Book Picks from SBL

Like many others, I did not have too many books on my list of things to pick up.

Here are my ‘picks’ from SBL

Mike Gorman’s Elements of Biblical Exegesis, revised and expanded (Hendrickson). This is one of the best exegetical textbooks and is written in a simple, but comprehensive way that covers all major steps of interpretation. Three new elements made this appealing for me to pick up in this new version: (1) Gorman has added a new section on ‘theological intepretation’. I will write a separate post on this. (2) Gorman has included three real exegesis papers by students in the appendix of the book, including one OT one. (3) The excellent annotated bibiliography has been updated. This is invaluable for exegesis students.

J. Neyrey and Eric Stewart’s Social World of the NT: Insights and Models (Hendrickson). Dealing with issues related to institutions (kindship, patron-client, economics), culture (honor, purity, gender, space, healing, etc…) and modal personality, this collection of programmatic essays from many well-known scholars (Neyrey, Elliott, Oakman, Pilch, Rohrbaugh) is a great resource. This would make a good textbook, but it also works for reference purposes.

S. McKnight and G. Osborne’s The Face of NT Studies (Baker, 2004). This is not a new book, but it is an amazing resource for prospective PhD and current research students. Because NT is so fragmented in terms of research specialities, it is necessary to be informed of the current debates and issues in other areas when a Paul person, for instance, dares to make a comment about John or Hebrews. I will dedicate a full post to this book later.

David deSilva’s The Sacramental Life: Spiritual Formation Through the Book of Common Prayer (IVP).  David is a friend of mine and I really like what he does.  Starting from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, and tries to offer a spiritual and theological reading of it to bring revitalization to the protestant church and especially ‘low’ church life by showing how this ancient book offers invaluable guidance and devotional riches.  More on this later.

Greg Beale’s We Become What we Worship (IVP).  This biblical theology of idolatry is a very important topic, also recently taken up by Brian Rosner.  Beale’s strong background in biblical theology, intertextuality, and apocalyptic literature makes him eminently qualified to undertake this project.  More also on this.

NB: I did hope to pick up Fitzmyer’s 1 Corinthians (Anchor/Yale), but it was not out yet.  Also, like many others, I was anxious to the see the Hays FS which sold out quite quickly.  Oh well.  I have enough to read for now anyway!

My new article on 1 Corinthians 6.11 (Irish Biblical Studies, Dec 2008)

I just received a copy of my new article in Irish Biblical Studies called ‘ “But you were acquitted…”: 1 Corinthians 6.11 and Justification and Judgment in its Socio-Literary and Theological Context’ (27.3; December 2008).

In this article I argue that the language of ‘justification’ (dikaioo) is not ‘traditional’, but intricately related to the antecedent discussion of lawsuits and justice.  Thus, Paul is not just saying ‘you were justified’ as if this came from a common baptismal liturgy (as some argue), but means something closer to ‘you were acquitted’ which ties their own salvation to concepts of justice, power, judgment, wisdom, authority, and value in the letter as a whole.  Also, I argue that Paul is not against lawsuits per se, but about what going to courts in the secular society in Corinth involved and meant.  In a sense, the Corinthians were putting their trust and the condition of their honor status in the hands of secular rulers and magnates, but these same powers misjudged both Paul and Christ and proved to be faulty authorities.  Their allegiances with the world through such court appeals could run the risk of severing their own acquittal by Christ whose court and power is nonsense to the world.

I make a comparison between this issue of law-justice in Corinth, and circumcision in Galatia.  Paul was not against circumcision in and of itself, but what it meant eschatologically and socially for the Galatians.  It involved going back in time and it meant making bonds and social ties that are not necessary and even destructive in the overlapping of the ages.  So also lawsuits mean an eschatological reversal and social confusion as believers run the risk of over-ruling Christ’s proclamation of acquittal in favor of a status recognized by the secular powers.

The apocalyptic dimensions of this issue are most intriguing to me and my penultimate thesis chapter will deal more with these ideas.  I know IBS is not widely circulated, so you will have to wait until I publish a compilation of my articles on Paul and the New Testament… :)

My New Article in Neotestamentica

The latest issue of Neotestamentica (December 2008) will include my ‘”I Will Not Be Put to Shame”: Paul, the Philippians, and the Honourable Wish for Death’ (pp. 253-268).

