Saturday, November 29, 2014

Back from SBL-AAR 2014

It's been a week since the Society of Biblical Literature and American Academy of Religion conference in San Diego. I went to some very informative, some inspiring, sessions. I also caught up with many colleagues and friends whom I don't get to see except at the annual meeting. There was also the Festschrift presentation to Klyne Snodgrass during the Institute of Biblical Research gathering on Friday evening (11/21). The book, Doing Theology for the Church, was ready for the book tables of Wipf & Stock by the the time of the meeting. It looked like they were selling well, too. 
   I'll post separately on the Festschrift for Klyne and on some of the sessions which I thought were particularly helpful for the study of Paul in his wider Mediterranean context. But as a prelude to the fantastic time I had at SBL, here are some photos of the jogging route I took while I was there. Chris Spinks over at the Wipf & Stock blog Running Heads posted a map of a jogging path as a way to enjoy the boardwalk and ocean air of San Diego. His group was going to start running at 7am on Saturday (11/22) but I needed to meet someone at 8am, so I followed his suggested route at 6am. It was glorious! I made it a prayer run and it really fed my soul. Here are some pics below and I'll follow up with a succession of posts on my time at SBL in the days ahead.
Photo of the Sun Rising on the San Diego Boardwalk
Here was the route I took as suggested posted by Chris: 
I made it passed the pier, the Midway aircraft carrier, and the "pirate" ship before having to head back to catch my 8am meeting. About 4 miles round trip. Perfect!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

SBL-AAR 2014 San Diego Preview

I was planning to do a few posts on magic and miracles in Acts called "Paul the Magician?" as a follow-up to my Alcinous post on competitive acculturation, but this will have to wait until after I come back from the annual meeting in sunny San Diego, California, that is coming up next weekend (Nov. 21-24, 2014). The Society of Biblical Literature and American Academy of Religion meets each year for a conference which features papers read on cutting-edge research issues in biblical studies, religion and theology. Last year, I read a paper for the Biblical Lexicography group on Paul's use of righteousness language in its Greco-Roman context (now published in Seyoon Kim's Festschrift). But this year, I'm only presiding over one session of the Intertextuality and New Testament Interpretation Section for which I'm a steering committee member. This session has the theme: "Intertextuality and Gender in the New Testament" (S22-223) and features two papers by:
  1. Alice Yafeh, Azusa Pacific University and Frederico A. Roth, Azusa Pacific University
    Vision and Re-Envision: Re-Tracing the Social Justice Relationship between Hannah and Mary’s Songs (60 min)
  2. Kay Higuera Smith, Azusa Pacific University
    Feminist Intertextual Explorations: Mary as Intertextual "Signifier" in The Protevangelium of James (25 min)
SBL-AAR Program Book cover for Nov 2014
   Having perused through the catalogue, I've already mapped out my schedule for what sessions I'm going to attend. Here are some highlights of sessions I'm interested in: 

Friday afternoon (Nov 21): S21-201 - Paul and the Apocalyptic Imagination (12:30-5:30pm). This will probably be the highlight of the entire meeting and everything after that will be anti-climatic. The roster includes: M.C. de Boer, N.T. Wright, Loren Struckenbruck, Philip Ziegler, Michael Gorman, Edith Humphrey, Douglas Campbell, Beverly Gaventa, and John Barclay! It's a stellar line-up of well-renowned scholars in New Testament studies. Ben Blackwell, who helped organize the session, has already blogged about the session and has paper titles, etc. over at his co-authored blog Dunelm Road. Be sure to click the link and peruse through the paper titles. 

