British New Testament Conference – Day 1

British New Testament Conference – Day 1 September 5, 2008

Here in Durham we just completed our first day of the BNTS conference.  Nearly 200 scholars (record numbers for the conference, I think) arrived mid day here and we had a lovely time in St. John’s gardens greeting one another.  A number of publishers made it this year with a total of 17 conference tables needed to display their wares (SPCK, Continuum, DEO, SCM, Equinox, STL/Paternoster, CUP, Sheffield, Baker, Hendrickson, WJK, Eerdmans and more!).

Our first plenary speaker was John MG Barclay (one of my supervisors).  His lecture was on grace in the Wisdom of Solomon and in Romans 9-11.  Barclay has been dissatified with scholarly treatment of Pauline soteriology, not as much from the standpoint of law, but of grace.  Little work has been done on gift and exchange theories in the ancient world and the conventions of Paul’s time.  Barclay argued that, despite the fact that Paul and the author of WS (here on AWS) both seek to explain why some receive grace and others do not, and both refer to the history of Israel, they work within completely different paradigms.  The AWS argues that Israel is a recepient of God’s grace, mercy, and privileges, because they were acceptable recepients of that gift.  The AWS believed in a moral order in the universe that can ultimately explain why Israel was privileged over other nations.  Paul, on the other hand, refuses to make this connection.  Israel was chosen, but God’s choice is utterly unpredictable and incomprehensible.  Paul refuses to set up a system of moral order that makes Israel as a logical recipient lest God’s grace be reduced to some kind of natural selection process.  This, Barclay argues, is unsettling and powerful as Paul bucks ancient conventions of gift exchange where gifts are understood to be given to those who are particularly worthy to receive them.  There was much more to this paper, but I offer to basic outline (I hope I got it right!).

More to come!  My paper is today as well.

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