Thursday, November 27, 2003

SBL Monday and Tuesday

So to Monday morning. Bear in mind that the sessions I attended are a tiny fraction of what was on; at any given time there are multiple sessions one would enjoy attending. And sometimes duty takes one away from a session one would parituclarly like to get to. But one that I was keen to get to was the Historical Jesus section on the topic of "Women and the Historical Jesus". The speakers were John Dominic Crossan, Kathleen Corley and Jane Schaberg. Each spoke for half an hour or so; they then debated among themselves a little, all pretty friendly first name terms stuff, and then the discussion was opened up to the audience. It was one of the least stimulating sessions I attended at the conference, mainly because of the room, the audience and the fact that they only had one microphone. As usual for the really big historical Jesus sessions, they'd used a ballroom and it was absolutely packed. It was dark and dingy and they only had one microphone between them. Even with the microphone, it was quite difficult to hear Jane Schaberg. And when they debated among themselves, there were constantly passing the microphone around from one to another. It's funny how those things stick in one's mind more than the subtance of the papers, but it was so difficult to listen to and I'm afraid I slept through more of this even than the Q section, and that's saying something.

Also on Monday I attended the Mark Group again. Papers were by Tom Shepherd, Michael Vines and Kelli O'Brien and all on the theme of literary aspects of the trial of Jesus in Mark. I find the Mark Group one of the more enjoyable sections because it doesn't stack the programme too fully and allows enough time for presenters to summarise their papers and plenty of time for discussion.

General comment about the organisation of the conference: although it was good to have everything close together, I did find it a bit harder to navigate my way around this time. Perhaps I was being dopey but I found myself asking for directions more than usual. It also seemed to me that the organisers had not got the room allocation right. Many sessions I went to were overcrowded, and especially the first Synoptics session. Presumably it is difficult to predict but it seemed that they got the rooms badly wrong sometimes; perhaps there was not quite enough space there for the conference.

I was really lucky on the Monday evening to be able to get away from the hotel and to stay with friends in Atlanta; a real highlight. Back again on Tuesday morning the fag-end of the conference did seem a bit of an anti-climax. Lots of people are in the process of leaving on Tuesday morning, and even those that are not are focused on leaving. So it's rough to have to present a paper right at the end of the conference. I enjoyed a last chance to get a breakfast in the Marriott Marquis. It was easily the best place for breakfast among those I tried (the Hyatt was especially poor); and the chef cooked omelettes to order in front of you -- great stuff. I sampled a bit of the textual criticism section before leaving and there were some interesting bits and bobs though I slept through most of what I did attend and spent the rest of the time chatting to an old friend outside the session.

As usual, the best memories of the conference are the personal contacts, the breakfasts, the steak and ale, good laughs, spending time with old friends, meeting new people. Had several useful discussions relating to future publishing projects too, so I'm feeling pretty fulfilled at the end of it, but still delighted to get home again.

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