House styles need to be learned carefully because they may make important modifications to what SBL style otherwise calls for. But of course, the whole point of making “modifications to what SBL style otherwise calls for” is that a “plain vanilla” application of SBL style covers a vast majority of cases without modification.
After a house style, SBL Press itself provides the next two highest-level authorities for SBL style—namely, the SBLHS blog and the SBLHS itself.
2. The SBLHS Blog
After your house style, you might think the next highest style authority is the SBLHS.
That’s a logical assumption. But one notch higher than the SBLHS is actually the SBLHS blog.
The reason is that, among other things on the SBLHS blog, SBL Press sometimes publishes clarifications of and corrections to the SBLHS’s current edition.
An example of a clarification would be SBL Press’s updated advice about citing J.-P. Migne’s Patrologia Latina. An example of a correction would be the Press’s guidance about how to cite the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers series.
This practice has the upside of not requiring the release of a new edition or printing of the SBLHS each time one of these minor adjustments needs to be noted. But it does also make the SBLHS blog an important resource to consult when you are applying SBL style.
3. The SBLHS
After the SBLHS blog, we come finally to the SBLHS itself.
Perhaps not much needs to be said under this heading. But in order to apply the guidance of the SBLHS, you do need to know what it has to say. And there’s really not a better way to do that than simply to read it carefully and reread relevant portions repeatedly as needed to refresh your memory.
(And surely the SBLHS is on the top of the list of things we’re all most interested to read anyhow, right? ;-))
One main reason for this is that, overall, the SBLHS is quite helpfully organized. Even so, sometimes it has advice in places you might not naturally think to look for it.
As an example, the SBLHS references Siegfried Schwertner’s Internationales Abkürzungsverzeichnis für Theologie und Grenzgebiete (IATG) logically enough under §8.4, dealing with abbreviations. But there’s no mention of IATG under the SBLHS’s §3.4 on “other authorities.” So if you only think to look in §3 because you’re looking for another abbreviation authority in addition to the SBLHS, you’ll miss the guidance the SBLHS gives in §8.
True, the SBLHS might not be the most riveting thing you’ve read. Over time though, the effort you put into “sharpening the saw” by learning the SBLHS will give that time back to you multiple times over.
In sum, if you haven’t yet, subscribe to the SBLHS blog, and stay aware of the posts that the Press releases there. Do not pass “Go.” You may also want to save posts that you find particularly important for later reference.
By the same token, if you haven’t read the SBLHS cover-to-cover, make a plan and schedule some time to do so. Then, as you find yourself unsure of what the SBLHS’s guidance is in a particular case, take a few moments to look it up and reread the relevant material.
If you follow these strategies, you’ll soon find yourself with a much strengthened knowledge of SBL style. And you’ll find it increasingly easier to use that style properly without having to look things back up.
What have you learned about SBL style by reading the SBLHS and the SBLHS blog?
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