The Chicago and SBL Manuals

The Chicago Manual of Style (CMS) has been updated to its 17th edition (2017). According to the second edition of the SBL Handbook of Style (SBLHS),

Currently in its 16th edition, The Chicago Manual of Style remains the most comprehensive general authority on editorial style and publishing practices. Answers to questions not addressed in this handbook may be found there. (§3.3)

The reference to CMS’s “current” edition raises the possibility that a new CMS edition may occasion a change in the CMS edition best followed by users of SBLHS2. In addition, on noting the release of CMS17, SBL Press commented that

based on the Chicago Manual of Style, this new edition will no doubt prompt changes to our own style. We will announce relevant changes on this blog in the coming months.

This comment made it sound like changes might be affected in SBL style before the release of SBLHS3 simply based on the release of CMS17. On reaching out to the ever-helpful folks at SBL Press, they’ve confirmed that

Our deference to CMS in matters not explicitly covered in SBLHS2 or on the SBLHS2 blog automatically upgrades to the most current version of CMS. Thus, as of September 1, 2017, we now defer to CMS 17th ed.

For the balance of the SBL Press’s note about CMS17, see the SBL Press blog. For more information about CMS17 or to order a copy, see the University of Chicago Press, Amazon, or other booksellers.


TopTracker provides a straight-forward, free time tracking utility that works on both Windows and OS X. The utility allows commenting on each session tracked (e.g., words written during that session). It also allows export via CSV, from where numbers can be crunched further in Excel to see how well progress is going.

By default, TopTracker will upload screenshots periodically while it’s running, but this feature can be disabled and other elements customized in the program’s settings.

For other similar utilities, see the Zapier blog. For additional discussion of the value of tracking writing progress or other “deep work,” see Paul Silvia’s book How to Write a Lot or Cal Newport’s Deep Work.

Overlooking Details in Biblical Literature

Photograph of Karl Barth
Photograph of Karl Barth via Wikimedia Commons

In commenting on the “onesideness” inherent in Martin Luther’s law-gospel contrast as it applies in various biblical corpora, Karl Barth reflects:

In all these cases the failure to recognise the unity of Scripture involved sooner or later, and inevitably, a failure to recognise that it is Holy Scripture. For when we have such arbitrary preferences, we do not read even the parts which we prefer as Holy Scripture. The same is true of any preference, even the most detailed. This criterion ought to be applied to the most commonly accepted doctrine of the Church, even that which we find in the confessional documents. And particularly should it be applied to individual teachers, even the greatest of them. For fundamentally, whenever anything which is “written” is overlooked in the exposition of Scripture, whenever for the sake of the exposition we are forced to weaken or even omit what is written, there is always the possibility that the exposition has really missed the one thing which Scripture as a whole attests, even when it thinks that it has found it. (Church Dogmatics 1.2, 485; underlining added).

To be sure, it is important to be able to see a really viable argument through apparent difficulties. But, at the same time, when interpreting biblical literature, one must always be alert to a sense of the text’s starting to “present itself in all its otherness and thus assert its own truth against [our] own fore-meanings” (Gadamer, Truth and Method, 282).

Logos Cloud Basic

Logos Bible Software logoTo the standard and academic basic editions, Logos Bible Software has now added free access to “Cloud Basic.” Cloud Basic can be accessed via and run entirely inside a web browser.

At this point, it looks like markup still doesn’t yet sync into the web app or into the desktop or mobile apps from the web. So, if you decide to give Logos Cloud a try, you will want to note this limitation so that you don’t end up wondering where your notes went.

Scholarship as Meritocracy

Larry Hurtado reflects on ill-supported views that sometimes get bandied about, not least on the Internet. In contrast, Hurtado comments:

In the world of scholarship, your opinion gets as much respect and attention as it deserves, based on your having demonstrated your knowledge of the data and ability to analyze and construct cogent inferences and interpretations–“demonstrated” in the judgment of other scholars competent to judge.  Scholarship isn’t a townhall meeting.  It’s a meritocracy in which opinions suffer informed critique, and those views that get accepted are the ones that are seen to be worthwhile by those competent to judge, who have themselves had to develop and demonstrate the “goods.”

Whether scholarship “is” or “should be” a meritocracy could perhaps be discussed, as well as what meritocracy might practically entail. But, even if and when scholarship falls short of meritocratic interaction, it would still seem beneficial to act as though it is a meritocracy and to remember that no one scholar has the ability to define where scholarship finds merit.

That is, if one’s views do not find a careful hearing, there remains work to be done to demonstrate why that hearing should be given. To play up the instances in which scholarship falls short of even-handed interaction with various positions would appear to allow space for an academic “victim mentality” to set in (Woe is me! Why are my arguments not heard?). George Ladd is perhaps a good example of what can happen as a result of one or the other view taking hold (though with excesses even on the better side; see John D’Elia, A Place at the Table).

In another light, to call scholarship, or the academy, a “meritocracy” highlights its status (although under another name) as a marketplace for ideas. Even in capitalist markets, some goods may be over- or under-valued, but the responsibility for showing the value of those goods still lies with the merchants, even when the market environment might be less than fully favorable toward them.

For the balance of Hurtado’s reflections, see his original blog post.