Feb 4, 2014 David Lang

Where New Ideas Get Vetted

Have you ever seen the Schoolhouse Rock cartoon, "I'm Just a Bill?" It chronicles the seemingly interminable process by which an idea for new legislation becomes a bill that must wait on Capitol Hill until it can finally be voted into law. I received numerous lessons in Civics and American Government growing up, but none made as deep an impression on me as this three-minute cartoon.

This tongue-in-cheek presentation highlights both the strength and weakness of the American legislative process. On the one hand, the system of checks and balances makes it difficult for a new idea to get voted and signed into law. Yet by the time a new law is passed, chances are it has been thoroughly vetted and debated until a consensus has been reached. At least, that's how things are supposed to work.

A similar cartoon could be made about new interpretive insights, theological ideas, and archaeological discoveries related to the Bible. Long before such new ideas find their way into commentaries and dictionaries, they typically get published in scholarly journals and professional magazines. There they get reviewed, challenged, and refined by various scholars and professionals until they become seen as viable possibilities. Only then will they receive mention in a new commentary or dictionary, at which point a wider audience of pastors, teachers, and students will become exposed to them.

The strength of this process is that only the strongest new ideas and interpretive innovations reach a wide audience, while the ill-conceived notions and theological fads hopefully end up as nothing more than curious footnotes in the history of Biblical interpretation. Still, there is a downside to this vetting process: namely, that most of us only interact with a brief summary of these ideas presented in the context of a commentary or dictionary article. We rarely get to examine the full arguments for or against these ideas.

That's where it is helpful to be able to examine archives of the actual journals where this vetting process takes place. For example, I recently taught about the sin of Ham in Genesis 9, a notoriously difficult passage because the nature of Ham's sin is not altogether clear. Was it merely voyeurism or did it go beyond that? When I checked a recent commentary, it summarized the history of that passage's interpretation, and mentioned a relatively new view—that Ham's sin was actually maternal incest. Unfortunately, the commentary only gave a brief summary of this view, and I didn't feel I knew enough to judge its merits. However, the commentary did include a footnote citing an article in the Journal of Biblical Literature (JBL). Since I have that journal archive in Accordance, it was a simple matter to find the cited article and examine the reasoning behind this unusual interpretation. Had I not had JBL in Accordance, I would have had to drive an hour to the local seminary to try to find that particular journal article, and honestly, I never would have bothered.

This is just one of many examples I could give of the value of having journal archives in Accordance. Commentaries will sometimes mention important archeological discoveries which shed light on a passage, but they never cover them with the same depth as the Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR), so I frequently search the BAR Archive for any references to my passage of study, ancient peoples, places, etc. Through the Theological Journal Library I have access to more than 550 years' worth of major evangelical journals—many of which are linked to directly from other Accordance commentaries, reference works, and monographs. If you want to be able to go beyond the overviews to check the sources, journal archives like these are an important addition to your Accordance library.

To help you expand your collection of journals, we're now offering deep discounts on all our journal archives—but only for a limited time.

Please note: these prices cannot be combined with other discounts.

These journal collections are on sale now through February 10, 2014 (11:59pm EST). Be sure to take advantage of this sale, and you too can begin checking sources and digging deeper.

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