What is biblioblog?

April DeConnickApril DeConnickFor any of you who don’t know, I intend for this blog to be a biblioblog. So what’s a biblioblog? Well, for some it refers to a blog about books. But for many of us in the blogosphere, a biblioblog is a blog pertaining specifically (at least quite frequently) to the Bible. 

The question of what defines a biblioblog has been tossed around for several years. When I went to the 2005 annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in Philadelphia, I attended a meeting of bibliobloggers. That was my introduction to the likes of Jim Davila, Mark Goodacre, Jim West, Rick Brannon, and Stephen Carlson in person. This was nearly two years before I started a blog since I purposely took a long time considering how my blog should function before I actually started one.

April DeConnickSome blogs are narrow in their topic, while others are randomly all over the place. Some stick to their academic or professional field, while others run more like a personal diary. Jim West and Brandon Wason keep a list of biblioblogs and feature an interview of a new biblioblogger each month at biblioblogs.com. This is a well-known blog, especially since it has been around for so long (since 10/2005), but it certainly isn’t an ‘official’ or ‘canonical’ list. My final inspiration for actually sitting down and starting my own blog came from reading the interview of April DeConick (8/07). A much longer listing of Bible bloggers has been compiled by John Hobbins at Ancient Hebrew Poetry.

Last week, April DeConick at The Forbidden Gospels Blog raised the question “What is a biblioblog and who is a biblioblogger?” She asks what the parameters are for biblioblogging, especially in relation to her interests in the apocrypha:

Since I am especially attuned to the issues of canonicity controlling biblical studies’ academic discourse, I began to notice the same marginalization of apocrypha blogs in the biblioblogsphere. Should they be included in carnivals? Should they be mentioned in roundups? Should they be listed under “biblioblogs” on websites?

The comments on her post have been unanimous that biblioblogging should and does include a wider range of topics and disciplines related to understanding the Bible.

Stephen Carlson commented, “I think I once characterized the subject matter of biblioblogging as anything that could be discussed at SBL.” Indeed he did once say that here.

Chris Brady at Targuman apologized for his lack of apocryphal, rabbinic, and patristic material in his recent administration of the Biblical Studies Carnival. He went on to say…

So I personally am very happy with a broader conception of Biblioblogging, as broad as biblical studies itself. This does mean, as Mark Goodacre points out, that a consistent and representative Biblical Studies Carnival is going to be more and more difficult to sustain. But I think we are all richer for the growth and addition of so many new blogs of interest to those in the broad world of biblical studies.

Jim West responds to the question of marginalization and recalls the discussion at SBL 2005 when this same kind of question was asked. And his answer remains the same…

For my part I don’t think there are any ‘marginalized’ blogs or bloggers. The very nature of blogging is such that anyone and everyone who wishes to blog can do so. On the Bible or off it. That fewer folk are interested in the non-canonicals or that fewer women blog or that fewer two-third worlders take part says more about their own inclinations than it does some conspiracy amongst ‘bibliobloggers’ to refuse them access to the inner sanctum or to the ‘canonical list.’  

Jim goes on to suggest a more clearly defined definition…

More to the point for present purposes, in my estimation a biblioblog has as its subject matter the canonical Bible (whether Protestant or Catholic or Orthodox or Jewish) and fields thereto related (like archaeology, textual criticism, exegesis, theology, etc.) Hence my personal definition of a ‘biblioblog’ is both narrower and more inclusive than April’s or, evidently, Chris Brady’s. A ‘biblioblog’ is not, however, a blog which has as its primary subject matter the non-canonical or pseudepigraphal materials simply because those materials have not been found meaningful enough by the community of faith to merit inclusion in the canonical lists. [emphasis mine]

Thus, Jim defines the term negatively, but he stresses that this definition is used primarily for his own purposes and preferences in including blogs on his own blogroll.

Duane Smith at Abnormal Interests offers a “modest suggestion” for a more inclusive definition of a biblioblog…

The definition of an eligible post for the Biblical Studies Carnival if applied to dominate themes in a blog itself just might work.

Biblical Studies: Broadly focused on discipline of biblical studies and cognate disciplines, including Ancient Near East, Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, Christian Origins/New Testament, Intertestamental/Second Temple literature (e.g., LXX, Dead Sea Scrolls, Philo, Josephus, etc.), Patristics, Biblical Criticisms and Hermeneutics, Biblical Studies and popular culture, among other things.

Thus, Duane’s short description…

Any blog that, on a fairly regular basis, has posts that are mentioned in the Biblical Studies Carnivals is a biblioblog.”

