SBL 2012 Exciting Book Releases!

If you got your program for SBL yesterday, then, like me, you immediately turned to the advertising section to check out new book releases for the conference from the plethora of publishers.

Here is my top 10 list of book releases (keep in mind I am not putting down books that have already been released and that I own)

[In no particular order]

1. Invitation to the New Testament, by Ben Witherington III (Oxford Press). I am interested in seeing what an “Oxford” introduction looks like from Witherington. I know he is up for the challenge and this could be very rewarding.

2. The Triumph of Christianity: How the Jesus Movement Became the World’s Largest Religion, by Rodney Stark (HaperOne). Not quite sure this fits as a “Biblical title,” but Stark is a fantastic historian and I expect this book to be worth the read.

3. The Meaning of the Bible: What the Jewish Scriptures and Christian Old Testament Can Teach Us, by A-J Levine and D. Knight (HarperOne). $13 for a 500-page book? I’m intrigued…

4. Seven Events that Shaped the New Testament World, by Warren Carter (Baker). The big 7 are: the death of Alexander the Great, the production of the LXX, the rededication of the temple, the Roman occupation of Judea, the crucifixion of Jesus, the writings of the NT, the process of “closing” the NT canon. These are all important events, but what about the destruction of the second temple? Still, this should be good.

5. Luke, by John Carroll (NTL, WJK). At 560 pages, this is on the heavier ends of the NTL series. Joel Green gives it high praise, especially for its sensitivity to literary concerns and theological insight.

6. Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, edited by J. Davila and R. Bauckham (Eerdmans). This probably takes the cake as most hotly awaited book – “more noncanonical scriptures.” At 800 pages, it will be a luggage-killer so I assume many will take advantage of ordering it at a discount and having it shipped!

7. God’s Saving Grace, by Frank Matera (Eerdmans). This is Matera’s attempt at focusing Paul’s theology on the concept of grace. I am teaching a course on Paul in the spring and I have decided to adopt this book as the “theology” textbook. I have not even seen the book yet, but I have good confidence that it will be a stimulating and reliable treatment. It receives high praise from Gorman, Achtemeier, and Soards.

8. Jesus, Criteria, and the Demise of Authenticity, edited by C. Keith and A. Le Donne (Continuum). I was sad not to have been able to attend the recent JCDA conference (I have dubbed “JCDA” as an official acronym now!), so I will try to make up for it by getting my hands on this book.

9. Dictionary of the Old Testament Prophets, ed. by M. Boda and J.G. McConville (IVP). I don’t quite have the whole set of “black dictionaries” from IVP, but I have almost all of them. Most of them I have in print, with a couple only on Logos. I am eager to add this to my collection.

10. I could not decide what to put as #10. Please leave a comment as to what I have missed or overlooked! What are YOU excited to see (and maybe purchase!) at the conference?


So I saw the Dead Sea Scrolls yesterday, and John Collins, and Lawrence Schiffman…

No, this is not the beginning of a joke. Yesterday, I went with a few of my students to the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia where the IAA is running a six-month exhibition. While it was fun to see actual scroll fragments, there were only 10 small portions and it was overcrowded so you only had a minute or two to see each one. Also, they keep the scrolls under very soft light (for preservation, I am sure), so it is hard to see them in detail. My last qualm is that they had only Hebrew fragments, I was really interested in seeing a Greek text, though I know they are rare.

The more exciting part of the evening was that the Institute sponsored a lecture series and last night featured two lectures, one by John Collins and the other by Lawrence Schiffman. I have only heard Collins speak once before (at SBL) and I had never heard Schiffman before. Both of them did a marvelous job – they are both jovial characters and excellent lecturers.

Their subject was the “theology of the Dead Sea Scrolls.” Truth be told, that was not really what they talked about. However, their lectures were absolutely terrific. Four points were made that I had never heard before or thought about before.

John Collins

Point #1: Collins does not believe that the scrolls should be linked in their entirety to the Qumran community. He thinks it unlikely (perhaps even impossible) for one small community to have had such a massive library. He argues that at the time of the Jewish war, when the Roman victory was imminent, Essenes brought their collective works (from all over) to the most remote location (Qumran) and eventually hid their collection in the nearby caves.

Point #2: Collins does not think the Qumran community was bent out of shape primarily over matters of priestly leadership, but rather in opposition to Pharasaic power that gained special favor during the reign of Salome Alexandra (first century BC).


Point #1: Schiffman repeated claimed to be confident that the Jewish canon was “closed” by the time of the Qumran community, but he admits to have a minority position.

Point #2: He wondered whether Qumran was not quite an exclusivist community. Perhaps it was a community that had its own private Essenic life, but welcomed non-sectarian Essenes for “intense periods of study.”

Both Collins and Schiffman try to resolve the problem of having one “rule” for the community that seems to envision men only (1QS) while another (Damascus Document) relates to whole families. How can this be? For Collins, one probable answer is that these are two different standards because they do not both derive from Qumran, but different Essenic communities that ended up putting their “rules” together in one place for safe-keeping. For Schiffman, he thinks (as I understand) both rules were “active” at Qumran. The community itself focused on men, but if others came for a period to the encampment, an accommodating “rule” was in place if their brought their families. In terms of archaeological finds, there are about 10x the number of male body remains in the cemetery than there are women. Also, the men were buried basically in one important site, whereas the women were buried around the periphery. What does this mean? What role did they play in the community? Again, this is all debated.

If you are in the Philly area, the DSS are “still in town” until Sunday, so catch it while you can!