Blogger of the Month for November 2006
Jim West Interviews Brandon Wason
JW: Brandon, thanks for your willingness to subject yourself to public scrutiny. It may seem odd to readers that one of the editors of Biblioblogs.com is this month’s interviewee, but I thought it might be a good idea for folk to get to know you a little better.
BW: Thank you for the suggestion and opportunity, Jim.
JW: So, on to the questions. First, what’s your interest in Biblical studies and how did you come to it?
BW: For the past six or seven years my interest in biblical studies has grown exponentially. It began at church. Since high school I had been interested in theology, but not so much the academic side of biblical studies. Then, about a year or so out of high school, I was serving on staff at a church where the members had some interest in biblical studies. The pastor would talk about the historical background of Corinth if he were teaching through the Corinthian epistles. The book of Acts lent plenty of opportunities to look at maps and images of Greco-Roman cities. Seeing these sorts of things at church got me interested. Then I started reading works by people like F. F. Bruce, Leon Morris, Peter O’Brien, and Gordon Fee. The more I investigated these things the more interested I became.
The next logical step for me was to go to college and begin studying in this field. I started attending Fullerton College. At this point I planned on transferring to a place like Biola University or Wheaton College to earn a degree in theology or biblical studies. Yet after reading F. F. Bruce’s autobiography In Retrospect, I decided to go in a different direction. Bruce studied Classics, not biblical studies, nevertheless he taught and published extensively in biblical studies. His background in Classics prepared him for the field of biblical studies. There are others who followed similar routes of studying Classics (like Metzger, Danker, Blaiklock to name a few). Seeing the value of Classics as laying a good foundation for biblical studies, I started taking classical Greek at California State University, Long Beach. There, I had a very good professor (Douglas Domingo-Forasté) who encouraged me to stay at CSULB, from where I eventually graduated with a degree in Classics.
When I approached biblical studies, I went into it with a lot of presuppositions. I have a lot less now. I began studying to learn more about Christ and the gospel, but sometimes I lose sight of my original goals, getting caught up in seeing academics not as a means, but a goal. It’s always important to remember why you started something. In this case, it’s imperative for me to find not the historical Jesus only, but the Christ of my faith as well.
JW: How do you see the confluence of your interest in the Classics and biblical texts as influencing one another?
BW: Like I just said, the study of Classics is an important backdrop to the study of New Testament. It’s not the only one, but an important one, nonetheless. The term Classics includes a number of things about the Greco-Roman world. This includes language (chiefly Greek and Latin), literature, history, philosophy, religion, culture, and archaeology etc. You can imagine how such topics could illuminate our understanding of the New Testament.
- Language — The New Testament was written in ancient Greek and translated into Latin.
- Literature — There are parallels between the New Testament and other works of Greco-Roman literature. Countless studies have been done in this area. The genre of the gospels find their parallel with works called bioi. Luke makes literary parallels to well-known works. Paul quotes from Greco-Roman authors.
- History — The study of ancient historiography helps us better place Luke-Acts in its proper genre. I just finished a book by Gregory E. Sterling that goes into much detail about this. The book is called Historiography and Self-Definition: Josephos, Luke-Acts and Apologetic Historiography (Leiden: Brill, 1992).
- Philosophy — Ancient philosophy sheds light on Paul’s writings and background. For example, see Troels Engberg-Pedersen’s book Paul and the Stoics (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2000).
- Religion — The study of Roman religion with respect to the New Testament has given rise to many recent studies—especially pertaining to the Imperial Cult. For example, Richard Horsley, Paul and the Roman Imperial Order (Harrisburg: Trinity Press International, 2004), or Hans-Josef Klauck’s The Religious Context of Early Christianity: A Guide to Graeco-Roman Religions (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 2000).
- Culture — The Greco-Roman culture as a background to the New Testament cannot be underestimated. The Context Group is a good example here.
- Archaeology — This too is important for properly situating the events and places of the New Testament. I’m currently working on a project that looks at the archaeology of first-century Ephesus and its bearing on Acts 19.
One work, which may be of interest to some, is Danker’s A Century of Greco-Roman Philology (Atlanta: SBL, 1988). I’ve simply scratched the surface on how Classics and biblical studies relate. Naturally we want to stray away from any single type of backdrop for the study of the New Testament. The over emphasis on the Greco-Roman background should be avoided in the same way that an over-emphasis of a Jewish background should be avoided. Of course, much more can be said here, but I’d hate to bore the readers even more.
JW: Where did you live and study before you moved to Georgia?
BW: I was born in Orange County, California. I’ve lived in every part of the county and have grown to like it very much. Of course, I have a romanticized view of certain cities because I spent my childhood there. Orange County is that small coastal region between Los Angeles and San Diego. Some people now know it as ‘The OC’ but we never used any such nomenclature. Though I’m partial, I still think it’s much nicer than Atlanta even though Decatur is starting to grow on me.
JW: And what are you doing now?
BW: I am currently working on an MTS in Biblical Studies (New Testament, really) at Candler School of Theology, Emory University. Candler became a clear choice for me for a number of reasons. Since I am interested in Luke-Acts, the faculty at Candler seemed like a good fit. Also, I wanted to stay close to either my family in California, or Wendy’s family in Alabama, and Emory University in Atlanta is about as close as it comes to Alabama. Yet even more so, the atmosphere at Emory is very helpful for biblical studies. I have nearly half of Pitts Theology Library checked out, and it isn’t too often that I’ll look for a book that they do not possess. Nevertheless, I am enjoying my time at Candler very much and am glad that I came here (even if Atlanta pales in comparison to California).
