A frequently asked question from my graduate advisees is this: How do you keep up with the latest scholarship in your discipline? Or, how do you stay on the “cutting edge” in your academic field? There are at least five maintenance disciplines that come immediately to my mind.
My first suggestion is probably the most obvious: read, read, read. The best way to do this is to follow the leading journals in your interest areas. Personally, I have subscriptions to Journal of Biblical Literature, Review of Biblical Literature, Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, Near Eastern Archaeology, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society and Bulletin for Biblical Research. I also have subscriptions to popular magazines like Biblical Archaeology Review and Christianity Today. Besides subscriptions (some of which are included in society memberships), it is also a good idea to peruse additional journals at your closest university library. In my case, I periodically stroll through the reading room at the Biola Library and look at Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, Vetus Testamentum, Israel Exploration Journal, Tel Aviv, etc. Of course, journals are only one way to keep up on reading. You should also keep an eye on the newest book arrivals at the websites of your favorite publishers. For my part, I regularly visit www.Eisenbrauns.com which both publishes their own titles and also serves as a distributer for other scholarly publishers.
My second suggestion is to attend conferences or society meetings. Most fields of study have a society (or two or three) that meets on an annual basis. Some of them offer both regional and national gatherings. Personally, I really enjoy attending these for the purposes of networking. It is a chance to meet prominent scholars in your specialized field or to maintain old relationships or even to begin new relationships with colleagues. There are also plenty of presentations to attend and book displays to peruse, not to mention the deep discounts on new books! My annual conferences of choice are SBL, ASOR, ETS and IBR (i.e., Society of Biblical Literature, American Schools of Oriental Research, Evangelical Theological Society, and Institute for Biblical Research).
My third suggestion is to write and publish. This is perhaps the most important discipline for keeping up with your field because it is intimately related to the previous two points. When you network at conferences, you can exchange ideas with colleagues, talk to publishers, and assess the mainstream trends. Peer interaction is how your own ideas may be generated, presented, and refined. Colleagues may also invite you to collaborate with them or to contribute in some way to their own research projects. Also, when you are personally engaged in research and writing you will naturally want to keep up with the journal articles and books relating to your subject. In fact, I find that I can keep up with a greater number of journals and new books when I am focused on a single writing project. It helps me to read superficially/quickly about matters that are distant from my research and to read deeply/reflectively only about those matters that directly relate to my research.
My fourth suggestion is to follow some blogs that are managed by folks who are very connected in your discipline. For example, blogs are especially helpful for keeping up with the latest discoveries and discussions in Israeli archaeology. I personally track the blogs sponsored by ASOR, Aren Maeir and Todd Bolen.
My fifth suggestion is to subscribe to a free “listserve” that is managed by an expert in your field. For example, I subscribe to the AGADE email list (managed by ancient Near East scholar Jack Sasson) which packs my inbox daily with a vast array of news in biblical, archaeological, and Near Eastern studies.
If these ideas are totally unappealing to you, then you should probably not pursue a career in academics. But if these kinds of practices sound mildly satisfying, perhaps you should consider pursuing a life of scholarship, research and writing.
Finally, I invite you all to comment on this post and to add your own suggestions to supplement my short list of how to keep up with your Bible-related discipline.