What seems clear, having the statement, is that there was no malicious intent on Hoffmann's or anyone else's part in publishing the list of "fellows" on the site. It seems to have been a mistake, and one that has now been put right both by taking down the old list and issuing the statement. That's a great relief to hear. It is disappointing, though, that there is no apology for the mistake. Although the explanation is the fundamental thing, it would have been straightforward to have said something like, "We are sorry for any confusion . . . ."
My major concern about the statement was the way that it talked about bloggers and blogging. It may be that the blogs Hoffmann had in mind were genuinely unhelpful and problematic, but since the only one he mentions by name is Jim West's, it is difficult to know which ones he was concerned about. As a blogger myself, I was not keen on the use of catch-all terms like "blog assault" and "blogmasters". The following sentences, in particular, concerned me:
False report, of course, is the culture in which blogging thrives. But even bloggers have a minimal responsibility to fact and to discovering facts.These statements are, I think, unfair since most of the bloggers that I know, and who blog in the areas of ancient world / Biblical Studies / Christian origins, are firmly committed to honest reporting and setting the record straight. Indeed, if anything, one of the engines that drives blogging is the desire to keep scholars and scholarship honest, and to hold the media and others to account where they engaging in false reporting.
Similarly, Hoffmann speaks about "the uncontrolled methods of Bible-blog", but I would want to add that one of the strengths of the blogs is that they are uncontrolled. There is no central authority, nor should there ever be one; their glory is in that they are a democratic medium in which scholars and students put their views out into the public where they themselves can be discussed, engaged, confirmed, refuted.
However, it may be that Hoffmann is talking about quite different blogs than the ones I read. And that perspective may be confirmed by the use of the term "Jesus Squad" in the title and body of the piece. I am guessing that that is Hoffmann's own description of those who have, he feels, been unfair to the Jesus Project. But if so, I think it might have been worth clarifying that all bloggers should not be tarred with the same brush. Where there have been concerns raised in the blogs I read, they appeared to me to be honest, legitimate concerns about what appeared to be misleading claims.
I shared the substance of the above with Joseph Hoffmann, who said in response "Your inference is correct; I mean to make a distinction between those who simply want to torpedo the Project and those who are simply seeking clarification." I am still not clear which blogs are being talked about here, except that I can't imagine they are among those that I regularly read.
In comments to my previous post, Chris notes the statement, "I recognize no names, among the bloggers, of anyone who has been invited at any stage to participate in the JP" and wonders about April DeConick and James Tabor, both of whom were listed among the fellows, and both of who have commented on the project.
Update (11.40): Chris Zeichman has some helpful comments on Thoughts on Antiquity headed Hoffmann responds to blogdom on The Jesus Project.
Update (14.10): Doug Chaplin has some interesting comments on Metacatholic, The Jesus Project: On not being responsible.
Update (Tuesday, 12.20): Chris Heard has some helpful comments, also picking up on the "even bloggers . . ." comment, on Higgaion: Jesus Project Update.