Chris Heard at Higgaion decries the “triennial ‘What is a biblioblogger?’ discussion with his post titled “Not this again” and Mark Goodacre breathed a big sigh of relief since he was about to be bothered with writing the same thing as Chris. Chris said…

To me, arguing about who is or isn’t a “biblioblogger,” and which blogs are or are not “biblioblogs,” has no practical value. It reminds me of arguments about “when the Iron Age began”… as if there were a definition of “Iron Age” floating about somewhere in the Platonic world of ideals, to which our own defintions ought to conform. Neither ought anyone’s blog be judged or labeled based on its conformity or nonconformity to an arbitrary definition of a recently-coined word.

Tim Bulkeley at SansBlogue relates the question of biblioblogging to the technology and social networking phenomena of blogging in general to explain why he is still NOT a biblioblogger. It’s like bottling the clouds…

One of the key features defining blogging is the expanding cloud of witnesses who comment on and link to any particular blog. That cloud (and the metaphor is chosen because it does not suggest a hard-edged neat dividing line), or those clouds (since any blog is likely to be part of more than one community of bloggers), locate the blog. Some blogs are neatly and only part of one cloud… Now, if the biblical studies cloud round Abnormal Interests was the same as, or included the biblical studies cloud round Dr Jim West etc. etc… then we could neatly define the biblioblogsphere. But they are not, each writer includes some, but not others of the putative bibliobloggers. The attempt at definition, whether inclusive (Duane) or exclusive (Jim), fails. Or at best only offers an approximate answer, this blog is a bibiloblog with a 65% degree of probability! The technology itself resists the attempt.

Doug Chaplin at MetaCatholic offers a good perspective after pointing out Jim’s remix of “I did it my way” and the ironic twist that Brandon Wason seems to have removed his own blog from the “canonical list” at biblioblogs.com…

Hardly any biblioblogs are exclusive to the bible, and part of the joy of many of them is the getting-to-know-you element of the many other types of posts that sit alongside the bible orientated ones.

Peter Kirk commented…

Am I a biblioblogger? I don’t really care. I blog as I blog, sometimes about the Bible, and if other people want to put me on their lists of bibliobloggers, that is up to them. The blogosphere defies this kind of pigeonholing, and that is one of the best things about it.

Tim Ricchuiti disagrees slightly with Chris Heard’s suggestion that “arguing about who is or isn’t a ‘biblioblogger’, and which blogs are or are not biblioblogs’, has no practical value.” He suggests…

The only practical difference I can see the definition making is that it may affect what blogs/posts are considered for either the Biblical Studies Carnivals or the aforementioned Biblioblogs.com. Being that at least Jim West has already stated his modus operandi for Biblioblogs.com is wider than his own personal criteria, and that the Carnivals probably depend a lot more on what the person who is compiling them happens to be reading at the time than on what is “officially” a biblioblog, this practical distinction doesn’t seem to carry a lot of weight.

Finally, here are some thoughts from me, Zephyr. To me, April DeConick’s blog is satisfying because it is defined. It matters not to me whether she or others define it as a ‘biblioblog’ or not. She has purposefully defined it along her own terms, and the definition she gives to it is more helpful to me than whether it fits someone else’s definition of ‘biblioblog’. I don’t always agree with April, but when I come to her postings, I have come to expect that its content will fall within the parameters that she has set, and this means that her postings nearly always intersect with areas pertinent to biblioblogdom.

We know that bloggers are going to blog however they want for their own purposes. For some, their purposes are going to include a wide range of randomness, and maybe their readers like that. But if you’re wavering between the idea of focusing down on a limited subject area or including loads of personal journal entries and mundane trivia and interaction with pop culture and current events, I encourage you to keep these things separate. Keep one blog that is limited to something that might fit some kind of definition for ‘biblioblog’. And then start another blog for your unrelated or quasi-related interests. You can always link to your other blogs. Maybe we need some new technology (or I need to learn how to use the existing technology) that would assist in keeping these things as together or as separate as the subscriber desires. As for my own preference, I’d rather not wade through so much other stuff that often becomes merely a distraction. 


2 Responses to “What is biblioblog?”

  1. Jim Darlack Says:

    Good post, Zephyr! This is a helpful synopsis of the discussion.

  2. biblicalia » Blog Archive » Biblical Studies Carnival XXVI Says:

    […] in-crowd, Doug Chaplin meditates on the same subject, Chris Heard has a kvetch, and the mysterious bzephyr contributes a very fine roundup. My conception of a biblioblog (see below on that term) has always been rather nebulous, and so it […]

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