Academic journal article Journal of Biblical Literature

Editorial Reflections

Academic journal article Journal of Biblical Literature

Editorial Reflections

Article excerpt

The general editor of the Journal of Biblical Literature is appropriately an invisible presence to the readers of the Journal. The Journal would not exist without the work of the editor, but that work is always behind the scenes. Most readers are not aware when a change is made in the editorial leadership, as can be evidenced by the mail, including submissions. In my time as editor, I have received mail addressed to previous editors, beginning with Professor Fitzmyer, and each of these editors has also continued to receive occasional mail addressed to "Editor, Journal of Biblical Literature." The occasion of the 125th anniversary of the Journal of Biblical Literature, however, seems an appropriate occasion to make the editors of JBL visible to its readership, as the work of the editors is a signal part of the Journal's 125-year history.

The invisibility and, to a degree, anonymity of the general editor is key to the Journal's functioning with professional and scholarly integrity and is an essential element of its longevity as a journal of a learned society. The general editor has a variety of roles and responsibilities, but the primary one, noted in all the reflections that follow, is the responsibility to maintain the quality of JBL as the premier English-language refereed journal in biblical studies. In undertaking this responsibility, the editor is required to exercise stewardship of the valuable resource over which he or she presides for a time. This stewardship has a quality of caretaking and conservation, to ensure that certain essential characteristics of the Journal are strengthened, for example, the refereeing process, publishing articles that are submitted rather than solicited from particular scholars, and producing a journal that sets the standard for production excellence (copyediting, typesetting, etc.). But this stewardship also entails innovation, to ensure that the Journal will continue to grow and reflect changes and developments in biblical studies. Much of this innovation involves technical matters: the creation of a style sheet, newer and more efficient systems for logging in submissions and tracking their progress through the review process, new formats for book reviews, and the significant changes that have resulted from the advent and growth of computer technologies, most apparent in the availability of older issues of JBL on JSTOR and in the publication of electronic and hard-copy versions of JBL since 2000. Even these technical matters often have broad-ranging implications for the discipline of biblical studies as a whole: the creation of a style sheet for JBL, for example, introduced a standard of professionalism across all publications in the field, and the addition of RBL to the book review operation of the Society has changed the ways in which biblical scholars are able to engage reviews of recent publications.

Yet not all of the innovative stewardship is purely technical. Innovation is also reflected in how the Journal responds to developments in biblical studies. One concrete expression of this response is in the way that members of the editorial board are chosen. As the Society of Biblical Literature has grown and its membership and disciplinary perspectives have becoming increasingly diverse, the editor of JBL is challenged to reflect this growth and change in the editorial board. The articles published in the Journal cannot reflect the particular interests of an individual editor, but need to reflect the breadth and depth of the academic perspectives that constitute biblical studies across the membership of the Society of Biblical Literature.

The editor does not select the articles that appear in JBL, but processes the studies that are submitted. Each issue is the result of a peer review and referee process undertaken by the members of the editorial board. The editor ensures that the integrity of the peer review process is maintained-the general editor's office is the only place in the editorial review process where the identities of author and reviewers are known. …

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