SBL (Secret Bibliobloggers’ League): A Top Secret Debriefing on the 2009 Annual Meeting in New Orleans

SBL (Secret Bibliobloggers’ League): A Top Secret Debriefing on the 2009 Annual Meeting in New Orleans November 25, 2009

I am now ready to file my TOP SECRET report on my undercover operation as part of the Secret Bibliobloggers’ League, the shadow organization that has infiltrated and taken control of that other organization which also has the abbreviation SBL.

I met my contacts in Atlanta. One of them I had never met face to face, and the other had not previously revealed himself to be part of the League. But they slipped the code-word (“chiasmus”) into their conversation so that I could identify them. They turned out to be Mark Goodacre (whom I hadn’t met in person before) and Stephen Carlson (whom I had previously met). Mark is well known in the League as the author of Q, while Stephen is the author of a work known as the Secret Gospel of Mark. Each hides his true identity by publicly arguing against the existence of Q and that someone else wrote the Secret Gospel of Mark, respectively. I gave them my own code word, and we began to chat.

Once we reached New Orleans, we began our work of infiltrating various sessions. My own paper was in a meeting of the “Intertextuality in the New Testament” consultation. The final session of that consultation on Tuesday was really fantastic, with lots of interesting connections related to monotheism and Christology in Philippians. Although I was not present at his paper, I learned from sources that James Crossley continued his work as double agent, publicly condemning “conservative” biblioblogs while secretly arguing that Mark’s Gospel be dated in the 40s, an extraordinarily conservative position. The session I was most sorry to miss featured two papers on the Mandaeans. But everyone missed things that interested them. This evil plot to torture scholars by holding equally-fascinating sessions simultaneously is one reason why our own plot to infiltrate must succeed!

There were also wonderful dinners, including the annual reunion of Jimmy Dunn and his students at The Melting Pot (where, under the pretense of needing to use the restroom, I slipped out under the table and sent a communique to the League). The food was delicious. I also went to Cafe Giovanni twice, once for the bibliobloggers’ dinner and then again for a dinner for people interested in the new monotheism program unit. The former was a delightful opportunity to catch up with people as well as put faces to names (of blogs, as well as of people); the latter was a great opportunity to discover just how much interest there is in the topic of monotheism. In addition, Nathan MacDonald’s Goettingen initiative on Early Jewish Monotheisms was launched with a reception, nearby the Sheffield reception, allowing one to make an appearance at both. Egged on by a Genesis fan, and by no means due to the consumption of beverages at the two receptions, I played the piano briefly, but there weren’t enough bibliobloggers around for us to sing our song to Jim West. Although those who didn’t make the bibliobloggers’ dinner were missed, the truth is that there were so many of us (take heed!) that I didn’t get to talk to everyone.

Two other food-related items deserve a mention, particularly for those who are still graduate students at league institutions and thus carrying out their mischief on a limited budget. Directly out of the side entrance of the Marriott is a small restaurant called Daisy Duke, which had a $3.99 breakfast special which was far more filling than the danish I could get for a penny more inside the hotel. And the muffaletta (purchased at Central Grocery, the place where this local speciality was first invented) was well worth the walk a number of blocks down Decatur street.

My failure to make contact with Jim Linville is a testimony to his excellence as an agent of the League. He was undercover, and having trimmed his beard and removed the horns from his Viking hat, I found him impossible to identify, so perfectly did he blend into the sea of scholars. I did meet John Loftus, however, who needs to work on his disguise, his black cowboy hat feeding into two many classic stereotypes. That said, it was delightful to meet him in person. Michael Holcomb, also a master of disguise (as anyone will know who has compared the impression of his dimensions given on his biblioblog with the experience of meeting him in person), I am beginning to suspect may be a double agent working against the League, since he has developed an app that seems able to track us. I won’t try to mention all the many people whom I met for the first time, or with whom I had interacted electronically but had the opportunity to meet in person (although presumably those who fall into the category of “godfathers of biblioblogging and their henchmen” – including Jim Davila, Jim West, and Chris Tilling – must be singled out for mention). That’s in addition to the chance to meet with old friends (sorry, that should – at least in most cases – be people I have been friends with for a long time) and get to know better various people whom I had previously met. But there are many people I would have liked to have met or seen but didn’t, and wish us all better luck next year. Oh, also apparently there was some twittering.

I purchased a number of League-related books and manuals for dastardly operations:

Finally, I think I forgot to mention this, but if you’ve been reading and you are not a league insider, our agents will have to track you down and wipe your memory. They act fast, and so I’ll bet you’ve begun to forget the contents of the post already…

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