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Productive discussion

July 13, 2010

Well, folks, this blog site is one week old, and I’m trying to take stock and see what I’ve got myself into.  My aim (naive??) was/is to try to disseminate the results of scholarly research to a wider public, and invite productive engagement with it.  There have been over 8600 views in the last 7 days, but I have no idea whether that’s a high or low number for a new site. 

We’ve also had one or two cases that I find wearisome and dispiriting, people who seem to want to use the site as a platform to lob rhetorical questions (for which they really don’t want any answers) as a ruse for working out their own personal religious issues (in these two cases, both sort of village green atheists I guess).   Obviously, I’m not the only person bothered by this, as you can see from Rich Griese’s comment on the “Eyewitnesses” blog elsewhere in this site. 

He makes the point that some use the blog-site comment facility as if it were a place for school-boy type sparring.   Seems so.

In any case, I’ll try at this point to clarify the intended ethos of this site, briefly.  Questions (real ones), disagreements (reasoned), and serious discussion pointers welcome, fully.  But those who wish simply to use the comment facility for their own programme should confine themselves to a brief comment pointing anyone interested to their own web site or to relevant publications. 

I’m new to the “blogosphere”, and I spend my own time fulflling responsibilities of a university professor.  That includes serious, original research, and also trying to teach students, and disseminate results (which I find exciting) to the wider public.  To do the latter requires an active “wider public”, ready to query as well as listen.  So, let’s see how things go in week two.

P.S.  I think it’s appropriate in civil conversation if everyone uses their real names.  So, I do ask that.  I’d like to avoid “avatars” firing from concealed positions!

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  1. Tom Hickcox permalink

    What is “a village green atheist”?

    It’s a brand new term for me.

    • It’s the proverbial local yokel, dimestore philospher, who thinks he’s got it all figured out on the “god-thing”, and just loves to hassle believers with his stock of objections.

  2. I’ve been greatly enjoying the blog, Larry, and I look forward to more.

    Of course, all blogs are as different as are the authors who write them, but I think some of the most stimulating are those that engage with other blogs rather than with their own commenters. Blog comments themselves are always going to be a mixed bag, and those with the loudest voices often have the least to say. One of the ways that I have managed to continue to enjoy blogging after almost seven years at it has been the community side of it — reading and engaging with the stronger academic blogs.

    It’s worth bearing in mind that most of one’s readers will not in any case read any of the comments on one’s blog, especially if they are accessing the blog via a reader. So the comments on posts end up seeming much more important to the blog author than they seem to the blog’s readership. Bear in mind that the grand-daddy of biblioblogging, Jim Davila, has never allowed comments on Paleojudaica.

  3. Prof. Hurtado,

    Congratulations, I’m so happy by your blog, and I like so much yours books [ that I bought used by internet] and papers. I hope a edition in Brazil for so much time!

    “Solution: comment moderation.” [2]

  4. Dr. Hurtado,

    Thanks for starting a blog. I am slowly making my way through Lord Jesus Christ, and so far it has been a very rewarding experience.

    I am looking forward to reading your blog and learning more about the origins of the Faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.


    Charles Cherry
    Springfield, Illinois

  5. Jesse: Hmm. OK. If this would be interesting, I’ll make this one of my near-future postings.

  6. Larry, can I suggest you do a blog post on what the life of a Bible scholar is like? I personally am giving serious consideration to serious academic Bible studies, and working on a bachelor’s degree right now with developing interests in a variety of fields. I’m sure those of us who are amateurs or working away at graduate and undergraduate studies would like to know what may lie ahead if we choose to pursue doctoral studies.

    What is a typical week/month like? What do you use your time for and how do you manage it, while juggling family/kids, church, golf, etc duties? How did you get started? How did you get the point you are at now, and what help have you had along the way, whether financially or mentoring?

    I’m sure many of us would appreciate your insider knowledge.

  7. Wow, I agree that nearly 9000 views is amazing for one week in, and I am very glad that you are giving this mode of communication a go! Wonderful to have deep and thoughtful scholars finding ways to share their research and questions with a wider public.

    So glad to have found your blog, and I wish you well with it – like many of us, you wear many hats and have many responsibilities, but you may find that it is good fun, and perhaps also helpful along the way.


    The Rev. Peter M. Carey
    Associate Rector
    Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Greenwood, VA

  8. JeremiahBailey permalink

    I think a mandatory use of real names is a fantastic idea. Trolls can’t stand to have faces, a product of their nature.

  9. Just to confirm, that number of hits is extremely respectable! 🙂

  10. Dear Dr. Hurtado:

    Not everyone on the net can use their real names, for many reasons, security issues (gov., military, law enforcement etc.), job security (sciences, education etc.), politics (religious issues etc.), and of course it can often simply be undesirable for parties to identify themeselves, when they reasonably wish their statements to be judged on their content as opposed to their reputation, notoriety, or lack of same.

