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.