At the end of the dinner, Graham Stanton gave a toast to celebrate the society's twenty-fifth anniversary. It was excellent and got lots of laughs; afterwards Jimmy Dunn, also present at the conception of the society, gave his own reflections on the society's history. I had added a note of confusion to proceedings on the previous day by explaining to the committee that I thought Jimmy mistaken that this was the society's twenty-fifth anniversary. He had told me this last year and I'd happily accepted it, thinking that such an expert on oral tradition and memory would surely have got such an important detail correct. But when I consulted the written record on Wednesday night, it seemed that the first meeting of the British New Testament Conference was in Glasgow in 1980. 1980-2004 is twenty-four years, not twenty-five, isn't it? So I think that our twenty-fifth anniversary is next year, 2005. To add to this, it turns out that this conference was not, as we have been advertising, our 22nd, nor was Birmingham our 21st, Cambridge our 20th, Manchester our 19th or Roehampton our 18th, all of which we had said in our publicity. I counted up the conferences from 1980 onwards and it's pretty clear -- this one is our 23rd and not our 22nd (the conference did not meet in 1983 or 1988 when there were SNTS meetings in the UK). Someone had clearly miscalculated when it was said that Roehamption was number 18 -- this was the source of the error. It should have been 19. So here was another useful reminder -- don't rely on oral tradition when there is a text you can check.
But back to the question of whether this is, indeed, our twenty-fifth year or not, Graham Stanton and Jimmy Dunn made a robust but not entirely convincing case that it was indeed right that we should be celebrating. Graham Stanton's case was that the first gathering at which the first conference was planned was twenty-five years ago in 1979, at a meeting of the SNTS in Durham. And the conception was a year earlier even than that in 1978. Now the current president of the society, elected at the 2003 Birmingham meeting, is Morna Hooker. She expressed her delight at presiding over the society on what was turning out to be a rolling anniversary schedule, this year twenty-five years since the planning of the first meeting, next year twenty-five years since the the first meeting, the year after our twenty-fifth meeting. It's like a perpetual jubilee.
The big conference dinner on Friday evening also provided the oppurtunity for Larry Hurtado, who coordinated the conference this year, to thank the local organisers. Larry pointed out that his great skill was simply in having delegated to extraordinarily capable people. Special mention was rightly made of Paul Middleton who handled the vast bulk of the local organising, and did an excellent, good-humoured and very unfussy job. I have found it a delight, as secretary, to work with him over the last few months. What was even more remarkable was that Paul did all this on top of presenting a paper in the Short Simultaneous Papers session on Friday, and then, apparently, having his PhD viva on Saturday afternoon! My only criticism (and I have to indulge myself by thinking that something was better about Birmingham 2003) would be that the big thanks were not accompanied by the presentation of flowers.