British New Testament Society Conference Exeter

British New Testament Society Conference Exeter September 11, 2007

Well, my family and I are back from BNTC (Exeter). Afterwards we spent a couple of days with a friend in Wales – a beautiful place with friendly people.

This was my first BNTC and it was a real delight. There are a number of seminars going on simultaneously including Synoptic Gospels, Revelation, Johannine, Social World of NT, Second Temple Judaism, Acts…etc…I went to the Paul seminar to hear Francis Watson speak about his latest major revision of his published PhD thesis – a major overhaul with critiques of the New Perspective – quite a change from his original appreciation of the work of Sanders/Dunn. He specifically highlighted (in his paper at BNTC) that many assume a united front between Sanders and Dunn where little agreement exists (particularly on the matter of Paul and his thought). I am interested to read more about his changes in thought.

I spent the second session in the Hermeneutics Seminar listening to our own B C Blackwell – the eminent scholar from Durham! He presented on the theme of glory in Romans (which he considers to be neglected) and his conclusion that Paul relates it to immortality. A wise and careful analysis with good feedback from those present.

The plenary session by Morna Hooker was on Paul’s continual re-expression of gospel ‘first principles’ that he constantly adapted to meet the social and theological needs of his churches. Though I overheard some criticising the fact that we had a retired professor giving a plenary session, I feel that Morna is always welcome and will always have something important to say – she is still a very active speaker and writer (and singer from what I understand!). I am disappointed in those who want their ears tickled by some young new radical scholar. Morna is sharp, accurate, thought-provoking and engages in issues of fundamental importance to understanding Paul – has she not devoted her life to it?! Anyway, enough ranting – she was excellent and a nice person as well.

The best times were often meals where we could have light conversation with staff and students -though there were not many students present. I kept on meeting former students of Durham – Stephen Wright, Helen Bond, Dennis Stamps, Ellen Christiansen. This encourages me greatly because all of these people are smart, kind, and successful scholars. As Ben Blackwell has pointed out in his blog, students/staff from Oxford and Cambridge were surprisingly few.

I presented at the simultaneous short papers. Two things were a bit of a shock. First, I had been told that I would have 15-20 minutes for my paper including questions. Then, when I arrived at the session, I learned that I would have 45 minutes. I scrambled to expand my notes – luckily I brought a longer version to hand out – I ended up using the longer version with slight edits. Fortunately Bruce Longenecker was presenting before me and I had time to do the editing. Secondly, I expected 10-15 people. There was about 50-60. I did not have enough handouts! But, I received helpful feedback and criticism from Morna Hooker, Todd Still, Paul Holloway, Philip Esler, and others. This was the most nerve-racking presentation I have ever given! Imagine – several major commentators on Philippians (my papers topic) were in the audience (including Howard Marshall). Very intimidating. But, I survived.

Next year the conference will be in Durham. That will be fun and cost efficient! I am hoping we can convince the board of the BNTSociety to offer workshops or short forums for doctoral students – what an opportunity that would be! Topics could include research methods, resources, viva tips, common logical fallacies, time management, language acquisition. If we could get a few staff from various institutions to run such sessions, I think we could really get more research students to attend. I will contact the board members, but if any of you out there who plan to attend have ideas for me, feel free to comment on this post.

So, though I cannot compare, I still would say this was a successful conference. I wish I had known that the Paul seminar pre-circulates the papers and they will NOT be read at the sessions. I was in the dark on Watson’s paper. So, if you are new to the BNTC, print out the pre-circulated papers, read them beforehand (perhaps on the train ride) and bring them with you (to look up pages as the reader may refer to them).

Also, bring money for a book or two (great deals) – but not too much money -don’t want to be tempted. I am proud to say that I didn’t buy a single book! We spent the money instead on eating Indian food – a better choice I think!

Note – for those who consider attending next year – I think the conference does offer small bursaries to cover part of the cost for those who are in need.

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  • Ben

    On the postgrad session for next year…When we were chatting with Larry Hurtado, we asked him about books he would recommend since he mentioned in his talk about Gamble’s book (Books and Readers in the Early Church) should be required reading for all PhD students. He talked about the game of what 5 books you would bring if stranded on a island. He mentioned WD Davies (Paul and Rabinnic Judaism) and Johannes Munck (Salvation of Mankind), which we thought he mentioned because they have been relatively neglected since Sanders. Anyhow, he thought it wouldn’t be a bad idea if we invited a handful of scholars to give their 5 required books and why as a postgrad session next year.

  • James Rodney

    Hello NiJay,

    Thanks for the updates. I was wondering if you will post your paper online. I’d love to read it.

  • I had some editing work to do on it, but perhaps after that!

  • For some time I have been meaning to read some scholarship on Philippians 3. But since I have little knowledge of scholarship on Paul’s shorter epistles I didn’t really know where to start. So I was wondering if perhaps you could post a brief survey of the major works on Philippians? Or at least point me in the direction of something that surveys scholarly views on Philippians 3…