Midwest SBL 2011

This weekend the meeting of the Midwest chapter of the Society of Biblical Literature, American Oriental Society and American Schools of Oriental Research took place. There were travel delays that prevented me from making it to Friday evening’s session, but Saturday was full of lots of interesting papers and conversations. It was great to see fellow bloggers Pete Bekins and Michael Halcomb. The latter’s was one of several interesting papers in the Gospels section, and the only one to be interrupted with a loud “Get behind me Satan!” (I’ll let Michael tell the details if he is so inclined). Michael’s paper was making the case that the Gospel of Mark is in the genre of Greek tragedy, and as such can be divided into five acts and four interludes. Isaac Oliver presented a paper which I (not surprisingly) found fascinating, and made a point of discussing with Isaac over the course of the remainder of the conference, on the burial of Jesus, relating the Gospels to Rabbinic discussions of burial on Sabbaths and during festivals. Urban von Wahlde presented on whether the world needs another three-volume commentary on the Gospel of John (his answer was “yes” although I think he really meant “it did, and now it has what it needed”!). I’m looking forward to reviewing the three-volume commentary in question in the near future, and von Wahlde’s discussion of it has simply made me all the more eager. Tony LeDonne discussed the story of Ananias and Sephira in the context of traumatic memory, viewing the story as part of a larger theme dealing with the destruction of the temple by transferring the divine presence (and corresponding immediate divine punishment of those who do not respect that presence) to the Christian community.

Rene Schreiner explored the possibility that the figures of both Satan and the Paraclete reflect courtroom figures developed largely from the Book of Job. David Mihalyfy offered some suggestions from a linguist’s perspective on the pronunciation of Coptic. The paper was not only incredibly fascinating, but more importantly, seemed persuasive. The overall point was that the treatment of Coptic characters in most grammars, offering a one-to-one correspondent in Latin characters, is probably misleading, with Coptic being more like French, where the sound of letters can depend on where they appear in a word and what precedes or follows them. Teresa Calpino talked about Jewish funerary inscriptions from Rome and the hints they provide about the role and status of scribes in the Judaism of the period in this locale.

The banquet Saturday evening witnessed further conversations about the burial of Jesus, followed by the presidential address by Matthew Waters on the Elamites.

Sunday morning I oversaw a round table discussion on teaching and evaluative tools/assignments. I shared some of the things I have been doing to integrate information literacy skills as central to courses I teach.

On the whole it was a delightful conference. My only complaint is that we were not told that we needed to request a password in advance if we wanted to use the university wi-fi system, and thus I couldn’t blog about the conference while at the conference!

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