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The Year’s Society of Biblical Literature Meeting

This coming week, on Thursday, I head off to the annual Society of Biblical Literature, which this year is being held in San Diego.   I’m not sure if I’ve discussed the meeting on the blog before.   It is the main professional meeting that I go to every year; it’s always held the weekend before Thanksgiving (well, Saturday through Tuesday).   I go on Thursday evenings because I always have a commitment there first thing Friday morning. The SBL is a learned society for all professors of biblical studies – and graduate students and others academically committed to the field.  It’s not a really a conference that layfolk would or should be interested in.  It is a group of serious scholars talking serious scholarship using serious scholarly jargon based on scholarly assumptions.   Not fit for normal human consumption.  When I say a “group,” that makes it sound rather small, like a couple of dozen people.   And it’s not actually that kind of group.  It’s a group of many thousands.   The Society meets at the same time, in [...]

2017-12-14T10:22:02-05:00November 15th, 2014|History of Biblical Scholarship, Public Forum|

Papers at the SBL

As is typical, I spent most of my four days at the Society of Biblical Literature meeting seeing old friends in the field and former students who now have teaching careers of their own. I did make some time to go to a few papers on the final day (yesterday). Some were very stimulating, interesting, and learned, others were … not. Just to give you a sense of the sorts of things that get done in this setting, I’ll give (very) brief summaries of a couple of the papers I heard.. The sessions I went to were on New Testament Textual Criticism (this is the group that discusses the manuscripts that preserve the NT) and Social Memory and the Historical Jesus (roughly speaking, this group considers issues raised for establishing what Jesus really said and did based on advances in the study of “memory” by psychologists and historians today). The textual criticism section was long my “home” in the SBL; I was the chair of the section for six years and on the steering committee [...]

2020-04-03T17:42:13-04:00November 26th, 2013|New Testament Manuscripts|

SBL and ALL those Books

I had a good and interesting first day at the Society of Biblical Literature annual meeting here in Baltimore.   This society comprises professors and other scholars of biblical literature mainly from the U.S., but with some attendees from overseas as well.   It meets along with the American Academy of Religion, which is the professional society for all professors of religion who are not  teachers of biblical studies (so experts in Christianity outside the NT, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, anthropologists of religion, historians of religion, and so on and on).   All together it is a very large group.  I don’t have the exact numbers, but I think maybe there are 10,000 or 11,000 people here for the meeting.   That’s a lot of experts on religion in one place! One of the most important aspects of the conference for me is the book display.   Dozens of publishers of books in every field and aspect of religion are here – from major well known pubishers such as Oxford University Press and Princeton University Press to religious publishing houses such [...]

2020-04-03T17:42:20-04:00November 24th, 2013|Reflections and Ruminations|

My SBL Conference

There are two happy events affecting my life today. The first is that I just now have received an author’s copy of my new book, co-edited with my colleague, Zlatko Plese, The Other Gospels: Accounts of Jesus from Outside the New Testament (Oxford University Press). As I’ve earlier indicated, this book is an English-only edition of our Apocryphal Gospels: Texts and Translations, which included the original Greek, Latin, and Coptic along with the English translations. For this new lay-reader edition, we have simplified the introductions, making them more accessible to the non-scholar, and gotten rid of the ancient languages. The other happy event is that I am off, now, to my annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature meeting. This is the professional meeting for all scholars and professors of Biblical literature. It is a highlight of my year. Papers are read by scholars on topics of everything you can imagine by scholars who are presenting the results of their research to other scholars. Papers are short – usually 20-25 minutes in length – [...]

Rene Salm at the SBL (2)

In my post yesterday I began to explain why René Salm’s claim that Nazareth did not exist in the days of Jesus is dead wrong and is rejected by every recognized authority – whether archaeologist, textual scholar, or historian; whether Jewish, Christian, agnostic, or other . Here is my second and final post on the subject, again, with apologies to those who have read it already, lifted from my treatment in Did Jesus Exist?   ***************************************************************************************************************** Salm also claims that the pottery found on the site that is dated to the time of Jesus is not really from this period, even though he is not an expert on pottery. Two archaeologists who reply to Salm’s protestations say the following: “Salm’s personal evaluation of the pottery … reveals his lack of expertise in the area as well as his lack of serious research in the sources.” They go on to state: “By ignoring or dismissing solid ceramic, numismatic [that is, coins], and literary evidence for Nazareth’s existence during the Late Hellenisitic and Early Roman period, it [...]

2020-04-03T19:10:51-04:00November 29th, 2012|Book Discussions, Historical Jesus, Mythicism|

Rene Salm at the Society of Biblical Literature Meeting

Several people have sent me private emails asking why René Salm was put on the program at the Society of Biblical Literature meeting, given the fact that he is not a scholar and has no credentials in the field. For those of you who don’t know, Salm has written a book claiming that Nazareth did not exist in the first century, so that Jesus couldn’t be there. He argues this in part because he doesn’t think Jesus existed and so wants to discredit the Gospel stories by saying the Christian authors made the whole thing up. Several scholars (well, everyone who mentioned it to me) were outraged that Salm was allowed to be on the program. This meeting is of a learned society and is to be for scholars with established expertise. It is not to be a venue for people without qualifications to spout their wild theories. Salm claims that those who oppose him have a theological or religious bias against his views, but this simply is not true. EVERYONE who is an expert [...]

2020-04-03T19:10:59-04:00November 29th, 2012|Book Discussions, Historical Jesus, Mythicism|

The SBL Meeting

I’m just back from the annual Society of Biblical Literature meeting, which took place, this year, in Chicago.   This is a professional meeting that always occurs the week before Thanksgiving, where professors of biblical studies from around the country (and less-so, around the world) come together for about four days to give and hear academic papers on an enormous range of topics related to biblical studies.  Maybe 5000 or 6000 of them/us?  The vast majority of people in that camp are themselves religiously committed in one way or the other (mainly Christian, fewer Jews); some of us are not believers but are simply interested in the Bible for historical, cultural, or literary reasons – although even most of us in that boat started out in our academic lives as believers. I read two papers at the conference.  One was actually at a meeting going on in conjunction with it, rather than part of it, the Biblical Archaeology Society Fest – where they bring in twenty scholars, most of the archaeologists, to discuss with the lay [...]

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