We live in the information age and are continually bombarded by new information. For the majority of people, this information comes through the internet – specifically through content that is essentially curated by our friends (Facebook) or those whom we are interested in (eg. following someone on Twitter). I myself ditched ditched my RSS reader a long time ago in favor of those items that get into my social media feeds.
But there is no social media feed for scholars that apprise us of the latest research and scholarship. Unlike the 140-character world of Twitter and the YouTube hit sensations that are here today and gone tomorrow, scholarship and research is a slow and steady plod. And that is exactly how it should be. Publication and peer-review is where real advances are made in Biblical studies, not on Twitter, blogs, or YouTube.
So how best can scholars stay fresh in their field? I’ll be honest and tell you that I’m not perfect at this, but I’m learning along the way. And I have had several students ask me this very question - this blog is my answer.
Peer-reviewed journal articles is where new scholarship sets out and either gets accepted or sinks. The scholarship will then filter into wider scholarship and monographs.
The first and most basic thing someone can do is to at least see the titles of new articles, which can at least alert you to articles that you should read. Almost every journal has email alerts which you can subscribe to. Alternatively you can make use of my journal alerts feed.
More important than simply seeing the titles of new published articles is getting a better sense of the articles. In this regard, New Testament Abstracts and Old Testament Abstracts are essential. The first thing I do when I find a new article for research is grab its abstract from the OTA and NTA online archive. Every July NTA and every April OTA are updated in the online archives. The disadvantage of the online archives is that there is no way to read each issue of NTA or OTA (they are 3 published a year). This is why I recommend subscribing to NTA and/or OTA, this puts the abstracts in your hand 3 times a year and allows you to get a good sense of the ideas being published in your field on a regular basis. Both NTA and OTA also abstract books in the field.
Unless you are a speed-reader you can’t expect to read every article of every periodical that interests you. But you can be strategic and pluck a few which you will subscribe to. If you have institutional access to articles, then this is just a time commitment. But if you have to pay for your subscription, then you really need to be particular. Because every person’s interests are different, I hesitate to recommend which periodicals to get, but I’ll dip my toe into New Testament studies. If you had to only subscribe to 2 periodicals, I would recommend Journal for the Study of the New Testament and Novum Testamentum. I especially appreciate not only the high quality articles but also the book reviews in these periodicals.
The following is my attempt at a good list of Biblical studies journals. Please let me know what I missed.
- Aramaic Studies
- Biblical Interpretation
- Biblical Theology Bulletin: Journal of Bible and Culture
- Bulletin for Biblical Research
- Currents in Biblical Research
- Dead Sea Discoveries
- Horizons in Biblical Theology
- Journal for the Study of Paul and his Letters
- Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus
- Journal for the Study of the New Testament
- Journal for the Study of the Old Testament
- Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha
- Journal of Biblical Literature
- Journal of Hebrew Scriptures
- Journal of Semitic Studies
- Journal of Septuagint and Cognate Studies
- Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
- Journal of Theological Interpretation
- Journal of Theological Studies
- Novum Testamentum
- Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses
- The Expository Times
- Tyndale Bulletin
- Vetus Testamentum
- Vigiliae Christianae
Keep an Eye on Published Books
The big danger in keeping an eye on newly published books is the desire to put it on your to-read list, which is perpetually too big (at least mine is). You need to be safeguard that list of to-read books. Keeping an eye on newly published books is to make sure that you see the books you need to read, as well as what is current in your field.
There are several ways you can do this. Each publisher has a newsletter, and several also have email lists specifically for their new catalog. You can also choose to get the actual catalogs in the mail. I only do this for a few publishers (I feel guilty for wasting the paper).
Another way to keep a (minimalistic) eye on recent releases is to read a “books received” list, the problem with this, though, is that not every publisher contributes to these lists. As a member of IBR I receive Bulletin for Biblical Research, and each issue ends with a list of books received. These are simple lists, but keeps us apprised of recently published books. Below is a list of the main academic publishers for Biblical studies (let me know if I missed any):
- B & H Academic
- Baker Academic
- Brill Academic
- Cambridge University Press
- De Gruyter
- Fortress Press
- Kregel Academic
- Mohr Siebeck
- Oxford University Press
- SBL Press
- Tyndale Press
- Vandenhoeck & Reprecht
- Westminster John Knox Press
- Wipf & Stock
Like most scholars, I love to read and would love to get paid for just reading books. But life doesn’t work like that. This is why book reviews are so valuable, they allow you to get a snapshot of a book to make sure it is worth reading, or to at least get something out of the book if it doesn’t make it on your reading list. Book reviews have already been mentioned, but just in case you missed it, NTA and OTA, as well as the periodicals offer book reviews by scholars. These are more valuable than reading the summary by the publisher, as it offers some critical feedback and interaction on the book. You simply cannot read every book in your field. Be a regular reader of book reviews.
Do you need help reading? Well that's why I created my eCourse Reading for Information Extraction. I'd love to see you there!