What Is a ‘Biblioblog’? The Discussion Continues

It all started over questions about the functionality of the Biblioggers Monthly Carnival.   The issue stemmed, quite frankly, from the copious amount of blogs which have been categorized as ‘Biblioblogs’, which made wading through the pertinent posts around the blogosphere difficult and tedious, and for those of us with limited schedules, it becomes a time-consuming job which probably weighs low on the priority scale compared to publishing and educational duties many have in the blogosphere.

This raised several concerns, like ‘Why are there so many Biblioblogs?’ and ‘Are these all really Bibliologs?’.   Once these concerns were exposed, the blogosphere came alive with buzz discussing criteria.  What, after all, qualifies a blog as a ‘Biblioblog’?  Was this question never raised before?  Had the title simply been handed out as if it were a novelty at an SBL convention (no, this would be too rare…free stuff at SBL?!)?  In days of yore (some might say ‘happier times’–though not I), there were but a handful of Bibliobloggers.  Now there are hundreds.  And the Biblioblogs list is astronomical.  Even perusing the Reference Library (thanks Steve!) is daunting if one has no particular end goal but to locate interesting blogs.

In the end, perhaps establishing an authoritative list of Biblioblogs might be worthwhile and in order to do that, perhaps one needs to determine what exactly meets ‘the right stuff’.  Steve Caruso has begrudgingly (I think) listed several criteria for determining such a question and has requested that the rest of the community become active in hammering out the finer details of the list.  So here are my thoughts.

My first point of contention (one that Steve has also already raised himself, along with Joel Watts) is concerning the criterion for publication (it is listed as an additional criterion, not one of the ‘core three’).  As it goes:

b) Publication – The author is published (books, journal articles, etc.) in the field they blog about, excluding vanity publishing from services like Lulu or CreateSpace.

Yet many who are published also publish via POD.  James McGrath and Jim West, for example, are two notable Bibliobloggers who meet other criteria but who are both published academically yet also have used POD.  POD has, overall, been a very lucrative and viable option for scholars who might want to reach a wider audience who prefer not to go through the trouble of finding a press.  I believe there is substantial reason to clarify this criterion, perhaps to allow for exemptions, wherein the Biblioblogger has already been published (or will be published), yet still uses POD.

Following that, I have another point of contention with this criterion:

a) Credentials, Experience & Endorsement – The author holds appropriate credentials, has relevant experience, or is endorsed by those who do in the field they write about.

First, let me point out that I do not think this is an unwarranted criterion, especially since it is listed under ‘additional criteria’ and is essentially not part of the ‘core three’.  My issue with this is that it is very broad, which might be useful and it might also be a burden.  For example, why John Loftus might have interesting things to say, I couldn’t consider him a ‘Biblioblogger’, but he is credentialed on the subject (as a former pastor and he is published on subjects related to Biblical Studies, and he is endorsed by some scholars).   He might not meet one of the other ‘core three’ criteria, so he might not be the best example to use in this instance (I don’t particularly find John to be very civil–even if he is intelligent, and his subject seems to be focused entirely on ending religion, which doesn’t seem to fit into the relevance criterion at all).  But of course my feelings on this are completely subjective–there might be those out there who find he fits in well within the Biblioblogging community and who enjoy his tone.  So where would that classify him?

And what about Neil Godfrey?  Where does he fall?  He writes almost exclusively on subjects relating to Biblical Studies (some might even say he writes more on Biblical Studies than James McGrath who probably writes as much about LOST and Doctor Who as he does on subjects relating to the Bible–and can we really blame him?).  Yet he is neither credentialed nor endorsed by any scholar that I know of, but as an amateur he often initiates interesting discussions, our personal feelings towards the subject matter aside.  Does this place him among the Biblioblogging community or do we disregard this blog?  Do we then, also, exclude it as a counter-point to discussions of the historicity of the figure of Jesus in Biblioblog carnivals?  I don’t necessarily think that is fair, either.   Remember, this all started because it has become difficult to sift through all the Biblioblogs out there; excluding one might have consequences on conversations, and therein lies a problem.  But is it an insurmountable one?  Perhaps the criteria need to be adjusted to make room for certain blogs which, while they might not be considered ‘Biblioblogs’, are still useful and might have a place under a separate category which can be referenced?

