SBL’s ‘Diversity’ is A Farce, and SBL Sessions About as Homogeneous as You Can Imagine

If SBL really believed in diversity and the hearing of as many voices and perspectives (within the community of scholars, not including outside nutbags) as possible it would initiate a ‘one paper per person per annual meeting’ policy.

The reason we hear the same people over and over again, year after year, is because SBL isn’t as interested in diversity as it is offering ‘big names’ to ‘draw in the crowds’ and selling conference attendance.

“Prof NT White will be speaking at 4 sessions this year.  Come and hear the great exegetical master!” or something very akin to it is a looming ghost hanging over every meeting.

Of course SBL says there are reasons that they don’t have such a policy but the real reason is because the more high profile scholars they can shove into the program, the better the turnout will be.  And the better the turnout, the more registration fees they can count on.

Further- and I hope no one I know takes this personally- you shouldn’t because I’ve said it before and I have no idea who is presenting what or how many times they’re doing it this year- there are too many scholars who are more than happy to read two or three papers at a meeting.  But why?  Why do you feel that what you have to say is so important that someone else doesn’t deserve a hearing?

Why do too few scholars practice the fine art of self control and simply refuse to present more than one paper?

Oh sure, there’s the practical reason: ‘if I don’t present, my institution won’t pay for me to attend.  So I have to propose papers to a number of sessions to guarantee acceptance at at least one’.

Ok, fine.  Do that.  But as soon as you find out that a paper has been accepted in one session, drop out of the others.  Withdraw your proposal.  You’re still presenting and your reason for proposing to several sessions is now moot.  So why still insist on taking multiple spaces?

Ego.  That’s why.  Ego and resume packing.  Be honest.  That’s why.

On the other hand, you can actually believe in and practice diversity.  You can surrender one of your many slots to lesser knowns if you’re NT White.  Or one of your slots to someone who probably has something at least as interesting to say as you do.

We’ve all been at SBL sessions where presenters bored us to coma and we wondered how on earth their poor students put up with their mindless ramblings day after day (or how they got a position in the first place… they must know someone…).  Why do they feel compelled to ramble so?

It sort of makes you wonder how much better it would all be, how much more scholarly, how much more thought provoking, if a guy or gal no one has heard of outside their tiny college got a slot to fill instead of Professor Pompous hogging all the podium time.

Diversity.  Live it, or at least be decent enough to stop talking about it.  SBL will be better when it actually practices diversity instead of simply paying it lip service; when it enforces a policy of one paper per presenter…

Livestreaming the Dead Sea Scrolls Session At SBL International

This is cool (though take note, the time listed is Berlin local time- 6 hours ahead of US Eastern Time) –

For those unable to join us at International SBL in Berlin, the Qumran session chairs (Jutta Jokiranta, Matthew Goff, Shani Tzoref, and Sidnie White Crawford) have organized for a livestream of the special sessions on “Tracing & Facing Possible Forgeries: Methodology, Ethics, Policies” (August 8, 2017; 9:00am-12:30pm). The live stream will be hosted here on the TWU Dead Sea Scrolls Institute page and facilitated by members of the CSTT Team from the University of Helsinki. Thanks to all who expressed interest in the work and discussion of this meeting from afar. For full program details, see

I’m Not Trying To Make Anyone Who is a Member of SBL Mad…

But it is exceedingly troubling that the SBL continues to maintain that it strives for ‘diversity’ whilst simultaneously allowing people to make multiple presentations.  This literally is anything but a quest for diversity.  Instead, it is the corralling of intellectual contributions and the restriction of discussion to a much smaller group of participants.

For every presenter who offers two papers, their voice is weighted twice as much as those who have no place or opportunity.  The sad fact then is that instead of a diversity of voices (which the SBL pretends it wishes) the voices of fewer are given place.

Let me put it as simply as possible: there’s a certain measure of the egomaniacal in the minds of those who believe they deserve two hearings while others deserve none, and SBL enables it and empowers them whilst divesting others by allowing people to give two papers.

How can the SBL do the right thing, open up opportunities, and hear a wider diversity of viewpoints?  Do away with the permissions granted to deliver two papers.

If not, what can members of SBL do?  They can simply submit one paper.  Simple.  They can abandon the false notion that they deserve to ‘vote’ twice and simply ‘vote’ once.

Unless, of course, they think that what they have to say is so much more important than what everyone else has to say that they actually and factually believe that they are more worthy of a hearing than their peers (which, knowing some, they actually do believe).

Come on, SBL.  Stop talking about diversity of opinion until you stop the steamroller of multi-section presentations.  Until then, your protestations of concern for diversity just aren’t believable.

