Friday, November 26, 2010
Post-SBL Smack Down
I'm back from the land of fried chicken (Atlanta) and biblical scholarship (ETS-IBR-SBL). Great time was had by all. I arrived a few days earlier and stayed with my awesome buddy Joshua Jipp, a Ph.D student at Emory Uni. He took me too the Martin Luther King museum that was awesome. We also went out to a peculiar restaurant that specialized in chicken and waffles.
I have to confess that due to meetings with Ph.D students, friends, editors, and well-wishers, I didn't actually make too many sessions this year. At ETS I attended Jason Hood on summaries of Israel's story as a literary device which was great. The only plenary I got to was N.T. Wright on "Justification, Today, Yesterday and Tomorrow" where Wright was in his usual good form. It was a tad defensive and I forgot how many times he used the word "accused" to describe accusations laid against him. The gob smacking revelation was where he appeared to back down on using the phrase "on the basis of" to describe how works relate to justification. The phrase "on the basis of a life lived" is well worn in his works and Wright seems to me to want to mean that in an evidential way. Note Ardel Caneday's remarks on the significance of this change in Wright's wording. What is more, Wright also appeared to give a tacit approval to the concept of "incorporated righteousness" which has been my hobby horse for about seven years now! I think incorporated righteousness is a way of linking the forensic nature of justification to union with Christ and it might be the common ground in the NPP debate. I also liked Tom Schreiner's comment that N.T. Wright is a rocket leading us into the stratosphere, we merely want to change his trajectory slightly.
At the IBR session on Friday night I experienced one of the best academic moments of my short career. N.T. Wright gave a brilliant paper on the kingdom of God and the cross showing how they go together. It was classic Wright with much wit, bustling exegetical tours of texts, theological synthesis, and insightful hints at application. My remit was to respond to Wright which was a hard act to follow. It felt kinda like being asked to do an encore for the Beatles. But I did my best and tried to match him in wit and wisdom. I offered an affirmation of his main point that kingdom and cross together with a survey of Mark 15. I then made a demonstration of the value of the wider Christian tradition since many commentators in ages past (esp. ancient expositions of the Lord's Prayer) have engaged the subject too with much for us to consider. Finally, I suggested a point of integration of his thesis with a futurist eschatology, specifically the Christus Victor motif about the Messiah's future victory. It was a grand time and I really enjoyed the interaction.
At the IBR worship on Sunday, Karen Jobes gave a moving sermon on the theme "Jesus Loves Me This I know" and he words to her mother on her death bed were truly memorable. David deSilva did a great job in leading the worship and he even included my favourite hymn "O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus". I love IBR. The historical Jesus sections with Bock and Webb were absolutely brilliant as well!
At SBL, the Pauline soteriology group focused on cosmology which was good with papers by Martinus de Boer, Beverly Gaventa, and Eddie Adams. My only quibble is that some of these apocalyptic interpreters of Paul seem to have no positive view of Israel and the Law. They are the "religion" that constitutes the antithesis to Paul's new creation. By the way, I should mention a Princeton conference on Romans 5-8 in 2012 that will feature Beverly Gaventa, John Barclay, Douglas Campbell, and my good buddy Ben Myers!
Of course the books at SBL are always a highlight. They leave any bibliophile salivating at the mouth. For me Baylor had the pick of the books with many good volumes on Jesus, orality, and memory which I picked up. A big seller at SBL was Dale C. Allison's volume on Constructing Jesus and a big seller at ETS was Wayne Grudem on God and Politics. I only bought one of these books (you can guess which one).
I wished I had attended more sessions, got to the bibliobloggers dinner, and eaten more fried chicken.
I warn you all. I made another video at SBL. It is about the SBL Greek New Testament in the tradition of "Old Spice" (don't worry, I keep my clothes on).
Time to file away the 60 gazillion business cards I picked up, get some sleep, and read some of the books I bought. Next year in San Diego!