As part of the “Press Publish” series on academic blogging, I am conducting short interviews with prominent academic bloggers from around the world. (The ‘hub’ for the discussion is the initial post on Starting an Academic Blog where the discussion and links to interviews are kept up-to-date).
Our second interview is with Dr. Jim West, Adjunct Professor of Biblical Studies at the Quartz Hill School of Theology and Pastor of Petros Baptist Church, Petros, Tennessee. He has written a number of books and articles and serves as Language Editor for the Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament and Language Revision Editor for the Copenhagen International Seminar. He also blogs, as you may know, at Zwinglius Redivivus.
Many thanks to Jim for sharing his perspective on academic blogging.
1. When and why did you start blogging?
I don’t remember the year but it was at the very beginning of the ‘phenomenon’. Mark Goodacre and Jim Davila had both started blogs which, sensibly, focused on their fields of expertise (New Testament and Hebrew Bible/ Pseudepigrapha respectively). I decided that a more generalist blog was also needed so I started my own which embraced both Hebrew Bible, New Testament, Theology, Church History, and current events. The blogs of Goodacre and Davila and then my own were quickly followed by numerous others, each focusing on the areas of interest of their authors. I wrote several years back an essay titled Blogging the Bible: A Short History, in the Bulletin For the Study of Religion, September, 2010, which discusses all of this in greater detail.
2. What are a few of the benefits you see in blogging?
There are numerous benefits of course but for me the primary purpose of blogging is to get good, solid, scholarly information usually only of concern to specialists out to the wider public. Of course it doesn’t hurt to mix that with humor and even a bit of snark (simply for the sake of entertainment). People really are interested in such things and the mainstream media scarcely ever get it right (witness the ridiculous exaggerations every time some archaeological ‘discovery’ comes to light). Our job as academics is to help people understand the facts. If we ‘package’ them in an intelligible way, they’ll ‘get it’.
3. Should more academics be blogging?
Some should and some shouldn’t. Some are dull as dishwater when they lecture, write, and speak so they should probably avoid it because they would ‘turn people off’ to biblical studies related blogs. Others definitely should. There are brilliant people in the guild who should share their knowledge with the public and not restrict their work to monographs and academic conferences.
4. What advice would you give an academic who is thinking about starting?
Just do it, do it regularly, do it intelligently, do it in an entertaining fashion, and tell the truth. Few things are more frustrating than an academic who announces a blog who never implements it in practice or who posts so irregularly that when they finally do, no one bothers to read them because they’ve dipped below the horizon due to inactivity.
Thanks again to Dr. Jim West for contributing to the discussion!
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