Once in a while, I browse the itunes university (free) selection of courses and lectures from dozens of universities. I have enjoyed listening to lectures by N.T. Wright, John Goldingay, Dale Martin, Richards Hays, and many more. Today, I found the jackpot – a lecture series at Abilene Christian University (Carmichael-Walling lectures) which was recently updated. The new set of lectures include:
-David Scholer on Paul’s theology
-David Parker on Gospels manuscripts
-Luke Timothy Johnson on James in early Christianity
-Richard Bauckham on James in the NT
-James Vanderkam on Scriptural authority in the Dead Sea Scrolls
-James Dunn on the historical Paul and Paul’s preaching of the Gospel
Go HERE for more information; to find these lectures, open up itunes and click on your itunes store. In the top-right search engine, type in “Carmichael-Walling” or, even more simple, Vanderkam. Let me know if people are having trouble finding it.
A few months ago, Smyth and Helwys (a Christian academic publisher out of Macon, GA) contacted me and asked me if I would read R. Scott Nash’s new 1 Corinthians commentary for the Smyth & Helwys series. I had seen the series before in the library – Ben Witherington has written for them (Matthew) and Mitchell Reddish (Revelation) and Charles Talbert (Romans) also have nice volumes in the series.
Though I had not heard of Dr. Nash (Assoc. Prof. of NT at Mercer University), I enjoyed reading the manuscript very much. This series is known for having an excellent layout with good charts and various sidebars. The commentary offers a smooth explication of the text, as it is geared towards students. Nash, though, has really done his historical and archaeological homework. Therefore, I was happy to write an endorsement for the book.
It was my pleasure to see the final product at SBL – hot off the presses. I haven’t even received my own copy yet in the mail, though I will post about it again once I have thumbed through the book. It is a whole different experience to read a book on pdf (in front of your computer) than in nice hardcover form ( in an armchair).
When I turned to the endorsements page, I was excited to see my own words printed next to those of Marion Soards, Carolyn Osiek, and Alexandra Brown. I am not 100% sure why they chose me, but I definitely glad that I did.
I hope it will not seem cheap for me to say that I think seminary and upper-level undergraduate students will benefit from this commentary. Do check it out HERE.
See my endorsement HERE.
NB: Forthcoming is Todd D. Still’s commentary on Philippians – I have seen portions of it and it is very erudite. Once it
it hits the shelves, I will be excited to consult it alongside my other middle-length Philippians commentaries by Bockmuehl and Hooker.
Just a reminder that the SBL regional conferences are not actually too far away, as some are in February and the call for papers closes in the next 6 weeks or so. I haven’t been to a regional since 2005, so I am looking forward to it. Though these conferences are not as big of a production, that can be an advantage. Also, you don’t incur the travelling costs (especially as the Eastern Great Lakes regional is only an hour away from my home!).
My proposal will be in the area of rhetorical criticism and theological interpretation. Once I finalize my abstract, I will post it and get people’s impression.
I have offered thoughts on how to present a paper at SBL before, but I usually have new reactions and thoughts immediately after presenting.
First of all, it is not really that important how many people are at your session -it is more important that those who do attend (hopefully more than a handful) know something about your topic and can comment. So, don’t be too discouraged if you expected 50 and got 15. It could still be very useful in terms of feedback.
Resist the temptation to hit your time limit on the dot (like 25 minutes). That usually only leaves 5 minutes for questions. I shot for about 16-17 minutes and we had loads of time for questions and I can honestly say that it was a better experience for me.
Always have a handout of some kind and put your email address on it so that those who are interested in your research can follow up. One of my fellow presenters in my session just sent me a Facebook friendship request – we have much to talk about!
To do powerpoint or not? I did not, but two of my fellow presenters did. The upside is that it is visually useful to understand the main point or see a diagram. The downside is that your paper and the session overall may be forestalled if you have trouble getting the computer in sync with the projector (which happened to one presenter despite his claims that he tested it out earlier with no trouble). I tend to shy away from Powerpoint out of such fears even though I teach with powerpoint in the classroom (often, not always).
