BNTC Liverpool 2005
I noticed that other bloggers got to computers. Obviously, I didn’t. Anyway, as others have mentioned, Richard Burridge gave the first main paper on ethics and ancient biography. I thought Burridge’s work on genre was very convincing and so the ‘biographical approach’ to ethics could have some mileage. The paper covered a massive range of Pauline and gospel material. The issue of Jesus and the Law (one of my pet topics) came up in the discussion and I was discussing it with people long after the paper. I think there is potential for a fully law observant Jesus to catch on but how you measure such agreement I don’t know.
Then whilst having a drink later on me and Sean Winter were asked if we knew one another to which a reply was mumbled, ‘We met on the internet.’
The Jesus seminar (not the naughty one of course) went well I thought. The first two papers were by Andy Angel and Maurice Casey on the son of man problem with my co-chair David Bryan (a Liverpool fan and he kept reminding me of their fluke last May) responding to Andy Angel. The debate was heated but always friendly. A fair bit was on Aramaic and linguistics. Put crudely there was a divide between the titular THE Son of Man like Andy and David and those (myself included) who think more along the lines of the lower case and more generalising son of man associated with the late Barnabas Lindars and of course Maurice. I think it is fair to say that some on the titular side were prepared to concede that Mk 2.28 is strong evidence for a generalising statement with some reference to the individual because of the existence of the generalising Mk 2.27 which is dropped independently by both Matt. and Lk. to produce a titular the Son of Man.
I chose to go to David Horrell’s short paper which questioned the validity of the term ‘Pauline churches’ as a distinct ideological group of pro-Pauline people. I thought it was very convincing and my impression was that it was broadly accepted by those who attended, although I claim no skill as a mind reader. More conversation with others really.
I stayed for the debate on the future of biblical studies. While undoubtedly important it strayed a bit too much into church based things for my secular tastes. There was also a question from someone which I’m not sure if I heard correctly so I could be completely misrepresenting here. I think, repeat think, that someone said that there should be more respect for scholars who have studied these texts for years and that postmodern influences have led to the idea that all opinions are valid when they are not or something like that. IF, repeat if, this was said then this is something with which I’d disagree strongly. I think it is healthy to disrespect scholars and for students to challenge everything that academics tell them. Scholars are not gods and they make mistakes. Many mistakes. I suspect all academic disciplines have had their fair share of scholars who have produced stuff which is ethically unsound to say the least. There should be no problem with students putting opinions forward no matter how stupid. They can be debated after all. I’m not sure if it’s right to blame ‘postmodernism’ for everything deemed wrong in academia (if this was what was said and even if not I have heard it said by others). My guess is that the social change of the 1960s has more to do with people being more and more prepared to challenge authority figures and that’s a good thing. But as this is all from memory I could easily be misrepresenting whoever said it. Feel free to tell me off if I did misrepresent.
I missed the Friday evening paper because a) I’m pretty sure I had heard it at another conference and b) David Bryan and Maurice Casey persuaded me to have a drink instead. That session lasted some time.
The final session of the Jesus seminar was Rafael Rodriguez’s paper on memory, reputation and so on. I gave a response that focused on the methodology because I largely thought everyone else would have concentrated on exegetical questions. As it turned out I was quite wrong and most of the session was taken up by some useful methodological discussion. I was in general agreement with Rafael, particularly on how authenticity is too focused on whether this or that verse accurately reflects an early tradition and so on whereas memories of Jesus have some importance too in historical reconstruction. I thus have some sympathy with the recent debate on remembering Jesus and all that. I added some qualifications on memory creating false ‘facts’ and how a memory and reputation can tell us something completely inaccurate about a person. My worry is that this approach can go too far and let everything count as ‘authentic’ (not that Rafael said that). But I think there was broad agreement in the seminar on this in the end.
The Saturday main paper was by Darrell Hannah on evidence for ‘The Four Gospel “Canon” in the Epistula Apostolorum’. The overall case seemed pretty strong to me but when doing other things at the moment it’s not the sort of thing I’m able to check properly. It surely has to be one of the few BNTC papers in its history which has discussed Coptic and Ethiopic texts, at least in my time going to the conference.
One particularly entertaining moment was seeing a rare-ish Hebrew Bible book on the book stalls and it was by William Dever. I can’t remember the title but there was a full 3 page onslaught on things connected with the Dept of Biblical Studies at the University of Sheffield. There were all sorts of allegations of being trendy, postmodern, that kind of thing and an incredibly selective and one sided list of what represented Sheffield. It was so misleading it was unintentionally hilarious. I have never read anything quite like that before and it was largely empty and meaningless polemic. It was in the context of the whole minimalist debate so Sheffield NT was not really attacked.
Oh, and I had a greetings conveyed to me from one Michael Bird who said I would know him as a right wing bigot and a ‘fundamentalist’. You said it Michael! Only kidding. It made me laugh. I have never and, barring some outrageous statement in the future, will never describe the esteemed blogger and friend of gentiles in such terms. It would have been very interesting to have Michael at the Jesus seminar and next year I may have to get a hook and drag him in whether he likes it or not.