The SBL’s Public Statement on the Injustice of the President’s Racist Executive Order on Immigration

The Society of Biblical Literature’s mission is to foster biblical scholarship in accordance with our core values, which include scholarly integrity, critical inquiry, respect for diversity, inclusivity, and tolerance. This mission of fostering biblical scholarship rests on the firm belief that the study of sacred texts and traditions involves unhindered intellectual exchange among scholars. Such open, scholarly exchange serves the common good by contributing to a broad public understanding of religious texts, traditions, and practices in the modern world. It is for these reasons, for example, that SBL does not endorse academic boycotts.

In 2012, SBL received a grant to explore the establishment of an international and independent network of scholars of the Qur’an. That grant led to the formation of the International Qur’anic Studies Association (IQSA) in 2014, now an independent affiliate of the SBL and an invaluable partner in the study of sacred texts. As a learned society, IQSA, like SBL, seeks to promote peace through understanding. We thereby stand with our colleagues in Qur’anic and Islamic studies to protest the ban on immigrants and refugees from Muslim countries.

Moreover, the ban encourages discrimination and promotes misleading and sometimes dangerous caricatures of religious people, practices, and texts. It also places obstacles to the travel of Muslim scholars in and out of the United States, and threatens the free exchange of ideas among the Society and partnering and affiliating organizations that advance learning and help make peace and understanding possible. Thus, the Society strongly opposes the ban and its implementation.

29 January 2017

What is Going on Down in Atlanta with SBL’s Executive Board?

John Cook writes

Dear Colleagues,

We want to share with you our disappointment and concern over the recent downgrading of  the Linguistic and Biblical Hebrew program unit from a section to a seminar (on the distinction, see here) by the Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting Program Committee. We are sharing this development with as many of our colleagues as possible, because it is deeply concerning in several respects and we think it deserves a response from the scholarly community.

First, it is concerning that the decision is being made by a committee as to what are in the interests of the scholarly community, rather than by the community itself. The very structure of program units (consultations, seminars, and sections) suggests that the community is the primary determiner of where its own scholarly interests lie. The Linguistics and Biblical Hebrew section has been an active and well-attended participant in the annual meeting for 30 years, contributing to biblical scholarship through its educative aims (see description of the program unit below) and the numerous publications that have emerged from the sessions.

Description of Linguistics and Biblical Hebrew program unit: The goals of this section include: (1) to provide a unique, cross-disciplinary forum for the application of modern linguistic theory and methodology to the study of biblical Hebrew; (2) to encourage interest in linguistics and its advantages for biblical exegesis and interpretation among biblical scholars who do not have prior training in linguistic theory; (3) to promote publication of scholarly works which apply linguistics to biblical Hebrew.

Second, we found the process of renewal to be confused and unprofessional. The decision was dragged out for almost half a year, during which time the steering committee worked to put together the sessions for 2016 without any certainty that the section would be allowed to continue.

There’s more, which do read.  I’m really concerned at a new sort of autoritarianism that seems to be manifesting itself in Atlanta.  I think we should all be concerned about it.

As SBL Approaches

There are two chief sorts of attendees.  There are the paper presentation procrastinators who just now, just this week, have decided to start their paper.


And there are the rest of the attendees, just sitting around, drinking, waiting for things to happen on the 18th of November.


From 1 November till 18 November, no one will be getting anything done.  Except anticipating.

IVP and SBL Have Agreed to Calm the Storm…

By issuing a joint statement that says nothing.

Just by way of reminder- the storm broke out because SBL was considering blocking IVP from exhibiting their books at the 2017 annual meeting because IVF has a standard of employment with which the SBL overlords disagree.

You will read the ‘joint statement’ above in vain for any resolution of these issues.  Instead, you’ll discover that both are firmly committed to the exchange of ideas.

Problem solved…. I guess…  Or maybe they just hope no one notices that the situation has been addressed the same way politicians address questions when asked by the press about specific issues…

Getting from The Airport to The Downtown Area for #SBLAAR16

The San Antonio International Airport is approximately 8.5 miles from the downtown business district with a travel time of approximately 15 minutes by car.

Shuttle Service – Shuttle service to the downtown area is $18 one-way or $32 round-trip; Northwest Area (near SeaWorld) or JW Marriott is approximately $39 one-way or $60 round trip; Westin La Cantera approximately $26 one-way or $42 round-trip.  Look for the Shuttle Service kiosks in both terminals near baggage claim or book your trip in advance and get a discount – click here.

Taxi rides  – Traveling with a friend – two to six ride for the price of one. Approximate fares, not including tips, to the downtown business district from the airport range from $24 – $26; Northwest Area (near SeaWorld) $39-$41; Westin La Cantera Resort or JW Marriott $33-$35.


It looks like the pre-booked shuttle is the best option for those on a budget.