Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Longest Footnote in Human History?

For those of you who don't already know, the long-awaited fourth volume of John Meier's multivolume work, A Marginal Jew, is finally out. All 735 pages of it.

While reading through the book this morning, I discovered what may well be the longest footnote/endnote in human history. At the beginning of his chapter on Jesus' teachings on divorce, Meier has an endnote that spans almost twelve single-spaced 10 point font pages! (See pp. 128-139). 

I challenge any of our (obviously erudite) readers to find me a footnote or endnote longer than this! Go ahead, try! Someone needs to contact the Guinness book of world records and add a new section to it.

Now, don't get me wrong, for many a year, I have loved long footnotes. Meier was, after all, my teacher at Notre Dame, and I sought to emulate his footnote style in my own dissertation. However, this new record does raise a question. How long is too long? How many footnotes (or endnotes, as in Meier's volume) is too many?

Do you prefer works like Meier's, which are accompanied by exhaustive footnotes/end-notes and excursuses? Or works like N. T. Wright and Richard Bauckham, which keep the notes to a minimum, functioning as a selective group of references? Thoughts? Advice for future books?