Focus on Societies

Society of Biblical Literature

Since 1880, the Society of Biblical Literature has carried out its mission to "foster biblical scholarship" making it the oldest and largest learned society devoted to the critical investigation of the Bible and related texts from a variety of academic disciplines. This mission is continually driven through its core values, including respect for diversity, critical inquiry, scholarly integrity, inclusivity, and tolerance. 

As an international organization, the Society offers its members opportunities for mutual support, intellectual growth, and professional development through the following:

  • Advancing academic study of biblical texts and their contexts as well as of the traditions and contexts of biblical interpretation;
  • Collaborating with educational institutions and other appropriate organizations to support biblical scholarship and teaching;
  • Developing resources for diverse audiences, including students, religious communities, and the general public;
  • Facilitating broad and open discussion from a variety of critical perspectives;
  • Organizing congresses for scholarly exchange;
  • Publishing biblical scholarship; and
  • Promoting cooperation across global boundaries.

SBL fosters the broad discipline of biblical studies through its meetings, professional resources, public resources, publications, and its flagship journal, Journal of Biblical Literature. Its membership includes faculty, graduate students, and independent researchers around the world. Through its programs, SBL serves scholars, religious professionals, and the general public.

The Society encourages its members to engage with the major ethical issues that face them in their particular place and moment in history and aims to provide resources to foster deep discussion of these issues, and critical engagement with them from a variety of standpoints and perspectives. SBL aspires to provide a model for engaging critically and respectfully the study of sacred texts and all aspects of religious discourse in the context of civil society.

Consistent with its mission, in 2012 SBL helped launch the International Qur'anic Studies Association, an independent learned society serving scholars of the Qur'an.

SBL Press publishes reference works, textbooks, monographs, anthologies, and translations for scholars and students in colleges and universities, as well as professionals and the general public. With more than 20 series and journals, its subject range includes texts from the ancient Near Eastern and Late Antiquity, as well as biblical interpretation from the ancient world to modern contexts.

The Society organizes several meetings annually, and is best known for its November meeting—the largest gathering of scholars interested in the study of sacred texts and traditions. Attracting over 10,000 attendees from over 100 countries, the SBL Annual Meeting offers more than 1,000 academic sessions and workshops jointly with the American Academy of Religion’s Annual Meeting. Over 20 organizations affiliate with the Society and also conduct their annual meetings at this time, including the African Association for the Study of Religions, the International Qur'anic Studies Association, Society for Comparative Research on Iconographic and Performative Texts, and Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion.

The Society also organizes an International Meeting each year outside of the United States, attracting 400 to 1,200 attendees. Often in partnership with regional and peer organizations, the International Meeting helps to establish and extend local and global networks of scholars, as scholarship is advanced and contextual interests of significance throughout the world are highlighted. Such organizational partnerships include the Asociación Bíblica Argentina, Society of Asian Biblical Studies, and the European Association of Biblical Studies.

SBL programs cultivate opportunities for professional development and personal enrichment for career scholars and lifetime enthusiasts. These resources include fully Unicode compliant fonts for Hebrew and Greek; online access to manuscripts; online books; membership-based discounts for print editions of its journals and a host of other journals; analyses of hiring trends and issues of degree production and representation (here, here); and mentoring events for students, women, and underrepresented racial and minorities in the profession at Annual, International, and Regional meetings. Awards available to members also support the development of early-career scholars, whether their work is in Hebrew Bible, New Testament, or reception history, or was presented at a regional meeting.

While much of the Society’s work focuses on fostering the scholarship of the discipline, it also involves engaging the public around the importance of sacred texts and traditions. In 2014, with a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, SBL launched Bible Odyssey, a media-rich, interactive website that presents scholarship about the Bible and related topics, and designed to engage the general public.

SBL members also use their expertise and teaching skills to develop modules for instruction at US secondary schools on the history of sacred texts and their contemporary reception. Professional middle and secondary school educators are consulted to craft course modules with members that help educators effectively teach about sacred texts and traditions, as well as their varied receptions throughout history. These modules extend the work the Society does to foster biblical scholarship through its members in such a way that fosters a more religiously literate and civically competent public.

For more information on the Society of Biblical Literature, visit