Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Post-SBL notes

Vernon and Deanna Robbins

The annual Society of Biblical Literature conference (in conjunction with the AAR) concluded yesterday. This year's conference was a really good one, with great sessions, meetings with publishers, and catching up with friends.

As far as this book is concerned, I had a great meeting with Bryan Dyer and Rachel Klompmaker. We are near the end of finishing the final draft of the manuscript--Bryan is helping me trim the parts that need trimming--and the final version should be turned in by February. Rachel is assisting with the images and permissions. I'm a bit behind in doing that, and, as I found out with the James commentary, it takes a while to get all the permissions in order. Both Bryan and Rachel have been and continue to be extremely helpful. The whole process with Baker has gone very smoothly, and I am also pleased with the manuscript. I found some very interesting and, I think, important things, as hopefully this blog has demonstrated.

Friday night I was invited to join the Rhetoric in Religious Antiquity working group for their celebration of the 75th birthday of Vernon K. Robbins, the founder and major developer of New Testament socio-rhetorical interpretation. His birthday was actually last March, but the group put together a surprise party for him during SBL when they were all (almost) together. I took a New Testament class with Dr. Robbins at the University of Illinois (while I was still a chemical engineering major) during the time he was formulating socio-rhetorical interpretation (and writing the famous "Sea Voyages" essay), so I was able to share with the group some of my recollections of Dr. Robbins from those early days. That NT course was a major turning point for me, especially since I switched to a religion major (even though I was a junior) and started my trajectory toward being a New Testament scholar.

The conference also was an opportunity to meet with publishers about future book projects. My friend Kipton Jensen, a professor at Morehouse College, and I met with a publisher about our idea for a book about the sermons of Howard Thurman on the parables of Luke. Dr. Thurman was a mentor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and these sermons are not yet in print. Emory University (Pitts Theology Library) and a couple other places have them on cassette tapes, and Kipton and I hope to publish seven of those sermons (edited, with extensive introductions and explanations) to make them available to a wider audience.

I also have another book project in the works possibly, but more on that later.

Two of my favorite sessions included the paper by my friend, Christine Joynes of the University of Oxford: "A Gender Agenda? Exploring the Politics of Biblical Art," which explored issues of gender and identity by focusing particularly on representations of different women from Mark’s Gospel in art, and contrasting male and female artists’ portrayals of these women. Chris is brilliant, and I anxiously await the publication of her reception history commentary on the Gospel of Mark.

I also greatly enjoyed Paul Foster's (University of Edinburgh) paper in the Historical Jesus section: "Recent Trends and Future Prospects: Will We get any Further?" I think he struck just the right notes on the strengths and weaknesses of both "memory studies" and the criteria of authenticity. I had never heard him before and was greatly impressed by his scholarship and insights.

It was also great, as always, catching up with friends. The conference allows too little time for that, but I did have many wonderful lunches and dinners with friends, gatherings that are always the highlights of the conference for me.

Now I am back home grading term papers (exegetical papers) and projects, as well as looking over portfolios of candidates for a Film Studies position at our institution. By mid-December I hope to turn (almost full-time) to the book.

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