    I hope you will take these important factors into consideration, as many others have had to do in adjusting to life on the internet, and allow anonymous posters, providing they follow the standard rules of courtesy and make positive contributions to your discussions.


    • OK. Perhaps. But I really do doubt that the many who blog from pseudonyms are govt agents studying NT after hours, or such. So, let’s say that anyone who insists on blogging from a pseudonym thereby is vouching that for some security reason they have to do so. But the rest of us, how about acting just the way you would if we met socially for a chat? We’d indentify ourselves. What’s the mystique of blognames? You know who I am.
      But I’ll consent to your bottom line: If courteous, then allowed.

      • Dr. Hurtado,

        As a person who is relatively well-known in your field and used to speaking in front of people and having your serious work associated with your name, I can see why you would expect people to use their names in kind.

        However, many people online choose pseudonyms, or use only their first names, not because they are government agents but because most are bloggers who might occasionally blog about their personal lives, or experiences. As such, keeping a certain amount of anonymity is simply being wise with their personal information.

        I think that, typically, the bloggers who use their full names are bloggers who are interested in blogging mostly about their work, or their serious thoughts. Those who have hopes of being noticed, or published, or contributing to the field academically need to use their names to develop their presence/reputation.

        If you are wanting people outside of the academic circle to read your blog and be exposed to your ideas, and participate in the conversation, then it will be necessary to allow people to participate under their blogging identities.

        The way to combat rude, outlandish commenters is to simply ban them if they don’t conform to your comment policy.

        Yeah…that’s a lot of annoyance and work.

      • Sometimes it’s just cool to have an internet blog name. Also, some people are afraid of identity theft; I know people on Facebook who use different Facebook names than their real names.

  11. I got out of a church board meeting last night (I am a young “elder”) and my pastor says to me, “I have begun to read a really good book by a scholar named Larry Hurtado called “Lord Jesus Christ””. That excited me because, though I have seen the name “Larry Hurtado” listed in bibliographies, I really just “discovered” you this week when I came across this blog.

    You hit the heart of one of the key blogging difficulties right at the start: people who (as a pastor friend used to say) “blow in, blow up and blow out” or, in digital lingo: surf in, tell you that you don’t know anything and that they know everything without proving a thing, and then wipe-out.

    I have no doubt though – given your already established credibility – that the wide majority of your readers will be reasonable people interested in exploring deeper things of the faith. So when a surfer shows up to show off, he/she will be more managable then on a little blogsite like mine where I essentially have to deal with them alone.

    You will do good and thanks for the resources you provided. (I enjoyed your review of Dunn’s book which I took to be a favorable one. Question: has Dunn’s views changed – by your assessment – since you wrote Lord Jesus Christ?)

  12. Daryl permalink

    Hi Dr. Hurtado,

    Glad Scot McKnight put a link up to your new blog or I might not have found it for a while; I’ve got you on RSS and am enjoying reading what you post.


  13. Solution: comment moderation. Do not approve of comments that don’t fit the criteria you mentioned. I suppose the problem comes when you are getting dozens of comments per day and don’t have the time to moderate. Or you could just not have comments at all, as many bloggers choose to do. But i’ve found that by leaving the comments up, the good discussions far outweigh those who are just trying to stir up trouble.

    At any rate, i’ve really enjoyed this blog so far and look forward to your future posts!

  14. Larry:
    Yes I think you’ve answered my question. Essentially you seem to be saying you want a wider public who might find these issues interesting for whatever reason to have access to them. I wasn’t sure if you had in mind a specific benefit of your research beyond it being interesting to people who find that sort of stuff interesting. Essentially it’s in the eye of the beholder. Correct?
    If I may ask, why do you find these issues interesting and if you were wanting to convince others of the value in studying these subjects what might you tell them?

    As far as my name, my first name is Bryan and my last name begins with an L, and that is actually a picture of me. Considering I’ve been blogging for about 5 years now and I haven’t shared more than that, I don’t plan on starting now. Hopefully that is enough. : )

    Bryan L

    • What’s *not* interesting about the origins of Christianity? Part of my aim on this blog site is to communicate something of the fascinating issues, questions and research results pertaining to this subject.

  15. Your initial reader numbers are fairly phenomenal for a new blog – and a mix, I would say of many recommendations by link and your own name recognition.

    I’m delighted you’re blogging and hope you will find the time to keep it up.

    As for those whom we seasoned bloggers call trolls – there are some people whose comments are so much their own agenda and so unresponsive to yours that the best think to do (using the discussion options on your dashboard, is to have them on either your moderation list or blacklist.\

    I suspect that as a “famous name” at least in bible blogging terms, you may attract more than your fair share of such commenters.

