Report from SBL (Sunday night)

It is Sunday night, so we have had a couple of days of ‘conferencing’ and a little more to go.  New Orleans has been a big hit in many ways as it has some fun culture and great food!  The people that work at the hotels have been very nice and there is a positive and friendly vibe everywhere, I think.

PAPERS: To be honest, I have only had time to visit two sessions.  The first one, which is really the only one worth commenting on, was about reading Romans from a theological perspective and Beverly Gaventa, Richard Hays, and Michael Gorman equally offered engaging, erudite, and thought-provoking pieces.  Here, in one room, were three of the biggest influences on my work and I was glad to attend.  Richard is, of course, especially a delight to hear.  I can tell that in thirty years my students will be awed at my stories of going and seeing Hays lecture.  He has real staying-power in scholarship because he is such a deep thinker.  Beverly, as many of you know, is working on a commentary on Romans for WJK (NTL series).  I am certain that this will be a very important book.

On a side note, I have heard from many people that there did not seem to be a lot of ‘must-be-there’ sessions (especially for NT).  It might be just by chance, or it might be that we are in an academic lull in the post-New Perspective era.  The hot thing this year seems to be review sessions of major books.  Monday afternoon is the review of Doug Cambell’s major piece.  That should be very exciting – I wish I had already read the book, but it is too hefty, so I hope there will be some kind of summary before the lynching begins!

PEOPLE: The conference seems to be well-attended and buzzing.  The venue seems to be more compact this year, so determining the whole size is tough.  There are certainly a few people missing (including my supervisor John Barclay), but overall I have seen the usual crowd.

HOTELS: These conference hotels are quite nice.  They generally cater good snacks and coffee (often Starbucks) and each one has a ‘Bucks in it.  I know some of you will scoff, but I appreciate Starbucks because they always have soy milk – a necessity for those of us who are intolerant…of lactose.

BOOKS:  It is a good year for books overall.  You can tell many pubs have downsized their selection and also have less copies of each book.  Some books that seem ‘hot’ include Campbell’s Deliverance of God (Eerdmans), Dunn’s Beginning from Jerusalem (Eerdmans), T & T Clark’s After the First Urban Christians, The Faith of Jesus Christ (pistis Christou debate; Hendrickson), Five Views on the Historical Jesus (IVP), and the first launches of the New Covenant Commentary series: Craig Keener’s Romans and Mike Bird’s Colossians (W & S).  The Institute for Biblical Research gave away, thanks to the kindness of Zondervan, Kostenberger’s new volume in their Biblical Theology series on the Gospel of John – worth $40.  I have not tended to be a big fan of Kostenberger, but it was free and I actually do think it will be a handy resource.

Because publishers realized that people didn’t want to pay to check their luggage on the plane due to numerous book purchases, many are offering free shipping- what a nice perk for us!  Still, I admit that I am impatient and so I picked up a few things now and I may have them on my lap on the plane to avoid the charge!

JOBS: For those of us who are seeking full-time and long-term employment, there is a little bit of an air of exhaustion and disappointment as we all have set our hopes on the one or two things we have managed to get a bite on.  That has made this less of an enjoyable conference as I had hoped, becuase I feel the weight of the future more and it is hard to focus on the here and now.

RECEPTIONS: Sadly, many universities and publishers opted out of doing a reception for financial reasons.  So, we are left with organizing ourselves and paying for our own food.  Durham still has one and I look forward to that tonight.

COLLABORATION/MEETINGS: Of course, SBL is a time for meetings.  I had three very productive meetings with publishers to discuss various projects.  It is nice to transition into a world where someone actually is interested in hearing what I have to say – it beats the meek status of the grad student (which I was a mere four months ago, of course!)

BLOGGERS: The blogger dinner is tonight, I think.  I can’t make it.  I have run into several of you: Pat McCullough, Brandon Wason, Kevin Scull, James McGrath, Jim West, Chris Spinks, Ken Schenk, and a few others.  It is nice to put faces with names and blog addresses.  Keep up the good work!

Perhaps I will have more to say about SBL on Wednesday.  My paper is Tuesday morning.  I hope for a decent turnout, but Tuesday morning is kind of a weak spot.  Let’s hope for a couple of good Philippians scholars and folks.  Come one come all!