JW: What are your plans when you finish your education?
BW: My plans are still very general. I hope to be able to teach New Testament. I definitely have aspirations, but before I start thinking about where I might find employment, I still need to figure out where to do my PhD. Any suggestions? I enjoy both the research and the teaching aspect, so I’d like to end up some place that would be good for both.
JW: Do you care to describe how you came to become a biblioblogger?
BW: I began blogging in July of 2001. A co-worker had been blogging and introduced me to the medium. Since I was already a web developer I found it easy and addicting. After that, I kept blogging for a few years and eventually lost some interest, but I still follow some of the blogs from this era (e.g.,Nowheresville.us, How Now, Brownpau?, and wyclif.net). This was all back in the days before RSS revolutionized the whole process. When biblioblogs began popping up, I found that to be a very nice use of the blogging medium. Blogs likeMark Goodacre’s, Jim West’s, Torrey Seland’s, and Jim Davila’s were the first that I started reading by people doing biblical studies. After reading these blogs, I thought to myself that could be fun, and I was right.
JW: Besides Biblioblogs.com, you also have another blog—do tell us about it please.
BW: My blog is called Novum Testament Blog. The name ‘novum testamentum’ is Latin for New Testament, and as you can probably tell, it’s a blog primarily interested in the New Testament. This blog has been a lot of fun and I don’t have any plans of letting up, though at times I’ll go on a short hiatus. Actually, I would like to see Novum Testamentum Blog grow by adding other contributors to it because I like the style of various team blogs like ETC. If anyone’s interested, let me know.
JW: What value do you find in blogging and where do you see it going?
BW: I think that blogging is valuable for a number of reasons. It helps people to express and interact with new ideas. Additionally, one can learn about events and lectures. Also, meeting new people is nice as well. I have had lunch with people whom I would not have even known lest I found their blog.
Where is blogging headed? That’s a question to which I don’t know the answer. In many ways it is growing rapidly and is getting hard to keep track of all the new blogs. Blogrolls can only be so long and I know that it is hard enough to read all the blogs that I check via RSS. Because of this I feel that I miss out on some very interesting posts, but I still find the whole thing worthwhile. Let me just say, thank goodness for the Biblical Studies Carnival resurrected by Tyler Williams (Michael Pahl did this month’s). Will there be more team blogs? I hope so. In last month’s interview, Michael Pahl noted that team blogs lose some of the personality of the induvidual authors. I agree with this, but I think that some blogs would work better as team blogs while others should remain with an individual author. I’m not very good at predicting how technology will change. In a few years the whole blog thing may be a thing of the past, but now we have an opportunity to dialogue with and enjoy this medium.
JW: When you aren’t studying or blogging, what occupies your time?
BW: Unfortunately I am still in search of a patron. In the meantime, I work nearly full-time as a web programmer to pay the bills. I enjoy my job, but believe me, it would be nice to have more time spent on studying. When I do have free time, sometimes I’ll watch television, yet there are only a couple of shows that I watch: My Name is Earl, The Office, and whatever’s on the Discovery channel (I’m addicted Mythbusters), or the History Channel.
Sometimes we’ll go somewhere local for the weekend. A couple of weeks ago we drove up to Helen, Georgia and to Lake Unicoi. We’ll also drive down to Alabama to visit Wendy’s family. I enjoy these trips because I’m learning long-distance precision shooting from my father-in-law who has a 1,000-yard rifle range on his property.
Church has also been a big part of my life here in Atlanta. Wendy and I have been attending a church called All Souls Fellowship in Decatur. We’ve been enjoying it very much and it’s hard to believe that it’s the first church we decided to visit in the area. Between Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday evening, we spend a good portion of the week at church.
JW: What hobbies do you enjoy?
BW: Before I became so busy I used to have hobbies. I used to draw, but I haven’t done that recently. I used to skateboard but that was a long time ago. Now, I would say that I enjoy music and working on various projects involving tools. As far as music goes, I tend to listen to bands that fall under the umbrella of classic rock. The Eagles are one of my favorites, but others would be the Beatles, Steely Dan, and of course death wesleyan hymns. With the urging of my wife, I also listen to more modern bands such as the Bravery, the Killers, and Death Cab for Cutie. On the other hand, we nearly wore out the Garden Statesoundtrack.
JW: Does your wife read your blog?
BW: My wife does in fact read my blog, which is nice because she usually finds my mistakes and spelling errors. I once posted something in commemoration of our third year of marriage, and said, “Not that my sweet wife, Wendy, ever reads my blog, but the day warrants the post nonetheless.” Mark Goodacre picked up on this and wrote about the strange dynamics of blogging. But my wife does read my blog. I think she does it to make sure that I don’t embarrass myself, and in turn, embarrass her.
JW: What fact about you do you think readers would find interesting? And by that I mean, are you an accomplished musician or an actor at the local theater or a commercial voiceover star or something other unique?
BW: Unfortunately I am not an accomplished musician, or actor, and I think my voice sounds terrible on recordings. I guess that, in the words of Joe Walsh, I consider myself an “ordinary average guy.”
JW: Finally, Brandon, thank you!
BW: Thank you, Jim, for the interview. I also want to extent gratitude to all the other bloggers that have participated so far. I know now what kind of work it takes to do one of these interviews!