myself as a left-leaning small “b” baptist.
I teach at Taylor University College, which is a small Christian liberal arts college with Baptist roots. I have a wonderful wife and three kids (11, 8 and 5), and according to my wife, I have too many computers and watch too many weird films. (And I have grown quite fond of Texas Hold’em Poker!)
BW: How did you became interested in the academic study of the Hebrew Bible?
TW: I was always planning to take over my father’s mechanical contracting business (I went up to my third year of my plumbing apprenticeship), but after I became a Christian, I became fascinated with the Bible. That fascination eventually led me to the academic study of the Bible and teaching. My decision to focus on the Hebrew Bible was more practical. I recall a conversation with one of my professors who simply pointed out that when they have a New Testament position open they receive a huge stack of CVs, while for Old Testament there are not nearly as many. That being said, I also grew to love the Hebrew Bible — especially its beautiful narrative and poetry and its down-to-earth presentation of its characters.
BW: Would you mind telling us about your current research interests in the Old Testament?
TW: I have pretty wide research interests. I have interests in the book of Psalms, the Septuagint, the Dead Sea Scrolls, ancient historiography, the book of Chronicles, religion and popular culture, the Bible and film, biblical Hebrew, and software for biblical studies. I have a number of writing projects on the go. Currently I am finishing up my doctoral dissertation on the final formation of the book of Psalms in the light of the Greek Psalter and the Dead Sea Scrolls. I am also working on a commentary on the book of Chronicles and a few small dictionary entries and book reviews.
BW: You posted on this back in February after Fox’s article came out, but tell us briefly your position on the Faith-Based Scholarship issue.
TW: While I would encourage everyone to read my post on the subject, my position is that as long as people are clear and up front about their presuppositions and commitments (both with themselves and with others) and are academically and methodologically rigorous, then their scholarship may be useful and productive for those who may not be like-minded. I don’t think that any scholarship may be entirely value free and presuppositionless — that notion is a hermeneutical dinosaur left over from previous centuries. That being said, I think some interpretations may be better than others. What I strongly object to are narrow exclusive definitions of what is “true” or “proper” scholarship. I have always tried to be as inclusive as I can be, since it has been my experience that I often learn more from scholars who hold very different beliefs and presuppositions than I do.
BW: When and what were the circumstances of how you decided to begin a blog?
TW: I began my blog on a whim just over a year ago. My friend and former student, Ken Ristau (of Anduril.ca fame) had mentioned his blog and I checked it out on occasion. Then when I was in the middle of a major overhaul of my biblical studies website (Codex.ca), I decided to start a blog. At first I was thinking it would be a good way to let people know about updates to my site, but then it took on a life of its own.
BW: What have you found to be the advantages and disadvantages of blogging?
TW: I can think of a number of advantages to blogging. It forces me to write and think about issues, it provides a service and a resource to people worldwide (in this respect I see my blogging as an extension of my teaching), and it has connected me with an international community of bloggers. The last point is perhaps one of the biggest benefits. I have met some pretty neat people through my blog.
Perhaps the biggest disadvantage is the time involved to maintain a blog and keep it both interesting and informative. I always try to overlap my blogging with my course preparation and other research, so I find I have more than enough ideas. Finding the time to write up posts for the blog is more of the problem.
BW: What blogs do you read the most and find helpful?
TW: I have a pretty lengthy blog roll that I check out regularly with a feed reader (more extensive than the roll on my own blog). I’m not sure if I want to highlight some more than others since I find them all helpful and interesting — it really depends on the individual posts.
BW: Everybody knows about your big contest of a month ago. Do you plan on having more contests like that, or was one enough for you? By the way, I am certain that I was the 40,000th visitor of your site.
TW: I enjoy having contests, though the 40,000th visitor contest was a bit of a train wreck (The 40,000th visitor still remains a mystery… if it was you Brandon, so sorry! Jim Aitken is enjoying your book!). While visitor number 50,000 is fast approaching, I’m not sure if I am up for another contest so soon! Maybe I’ll wait until 100,000 to have another contest.
BW: There has been some question of the possible dissolution of the “biblioblog” community. What do you think about this, and the future of academic blogging?
TW: I don’t think there is anything to worry about. Like most things on the internet, any such “biblioblog” community will be amorphous. Individual blogs will have natural life cycles with peaks and valleys depending on the time of year and people’s lives. The fact of the matter is that for most people, their blog is relatively low on their list of priorities — and that’s fine. Personally, I find blogging to be an energizing activity most of the time, though there are times — like the end of the academic year — when I need to take a break and build a rabbit hutch or something!
In terms of academic blogging, I think it has a bright future. There will always be a core number of professors, scholars, grad students, and other academically inclined people who will sustain the community. While I don’t think there needs to be any official peer review process, there is an informal one as people comment on posts and submit posts to the Biblical Studies Carnival or other carnivals.
BW: In your estimation as the coordinator, how has the Biblical Studies Carnival been going and whom do we have lined up for the coming months?
TW: I think it has worked out great. All of the Carnivals have been very well done and I have had no shortage of volunteers to host future Carnivals. We could always use more submissions because I think there are more posts out there worthy of mention. The next Biblical Studies Carnival is going to be hosted by Ben Myers over at Faith and Theology, so you know it is going to be very well done! In addition, if any one has any suggestions or recommendations for the BSC, please let me know. I don’t want to control it, I just want to facilitate it!
BW: We always like to ask if you have some claim to fame or an interesting fact about yourself that none of your readers are likely to know. Any surprises? (And don’t say that you like U2, because we already know that.)
TW: Hmmm… I can’t think about any significant claim to fame (does my superfluous third nipple count?), but a little known fact is that while I was captain of the football and rugby teams in High School, I also was on the Cheerleader squad — and I have some medals to prove it! (That is what happens when your girlfriend is the head cheerleader and they need some burly he-men to lift them up and throw them around!)
Oh, yeah, another little known fact is that I have absolutely no sense of humour. None whatsoever. Nothing. Nada.
BW: Thanks again, Tyler for participating. I always find your blog an entertaining read.
TW: Thank you, Brandon.