Today I sat down to write my encyclopedia entry for the The Oxford Encyclopedia of Bible and Theology. I was invited to write the entry for
"David, son of"
This title was the central test case for my proposed historiography in The Historiographical Jesus: Memory, Typology, and the Son of David. This book grew out of my Durham University dissertation of the same title. For more on this book, see here.
In picking up this topic again, I have started to familiarize myself with how the research has evolved since I wrote the book. What is more striking by far is not the content of the research, but the media by which the content can be accessed. I began writing my dissertation in 2002. At that time I remembered thinking, how on earth did Joseph B. Lightfoot (or James D.G. Dunn for that matter) research and write without a computer? It still baffles the mind. I have heard horror stories of 3X5 cards cataloged in shoe boxes. The stuff of nightmares!
But equally baffling is the dramatic advances made in virtual access just in the past ten years. For example, today I found myself staring, mouth agape, at an online pdf of Terence Mullins' "Jesus, the Son of David." This article was one of my white whales in 2002. I was hellbent on reading everything there was to read on the topic and I simply could not get my hands on this essay. The Durham University library is great, but this particular essay was nowhere to be found. I put in requests for inter-library loans to no avail. Other requests to Cambridge were met in a timely manner, but the library gargoyles were having fun at my expense in this case. This story is not uncommon among researchers. We all have our white-whale stories.
It occurred to me today that had I waited a decade to write my dissertation, I might have spent considerably less time trying to harpoon a single essay. The era of the personal computer, the era of research software, the era of online access... my generation has no idea what it must have been like for our forebears. Yes, we have much more primary and secondary literature to read, but there is really no comparing these eras.