Tuesday, February 6, 2007

AAR/SBL Conversation Continued

I have received some very thoughtful feedback that I want to post on the main page of the blog because it appears to me that many have had similar reactions to the AAR/SBL split. I would very much like to continue the conversation to see where it might go. Here is a response from a person who e-mailed me. This person has given me permission to publish the response anonymously.

"I don't belong to SBL, partly because I haven't got around to it, but partly because I wasn't really sure how much 'use' it would be to me. I guess the name 'Biblical Literature' speaks to me of literature that made it into the Christian canon (and possibly the deuterocanonical books). My only real contact has been through a few papers from SBL conference proceedings and through the SBL fonts email list.

Logic suggests that an organisation that is working on such a wide range of fonts can't be devoted solely to Christian canonical and deuterocanonical material, but I think the title is unfortunate for those who are working either outside the canon or from outside a faith perspective. I've visited the website several times and looked at what the benefits of membership are and decided that they're probably not all that great for me. As a Christian minister working on Nag Hammadi texts, I obviously don't find a particularly large group of colleagues within my own denomination, but the SBL website doesn't actually convince me that I'd find many more within its ranks.

This is quite possibly a very unfair jugdment of SBL, but I suspect that this is possibly the kind of thing SBL is working against. And archaelologists are wary of theologians and biblical scholars.

I couldn't work out for several years why one of the archaelogists at my university avoided me even though we shared several common interests, until we needed to work together on a particular project. After that, he decided that I wasn't going to shove the Bible down his throat at every turn. We now spar gently in public forums when his rampant atheism gets too much for me, and get on quite well in private, but I could understand why people like him would vote against joining SBL."

3 comments:

Nicholas Kiger said...

I think this critique has been offered many times, and is obviously a reason for concern. I also see a sort of arrogance projected by the SBL (of which I am a student member). Not towards its younger members like myself, but towards the public. I would like to think that people care about the work of the SBL, but are put off by the attitude we as scholars sometimes have about the "club" we call biblical scholarship. I think SBL and other organizations must be careful to realize this.

I by the way was disappointed about the split. I remember attending more AAR sections at the annual meeting than SBL sections. The alliance was beneficial, because like you I don't think biblcial studies or biblical literature should be confined by the canon of the New Testament, Hebrew Bible, or even Christianity and Judaism. For example, what has African culture taught us about the New Testament world? So many things! That is why the benefit of the SBL/AAR alliance was so great, and the split is such a disappointment.

Sara Sinim (Pandora) said...

This was my second SBL/AAR and I joined AAR two days ago. I talked to 20-30 participants of both organizations and none of them want the split. Regardless of our personal beliefs it makes economic sense for us to stay together.

My brother and sister in law were living in Alaska making as much as the President of the USA together. Now they are both living in relative poverty.

Why?

Sara Sinim (Pandora) said...

This was my second SBL/AAR and I joined AAR two days ago. I talked to 20-30 participants of both organizations and none of them want the split. Regardless of our personal beliefs it makes economic sense for us to stay together.

My brother and sister in law were living in Alaska making as much as the President of the USA together. Now they are both living in relative poverty.