Handling questions: my normal tendency is to be defensive if a question is asked that challenges my thesis (versus a more clarifying or exploratory kind of question). I did not have any threatening questions, so that as a dodged bullet, but I felt relaxed overall – perhaps it was because the crowd was small, or because this is my 3rd year presenting at SBL and I am getting used to it. Anyway, be conscious of your emotions and your natural tendencies. The best way to feel calm about the question time is to write a paper you are proud of, you understand well, and that you have researched thoroughly. If you are ‘shooting from the hip’, as some do, it can be torturous.
One issue is determining just how radical your paper is going to be. If you are providing another reason why Paul did not write Titus, that is not really rocking the boat. If you are Doug Campbell, well…get ready for the fight. If it is your first paper at SBL, and you are going for the jugular, be prepared for push-backs. SBL folks are not shy.
It might pay to go to papers at SBL with a specific interest in seeing the strategies that people have for responding to questions. The best scholars have tact, calm, and think well on their feet. Also, of course, they are well read, both specifically and generally. That takes time, of course.
If some of you are scared, too scared, to try SBL, make sure to go for the regional conferences. I hope to present in the Eastern Great Lakes region (this year in Akron, Ohio).
As I met and interacted with folks at SBL, I began to see that as many of the old guard have retired or are soon to be (James Dunn, Howard Marshall, Larry Hurtado, Richard Bauckham, etc…), there is also a crop of impressive younger scholars that are making their marks on NT research. I offer a list of only some of the most incisive and those who have great potential. It is difficult to know where to draw the line of “younger”: by years teaching? How many years? 10? 15? Instead of a temporal approach, I am looking at people that have demonstrated excellence in their research and great potential, but ones whom you may not have heard about (yet!).
Michael Bird (Bible College of Queensland, Australia) - in a sense Mike is already highly respected as a scholar, but he is definitely young. He has done so much already in both Paul and Gospels study with a new book out on Jewish conversion activity in antiquity. He is someone who is innovative, passionate, and competent. And he has many, many good books ahead of him. And articles. And essays. Maybe a clothing line and personal fragrance.
Todd Still (Baylor/Truett). Todd did his doctorate under John MG Barclay at Univ. of Glasgow on the Thessalonian epistles. He has published a number of articles and also a short commentary on Colossians. He is one of the co-editors of the new volume After the First Urban Christians (with Longenecker and Horrell) which looks at the impact of Wayne Meeks’ original work 25 years later. He is coming out with an intro to Paul with Zondervan, a commentary on Philippians, an intro guide to 1-2 Thessalonians, and a few other interesting projects. He is a thoughtful and mature writer, measured in his critique and with an incisive analytical eye. Whenever I have thought, what journal should I try to publish with next?, I look at what Todd has done and have attempted to retrace his footsteps.
Daniel B. Gurtner (Bethel Seminary, MN). Dan is a Gospels guy who is a star on the rise. He studied with Bauckham and published his thesis with Cambridge in their very exclusive and excellent SNTSMS series. Dan worked swiftly through his PhD at such a rate that he spent his final year at Tyndale House teaching and writing on other topics. He has also written a critical edition of the Syriac of Second Baruch for Continuum as well as a forthcoming commentary on the LXX text of Exodus. Did I mention he edited a book on Matthean studies? Or the answer key to a Syriac textbook? Don’t even get me started on articles…
Susan Eastman (Duke Divinity School) I read Susan’s thesis and reviewed it. It was a very impressive piece on Paul’s use of maternal language, an exploration of his apocalyptic theology, and an examination of his interaction with Scriptural concepts. She has published several insightful articles and is quite regularly leading things and presenting at SBL.
C. Kavin Rowe (Duke Divinity School). Rowe, also quite new to professional academia, has stunned scholars with his breadth, depth, and precociousness. To be honest, I have not had a chance to read his work, but I hear his name all the time and always in a positive light. Check out his bio from Duke (the only word coming to mind afterward is “WOW!”):
C. Kavin Rowe is Assistant Professor of New Testament at Duke University Divinity School. In addition to multiple scholarly articles, he is the author of two books: “Early Narrative Christology” (de Gruyter, 2006, repr. Baker Academic, 2009) and “World Upside Down: Reading Acts in the Graeco-Roman Age” (Oxford University Press, 2009). He also co-edited “The Word Leaps the Gap” (Eerdmans, 2008) and a forthcoming book from the University of South Carolina Press on the interpretation of Luke and Acts (2010). Rowe has been a Fulbright Scholar, Regional Scholar for the Society of Biblical Literature, Chair of the Society’s Southeastern Region New Testament section, and was elected to the Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas. He was awarded a Lilly Faculty .Fellowship, a Christian Faith and Life Grant from the Louisville Institute, and, most recently, the John Templeton Prize for Theological Promise.
