Wednesday, December 30, 2009

SBL Retrospective: The Sessions

More than a month after the conference, this SBL retrospective is late (see early notes here and here)--but it is only a little later than last year's, and I'd like to comment on a few of the sessions in more detail later on. Without further apology:

As I feared, I spent most of Friday and Saturday confined to my hotel room, finishing up my paper for the Sunday morning Josephus section. However, I did make it out to the Friday evening IBR session to hear Tremper Longman try to justify why we still need more commentaries, to overdose on dessert, and to pick up my free book. (Joel Willitts summarizes Longman's main points here; Doug Chaplin isn't persuaded; my reaction is still percolating.)

On Saturday, I missed a couple good sessions on Romans (21-230, 21-336). Fortunately for me, Andy Rowell recorded the second session. I also missed the Bible Software Shootout (21-313). (According to the word on the street [scroll down for more links], the program I used most often didn't shine, but I have yet to hear it from Bibleworks's perspective.)

On Saturday evening I emerged for David Clines's presidential address. This was, perhaps, an odd choice, since the presidential addresses are always published in JBL, and they can be rather dull. But I was curious to hear what Clines had to say on the subject of "Learning, Teaching, and Researching Biblical Studies." Instead of the radical post-modern presentation I was expecting, Clines gave a good lecture on the importance of focusing on teaching, and teaching well. His enthusiastic defense of student-centred learning will not have been new to anyone familiar with the field of pedagogy, but it was refreshing to hear in this context.

9:00-11:30 a.m. Josephus - My paper to an intimate audience of about a dozen people seemed to go well despite competition from the session next door. When it was over the chair invited the panelists to join the other members of the group for lunch. A highlight of the conference.

1:00-3:30 p.m. - I caught the tail end of Eric Meyers's presentation on Archaeology in Galilee (22-203), and then walked down to view the Mississippi, and do a little shopping.

4:00-6:30 p.m. Historical Jesus (22-324) - Panel review of John Meier's A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, Volume 4: Law and Love. The comments by the Jewish scholars Lawrence Schiffman and Adele Reinhartz (as well as Meier's responses) were especially interesting. I decided to purchase the book.

7:00-9:00 p.m. New Testament Theology (22-403) - A panel discussion focusing primarily on Udo Schnelle's new New Testament Theology. I stayed long enough to decide that I could let the dust settle before trying to read (or purchase) any of the spate of NT Theologies that have been published in the last 5 years. Too many new books.

9:00-11:30 Pauline Epistles (23-138) - Several good papers and vigorous discussion. I had to smile when one presenter commented disparagingly about the "justification by faith" paradigm and the next referred critically to "the so-called New Perspective on Paul." My favorite was Akio Ito's impressively clear and helpful paper on Romans 8:10: "'The Spirit is Life' or 'the Spirit is Alive.'"

1:00-3:30 Pauline Soteriology (23-233) - Panel Review of Douglas Campbell's The Deliverance of God in which Campbell tries to show that he is not the Emperor. (This is not a negative judgement on Campbell's thesis--I haven't read his 1200+ page book yet--but from his presentation it appears the stakes are that high.)

4:00-6:30 Wandered the book exhibit; decided not to purchase books.


10:00-11:30 Book of Acts (24-106).

All in all, a fine conference with stimulating sessions, good conversations (not included in this review), a few new books, and a couple regrets. I wish, for example, that I had shared Bruce Fisk's experience exploring the lower ninth ward---or had even thought of the idea.


Jason A. Staples said...

Yes, I am the presenter who "commented disparagingly about the 'justification by faith' paradigm and [then] referred critically to 'the so-called New Perspective on Paul.'

Glad I brought a smile to someone's face. ;)

d. miller said...

Sorry, Jason. I must have misremembered: I was thinking of what I took to be a relatively sympathetic view of the so-called new perspective on your part and the much more critical stance of the next presenter.

Jason A. Staples said...

Actually that was true, but despite the fact that I am closer to the NPP than the JF perspective, I called it the "so called New Perspective on Paul." But no worries, I actually misread your post when I first looked at it, which is why I thought you were referring to my paper.