November 15, 2012
Job Security for Bible Experts Now in Short Supply
(Updated) Joint AAR-SBL report documents "significant fluctuation" in Bible jobs over past decade.
Update (April 10): Baptist Press reports that trustees at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, have unanimously voted to revise the school's tenure program—in order to "cease future extension of tenure."
The debate over whether or not seminary professors should be granted tenure has been ongoing, and CT offered experts the chance to weigh in on the issue last November.
Religious studies experts seeking tenure-track positions need not apply—at least, not for many of the new jobs posted online at the American Academy of Religion (AAR) and the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL).
According to a joint report released by the organizations, which both aim to advance academic biblical studies, the percentage of available tenure-track positions posted online at their websites decreased by 30 percent between 2008 and 2009. And though a 10 percent gain between 2009 and 2010 suggests a small recovery, the overall shift is away from Bible positions that offer job security.
The report analyzes only the number of employment opportunities that "institutions placed with SBL and AAR, not necessarily the total number of job openings in the academic fields that the organizations represent," the report stated.
But the report also showed that the number of jobs available in academia for Bible scholars may be down overall. Job listings plummeted 46 percent in 2009, and "ad numbers in 2010 were
just below ad levels for 2001 (494 and 511 respectively)."
However, growth areas include New Testament, early Christianity, modern Islam and its history. Also, theology positions have doubled compared to philosophy and ethics positions.
CT previously reported on the 2005 joint annual meetings of AAR and SBL as well as how the groups reunited in 2011, alleviating logistical headaches for many attendees and publishers.
CT has also reported recent charges that SBL was pandering to evangelicals, and discussed why scholarly attempts to discover Jesus have failed.