Reflecting on SBL Denver 2022

I greatly enjoyed being in Denver a couple of weeks ago for the annual SBL meeting. It was a lovely opportunity to reconnect with people, many of whom I’d not seen in person for three years because of covid—I cannot recall a day when I have hugged so many people as the Friday! In particular, it was great to see current and former doctoral students in person again.

I went to a bunch of papers, although I found myself generally selecting individual papers in a session, rather than sitting through a whole session. I particularly appreciated three papers on reading Scripture in different cultural settings from colleagues from India, China and Lebanon, in a session organised by the Scripture Collective of the Kirby Laing Centre. Hearing Havilah Dharamaraj speak about reading the Bible alongside Hindu Scriptures was very stimulating, and made me wonder what the equivalent in the UK might be.

Two papers on apparently small textual details were both well-presented and persuasive. Gillian Asquith (Melbourne School of Theology/Australian Catholic University) gave a fine paper on Paul’s ‘I do not want you to be ignorant’ formula in conversation with the papyri, arguing that this formula signals something important about to be said. That opens up the exegesis of the Pauline passages in interesting ways. Her work is part of a PhD in progress, so hopefully we’ll see it in print in due course. Andy Byers (Ridley Hall, Cambridge) gave a fine paper on Mark 1:1, arguing cogently that this opening indicates that Mark sees his book as a proclamation of the gospel message. This claim is not new (see, e.g., the work of C. H. Dodd and Simon Gathercole), but his arguments were new, claiming that Mark is narrativising and textualising the gospel message. I hope he’ll published a revised version—this case deserves a wider hearing.

It was interesting to see the text of the new NRSVue (‘updated edition’), and I’ve purchased an electronic copy for Accordance. There are many small changes, most of which I think are improvements. I also acquired a bunch of books, as usual—see the photo at the head of this post!

I gave a paper on ‘Wealth and possessions in Acts 11–28’, and have shared my slides and handout in a previous post. It was fun hearing and meeting Richard (Dick) Horsley, whose work I know well, but had never met in person. The response we had from Roger Nam was first class, identifying some common threads and then posting an apposite question to each of the four presenters, and the discussion time was very worthwhile. We planned this seminar some three years ago, and kept postponing it through the pandemic because we wanted to do it in person—the quality of the conversation convincingly showed we were right to wait.

Other valuable things were a fine sermon by Joey Dodson at the IBR worship service on Sunday morning, calling us to faithfulness as Christian scholars, and a fun paper by David DeSilva at IBR on Friday evening, rattling a few theological cages in thinking about the role of the Spirit in sanctification in Paul.

This was a fun meeting, and I was very glad to be there. Roll on San Antonio 2023!