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Postings, Comments, and Productive Discussion: Some Groundrules

July 30, 2012

When I mentioned to a few fellow scholars who were themselves experienced bloggers a couple of years ago that I was planning on launching a blog site, one of the strongly given pieces of advice was “Don’t allow comments!”  I chose otherwise, however, as my aim was to try to bring the results of scholarship on Christian origins to a wider public understanding.  Similarly, for example, if I’m asked to give a public lecture, I’d always want to allow time for questions and relevant discussion (and even challenges from anyone who knows what they’re talking about).  In the two years since that decision, there have been times when I’ve wondered about it, and in the last week or so since my initial posting on the recent spate of people asserting that Jesus of Nazareth is a fictional figure, that has been the case.  But I’m committed to allowing (even inviting) questions and informed comments, so I’m sticking with that decision.

However, with two years experience at this (and now in excess of 300,000 views, and over 1500 comments), I think I want to set some ground-rules (it’s my site after all!).   First, call me old-fashioned (and I’ve been called worse), but it’s simply polite to identify yourself in social conversation, so I ask those who wish their comments to be posted here to identify themselves.  You know who I am, and it’s only polite to say who you are.  I’ve asked for this repeatedly, but I’m now making it a criterion for posted comments on this site.  It’s puzzling, downright puzzling, that people who want their views taken seriously so often use (hide behind?) various monikers.  So, hereafter, identify yourself if you want your comment posted here.

Second, relevance!  I’ve declined to post a few comments over the past two years that were simply not on the topic of the posting to which the comment was directed, and I’ve edited down some comments that were wordy, wandering, etc.   So, keep the issue clearly in mind before you send in a comment.  And if commentors introduce some other topic that isn’t directly relevant, I’ll likely curtail chasing such hares.

Third, if all you want to do is vent your pet view, and aren’t interested in engaging the data, learning from those with the expertise in the subject (which can certainly involve asking for the reasons for a given view), then I politely invite you to go elsewhere.  This isn’t a Hyde Park corner, but a site where interested readers can engage experienced scholarship (from me and others) in the field.  By all means, ask any relevant question, and raise a query about anything that seems counter to what you may have read or heard.

Fourth, conciseness and brevity.   Enough said here!

Finally, but by no means last in importance, let’s all try to avoid insults and slurs.  Hard-hitting and direct challenge (if informed) is part of the scholarly “game”.  But let’s keep discussion to the data and arguments.

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  1. M.Gould permalink

    Professor Hurtado,

    Some of us might like to use monikers so that certain people close to us don’t realise that we are occasionally (mis)spending our time discussing matters that interest us but which are not directly relevant to the way we earn a living.
    Having said that I appreciate it must be extremely irritating to have comments from all sorts of anonymous people with no understanding of even basic politeness (let alone academic conventions of respect and politeness).
    Part of the appeal of your blog is the courtesy you show in dealing with those of lesser knowledge of your subject (i.e. the vast majority of those making posts on your blog) ((I won’t say all those posting on your blog as Richard Bauckham contributed a post recently)).. Perhaps such politeness tends to be wasted on those possessing a Falstaffian need for attention and a tendency for bombast (e.g. mythicists) rather than a genuine desire to to learn, but one should nevertheless be polite, as you are.
    Incidently, following your polite reply to an earlier inquiry of mine I did purchase your book,”How on Earth did Jesus Become a God? Historical Questions about Earliest Devotion to Jesus” which as an interested amateur I have found to be extremely interesting and informative, as is your blog.

  2. I understand and agree with your ground rules, but I also saw this recent commentary on slashdot that I think applies. Real names may not be as effective as we’d like to believe.

    • The aim isn’t to avoid abusive comments. I have other ways of dealing with those: Trash ’em. The point is simply that in normal social conversation we don’t speak from behind masks. Let’s raise the level of the blogosphere, at least on this patch.

  3. I fully agree with your rules, Professor. There is enough garbage already in the virtual space to allow it in our own ‘virtual homes’ I use basically the same rules on my blog and, in fact, I have added a ‘page’ that is always there, with the rules of my blog.
    My son, Daniel, has been your student at New College Edinburgh (I have really envied him 🙂 and I have studied your works during my masters programme at London School of Theology. Please receive my respect and appreciation.
    Danut Manastireanu, PhD

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