Scholarly Work and the “Blogosphere”
I’ve been puzzled in recent days by some readers whose comments suggest that they expect that sound scholarly analysis of serious historical questions can be conveyed persuasively in blog-postings and/or replies to comments. There seems to be some notion that they shouldn’t have to read books and articles, plow through the data, etc. So, they ask a question; I respond briefly and point them to some book or article for fuller and more adequate discussion; but then the responses sometimes suggest the folk posing the questions really can’t be bothered. Yet they often seem to have firm opinions on the issues involved, challenging me to dislodge them to their satisfaction. So, I think it’s well to try some clarification of things here.
Scholarly work intended to have an impact on the field isn’t done in blogging. The amount of data, its complexity, the analysis and argumentation involved, and the engagement with the work of other scholars that forms an essential feature of scholarly work all require more space than a few hundred words of a blog-posting, or a few paragraphs of blog-comment. So, it’s rather unrealistic (not to say bizarre) for some commenters to assume otherwise.
This particular blog site is intended to disseminate the basic results of scholarly work (particularly my own) to a wider public, directing anyone interested in further study to the publications where matters are discussed more fully. Of course, I can’t expect that the “general public” will necessarily have read my publications or those of other scholars in my field. This blog site, therefore, is intended to alert interested readers to developments and to the publications where they can follow up matters.
I get the impression now and then that some readers can’t be bothered to read these publications. That’s their choice. The puzzling thing is that some, nevertheless, have firm opinions on the issues involved, and want to engage them in blog conversations, but can’t be bothered to do any serious work of studying what’s been patiently and laboriously published by scholars who’ve devoted much time and effort to the matters.
So, to underscore the point here: Blogging (at least this blog site) is for disseminating basic results of scholarly work, and alerting interested readers to publications where they can pursue matters further. But if you do want to engage the issues, you’re just going to have to do some serious reading . . . in books, and articles, and in the original sources on which scholarly work is based. The Internet and the “blogosphere” hasn’t really changed that.
(As some of the recent comments that have triggered this posting query matters about earliest Jesus-devotion, I’ll point to a previous posting in which I tried to summarize some of my own work over the last 25 years or so: here.