James Crossley (Sheffield). Crossley has made quite a spash in Christian origins, often questioning longheld views and assumptions. Though I agree with him on only one or two things (like, there is such a thing as the New Testament), I have to admit that what he does, he does well (especially methodologically).
J. Ross Wagner (Princeton). In many ways, he is carrying on Richard Hays’ legacy in the study of Paul and Scripture. His own dissertation on Isaiah and Romans in concert has been very well received and he is working on a general volume on biblical intertexuality. He is also a very nice guy.
Tom Thatcher (Cincinnati Christian University). Tom is someone that popped up on the scene of Johannine studies (and Gospels in general). He has already founded and chaired two program units, and has published or edited numerous books and articles (ATLA has about 30 items under his name, most of which are from 2000-2007).
Edward Adams (King’s College London). Eddie’s thesis on Paul’s use of kosmos and social-scientific perspectives is really fresh and cogent. He studied under John Barclay at Glasgow. Now he is working on several other projects, including an exploration of how the churches met in Corinth. I believe he also co-edited a collection of groundbreaking essays on Christianity in Corinth. He was a keynote speaker two years ago at the British NT conference – a serious privilege. Most impressive of all – he is a genuinely humble and nice guy. When you talk to him, he actually listens and even seems interested!
Do any of you have others you want to put forward as ranking among the next generation of scholars to impact New Testament studies?
It is Sunday night, so we have had a couple of days of ‘conferencing’ and a little more to go. New Orleans has been a big hit in many ways as it has some fun culture and great food! The people that work at the hotels have been very nice and there is a positive and friendly vibe everywhere, I think.
PAPERS: To be honest, I have only had time to visit two sessions. The first one, which is really the only one worth commenting on, was about reading Romans from a theological perspective and Beverly Gaventa, Richard Hays, and Michael Gorman equally offered engaging, erudite, and thought-provoking pieces. Here, in one room, were three of the biggest influences on my work and I was glad to attend. Richard is, of course, especially a delight to hear. I can tell that in thirty years my students will be awed at my stories of going and seeing Hays lecture. He has real staying-power in scholarship because he is such a deep thinker. Beverly, as many of you know, is working on a commentary on Romans for WJK (NTL series). I am certain that this will be a very important book.
On a side note, I have heard from many people that there did not seem to be a lot of ‘must-be-there’ sessions (especially for NT). It might be just by chance, or it might be that we are in an academic lull in the post-New Perspective era. The hot thing this year seems to be review sessions of major books. Monday afternoon is the review of Doug Cambell’s major piece. That should be very exciting – I wish I had already read the book, but it is too hefty, so I hope there will be some kind of summary before the lynching begins!
PEOPLE: The conference seems to be well-attended and buzzing. The venue seems to be more compact this year, so determining the whole size is tough. There are certainly a few people missing (including my supervisor John Barclay), but overall I have seen the usual crowd.
HOTELS: These conference hotels are quite nice. They generally cater good snacks and coffee (often Starbucks) and each one has a ‘Bucks in it. I know some of you will scoff, but I appreciate Starbucks because they always have soy milk – a necessity for those of us who are intolerant…of lactose.
BOOKS: It is a good year for books overall. You can tell many pubs have downsized their selection and also have less copies of each book. Some books that seem ‘hot’ include Campbell’s Deliverance of God (Eerdmans), Dunn’s Beginning from Jerusalem (Eerdmans), T & T Clark’s After the First Urban Christians, The Faith of Jesus Christ (pistis Christou debate; Hendrickson), Five Views on the Historical Jesus (IVP), and the first launches of the New Covenant Commentary series: Craig Keener’s Romans and Mike Bird’s Colossians (W & S). The Institute for Biblical Research gave away, thanks to the kindness of Zondervan, Kostenberger’s new volume in their Biblical Theology series on the Gospel of John – worth $40. I have not tended to be a big fan of Kostenberger, but it was free and I actually do think it will be a handy resource.
