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In the fall we sent out a questionnaire, asking volunteer leaders of SBL to comment on the future of the SBL in light of the impending departure of AAR from the Annual Meetings and SBL's own recently adopted vision statement.

1. What does the SBL need to do to advance biblical scholarship? What are we not doing that we could be doing to advance our stated visions?

  • Offer members opportunities for mutual support, intellectual growth, and professional development as teachers and scholars
  • Organize congresses for scholarly exchange
  • Facilitate broad and open discussion from a variety of perspectives
  • Encourage study of biblical literature and its cultural contexts
  • Collaborate with educational institutions and other appropriate organizations to support biblical scholarship and teaching
  • Develop resources for diverse audiences, including students, religious communities and the general public
  • Publish biblical scholarship
2. What are the biggest challenges and opportunities in doing our own Annual Meeting?

3. Should SBL have a print publication for members that would include some pieces from the SBL Forum?

As we could have anticipated—and as I had hoped—these responses vary considerably in approach and format. Nonetheless, I have detected a number of features that are common to many, if not most:

  • There is no support or enthusiasm for the actions by the AAR that have resulted in an end to our longstanding practice of holding national meetings together. Nonetheless, there is optimism about the future of SBL-alone meetings, with a number of productive and creative ways to enhance both the range and depth of sessions the SBL offers.

  • There is a strong sense that, after all is said and done, the SBL remains an organization predominately centered on and interested in North American and European concerns, with relatively affluent members from relatively affluent countries. It is essential that we make SBL and other scholarly resources far more easily and economically available worldwide and that we do even more than we have to increase opportunities for scholars worldwide to meet at affordable and accessible venues.

  • The SBL should recognize its role as a major resource for educational institutions, especially (but not limited to) theological schools, and should increase its formal interest in and concern for what goes on in the classroom and wherever else teaching and learning occur.

  • Perhaps the strongest sentiment expressed is the note (or, rather, something stronger than a note) of frustration with how carelessly and even recklessly "the Bible" is brought into public discussion and the public sphere. Cogent arguments abound that the SBL as an organization and SBL members, as a group (or groups) or as individuals, have a vital role to play in educating the public about the Bible and its appropriate uses in public dialogue. Emphasis is also placed on the fact that this is not a "partisan" issue, but one of profound importance for all sectors and sections of our society.

In the February issue, we are planning to publish some equally thoughtful responses from SBL leaders who are in a position to shape and implement the actions that will come out of the discussions we are having on the future of the SBL. In that issue we will also publish comments about the advisability (or lack thereof) of a print edition of the Forum in addition to this on-line one.

Leonard Greenspoon, Editor, SBL Forum

Klutznick Chair in Jewish Civilization

Creighton University

Citation: Leonard Greenspoon, " Editorial Introduction," SBL Forum , n.p. [cited Jan 2005]. Online:


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