Claude Mariottini (7/07)

Blogger of the Month for July 2007

Jim West Interviews Claude Mariottini


Editorial Note: Claude Mariottini authors a blog at claudemariottini.com/blog/.

JW: Professor, tell us a bit about your background so that our readers who are unfamiliar with you might learn a bit about who you are.

CM: I am originally from Brazil but have lived in the USA since 1963. I graduated from Golden Gate Seminary (M. Div.) in San Francisco and from The Southern Baptist Seminary (Ph.D). My wife is from Missouri and this year we are celebrating our 40th anniversary. I have three sons and two granddaughters. I have been teaching at Northern Baptist Seminary since 1988.

JW: You started blogging back in August, 2005, which means that in a month you will celebrate your second “blogiversary”. What drew you to blogging?

CM: It was my son who suggested that I should blog. He works for a company which deals with computer software and he helped me set up my web page and my blog. He served as my webmaster until last year.

JW: Why do you think blogging is important?

CM: Blogging allows me to express some of my views and write on issues that interest me and topics that are of interest to readers. In addition, through blogging I can reach an audience beyond the Chicago area. For instance, I recently wrote a blog on Slavery in China. That post alone brought to my blog almost 1,000 visitors from China. If it were not for blogging I would never be able to speak to people in China.

JW: What is the biggest problem, as you see it, with biblioblogging?

CM: To me it is lack of time. In addition to teaching full time here at Northern, I also pastor a church in South Chicago. This means that I do not have enough free time to write as much as I want. If time would allow, I would post more articles dealing with important topics in the Old Testament. I also like to address in my posts issues of translation. To write good posts that have content in them takes time and this is what I lack most.

JW: How does your blog “interact” with your other academic work?

CM: My students read my blogs. I generally like to write blogs that are related to issues and topics I teach in class. When a post is related to a lecture or a topic to be discussed in class, my students read my blogs and then we discuss them in class. Also, former students ask me to write on a specific topic and as times permit, I write on those topics requested by my readers. Right now I have three special requests but I still have not been able to dedicate time to write on them.

JW: Which blogs do you find the most engaging?

CM: I subscribe to and read regularly about 10-12 blogs but I visit several others regularly. Since my time is very limited, I generally look at the titles of the posts and read those which deal with topics or issues that relate to the Old Testament. As you know, I have been serving as the Director of the Self-Study here at the seminary and this project has consumed most of my time. After I finish with this project, I hope to increase dialogue with other bibliobloggers.

JW: What do you see as the future of blogging the Bible?

CM: The future for blogging the Bible is wide open. People have a real hunger for knowledge and blogging is one way by which people can satisfy that hunger. Blogging can be time consuming; for this reason it is possible that some bibliobloggers may stop blogging. However, I do not see an end to blogging the Bible. To the contrary. I believe that it will continue to grow and it will attract more bloggers.

JW: Tell us a bit about your other website (homepage), Claudemariottini.com

CM: My desire was to develop my web page and provide help for students and pastors. Several months ago, my son, who was my webmaster, told me that because of the demands of his job, he would be unable to continue as my webmaster. Unfortunately, my work with the Self-Study has not allowed me the luxury to work on the web page. I hope to be able to return to my homepage in the Fall and little by little add study helps that can benefit pastors and seminary students.

JW: You blog on a wide range of issues, including but not limited to Hebrew Bible, current events, and what I would term “ethical issues”. Are there other subjects you would like to blog but feel that they would be “out of place” on your blog?

CM: From the beginning my goal was to blog on issues related to the Hebrew Bible. My goal was to write on biblical topics. Also, I desired to write on how the Old Testament was used and applied in society. At times I wrote satire, like my post on “The Whale That Swallowed London,” or the one on ” Wrestling for the Lord,” and the one on ” Abraham Loved Ice Cream.” The one on ice cream brought a response from Lebanon. I also love writing on archaeological topics.

At times I would like to write on politics, but people sometimes misunderstand what you write. I wrote one on Alito and one on Obama but the most popular (and it continues to be so) is the one on George Bush and the Antichrist.

JW: Your Christian faith is self-evident in each post (which is a compliment, by the way). But of late there has been a good bit of discussion concerning Christians and non-Christians as biblical exegetes and historians. Do you see your faith as a help or a hindrance to interpretation of the biblical witness?

CM: I enjoy dialoguing with Atheists. Many of them write to me and read what I write. As a minister and as one who teaches men and women who are preparing for the ministry, I believe that faith is important in what I do. My faith helps me interpret the biblical text; otherwise we have a Bible that is only the work of a group of people who invented a history in order to justify a religious faith. I have a faith in search of understanding. This means that I need to read Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens and understand their argument. I read Liverani and I read Finkelstein but in the end I still believe in the basic historicity of the biblical narrative. By the way, this summer I am planning to write one post on Hitchens and one post on Liverani.

JW: Why do you think (if you do) Christians are “better” at interpreting the Bible?

CM: I believe Jews and Christians can be good interpreters of the Bible. Atheists cannot be good interpreters of the Bible because they already begin with the assumption that the Bible is a bunch of nothing. Historically, both Jews and Christians can interpret the Bible and provide correct information to readers. Theologically, however, I believe Christians may have a better understanding of the Bible because they can understand the work of God in Christ. If Christians take seriously the truth that “The Word became flesh,” then the Incarnation gives Christians a better understanding of the work of God in history.

JW: You have a great appreciation for what many would call ‘conservative’ exegesis. Do you consider yourself a ‘conservative’?

CM: Yes and no. To some people I am a liberal because I accept and use biblical criticism. That alone brands me as a liberal. Others consider me a conservative because I take seriously the historicity of the biblical text. To many people in the SBL I am a conservative. To all people in the Evangelical Theological Society I am a liberal. I consider myself in the middle. If people want to peg me, then I would say that I am a conservative with an open mind.

JW: Turning the corner a bit, what interesting fact about yourself would you like to share with our readers? Are you a violinist like Michael Pahl or a professional footballer (hopeful) like James Crossley, or?

CM: I like classical music and I like opera. I am a trekkie at heart and love to watch reruns of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”

JW: When you aren’t teaching, writing and reading, what do you like to do in your ‘down time’?

CM: I like to read novels that have some relationship with the Bible. Have you read “A Map of Bones”? Or “Angels and Demons”? I recommend these two books to you if you like to read novels.

JW: Finally, if you were given the opportunity to meet a famous historical person, who would it be, and why? (This question aims to uncover people’s central interest).

CM: Let me name two, a woman and a man. The woman is a biblical character (which by the way, I believe she was historical).

I would like to meet Sheerah, a woman who built Lower and Upper Beth Horon as well as Uzzen Sheerah (1 Chronicles 7:24). Can you imagine, a woman who built three cities. She was a remarkable woman.

Then, I would like to meet Abraham Lincoln because he was able to persevere and accomplish many of his goals notwithstanding all of the pain and tragedies he faced in his life.

JW: Thank you, Claude, for taking the time to answer our queries. [And if Brandon has any he will pass them along].

CM: My pleasure. Thank you for the invitation to introduce myself and my work to readers everywhere.

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