Because publishers realized that people didn’t want to pay to check their luggage on the plane due to numerous book purchases, many are offering free shipping- what a nice perk for us! Still, I admit that I am impatient and so I picked up a few things now and I may have them on my lap on the plane to avoid the charge!
JOBS: For those of us who are seeking full-time and long-term employment, there is a little bit of an air of exhaustion and disappointment as we all have set our hopes on the one or two things we have managed to get a bite on. That has made this less of an enjoyable conference as I had hoped, becuase I feel the weight of the future more and it is hard to focus on the here and now.
RECEPTIONS: Sadly, many universities and publishers opted out of doing a reception for financial reasons. So, we are left with organizing ourselves and paying for our own food. Durham still has one and I look forward to that tonight.
COLLABORATION/MEETINGS: Of course, SBL is a time for meetings. I had three very productive meetings with publishers to discuss various projects. It is nice to transition into a world where someone actually is interested in hearing what I have to say – it beats the meek status of the grad student (which I was a mere four months ago, of course!)
BLOGGERS: The blogger dinner is tonight, I think. I can’t make it. I have run into several of you: Pat McCullough, Brandon Wason, Kevin Scull, James McGrath, Jim West, Chris Spinks, Ken Schenk, and a few others. It is nice to put faces with names and blog addresses. Keep up the good work!
Perhaps I will have more to say about SBL on Wednesday. My paper is Tuesday morning. I hope for a decent turnout, but Tuesday morning is kind of a weak spot. Let’s hope for a couple of good Philippians scholars and folks. Come one come all!
Like many, many others, I am off as well to SBL. I am excited this year for a number of reasons – giving a paper, seeing old friends, eating delicious New Orleans cuisine, scoping out books to eventually review (me? PAY? Never!). Also, I have a job interview, though I will leave the details for another time. At the same time, I do get tired of the conference scene – at my stage (looking for a full-time tenure track job) there is still the pressure to schmooze and seek out others purely for what they can do for me. Ugh! May it never be! Also, there are the lonely meals – but this year I planned ahead and nearly every meal has been set up with a friend or a person I want to get to know, or a group meal.
One sad part about this year is that a lot of publisher receptions have been cut due to financial constraints. Also, since I am no longer a student, I don’t benefit from getting graduate funding for the conference – I am on my own! But, it is nice to be in America and fly domestic for a change!
My schedule does not leave much time for actually going to papers – you will learn that many people tire of papers (as I do) and spend more time with friends, colleagues, and in intentional conversations with experts. There are a few book-review sessions that I am excited about (please do go to Doug Campbell’s Paul session).
Because I had to take a late flight today, I will only make the very end of the Institute for Biblical Research meeting tonight – just in time to receive my free book from Zondervan. A couple of years ago they shelled out for Starbucks coffee for the reception….Fingers crossed.
NB: For those on a tight, tight budget, I did find a Subway sandwich place close by. OK, OK, yes it is almost a crime to eat at Subway in a paradise of delicious food, but my plan is to eat mega cheap for breakfast and either lunch or dinner, and then splurge a little for the other meal.
Finally, since I did work at Hendrickson Publishers a few years back, I can recommend, from person experience, their excellent selection of books. Check out, in particular, The Faith of Jesus Christ (eds. Bird and Sprinkle) and also Mike Bird’s Crossing Over Land and Sea. Also, make sure to take a peek at their language resources – especially the UBS Greek reader which I think every NT student and scholar should have!
My prayer for myself this year is that I refrain from being defensive during the Q & A for my paper, that I try to meet and encourage timid new grad students, and that I am wise in my meal-spending.
For all those of you not going, save up for 2011 – San Francisco!
I always get excited to see what Eerdmans has coming down the pipeline. Check out the schedule through May HERE.
