What is the editorial mission of your journal?
Currents in Biblical Research (CBR) summarizes the spectrum of recent research on particular topics or biblical books. Articles cover specific biblical books or clusters of books; Second Temple or rabbinic corpora; ancillary ancient literature; archaeology and material culture; historical studies; surveys of themes, methodology, or approach; as well as new and developing areas of study.
How is the journal different from other journals in the field? What particular niche do you occupy?
While dissertators are almost always asked to write “literature reviews,” this is usually the first section cut when the author begins to turn dissertation into book. Scholars, however, benefit greatly from such knowledge. Whether one is entering a new area of study, preparing for a new course, or seeking to fill in some gaps of knowledge, there is a significant need for a widely-accessible dissemination of this knowledge. CBR fills this lacuna in academic scholarship. In my brief time as editor of CBR, I have seen magnificent essays by senior scholars reflecting back on recent trends in their field and wonderful surveys of scholarship that are drawn directly from a dissertation defended just a few months prior. Each essay is invaluable for scholars working with the material and/or with the approach covered therein.
Tell us a little about your peer review process.
Essays arrive on my desk in one of three ways, either: (1) a scholar contacts me with an idea or essay; (2) someone contacts me to suggest that we consider an essay written by another scholar; or (3) I contact a scholar directly seeking a submission. Obviously, as an editor, I prefer the first two! Once the author and myself get in touch, we discuss the topic and parameters, which I consider to be the first stage of peer review. I make sure that the scholar is qualified to cover the proposed topic and that the article is appropriate in scope. Then, the author writes the piece (or submits it if already written). I read the piece over and send back my own comments. After the author has made those revisions, I submit it to a blind peer reviewer. How I proceed depends on the reviewer’s comments. If I get a strong review supporting publication and I agree with the assessment, then I will ask the author to make the changes suggested by the reviewer and then move to publication. If the reviewer does not recommend the piece strongly, then I will seek another opinion. If two reviewers do not like the piece then, barring any unique circumstances, I will reject the piece. If the decision is split, I can either use my own discretion or (and this has yet to happen, thankfully!) I can seek a third reviewer. I encourage a speedy process, as one of my goals is to establish an efficient timeline from submission to review to (hopefully!) acceptance and publication.
What kind of topics are you looking for?
Pitch me an idea! I am happy to listen to them all! In all seriousness, I really do encourage a wide variety of topics, as I think that CBR offers value to any and all who study the ancient world and, in my role as editor, to those who study ancient Judaism in particular. For example, the first two essays that I have edited are Daniel Ullucci’s essay on “Sacrifice in the Ancient Mediterranean: Recent and Current Research” (CBR 13/3, 2015) and Sara Ronis’ “Intermediary Beings in Late Antique Judaism: A History of Scholarship” (look for it in October 2015). I have several essays at various points in the pipeline, but am always on the lookout for more. Further, while the previous two examples are on theory and method, and a theme, I also would welcome essays on individual works (e.g., Sifra), authors (e.g., Philo), etc.
What advice do you have for submitting to your journal? What are some common mistakes that first time authors make?
My first piece of advice it to e-mail me. If you have an idea, pitch it to me while you are still working on it. I am happy to help you shape it, saving you (and me) time down the road. In this way, CBR is a bit different from other journals. In terms of advice for first time authors, I will give two pieces of advice, one particular to CBR and one more general. For first time CBR authors, it is important to have a confident but not dismissive tone. You should take clear stances, but do not use this as an opportunity to tell me how wrong-headed Prof. Ploni is when she argues X and Y. Further, make sure that you cover everyone relevant, even if you disagree with them. Remember that you are covering all relevant recent scholarship. That being said, as the author, I do want you to weigh in on the major issues. So it is a complex balance. And in general, I advise first time authors to submit their essays. This seems simple, but far too often scholars, especially young ones, are too afraid of making any mistake so they become paralyzed by perfectionism. Now, I am not saying that you should submit any random, half-baked idea you have; rather, what I mean is that you should work hard on an essay, show it to colleagues, improve it, and then submit it. Submit it to the top journal that is most appropriate for the topic. And then use the peer review process to improve your essay. Often times, you will get a Revise-and-Resubmit and can use the knowledge gained through the review process to strengthen the essay and have it accepted. You never know, you might even get an Accept with revisions. But you will never know unless you submit the essay in the first place. And if your essay is rejected, take a break from the essay for a few days, then read the reviews and try and address their concerns. And then submit that, now stronger, essay to another journal.
Name a few recent pieces that you really feel reflect the journal's expertise and contribution.
In addition to the two essays that I mentioned above, I would suggest Maxine Grossman’s “Is Ancient Jewish Studies (Still) Postmodern (Yet)?” (CBR 13/2, 2015) and, to reach in our archives a little bit, Carol Bakhos’ “Recent Trends in the Study of Midrash and Rabbinic Narratives” (CBR 7/2, 2009).
Jordan D. Rosenblum, Belzer Associate Professor of Classical Judaism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the Editor for Ancient Judaism at Currents in Biblical Research