This article, a draft of which I presented in 2007 at the British NT Conference, is an exploration of a Jewish literary tradition I call the ‘honourable wish for death’ and how Paul re-expresses this concept.  This traditional normally involves a Jewish person (whether Moses, Elijah, Jonah, Job, Jeremiah, etc..) who is God’s servant and hopes for some kind of success or victory in service to him.  When God sometimes leads his servant into suffering or humiliation, it was normal for him to wish for death as a way of alleviating dishonor.  The important thing, though, is that none of these characters actually commit suicide – it is a rhetorical device.

In Philippians 1, I argue that Paul is re-deploying this literary device because he, as God’s agent, is in a shameful position of imprisonment and one would naturally say ‘Oh God, take my life, for it is better for me to die than to live’.  But, those who are ‘in Christ’ know life and death differently.  For Paul to live is ‘Christ’ even though to die is ‘gain’.  Death and suffering are revealed to be, not marks of shame, but of conformity to the pattern of Christ.  This is clearly laid out in Philippians 3.

Unfortunately Neotestamentica is not available to ATLA users online.  You will have to make a trip to the library for this one.

I am happy to share this issue of NeoT with Jonathan Draper, Darian Lockett, David Moessner, Steve Moyise, and Gert Steyn.  There are several good articles here worth checking out!

Reflections on Interviewing at SBL and Advice

As mentioned in an earlier post, I interviewed for an NT position with the SBL Career Center at the conference.  Prior to the SBL, the college/seminary arranges a time and day to meet with you.  The interview is usually 20-30 minutes; some may last 40-60 minutes if the institution has only a few candidates by the time of SBL.

Tip#1: DO YOUR HOMEWORK – know everything you possibly can about the institution.  You need to know, if possible, in advance who is going to interview you.  Try to read some of their scholarship.  Also, try to find a points of contact between you and the interviewers beforehand – especially mutual friends.

Tip#2: KNOW THE BASIC QUESTIONS YOU WILL BE ASKED: I went to Barnes and Noble on Thursday before SBL and got out all the interviewing books.  They all seem to have the same kinds of questions.  I expected this one and got it: ‘What interests you about this institution?’.  Now, also expect some doctrinal questions if it is a confessional institution (and especially if it is evangelical).  These can get sticky, but if you did your homework, they should not surprise you.

Tip#3: ACT LIKE A PROFESSIONAL: Don’t act like a student.  Talk to your interviewers, not as if this interview is a huge favor, but as if you are peers in the field.  Don’t be cocky and arrogant, but you don’t have to grovel.  Of course, look like a professional (no backpack, wear a tie if you are a man, no jeans).  In questions that relate to teaching, don’t speak in hypothetical scenarios (‘I think I would…’).  Show them you have past experience: ‘When that has happened to me, I have dealt with it in a couple of ways…’.

Tip#4: KEEP ANSWERS SHORT: I was not as good in practicing this as much as in retrospect.  My interview was 18 minutes long.  They have a lot of questions.  Give right-to-the-point answers.  They will ask follow up questions if they want detail.

Tip#5: ASK QUESTIONS: If they say at the end: ‘Do you have any questions for us?’, that is not a cue to begin packing your things up.  You SHOULD have some questions.  Now, don’t ask stupid questions like ‘how many students do you have?’ or ‘where is the school located?’  That just shows you are not taking the job seriously.  But, it is always good to ask questions because it demonstrates that you are serious about the job.  One important question that I asked is: ‘What are the strengths of your department?’  This shows them that, if I have options, I want to be able to make an informed decision.

This is just preliminary thoughts from my one interview.  The important thing is, though, be prepared.

Well, if you are in my shoes, looking for a job, best wishes.

Reflections on SBL 2008

I just returned today from cold and rainy Boston. Now I am here in slightly warmer and slightly drier Durham, England. Its good to be back!

This year was very special and exciting for me for several reasons. In the first place, I did my Masters work in Massachusetts (on the north shore) and so it was nice to be in familiar surroundings. Secondly, I presented a paper in the new 2 Corinthians working group involving ‘theology in the making’. Finally, I interviewed for an academic post. I must say, though, that my experience in retrospect is very mixed. I will highlight the positives and negatives for me this year.

