Friday, December 19, 2008

SBL Retrospective (Nov 21-25)

This was my first SBL in three years, thanks to the arrival of "SiByL" last November, and other priorities the year before. My goal this year was to avoid spending too much money at the book display on important books I will never read. I was not completely successful, but how can you pass up the Tübinger Bibelatlas at just over 1/3 its list price?
(I notice Eisenbrauns has the Tübinger at 1/2 price during December--not too shabby!)

In other respects the conference was a success:
  • There was enough interaction with acquaintances new and old to satisfy the number one criterion of a good conference.
  • The 30 minute walk from my hotel to the convention center gave me the chance to get some exercise and sample the city, which is always a highlight--and Boston is a fine city. [Granted it was cold, but I'm from Saskatchewan.]
  • And, finally, there were enough interesting sessions to keep me thinking for some time to come.
Friday evening, I took in Joel Green's Institute for Biblical Research paper, "Acts as a Conversionist Narrative" (mentioned already here), and took advantage of the food and free books provided by BakerAcademic.

On Saturday I caught the excellent NT paper by Doug Moo on "Creation and New Creation" at IBR before heading out for a quick peak at the book display and lunch with contributors to the Online Critical Pseudepigrapha. Lunch must have gone late because I missed the first afternoon session and found myself wandering, once again, in the book display.

To keep this post manageable, I will simply list the other sessions I attended:


4:00-6:30 p.m. Paul and Scripture Consultation: Discussion of Bruce Fisk's paper, "Paul Among the Storytellers: Reading Romans 11 in the Context of Rewritten Bible" (full-text online), with discussion partners including Francis Watson, James Aageson, Linda Belleville, J. Ross Wagner, and Christopher Stanley.

7:00-8:00 p.m. SBL Presidential Address: Jonathan Z. Smith, "Religion and the Bible."


9:00 a.m. service at historic and lively Park Street Church off the Boston Common.

10:30 a.m. E. P. Sanders, Duke University, "Was Paul a Prooftexter? The Case of Galatians 3"

1:00-2:30 p.m. Archaeology of Jerusalem during the Second Temple and Byzantine Periods: I caught the end of Milton Moreland's minimalist presentation on "Roman Jerusalem as a Setting of Earliest Christianity," as well as Ronny Reich's talk on the pool of Siloam and Doron Ben-Ami's presentation on excavations in the city of David that have bearing on the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Both were fascinating. Archaeology presentations tend to have nice pictures too, which is nice.

Break for coffee and book browsing before the session I was most interested in. I found Miller's and Kuecker's presentations especially helpful:

4:00-6:30 p.m. Construction of Christian Identities: Ethnicity
James C. Miller, Asbury Theological Seminary - Ethnic Identity “in Christ” according to Paul
Whitney Shiner, George Mason University - Other People's Texts in the Memory of Non-Judean Participants in the Cult of Jesus
Julien C. H. Smith, Baylor University - The Construction of Identity in Mark 7:24–30: The Syrophoenician Woman and the Problem of Ethnicity
Aaron Kuecker, Trinity Christian College - “Ethnic Language” in Luke-Acts and the Construction of a Transethnic Social Identity
William “Chip” Gruen, Muhlenberg College - Constructing Monastic Identities: Ethnicity in the Lives of Anchoritic Monastics
(I especially regret missing the John Strugnell memorial session that conflicted with this one.)

There was no time for a break before the next conference highlight, a discussion of Martin Goodman's new book, Rome and Jerusalem, by an all-star panel chaired by Seth Schwartz, and made up of Shaye Cohen, Tessa Rajak, and John Barclay.


9:00-11:30 a.m. Book of Acts
F. Scott Spencer, Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond - The Rhetoric of Fear and Pity in the “Tragedy” of Ananias and Sapphira
David L. Eastman, Yale University - A Defense of Paul's Roman Citizenship by “Epiphanius”
James McConnell, Baylor University - The Rhetorical Use of Oracles in Plutarch's Lives and Old Testament Scripture in Luke-Acts: An Investigation (I had to step out for a sneezing fit during this one.)
Christoph Heil, Universität Graz - The “Godfearers”: A Phantom in the History of Early Christianity
Jennifer K. Berenson, Roanoke College - The Allusive Man of Macedonia

1:00 - 3:30 p.m. Historical Jesus: Rural-Urban Relations in First Century Galilee
Eric Meyers, Duke University - Contextualizing Rural-Urban Relations in First-Century Galilee
Jonathan L. Reed, University of La Verne - Morbidity and Mortality as a Socio-Economic Factor in Galilee
Mark A. Chancey, Southern Methodist University - Disputed Issues in the Study of Cities, Villages, and the Economy in Jesus' Galilee
Agnes Choi, University of Toronto - Choosing a Speciality: An Investigation of Regional Specialization in Galilee
Sean Freyne, Trinity College-Dublin - City and Village in Roman Galillee: Reexamining the Literary Evidence

4:00-4:40 p.m. John M. G. Barclay, Durham University - I Will Have Mercy on Whom I Will Have Mercy: Paul and Other Jews on Grace in the Desert (great paper; no abstract)

7:00-8:30 p.m. Panel discussion of Hanan Eshel's new book, The Dead Sea Scrolls And The Hasmonean State


9:00-11:30 a.m. Pauline Soteriology: Gift and Transformation: Agency and Grace in Pauline Theology
Alexandra R. Brown, Washington and Lee University - Divine and Human Agency in the Corinthian Correspondence
Stephen E. Fowl, Loyola College in Maryland - Grabbing and Being Grabbed: Gift, Transformation, and Formation in Paul
Murray Rae, University of Otago - Enabled by Grace: A Theological Account of Human Agency
Stephen Westerholm, McMaster University - “Splendid Vices”?: The Untransformed Moral Agent in Paul
Susan Eastman, Duke University, Respondent ...A great response, which led into a rich discussion.

1 comment:

Anders said...

You went to a seminary about the 'historical Jesus'.

I want to provide a quote from Paqid Yirmeyahu:
"From at least the 4th century C.E., the world has accepted the Church's definition of Jesus as their divine Son of God displacing (superseding) the Torah with himself as "grace," as described in the Christian NT. Thus, Jesus is intractably anti-Torah (antinomian) and contradictory to documented history: the Judaic context, which defines the historical Jew as a Torah-teaching (pro-Torah) Pharisee Ribi: Yehoshua. Playing games with these names changes neither character any more than switching the names of a rose and an onion would change the characteristics of either. Jesus is the intractably contradictory polar opposite of Ribi Yehoshua. Thus, the very phrase "Historical Jesus" is an intractable oxymoron, pre-ensuring that any quest for it is impossible.

The historically-documented Judaic context defines and constrains the very real, historical Jew who was a Torah-teaching Pharisee Ribi -- and let that, instead of Paul (who, Eusebius documented, was excised by the original Netzarim as an apostate) and post-135 C.E. Hellenist Roman fabrications, mold their conclusions about him and his teachings.

Instead of looking for the oxymoronic "Historical Jesus," start looking, for the first time, for "Historical Pharisee-Ribi Yehoshua." You can start your search, and find an enormous amount of information, at

Paqid Yirmeyahu
Paqid 16, The Netzarim, Ra'anana, Israel
Israeli Orthodox Jew (Teimani Baladi Dardai)
Advancing Logic as Halakhic Authority
Welcoming Jews & non-Jews
The Netzarim