Friday evening: P21-401 - Institute for Biblical Research Annual Lectureship (7-9pm). Craig Keener, well-known for his work in primary source material across the Jewish and Greco-Roman world of the early imperial period, will give a paper (based on his well-received 2011 2-volume work on Miracles) entitled: "Miracles: Philosophic and Historical Plausibility." Having just had a discussion with North Park seminarian students on miracles and how the biblical corpus helps us recognize the miraculous in our day and age, especially as the church encounters and experiences the supernatural, both God-given and sometimes demonic in origin, I'm keen to hear Craig on how he tries to reconcile the reality of miracles in the biblical corpus with the skepticism toward the supernatural in a (North American) scientific and post-scientific cultural context. 

Saturday (Nov 22): It's slim pickings on Saturday morning. At a very subjective level, none of the papers read for the 9-11:30am sessions really grab my interest or are relevant to my research/teaching agenda. So I might wander the book exhibit for the morning session, check in with Mohr-Siebeck for which my own monograph is contracted, or find myself walking back and forth between the Paul and Politics section, the Pauline Epistles section, or the Social Scientific Criticism of the New Testament (the latter of which features the theme "Food in Antiquity"). 
   In the afternoon, I'm committed to presiding over the "Intertextuality and Gender in the New Testament" session (mentioned above) from 1-3:30pm.
   In the evening session (4-6:30pm), I'll be wandering around again between papers that I'm intent on hearing but unfortunately are spread around between different sessions. For example, in the Paul and Politics section, Laura Nasrallah is giving a paper on: "How Do Paul's Letters Matter for a Political Philosophy?" (4:10-4:32pm), in the Rhetoric and the New Testament section, Katherine Shaner is presenting on: "Seeing Rape and Robbery: Harpagmos and the Philippians Christ Hymn" (4:55-5:20pm), or should I just stay for the Soren Kierkegaard Society session on Kierkegaard's use of the Passion Narratives the entire time (P22-343a)? 

Sunday (Nov 23): Sunday always starts off for me with a time of worship with the Institute of Biblical Research worship service from 7:30-8:30am (P23-103). I remember the day, before the IBR worship service was there, when I was always scrambling on Sunday morning trying to find a church service to attend. I'm very grateful that IBR has continued to provide a place of worship on Sunday's for its members! 
   Sunday morning I'm off to the Theological Interpretation of Scripture section (9-11:30am) which features papers on the continuing influence and legacy of Rudolph Bultmann. The papers are based on a collection of essays published by Baylor University Press entitled: Beyond Bultmann: Reckoning a New Tesatment Theology (2014). I guess one could argue that a person could simply read the essays in the book rather than attend the session, but I always found it valuable to attend such sessions because often the speakers add more content or provide a (biographical) context to their work. Certainly the Q&A ought to raise new concerns not addressed in the essays. The speaker line-up is fantastic: Joel Green is presiding, Bruce Longenecker is providing an introduction to the session (he also edited the book), and then papers from John Barclay, Richard Hays, Francis Watson, and Angela Standhartinger
   For the Sunday afternoon session, there is really only one paper I'm intent on hearing, and that is from my dissertation supervisor (= Doktorvater; don't know if Doktormutter is common nomenclature yetJudy Gundry at Yale Divinity School who is writing a monograph on 1 Cor 7 and will be reading a paper for the Jewish Christianity / Christian Judaism section (S23-227) entitled: "Junia.. 'Prominent among the Apostles' (Rom 16:7), Paul 'the Least of the Apostles' (1 Cor 15:9): Equality or Hierarchy of Jewish Christian Apostles?" (1:05-1:30pm). After her paper, I may run over to the Pauline Epistles section to hear the 2nd half of the session which features N.T. Wright, Pamela Eisenbaum, and Ward Blanton as the respondents to two papers read by Matthew Gordley "Psalms of Solomon and Pauline Studies," and Hans Svebakken, "Romans 7:7-25 and a Pauline Allegory of the Soul." 
   Sunday evening (the 4-6:30pm block), I'm torn. It always happens. There are two sessions I want to go to that are happening at the same time. The Corpus Hellenisticum Novi Testamenti (S23-309) has a special session on "Plutarch and the New Testament Revisited" featuring papers from Rainer Hirsch-Luipold, David Aune, Frederick Brenk, and a response from Hans Dieter Betz. BUT the Korean Biblical Colloquium has a two plenary papers from the past presidents of KBC: Won Lee, OT professor from Calvin College, is giving the paper: "Does God Deceive? A Rereading of Jacob's Wrestling Match" and my 2nd Doktorvater Seyoon Kim, NT professor from Fuller Theological Seminary, is presenting on: "Paul's Gospel of Justification and Jesus' Gospel of God's Kingdom." I'll probably hear the first two papers at the Plutarch Revisited session and then jam over to KBC to hear Dr. Kim's paper on Paul and Jesus. 

