I thought this was one of the better ones. It was good to see various people as ever and particularly to catch up with Durham people I haven't seen in years. Had some fun times and it is always good to see Mike Bird and see how he's getting on. The journey back was a nightmare at first thanks to the flooding and it seems most others experienced problems. My advice: follow Sean Winter. The Jesus seminar (and not to be confused with the American Jesus Seminar of Crossan, Funk, et al fame) went particularly well I thought, as did the main papers. I found nothing disagreeable with what I heard, though had to miss Dale Martin's (for a very good reason) which everyone I spoke to said was good. It would seem there are one or two pictures around on blogs but I'll talk about the Jesus seminar...
Justin Meggitt's paper was really quite excellent, esp. on the findings from medicine and medical anthropology, including some particularly memorable tales of placebo healings. The secondary literature seemed extremely up to date and something quite distinctive I think, including some important qualifications on psycho-somatic healings in relation to the Jesus tradition. I believe this will be an article in a forthcoming edited volume on such matters which Justin said was reviewed (or something like that) by an expert in medicine. When that comes out, the article will be worth reading for the insights into the medical literature alone.
Halvor Moxnes then gave an excellent paper on ethnicity, identity and Galilee. There was one basic but very important point to come from this, namely that religious identity is too often foregrounded when all sorts of aspects of identity can be used (gender, class etc). For some, I think, or at least hope, that this opened their eyes to something beyond the traditional concerns of scholarship in the UK. It was clear that several people were grateful for this. I responded but didn't disagree with anything substantive. I tried to push a few things forward, such as the political context of Galilee scholarship and the rhetoric of emphasising 'Jewishness' where opponents allegedly don't have a Jewish enough Jesus. As Mike Bird mentioned on his blog, the discussion got to the very 'in' debate over the labels 'Jew', 'Judean', etc. Mike raises some doubts or qualifications which are of interest. I have no real opinion as such on whether one is better than the other in ancient terms but I don't care too much because the ways in which people were describing things was pretty much the way I use 'Jew'. I have some doubts on the foundational linguistic work of this debate, particularly the political context, and I'll be discussing this in weeks to come.
Then there was Bird...Strangely, I wasn't in any major disagreement with Mike over his paper on Jesus and Messiah and things like that. There were some concerns raised about an over trusting attitude towards the historicity of the tradition but that is probably another debate. The only major problem with substance was Mike's definition of 'messianic'. Other than the odd conservative, and certainly not all of them, Mike didn't even manage to persuade the furniture that his general definition of 'messianic' was sufficiently nuanced. Yes, people agreed that Jesus thought his ministry was very special etc but the 'Messianic' label really needs some qualifying. Other than that, as I said, I didn't really disagree with much of what he said and if he had used different labels and more nuancing, many people would no doubt share the same view.
Surprised? Well, let's fix that. Mike has now gone and done his old trick of ingnoring what I said, replacing it is what he says I said (which I didn't), before heroically inventing my apparent downfall by, er, mindreading. Mike said, 'James Crossley argued against the triumphal entry in Mark as being messianic which I think only convinced him and the furniture.' I actually said that Mike hadn't proven it was necessarily 'messianic' but worked with a definition and fitted everything he wanted into it, including the truimphal entry. Me and my co-chair got into our usual heated debate which we do every year and it is always good fun - I'm not sure Mike realises this tradition. Anyway, the substance of the debate involving the three of us to which Mike refers was actually over the phrase 'son of David' which I said was not used of Jesus in Mk 11. It still is not used. The crowds talk about the coming kingdom of our father David which is not the title 'the son of David' for Jesus. Matthew of course makes significant changes and Mike mentioned something vague about Matthew drawing out the obvious significance or something. I was, and am, perfectly happy with the idea that, according to Mark, people thought Jesus was something very special (whether we define this as 'messianic' is another question). Of course, in terms of the historical Jesus that depends on whether the passage goes back to Jesus or not. Because Mike didn't agree and there was a touch of conservative reaction, this doesn't not mean everyone as Mike implies. Others agreed with me (including Casey) and the only response was the predicatable one that Jesus is still the son of David in Mark, ok!? All I'm saying is that Mark does not say that. I mean it is obvious: people were referring to the coming kingdom of their father David. So my point was that you have to start putting things into that Markan text to get Jesus was 'the son of David'. I may not be the most evangelical but at least I'm scriptural! God only knows why Mike keeps coming up with these representations. Eyewitnesses, eh!