Back from SBL in Atlanta, I have a few reflections on the conference.
First, although the conference was very conveniently arranged in two adjacent, and architecturally very impressive, hotels connected to a food court, downtown Atlanta is not that exciting and the overall ambiance was a bit dull. Furthermore, the general convenience was offset a bit by having the book displays in two different rooms, and the laptop internet access in the rooms costing $13/day. (Forget that!) However, the weather was spectacular, and when one did get outside the hotels, it was lovely in that respect.
Second, hearing Tom Wright Friday night (actually part of the IBR [Institute for Biblical Research] meetings, not SBL) was very fun, as always. His lecture was entitled “Kingdom and Cross,” arguing against the two common errors of over-exaggerating one against the other (i.e. Jesus’ life vs. Jesus’ death) and for holding the two together, as the NT does. Michael Bird gave a rousing and insightful response.
Third, I need to learn the art of bi- or tri-location, since my interests and obligations (serving on two committees means needing, and wanting, to be at certain sessions) meant I wanted to be in two or three places simultaneously at certain times, which just does not work. Unfortunately, I missed two or three excellent sessions.
Fourth, although I heard several good papers, including those at the session I chaired on historical criticism and theological interpretation, the best paper of the conference I heard was by Ben Blackwell, an excellent younger scholar who just finished his Ph.D. at the University of Durham. His subject was “Deification and Colossians 2:10″ and–as I said in the Q and A–it was both convincing and significant. (Wish I had given it myself!)
Fifth, it was fantastic as always to reconnect with old friends and to make new ones. The list of old friends is too long to mention here. Among my new friends is Cherith Fee Nordling, the daughter of my Greek III teacher in college, the wonderful NT scholar Gordon Fee. Cherith is herself a theologian. In addition, as always, one of the great thrills for me was meeting with younger scholars who are looking for a little guidance and/or encouragement as they prepare for graduate school, write dissertations, apply for their first jobs, or contemplate writing projects.
Sixth, I’m especially excited about the developments in one of the groups I help organize, the Gospel and our Culture Network Missional Hermeneutics Group.
Seventh, and finally for now, I came home with two probable book deals, as I expected. More on these anon….