Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Return from Atlanta

I have now returned from Atlanta where I was attending the SBL Annual Meeting. I had thought that I would be able to blog throughout the conference and made a first entry or two on Friday afternoon and early on Saturday morning. But that was that. I was simply too busy the rest of the time to find a moment to blog. But now that I am home (or at least sitting at an airport waiting for a bus), some scattered reflections.

Saturday was the worst day for me personally -- still tired from losing a night's sleep to travel and also the day on which I had first to give a paper at the CARG and then to preside at the Synoptics section. But first things first. I tend to mark the beginning of the meeting by the annual gathering of "e-listers", always at 11 on the Saturday at the Gramcord booth, and always organised by Jeffrey Gibson. I did a circuit about five times round the book display looking for the Gramcord booth and wondered if I was being uncommonly inobservant. I eventually found out that there was another whole room of book display and I headed down to that; it's the first time since I've been going to SBL that I've known them to use two different rooms. The e-listers meeting was good, some old friends and some new ones, and Gail Dawson took a photograph of the group.

The first session I went to was the CARG, the computer assisted research section. There were five presentations and mine was the fourth. I talked about the All-in-One Biblical Resources Search, talking a little about the history of the site, what I saw as its advantages and disadvantages and began to look to the future, specifically the creation of a fresh page on the Greek New Testament / Biblical Languages.

Straight afterwards I had my first experience of presiding at a session, the first Synoptics section (of two). The theme was Richard Bauckham (ed.), The Gospels for all Christians: Rethinking Gospel Audiences (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998). Sadly Richard Bauckham himself was not able to be present because of ill health. Dwight Peterson, one of the respondents, was also unable to be present through ill health. Late in the day, Richard Burridge had agreed to stand in for Richard Bauckham and Loveday Alexander for Dwight. The other panelists were Margaret Mitchell, Mark Matson and Theodore J. Weeden. I was delighted to be able to introduce Ted Weeden, known to many through his famous Mark: Traditions in Conflict, but his first SBL for something like thirty years. The session was absolutely packed -- people standing at the back, at the doors and squatting on the floor. Apparently Eerdmans brought the book back into print because of the session, and then they sold out from their book display. The session was very lively; I thought Margaret Mitchell's presentation and contributions (in particular) pretty powerful, though she exceeded her time limit even more than all the others did. [Strong mental note to self: next time be much stricter on speakers' going over allotted time]. Plenty of time for lively discussion. Lots of people commented on how enjoyable they had found the session. I haven't commented on the substance much; you can read Mitchell's and Matson's papers on-line still, along with Bauckham's summary paper. [located here.] Richard Burridge is also going to send me his notes from the session to upload. A friend told me over breakfast the next morning that he thought the pro-Bauckham team had won a narrow victory, perhaps 3-2, but that Mitchell had achieved some big hits (to mix sporting metaphors).

One other event on Saturday was the Continuum reception, this year an official launch party for T & T Clark International, which is to be Continuum's Biblical Studies imprint, incorporating Trinity Press International, Sheffield Academic Press and T & T Clark.

The meeting all nice and close together -- no long treks across the city to different meeting places. And everyone seemed to be in one of the main meeting hotels which were also all central. The one I was in, the Marriott Marquis, was the main convention hotel. Enormous, rather soulless place -- tall with glass elevators going up and down the middle; it had enough room for 2000 guests apparently. Some good food places around. I had my first experience of a Japanese steakhouse, where they cook the food in front of you on the hot plate in the middle of the table, juggling the utensils and so on. There was a very good local Atlanta beer too called something like Sweet Water or Fresh Water. The weather was quite nice -- great to get off the plane on Friday to blazing sunshine. It rained on Monday, but otherwise pretty nice throughout. More later.

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