SBL just posted a job teaching religion at the University of Hawaii! I would apply, but it involves teaching world religions – not really my thing. But if it is yours – it sounds pretty nice…
Check it out
ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF RELIGION, Position number 0082340, Department of Religion, University of Hawaii at Manoa, full-time tenure track, to begin August 2010, pending position clearance and availability of funds. Duties: Teach undergraduate and graduate courses in religion, including Christianity and World Religions; conduct research and develop educational projects; other duties as assigned by the chair. Minimum Qualifications: Ph.D. in a field which includes training in the critical theories and methods used in the academic study of religion and with a specialization in Christianity; ability to teach introductory courses in Biblical literature; ability to teach introductory course on World Religions; demonstrated ability for effective teaching or its promise and active research in the field; proficiency in relevant languages for research and teaching. ABD candidates will be considered provided that all degree requirements are complete by August 1, 2010. Desirable Qualifications: Specialization in Christianity in East Asia or the Pacific; competence in teaching Judaism. Minimum Annual Salary: Commensurate with qualifications and experience. To Apply: Send letter of application addressing minimum and desirable qualifications; official transcripts of graduate work (copies are acceptable, however official transcripts will be required at time of hire); curriculum vitae; and a minimum of three letters of recommendation to: Helen J. Baroni, Chair, Department of Religion, Sakamaki A-311, University of Hawaii, 2530 Dole Street, Honolulu, HI 96822. On-line applications will not be accepted. EEO/AA Employer. Closing date: Review will begin January 15, 2010 and continue until filled. Inquiries: Helen J. Baroni, 808-956-4201, email@example.com.
I am about half way through reading Gordon Fee’s The First and Second Letter to the Thessalonians for the NICNT (Eerdmans). It is a hefty volume, at 350 pages. Fee, here, is replacing the older volume in the series by Leon Morris. Morris’ commentary was never really anyone’s go-to commentary for 1-2 Thessalonians, so it is understandable that Fee took this one on.
In some ways, Fee’s work is very impressive, as he is a very careful and attentive reader. He knows the Pauline letters so well (having done major commentaries on Philippians, 1 Corinthians, the Pastoral Epistles, and Galatians) that he is constantly pointing out where Paul is using language or syntax or ideas out of the ordinary for him.
One can always expect very precise and cogent textual discussions as well, and Fee does not shy away from challenging the status quo who simply follow Metzger’s recommendation. Similarly, Fee thinks like a translator and assesses the accuracy of various modern translations on the Thessalonian epistles. He favors the TNIV (as a committee member!), of course. This can be very helpful for professional translators (like those with Wycliffe) and also pastors who seek out the best idioms for explaining the exact meaning of a phrase or sentence in preaching or teaching.
Theologically, one can also guess that Fee gives close attention to matters pertaining to pneumatology and Christology. Indeed, the latter actually seems more prominent in this commentary -lots of discussions of how Paul uses the word “Lord” (kyrios) and whether he is referring to God the Father or Jesus – Fee often thinks the latter, and argues for this position even when most commentators presume the former.
Finally, it is also a pastorally sensitive and spiritually-enriching volume, perhaps more so than its series predecessors. After every section of commentating, Fee gives some – “so what does this mean for the church today” kind of advice. It is never cheesy or condemning, but illuminating and pensive.
Now, having made these very positive statements, I must say that as a commentary on 1 Thessalonians (I have not read the portions of 2nd Thess.), it is not really breaking much new ground in terms of insight into the major cruxes of the study of the letter. Neither in terms of background issues, textual problems, ethical issues (such as the ataktoi), or other areas does he venture a new position (at least not as of page 150). This seems to me to be a problem with new commentaries -though they are written by general experts (experts on Paul), ones like these are not by people who have spent their career on this one book (Fee has covered the field, for sure, but doesn’t have a mastery of the secondary literature, as he admits in the intro). Thus, what it adds in general exegetical insight, it lacks in incisive illumination when it comes to handling the perplexities of the letter in a new way.
I think Fee’s commentary will certainly be of more use than Morris’, as he does so many things well regarding textual criticism, rhetorical progression, translation details, christology/pneumatology, etc… Whether it will be the commentary that everyone reaches for first….I am still tempted to leave this honor to Wanamaker and Malherbe.