Negative – In terms of the sessions themselves, there weren’t many papers that I was excited to hear (in comparison to previous years). I think that SBL is getting too big and has become just a big shopping mall of groups and papers. I think it caters to the ADD-prone, but I long for something more intentional and focused. I was often left with the question – ‘what are the goals of these themed groups?’ and ‘how is the biblical-research guild impacted as a result of these sessions?’ One way to improve this problem, I think, is to have more focused topics (not just ‘Pentateuch’ or ‘Disputed Pauline letters’). Also, I had a respondent (Jerry Sumney) and I think that is more worthwhile because having ‘open questions’ alone is often unhelpful to the presenter (though not always).

Also a negative for me was the selection of books this year, though a couple of things caught my eye (and I will post more on those later in the week). Eerdmans especially seemed to have dropped the ball on a number of texts whether by selling out too quickly or by not having the book ready.

Thirdly, the weather was not ideal. Though it was nice to be able to walk through the ‘Pru’ and utilize the Barnes and Noble, Dunkin’ Donuts, Starbucks, and Au Bon Pain therein, when I did make that quick flit across the street to my hotel, it was almost unbearable! I forgot what Boston was like in the winter!

Finally, given economic problems in the US, several of the jobs I applied for stopped their searches. There were very few NT posts available, and of those that pressed on, the competition was fierce. As I interacted with friends and acquaintances at the job-hunt stage, we all felt a bit down about the state of the field.

Positive – On the other hand, this was one of my favorite SBL’s for many other reasons. Firstly, I had some great conversations at IBR and otherwise. I had some very encouraging discussions and meals with several scholars I admire and respect. I supped with Ken Schenck who is a fellow Durham grad (who studied under Jimmy Dunn). I enjoy his blog and we share a common Wesleyan background. He has some exciting projects coming down the pipeline. I also spent some time with Steven Fowl who really impressed me as a humble man who has a good heart. I crashed the Ashland Seminary dinner and sat with David deSilva who continually impresses me with his sheer brilliance (and also a Methodist!). Be on the lookout for his new book on rhetoric in Revelation. Also I picked up his IVP book on the Sacramental Life which interacts devotionally with the book of common prayer. Finally, I had breakfast with Mike Gorman whom I enjoyed getting to know last year in San Diego. Mike also came to my paper and was very encouraging.

Now, truth be told, I only attended a few paper sessions because the jet lag really screwed me up. But, I really enjoyed the session on ‘Theological Interpretation’ which involved Walter Moberly, Markus Bockmuehl, Beverly Gaventa (chairing) and John Collins. I struggle to understand what this Theological Intepretation actually IS, and….the session made clear that many have this same concern. Joel Green sat in the very back and Bockmuehl managed to lob verbal grenades at him from afar.

In my own session on 2 Corinthians, I dealt with Paul’s cruciform ministry, theological epistemology, and his careful use of cultic (especially sacrificial and temple) metaphors. My respondent, Jerry Sumney, was firm in his critique, but he liked the direction I was going in. I am really honored to have had him as my respondent and his comments (which he gave me in written form) will help me in many ways to strengthen my thesis research.

I had the privilege of meeting several fellow bloggers (such as Matt Montonini and James McGrath) as well as running into many scholars and students from the UK who made the pond leap to Boston.

In terms of locale, I really appreciated having the food court and the affordable meal options which were really missing in San Diego.

Finally, I felt that my job interview went well and it was a good experience overall even though I am not sure whether I will make the final cut for an on-site interview.

NB: One pet pieve of mine is when I am talking to an acquaintance and he (or she) is pretending to listen while scanning around the room looking for other people he/she knows. In fact, a couple of times this one guy walked away from me while I was in mid-sentence. He neither apologized then (‘sorry to interrupt, but…’) nor did he come back! Wow, blown off big time! So, please – at least find a comfortable place to end the conversation before kicking us newbies to the curb! It is exactly this kind of environment that makes me tired of SBL.

I want to end on a good note, though, and say that SBL for me was a time of catching up with old friends, and making some new ones. That is invaluable. Also, I had some good Indian food.

Congrats to Bruce Longenecker…!

Congratulations are in order for Bruce Longenecker who is now moving to Baylor to become their chair in the Religion department.  This is, sadly, another blow to Scottish Universities, especially St. Andrews which saw the retirement of Prof. Bauckham and the Oxford-ward move of Prof. Bockmuehl.

After so many years in the UK, this will be quite a transition for Dr. Longenecker, but certainly a highly respected position at a leading institution.  Best wishes to you, Dr. Longenecker.

