Saturday, November 20, 2010

SBL in ATL

The Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting gets underway later this morning, though the meeting really got underway last night. I made the short drive from Knoxville to Atlanta yesterday morning, parked in one of the northern suburbs, and rode the MARTA train into downtown. After a few hours of getting my bearings, doing some reading, and running into a couple friends, I did attend two meetings. First was the Stone-Campbell Journal Reception, which featured an informal conversation with Loren Stuckenbruck and Randy Chestnutt on why apocryphal and pseudepigraphal texts matter for anyone interested in Christian origins and the New Testament. There were, perhaps, fifty attendees, so the atmosphere was relaxed and casual.

After the SCJ meeting I headed over to the Institute for Biblical Research Annual Lecture, which was relaxing but certainly not casual. N. T. Wright's lecture, "The Kingdom and the Cross," was vintage—or typical—Wright, depending on what you think of his work. He made a strong case that the kingdom of God and the cross of Christ are mutually interpreting, though he did overstate his thesis's innovation. The respondent, Mike Bird, duly pointed out the misstep. Both presenters were engaging, perhaps even thought provoking; the questioners afterward were perhaps less so. Since this is my blog I'll point out that I made an off-hand comment in Structuring Early Christian Memory that, I think, was largely along the same lines Wright proposed:
Though Jesus’ reputation would centre on his healing and exorcistic prowess in some circles, in the New Testament his salience centres on his crucifixion and resurrection. As a phenomenon in itself resurrection did not necessitate Jesus’ status as messiah or guarantee him a hearing with onlookers. But in New Testament traditions the significance of Jesus’ healings and exorcisms transferred onto his death and resurrection, so that these latter, like Jesus’ exorcisms, took on ‘more significance’. In this latter case, Isaiah continued to function as a vital traditional locus, but here texts like Ps. 22 also came into play. Though we cannot pursue this avenue of inquiry here, the way is thus opened up for us to not only understand Jesus’ healings and exorcisms within the context of Jesus’ overarching βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ [‘kingdom of God’] programme but also to understand the connections between the historical Jesus and the memory of Jesus among his followers. (221–22)

That is, despite how seemingly self-interpreting the claim to resurrection seems to us, within the discursive field of Second Temple Judaism resurrection was a more ambiguous—if not a more common—phenomenon. The early Christians, however, understood Jesus' resurrection (and the crucifixion that necessarily preceded it) along lines that were already established during Jesus' life and teaching. The strategies of interpretation that Jesus' followers brought to bear on the healings and exorcisms are largely those we find at work in discussions of Jesus' death and resurrection. Both, Paul might say, were κατὰ τὰς γραφάς (see 1 Cor. 15.3–8).

But enough of that. I also met up with some friends from Sheffield and from Cincinnati Christian University; this is the best part of the SBL. Oh . . . and the free books. InterVarsity Press gave out a free copy of Anthony Thiselton's recent introduction to Paul, The Living Paul: An Introduction to the Apostle's Life and Thought (Downer's Grove, Ill.: IVP, 2009) to IBR members. I was excited, as I'm looking for a good introduction to Paul. I'm not sure, however, that this is the one I'm looking for. The SBL also were distributed free hardback copies of their new Greek New Testament, edited by Michael Holmes. I'm not sure the need for this one, except perhaps for the much-relaxed copyright claims the publisher holds over this text. If you're interested, you can download an electronic copy for free here.

2 comments:

Atheist Spirituality said...

Thanks!

Lloyd said...

I really enjoyed reading the posts on your blog. I would like to invite you to come on over to my blog and check it out. God's blessings. Lloyd

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