Jim West's Blog - An Obituary
The whole episode of the demise of Jim West's blog took me a little by surprise. When the link didn't work I wondered what was going on and I found out he was was bored with blogging, as he has repeated in different contexts. After that I found out about the pretty furious debate between Jim and John Loftus. I was a little surprised by that one because I always assumed Jim's posts on issues of atheism and atheist bloggers were, at least in part, jokey. I still think that is the case, though I admit some of us (e.g. me) have an unfortunate tendency to read irony into everything.
The internet has made the recent history of biblical scholarship a little weird, if not more entertaining. Who would have thought all the controversies, from Golb to Loftus, from the many Jeffrey Gibsons to NT Wrong, were possible fifteen years ago? But the internet and blogging, despite my own reservations, are having some impact on scholarship and Jim West has arguably been the most important figure in this context. And, as his blog was so distinctive, it meant that his postings were (not 'are' because they don't seem to be available) particularly helpful for ideological analysis of blogging, particularly as, intentionally or not, his blog brought out the perspectives of his opponents clearly when they reacted against him.
As any regular reader of his blog and his involvement on e-lists (he runs Biblical Studies and has managed to keep it going while others have faded) will know, Jim (like others) has given the very latest updates on the latest controversies involving biblical studies in the media. However, I think he has had a more important influence. His blog was, famously (in biblical studies terms), the most popular of all the biblioblogs and because of this he was able to promote some of the more interesting and creative scholarship (including, I am reliably informed, book sales of one book rocketing up [in biblical studies terms] after Jim reviewed it), some of which probably would not have gained a wider hearing otherwise. Few other bloggers had that influence. And when some of the issues facing academic departments became particularly problematic, Jim West's blog was the one which was able to muster massive amounts of support and attracted outside interest in the discipline.
That may sound like praise and obviously it is. But even some, if not all, of his enemies would have to admit that he has been an influential figure in biblical studies and in the ways I have suggested, would they not?
But wipe those tears from your eyes because not only does biblical studies have an interest in resurrection (though Jim is standing by his decision), here is the best quotation in all of the controversy: 'Jim West literally pissed me off' (John Loftus)