Scenes from #SBLAAR14

Scenes from #SBLAAR14 November 25, 2014

A few people took photos of me at the conference, and so I thought I would share them. I have already shared my papers. I felt that all the sessions I was involved in went well. The discussion of Bart Ehrman’s book on Saturday was great. I thought that the mix of people who agreed and disagreed with him, as well as one another, was pretty near perfect. Gabriele Boccacini made the suggestion that there should be more conversations between scholars working in the field of second-temple Judaism and scholars working on early Christian Christology.

SBL 2014 Ehrman panel Bird speaking

The first session of the new AAR program unit “Traditions of Eastern Late Antiquity” was excellent, I thought, with interesting interaction across focuses on Mandaeism, Manichaeism, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, and Christianity in that time and place, and interesting intersections on topics like magic bowls. One presented indicating that the session provided a natural forum for her scholarship which was not found in any other program unit, which was encouraging, since that was precisely what we hoped for and why we created the new program unit. It wasn’t just because “East LA” is a cool nickname for it.

The Metacriticism of Biblical Scholarship session focused on academic freedom, and it was particularly interesting to hear Christopher Rollston share his own experience in greater detail than he had done previously.

Metacriticism SBL 2014 Metacriticism SBL 2014 Christopher Rollston speaking

The Blogger session was up against Jimmy Carter speaking, and so in view of that, I was pleased that we had a decent turnout. The papers were interesting, with the very different perspectives of a scholar at a religiously affiliated school interested in using blogging as a bridge between academy and church, and an atheist scholar at a secular state university focusing on the way blogging by scholars intersects with and blurs into blogging by non-scholars and ultimately blogging by “@%!#! Loonies.” We then had an open panel discussion, which interacted with the audience as well as one another, on topics like comment moderation, the impact of blogging on the prospect of future employment, the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife and the more recent claims that Joseph and Aseneth is a “lost Gospel.”

At the end, Ben Corey, fellow Patheos blogger, said hello and took a photo of us:

Ben Corey SBL 2014


I also enjoyed meeting with a large number of friends and colleagues within and outside the context of the conference and its formal sessions.


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  • Charles Bauserman

    I never saw you at the conference, Dr. McGrath! It was my first one, and I was milling around the book hall enough that I should have seen you. I found enough people as it was (Pete Enns and Kenton Sparks to name a couple).

    The problem with the Second Temple Judaism and Early Christology fields is that they have enough specialization in their own right (and enough sessions at SBL that the two don’t have to meet up with each other!). For the two to even be able to converge would be quite a monumental event. I mean, I know they need to, and eventually quite a few fields need to converge at some point, but bringing them together … It will be difficult, to say the least.

    • Well, given that most scholars who work in those fields attend SBL, as do far greater numbers of scholars working in other fields, it seems to me that there are no real practical hurdles to doing this – although it is also not necessary that every scholar in these fields be present every time these sorts of conversations take place.

  • Gary

    Photo alert. Same photo X 4.

    • That was pretty bizarre. Not sure what went wrong, but I fixed it.

  • Gary

    And Jimmy Carter? If you’re talking X-pres, I would have tried to sneak into the place.

  • helenmarplehorvat

    This all sounds so interesting James. Was any of it recorded and likely to be posted for the public?

    • It is not common for SBL sessions to be recorded, and I am not aware that any of them were. If I learn otherwise, I will let you know.