It has been given a slightly more journal-style look, with a new header and a volume and part number and date. This was something that was discussed in the SBL Forum advisory board meeting in San Antonio in November, and I think it is a good idea and helps to generate a sense of identity for the forum that is separate from the SBL web site as a whole.
The topic for this month is the future of the society, with a summary of the results of feedback on this topic written by the editor Leonard Greenspoon, and a series of short articles by Joel Green, Ehud Ben Zvi, Timothy Lim, Stephen Patterson, Adele Reinhartz and Gerald West.
So far I have only had a chance to read Joel Green's piece. There is a lot of material of interest here, particularly on the necessity for widening participation in the society outside of North America and Europe. He makes an interesting comment on the Review of Biblical Literature:
With regard to serving its own membership more directly, let me make one suggestion to the SBL. The tactic adopted and now operative for the Review of Biblical Literature may have logistical advantages, but provides no guarantees of scholarly advantage. When people self-select to write a review for any book, scholars not looking for things to do are unlikely to be involved in the reviewing of books. This democratic procedure has the advantage of introducing new scholars, but also runs the risk of never involving seasoned scholars in critical, peer review of emerging work. Is there not some way that RBL could have it both ways? Could it not leave some books (or copies of books) for volunteer review, while assigning others to persons whose specializations are well-known so as to ensure substantive interaction?This point is well made and rings true with my own experience. Between 1995 and about 2000 I would often volunteer to review books, both on the RBL and elsewhere, and would almost always say yes when offered them for review. In recent times, alas, the pressure of so many other wolves scratching at the door has made me struggle to get the ones done I really want to get done and have already read and fully noted, let alone volunteer to do any others.
If Joel Green is right that this is the current policy of the RBL, then it needs to be reviewed. It used to be the case that the RBL also published all the JBL reviews so that a JBL review automatically appeared on RBL. Is this no longer the case?