I’ve noticed something over my years as a blogger. People like to comment on subjects that I will call “theological” (for lack of a better word), but not “exegetical”. In other words, if I write a post on the Trinity or Calvinism v. Arminianism it is bound to receive a response. If I write a post on text criticism, translation, exegesis of a passage, or some sort of comparison (like the similarities and/or difference between how two different Gospels tell the same story) it is less likely that there will be many comments.
Why is this? I’d guess familiarity. Everyone knows something about the Trinity, but not everyone knows something about the Synoptic Problem or the use of the Hebrew Scriptures in the Pauline epistles. This makes the most sense to me as an explanation. If someone wrote about Christology in general it invites a wide array of contributions, but if they wrote about the Christology of the Pastoral Epistles or the Christology of the Cappadocian Fathers then this demands interaction with more particularization than the open format where everyone and anyone has something to say.
Do you find this to be true? Why do you find yourself interacting with some blog posts and not on others? What motivates you to comment or not?
My blog experience over the last few years would be mostly in line with yours. Almost anything technical receives very few links or comments, but challenge someone’s ‘beliefs’ and often the gloves come off.
Well, technical subjects require technical knowledge. That narrows the field considerably from the start. Even with that technical knowledge or education, writing a well-reasoned comment takes time and thought, and that’s often not what people are looking for when they visit blogs. I write this as someone who curates an entire blog exclusively focused on the study of Biblical Greek!
@Scott: True, when someone is invested in what is written they are bound to put energy into a response.
@Refe: You’ve got quite the challenge ahead of you with your theme! Most don’t know Greek and those who do may not “know Greek”. That makes for a very narrow audience.
Absolutely, Brian. I’ve been doing this since 2007 and I see the same thing. With linguistics and biblical languages blogging, you only get a substantial number of comments if you write about translation theory–and write about it controversially, preferably. I quit writing about translation for precisely that reason. Exegetical posts often get more comments than linguistics posts though…and exegetical posts are more likely to get some random comment out of the blue two years down the road by someone who thinks they have something new to day (they usually don’t).
I’ve got roughly 400 subscribed readers to my blog and am lucking to get any comments from more than two or three of them. And its normally the same two or three every time.
@Mike: I’ve come to believe that most people interact with blogs when it is a controversial topic. Otherwise, they have no interest. What does that say about us bloggers and blog readers?!
Ah, but do people comment on blogs about people commenting on blogs? That is the real question.
Why yes, yes they do!
Fully agree, Sir. Brian!
I find people also like to comment about silly posts. Like if I spend ages doing a post about a particular reading of a Pauline passage, it might get one or two responses – but then if I do one about stepping on a frog it’s get plenty of interaction! (I haven’t stepped on a frog)
I think your observation is dead on. I enjoy reading posts about textual criticism, translation, and the history of the church, but I don’t feel like I know enough about these topics to have something of value to add to the conversation. I will occasionally comment on an exegetical post, but only when I think the writer has said something unusually insightful. I guess I’m different than a lot of people in that I don’t comment on posts that just make me angry and I don’t comment on blogs where experience has shown me that the responses to my comments will be condescendingly dismissed. (I read them, yes, but I don’t comment on them.)
FYI, like everyone else, my most-commented on blog posts have been about the Calvinism-Arminism debate. Everyone seems to have an opinion on unconditional election!
Everyone knows something about the Trinity, but not everyone knows something about the Synoptic Problem or the use of the Hebrew Scriptures in the Pauline epistles. This makes the most sense to me as an explanation. If someone wrote about Christology in general it invites a wide array of contributions, but if they wrote about the Christology of the Pastoral Epistles or the Christology of the Cappadocian Fathers then this demands interaction with more particularization than the open format where everyone and anyone has something to say.
I think what you describe here is still ‘theological’. But it is different from your articles juxtaposing the Synoptics and other such exegesis treatment. I am not sure, but someone like an Andrew Perriman gets good interaction on biblical exegesis of passages.
I am personally drawn to developing a biblical theology on topics, but not so much exegesis and straight through a passage. But that’s me.
What trend I find though at my blog is that very few comment on much of anything I write. 😉
I do also agree with the sentiment that we are drawn to more controversial topics, or what we believe are controversial.
But, hey, everyone is entitled to my opinion.
@Matthew: Which seems to contribute to the idea that people comment more when it is something they are comfortable addressing. Who doesn’t like humor?!
@LCK: I’m like you. I read a lot about things that interest me, but that I don’t have anything to provide in response. Sometimes I comment on controversial posts, but I admit that I do that much less that before. It wears me out sometimes!
@Scott: Sure, it is still theological, I just couldn’t think of a better way to divide the two! 🙂
I think this list of Church Relevance’s Top 200 Church Blogs gives a small indication of what sort of biblical conversations people are drawn towards. Not definitive, but when I see Pyromaniacs and the Gospel Coalition at the top and someone like Marc Goodacre at the bottom, I believe that it is in a small way indicative.
True! NearEmmaus.com is #167. That is not a good sign.
I’m new to the blogosphere and have followed Near Emmaus for a while. Nevertheless, I do find your post to be true. Refe pointed out that technical subjects do relegate the audience quite a bit. While I enjoy mulling over posts about theology (in general, yeah I know that’s broad), I have attempted to comment in moderation. My motivation would be to ask questions about the topic, if somethings seems unclear, I would hope the blogger wouldn’t mind clarifying. Further, thanking the blogger that posted something noteworthy. I find someone willing to share something (in humility) honorable (in that he/she is avoiding an esoteric tendency).
@Roger: I like doing those two things as well. Sometimes I want to let the blogger know I appreciated what they wrote. Sometimes I want a little clarification. In both scenarios I have to be somewhat invested in the content of their post.
We are humble enough to know which topics we can have some voice in, and which require a bit more knowledge. So, either we use your post as an excuse to study to educate a response, or we take the easier path of moving on (yet, sometimes reading). Usually, it’s the latter.
That said, I enjoy exegetical commentary — seeing how people frame their thoughts around scripture.
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