Monday (Nov 24): I'm heading over to the Fuller Theological Seminary alumni breakfast early morning and then packing it up to go home early. I'm not staying beyond Monday. 

   Running around SBL will be my exercise routine for this coming weekend. However, if any of you who read this blog happen to be at San Diego this year for the annual meeting, and if you happen to catch me in a session, sitting down somewhere, or running around from one place to another, please stop by and say "hello!" I would love to chat with you about the Paul Redux blog and your own work! Safe travels for all who are attending SBL-AAR this coming weekend. Peace!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Bill Maher on the Heart of the (Christian) Liberal Arts Education

Normally I don't click anything on the tab "popular on youtube," but one feature video clip caught my eye because it highlighted my undergrad alma mater U.C. Berkeley (Go Bears!). I entered Berkeley as a pre-med English major back in 1986 and graduated with the class of 1991 (with an interm year as an English teacher and short term missionary to Japan in 1990). In 1986, it was at the peak of the Berkeley protests against Apartheid in South Africa. I remember the protests vividly and became quickly enthralled with the free speech movement, its history and practice, on the campus. 
Free Speech Demonstration in front of Sproul Hall at
the University of California, Berkeley, in the mid/late-1980's
image credit: Regional Oral History Office of UCB
Apparently the (in)famous talk show host Bill Maher of RealTime with Bill Maher was asked to be the commencement speaker for the December graduating class of 2014 at Cal Berkeley. Some have urged U.C. Berkeley officials to rescind their invitation in light of some comments he made concerning Islam that they found offensive. I can't say that I'm a big fan of Maher, and some of his caricatures of Christianity are inaccurate and hyperbolic in my opinion (though he at times does point out some real issues of hypocrisy so we can learn from the man!). I'm not a political liberal, nor am I a conservative. I vote on issues and across party lines.
   However, I did think his short 3 1/2 minute excursis on the nature and purpose of liberal arts education was a fantastic segue into a deeper conversation on the Christian liberal arts curriculum. You can watch the video below: 

   Bill's best line is: "Whoever told you that you only had to hear whatever did not upset you?!" (2:20). I showed this clip to my undergraduate Paul course before we move to the 3rd leg of the course: themes and major issues of contemporary importance in the Pauline letters. I exhorted my class to learn how to exchange ideas and hear the other person, even a person's ideas with whom we strongly disagree, and let the exchange lead to a deeper discourse so both parties can benefit and learn from each other. 
   I'm not a fan of censuring or silencing a critic. There are ways to voice disagreement that lead to further dialogue and understanding, rather than stifle them. If there are bad ideas in circulation and popularized by our North American culture, then the solution to bad ideas is not censorship. It is replacing bad ideas with better ones. That is the nature of a liberal arts education.
   For the Christian, the church needs to finds ways to enter the public forum, fight for its religious freedom, and not let itself be censured. The contribution that the church can make to public policy and programming can help our neighbors understand themselves more critically. Hearing our neighbors helps us test the basis of our convictions and see ourselves more clearly as well. Hopefully we can return to the roots of the liberal arts education and present a distinctly Christian voice and contribution to public dialogue on issues that are dear to us all.