What do you think?  What criteria would you adjust?  What do you consider to be a ‘Biblioblog?’  I know my feelings on the matter; the debate continues and it shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

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5 Responses

  1. Christian, I think you raise an interesting point. I do hope I am not one of those ‘Perez Hilton’ types just for attempting to help define the question (and perhaps the answers–if any can be determined). Still, I find it interesting you bring attention to Phil. 4:8; after all, can such questions get any more subjective? That is, after all, the issue here, is it not? Whereas you nor I might well be considered ‘Bibliobloggers’ according to someones criteria, but we are according to another. Who is the one to make such distinctions? That is perhaps why determining a set of criteria might be worthwhile. Perhaps everyone might not agree with it, perhaps you and I might be excluded, or perhaps we shall be included. But not having any seems to be as much of a problem as having criteria which are too strict.

  2. [...] Tom Verenna asks whether credentials or sci-fi side interests should affect one’s status. [...]

  3. This new list of criterion is aimed at keeping those who question the existing paradigm of Christianity from belonging to the forum. It is that simple. The people who run this list are members of a dying culture. They allowed the heathen in for a while and saw that their influence was growing. As a result the two of the blogs from last months top 20 (mine and Neil Godfrey’s) have not been included in the new organization.

    Why isn’t membership tied to knowledge rather than belief system? At the end of the day I wanted to share ideas with people who didn’t necessarily agree with what I was saying before going into the discussion.

    Call me naive but that isn’t that what academia is supposed to be about? Since when does everyone have to agree with everyone else’s presuppositions? This is only the sign of decline and is typical of this dying religious culture.

    But life goes on …

    Stephan (using a very old wordpress account)

  4. I’m certainly not a biblioblogger (nor do I aspire to be), so to some extent am a non-combatant, but I wonder if I can offer something helpful, as an outsider. It sounds to me as if something bad is beginning to happen here.

    As I understand it, the term biblioblogger simply originally applied to people who blogged about the bible, generally from an academic rather than confessional perspective. Then it drifted into “people who used to write about the bible but now write about all sorts of stuff but whom we’re all reading”. I think of Jim West as the example here.

    This is the point of failure. This, I suggest, is the point at which “biblioblogger” ceased to mean “person blogging about biblical studies” and became “member of a clique of people who have some kind of connection to biblical studies”. This is the point at which “in” and “out” began to be important, rather than “are you writing about this or that”.

    Since bibliobloggers seem to be blowing their trumpet as bibliobloggers — “we’re an authority” is the message that reaches me — then naturally all sorts of people say “me too!” And since all those people are not part of the clique — otherwise they’d already have reached agreement with those within — they get the bird. Then they get cross! And, not without reason.

    It’s all about politics, esteem, power, and influence. That is, it’s about all the things that come in once people stop being focused on a subject, and become focused on themselves.

    Solution? Break up the clique, break up the idea that “biblioblogging” is something more than a descriptive term. Stop publishing that list of who is In and who is Out. If you lot want to, that is.

    Of course I could be drivelling here. I don’t find the world of bibliobloggers interesting enough to read any of them more than occasionally. As a Christian, but also as a deeply cynical man, I find much of it rather amusing for reasons that the writers would probably not appreciate much. And no doubt they feel the same about my own scribblings online — and that’s fine. But … for what it’s worth, that’s what the real problem looks like to me. Stephan’s comments are merely an instance of the underlying class of problems.

    Just my thoughts. Ignore me if I’m wrong. But I thought I’d share them!

    By the way, Tom, you might enjoy this post at booktalk.org, where a gang from headbanger HQ, prop. Acharya S, have set up shop. All of us enjoy reading about ourselves.

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