San Francisco

Monday highlights at the 2011 Society of Biblical Literature conference:

1. The African-American Biblical Hermeneutics section was the absolute stand-out section of the day. Discussing a small handful of rabbinic texts that are prejudicial in some way towards blacks (texts for which we no longer have the context to pinpoint), the section included a wide-ranging and highly informed discussion of racism and racialism within Eurocentric Biblical Studies. Brilliant.

2. W. David Nelson (African-American Biblical Hermeneutics section) opined that the only sensible way forward in (Eurocentric) Biblical Studies is reception history – practised not in the usual textual-philological manner, but with a sociological-historical basis as well. Now that is exactly right.

3. The condescending tones of JoAnn Scurlock at the review of Francesca Stavrakopoulou’s Land of Our Fathers, who began her reply to Dr Stavrakopoulou by pointing out that one should do sufficient research before writing books and that she was a Professor.

4. An invigorating and wide-ranging discussion with Dr Stavrakopoulou later in the evening, much later in fact, including a largely negative assessment of those who would provide detailed historical research as a way of understanding Homer, or Grimm’s Fairy Tales, or that Jewish collection of books (you know the one, begins with this scene in which the world is created out of Tofu or something). Reminds me of this commentary by Jeffrey Tigay back in ’96, where he defends the historicity of the Giants of Palestine by making reference to some tall folk somewhere in central Africa, an ancient letter (which he omits to mention is a burlesque satire), and two skeletons in Jordan. But that’s another story.

5. Met James McGrath in the Eerdmans book exhibit. Really. Eerdmans.

6. Met Steve Wiggins in the Routledge book exhibit.

7. Met Mark Goodacre, talking to somebody who had his back turned towards me. Turned out to be Francis Watson. I scooted off fairly quickly. So nice to put faces to names after all this time, though.

8. The Sheffield reception. Ran into Jorunn Buckley again, who recited an interesting tale of a road-trip she did back in ’73 from Turkey to the Mandaeans in Iran. The point of the story was that supervisors will steal your stuff and pretend it’s their own, especially if they are Dutch Gnostic scholars.

9. Saw Emma England’s paper on Norman Habel’s children’s book, a book which is up there with that commentary on Job he wrote, but adds purple flood waters.

10. Met Bono in a pub.