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Dr Rebecca Watson’s Old Testament research bears fruit

Dr Rebecca Watson’s Old Testament research bears fruit

Publication day is fast approaching for ERMC’s Director of Studies, Rebecca Watson. Her latest work is the co-editing of an erudite study of the relationship between Canaanite and Israelite religion. It’s written as a series of three dialogues between experts in particular fields. Here Rebecca answers a few pertinent questions about the trials and tribulations of bringing an academic publication through the process from idea to reality.

Q: How does it feel finally to see your book in print?
It’s a great feeling to complete the project and see the book become a reality, especially when your copies actually arrive! However, it’s a bittersweet moment as I sometimes feel with hindsight that there are things I could have approached differently and extra input I could have made if I had had more time to spend. I think most authors and editors feel the same!

Q: How did the project start?
It started a number of years ago when I contributed to a dialogue for the Society of Old Testament Studies. This made me think that a dialogue was a very powerful way to present differing views on the same subjects, enlightening the reader on the common ground and the controversy, but leaving the reader to draw his or her own conclusions.

Q: It’s an esoteric work – can you tell us in a succinct way what it’s all about?
The Israelite and Canaanite religions are described in certain ways in the Bible, but there’s scholarly debate about what was the reality of those religions as experienced two thousand years ago. Each dialogue discusses a clearly defined issue through the lens of a particular biblical passage, and the two authors respond to each other’s arguments, offering their reflections on the process. It’s really a book for academics like me – people fascinated by the Old Testament and the Ancient Near East, plus I hope it will be useful for some postgraduate students to help them clarify key issues.

Q: How do you take the first step towards publication?
The first task is a book proposal for potential publishers. This involves writing the introduction, a contents list and then one complete chapter. Alongside this you need to supply biographies of contributors and an idea of who might be the target market for the book.

Q: Why did you choose to structure the book around dialogues?
My co-editor Adrian Curtis and myself wanted to change scholarly practice by setting up dialogues between pairs of experts in the Old Testament who hold contrasting views. This is a unique approach as it encourages the recognition of points of agreement as well as differences. We wanted to move beyond controversy and expose some of the underlying issues that prevent consensus, but it was a new approach and it required good diplomacy skills!

Rebecca’s new book is called Conversations on Canaanite and Biblical Themes: Creation, Chaos and Monotheism. It’s edited by Rebecca Watson and Adrian H. W. Curtis. You can find more details about the book on the publisher’s website here.