  16. J.C. permalink

    Professor Hurtado, Dr. Hurtado, or just Larry if you prefer, I think it’s great that you’ve starting blogging and are allowing scholarly work to be accessed more by the general public.

    I, myself, have not personally read your material, yet. But, a couple of months ago I was making a list of scholars that I thought I should read the works of, and you happened to be on that list. This is my 2nd post on your blog, and my 1st post was in the ‘Web-accessible publications’ blog post, which I think is a great idea and I’m hoping more and more scholars will put up their work, so it can be accessed by people like myself.

    PS: I also respect the fact you put up differing views than of your own, as you did in the ‘Jesus-Devotion: Contrary Views’ blog post. Don’t worry about trolls (trolls are the ones who try and disrupt a blog), and your work will not go unnoticed, nor it it be unappreciated.

    Oh yeah, J.C. is not my real name, but it is the initials to my real name – Jarrett Cooper.

  17. In response to the good questions from “El Bryan Libre” (NB: Please, I ask people to use their real names. It’s just polite to do so.): My research and that of many other scholars of NT/Christian Origins produces a *lot* of really interesting stuff. It will be of interest to all sorts, I know, from any situation in which I’ve had the chance to discuss matters. Among others: serious students (both enrolled in programmes and self-studying), anyone interested in the ancient world and/or the origins of the largest religious movement in the world, Christians interested to know about the origins of their religious tradition, lots of people. What people do with the material is free to them.

    There is *so* much that has been produced by scholars, but it’s mostly shut away in specialist journals, technical monograph series, academic conferences, etc. All these are essential parts of scholarship. But I believe that scholars should try to disseminate more widely what they produce.

    On this site, I’ve invited viewers and people who wish to engage the material and related subjects. That includes asking questions, including probing ones. That also includes disagreement, in so far as it reflects relevant knowledge, and a readiness to approach questions in genuine dialogue.

    Does that answer your question? If not, let me know.

  18. Larry:
    You said, “That includes serious, original research, and also trying to teach students, and disseminate results (which I find exciting) to the wider public.  To do the latter requires an active “wider public”, ready to query as well as listen.”

    I was wondering if you might elaborate on this a bit? Why do you want a wider public to take interest in the results of your research? This might be a weird question but what do you see as the significance of your research to a wider public? And further, do they just listen and ask questions, so that it’s really just a one way stream of information, or do they have a bigger role to play or something they’re supposed to do with that information?

  19. Do not to be discouraged by Mr. Carr as he leaves the exact same rhetorical questions on a number of blogs. The internet is prone to conspiracy theories over sober scholarship and there will be a number of others who will try to use your comment space to advance their own hobbyhorse: the dilemma is whether to engage and get sidetracked in an endless debate or to simply ignore or censor them. But there is also a great network of scholars, graduate students and informed laypersons in the blogosphere who value what you have to say as a leading scholar on Christology and the Gospel of Mark. I am especially interested in your posts interacting with other scholars over your argument for a binitarian pattern of early Christian devotion and would be interested in further book reviews (for instance what are your thoughts on Daniel Boyarin’s argument in “Border Lines: the Partition of Judaeo-Christianity”)

  20. I would also say that nearly 9000 hits in a week is quite good. Chalk it up to your sterling reputation as an erudite and engaging scholar, which draws both the good and the bad.

  21. Welcome to the blogosphere! I for one would like to say I appreciate your work here. I read and follow many bibliobloggers and continue to learn about the field. I started out my academic career with a focus on early Christianity, Second Temple Judaism, early rabbinics and patristics; life took a few left turns and 20 years later I’m a medievalist with an avid interest in the earlier periods. So I appreciate your efforts here and hope you won’t give it up because of those who lob their own agendas into the comments. Those sorts of comments will die off as the freshness of this blog wears off and it has its own legs.

  22. Yes, that’s a lot of interest. This has taken off “with a bang.” We appreciate the fact that you are doing this. Give it what time you can. Don’t be bothered by the anonymous & unproductive comments. It’s the Internet. That happens.

  23. 9000 views is a stonking count for a new blog. You’ve been well-linked from many other similar blogs, so I suspect that the usual crowd will be reading yours.

  24. I am going to go out on a limb and suggest that 9000 views in a week is a lot, especially for a new blog. I appreciate your aims and am personally very thankful that you are blogging! But as with everything else on the Internet, do not make the mistake of taking anonymous “keyboard warriors” personally. You may notice the same people coming to your blog, rudely ridiculing everything scholarship has to say and then providing an odd alternative hypothesis. And you won’t be the only one on the receiving end of this behaviour.

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