I read Mark Goodacre’s announcement HERE.

Interested in Doing Some Research in Boston Before SBL?

I will be arriving a couple of days early in Boston before SBL.  I had hoped there were good sessions, if not on Thursday evening, then perhaps on Friday – I guess I was wrong!  I didn’t see anything really interesting until Institute for Biblical Research on Friday evening.  Oh well.
I have decided to try and make it to a theological library to do a bit of research (specifically looking for some of those things that we do not have at Durham -which is quite a lot!).  FYI – the Boston Public Library is quite close to the Hynes Convention Center and has a decent theological section.  But, even better is the Boston University Theology Library which is a short trip via the metro (it is four short stops on the Green Line, a five minute journey I expect).  Or, you could walk (in the bitter cold).  To warm up, I highly recommend a coffee from Dunkin’ donuts (I am serious) and a Boston Creme doughnut (with chocolate icing and custard filling).  BU’s theology library is open to any visitors from 8AM-9PM.

I will be there all day Thursday and perhaps for a bit on Friday.

What New Testament Instructors Care About…

…They care about, at least in part, good textbooks!  Kregel’s new basic NT introductory textbook caught my eye: What the New Testament Authors Really Cared About: A Survey of Their Writings (2008).

nt-authorsThere were several things that appealed to me about this book.  First of all, it is authored by multiple contributors who all teach undergraduate students.  Secondly, it attempts to survey key themes and ideas (in a simple, non-jargon way) in less than 250 pages.  Thirdly, it is chock full of great photos of various biblical places, models, artifacts – I love when good textbooks can do these kinds of things.

In terms of content, the information is quite basic.  I found very well-written articles by C. Marvin Pate, George Guthrie, Ken Berding, and Justin Hardin.  Now, the average scholar or doctoral student will contest many of the claims made in this book – but it is not written for YOU!!!  For its audience, and the needs of keeping things really basic, it does a good job.  The audience that book is aiming for is undergraduate survey courses in conservative institutions that focus on content and theology.  For that kind of audience, this book will be useful and effective.

Personally, I think it is well suited for bible studies and adult bible education in churches.  If I were to do an intro to the NT class at my church, this is just the thing I would use (or something close to it).

It is amazing what a difference good design makes to a textbook and this is an elegant specimen.  It has an attractive cover, glossy pages, eye-catching side-bars and charts.  I am a sucker for style – nice work Kregel.  I guess I am just that superficial… :)

In any case, for those who teach or minister to the kind of students/audience I have described above (conservative, undergrad/lay-level), this is a book to check out.

Tips for Academic Job Interviews

This is both an opportunity to call attention to some good resources out there on job hunting and interviewing, and to ask any of you out there who are experienced in interviewing some question.

First of all, I am thankful to say that I do have one (and maybe two) interviews at SBL this year.  Thus, I am scouring the internet, looking for good resources on interviewing and how to be prepared.

One resource, which is more generally geared towards humanities, is full of wisdom: http://www.otal.umd.edu/~sies/jobadvice.html.

Also, one might try to search the Chronicle of Higher Education (www.chronicle.com) which has a number of online articles on the subject of common interview questions and flow charts of the process.

I will say that, from my small amount of experience so far, it is very important (1) to get some teaching experience somehow and (2) to publish a journal article.  This has been reinforced by a number of scholars (young and older) that I trust, and I have found that these elements seem to be important to those who have looked at my work.

If anyone has advice for what to do or not to do during an interview next week, don’t hesitate to comment!

This Book Will Change Your Life – UBSNT- Reader’s Ed.

I have written before about the UBS Greek New Testament: A Reader’s Edition (Hendrickson), but I will say it again: all pastors, scholars and students (who read Greek) will rediscover their Bible through this book. As I have mentioned before, using the UBS ecclectic text, it offers footnoted glosses of all words in Greek in the text that occur less than 30x. The process of reading the NT for someone who knows a decent amount of grammar is almost flawless. And, for those who don’t know some non-glossed words, there is a dictionary in the back with the remaining ones.

I take it everywhere I go – the New Testament seminar, to church, sometimes I sleep with it under my pillow. I use it for the reading course I teach on Philippians and the students love it. It is both a marvelous teaching aid and a handy item for private devotional reading.  The text is quite large, so its easy on the eyes.  Since Christmas is coming up, think about hinting to your wife that you need this for ‘research’ :)