Although the title of this post gives the impression that these meetings took place together, though consecutively, as they have in years past, this is not the case. ETS was held in Providence, RI and SBL took place in Boston. I attended both meetings, which made for a long week, and I am quite happy to be home today. Since Thanksgiving is not celebrated in the UK and the American families have planned a Thanksgiving celebration on Saturday, I thought this morning would be a good time to share my experiences from both meetings.
The fact that the meetings took place in two different cities, about an hour train ride apart, was a bit inconvenient. There seemed to be a general consensus on this complaint, at least from those I spoke with. I understand this will not be the case next year but we will see. Anyway, on to the meetings.
As is often the case, the titles to the presentations were much more exciting than the papers themselves (including my own). I presented a paper entitled “The Reception of Pseudepigrapha Among the Christians in Asia Minor: 2 Peter as Testament Re-Considered.” This essay was actually an appendix from my Master’s thesis that I turned into an article and represents the second part of a series of articles questioning the common consensus on the pseudonymity of 2 Peter. I presented the first of these articles, “The Literary Relationship of 2 Peter and Jude Examined Against an Analogy of the Synoptic Gospels,” at the Tyndale House Fellowship Study Groups in Cambridge this summer and at the British New Testament Society this fall here in Durham.
The presentation went well with no dissenters only a few questions regarding the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, which I cited in the essay. It was presented in the Early Christianity in Asia Minor section and there was a reasonable number of people present. This, of course, was only because many of the people came to hear Karen Jobes of Wheaton College, who was unable to attend. I consider myself an unworthy replacement.
Dan Wallace delivered a powerful presentation over the need for evangelical scholars to get involved in textual criticism, even though he had had surgery on his neck only a week prior to the meeting. Though he had to cancel his other presentations, he gave this one in typical Wallace style, very matter-of-fact, well argued, and at times humorous. The work he is doing at CSNTM is phenomenal and probably won’t be fully realized until some time in the future. Yet, scholars are now able to access tens of thousands of extremely high quality digital photographs of actual ancient Greek manuscripts that can be enlarged with great clarity with the click of a mouse, something hitherto unheard of.
Darrell Bock was probably the busiest man at the meeting and it seemed like he was showing up everywhere! But in Bock fashion he was at the forefront of some of the most relevant discussions relating to earliest Christianity and how important the apocryphal writings are to current evangelical scholars.
For me, I think this was one of the highlights of ETS. Not seeing Wallace and Bock, but seeing how scholars at DTS are on the front lines engaging the important discussions that are taking place with issues concerning the text of Scripture. There are many non-peer-reviewed books hitting the bookshelves written at a popular level that are inviting the public into discussions concerning the Bible and early Christianity that are aimed at refuting the reliability of the Scriptures. If evangelicals are unable to enter the discussion, how will we be able to answer both believers in our churches and unbelievers we encounter?
For me personally, however, the highlight, the pinnacle of the ETS meeting, came on the last day. Each year ETS invites non-ETS members to speak on certain topics. This year the Near East Archeological Society had a special session on Qumran and the Hebrew Scriptures. I was pleased to be able to hear James Vanderkam of Notre Dame present his paper “Enoch and the Canon of the Old Testament.” Peter Flint also presented a paper entitled “The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Text of the Hebrew Scriptures.”
The SBL meeting was exceptional since the likes of Vanderkam, Flint, Carol Newsom, James Davila, George Nickelsburg, Hanan and Esther Eshel, and my supervisor Loren Stuckenbruck, could be seen and heard in a number of places. I caught myself at times considering the weight of scholarship with which I had the pleasure of engaging. Moreover, I am continually amazed at their humility and willingness to discuss ideas with new scholars.
Probably the best thing I learned while away was how much more interested I am in my own research than anyone else’s!! After a while one becomes incredibly bored listening to presentation after presentation. The interaction with scholars on a personal level is by all means the most important, rewarding, and stimulating part of these meetings.
I was pleased to hear that Richard Bauckham, when asked where he thought was the best place to study theology in the UK, answered, “Hands down, Durham!” I must say, I agree!!! We do have the best faculty in the UK at the present time.
Durham’s annual reception was also a very good time. It was a very relaxed environment where prospective students got to mingle with the faculty and ask questions of the current post grads about their experiences living in Durham. Not to mention the fact that many of the UK scholars made there way into the reception at some point in the evening.
I was also pleased that I was asked to contribute a chapter to a forthcoming volume on 2 Peter in an edited series. This came as a welcome surprise and of course I agreed to do so. My problem is that I want to do more work in my present research than the work I did previously. So it’s back to work!
Well, this is just one man’s experience at ETS/SBL this year. Overall I was quite pleased, though the trip was too long and missed my family terribly. It is good to be home! My apologies for the poor writing and bad graphics but I am extremely jet-lagged and not feeling well. It would have been best to have waited but I have too much to do beginning next week.