Friday, 23.05 BST: In my hotel room in Rome; there is no internet connection available, either wireless or otherwise, but since I have my laptop with me, and since this trip is work-related, I have decided to keep a diary as time permits. I will upload on return on Sunday night / Monday morning, and will upload in the appropriate time slots, to reflect the times when I wrote each section, as if I had also posted them at those times.
Spent much of the day travelling. For me is an excellent way of catching up on both reading and sleeping. Slept so deeply during the latter part of my train journey to Stansted that the guard had to wake me up, so it was a good thing that my destination, the airport, was the terminus.
But also read Travis Derico's SBL Seminar Paper for the Synoptics Section, "Upgrade and Reboot: A Reappraisal of the Default Setting". It is an interesting read. As I see it, the paper makes one important point: generalised appeals to "orality" are not particularly helpful given the many varieties of orality in antiquity. And there is the related point that to talk about "variability" as a general characteristic of orality simply will not do. But those important points aside, I found the paper frustrating on two levels. First, I was surprised that, given the title, a clear allusion to James D. G. Dunn's NTS article of a year or so ago, and the related book Jesus Remembered, the article did not engage Dunn's work at all. There was simply one footnote expressing general support for Dunn's project. It made me wonder whether this was a case of a paper having set out with one intention and then having gone on with another.
My second point of frustration was its failure actually to engage the case for literary interdependence among the Synoptics. The paper repeatedly talks about "Synoptic type similarities" and the levels of agreement between the Synoptics, implying that oral tradition could explain such agreement in toto. But this is such a radical case, such a major departure from the consensus view, that the vagueness with which the consensus is characterised is inadequate. I also felt that there was a basic confusion between the case for some kind of literary relationship and the case for specific solutions to the Synoptic Problem. These are different, if related points.
The next article I read was Maurice Casey's critique of Larry Hurtado's Lord Jesus Christ from the most recent JSNT, a stimulating read, at its strongest on John's Gospel (can a document that calls its opponents "the Jews" still be called a Jewish document?) and at its weakest on its characterisation of Hurtado's arguments as sometimes "evangelical". Hurtado's response is also strong, and makes some effective points against Casey. Happily, both pieces on the whole avoid the kind of polemic that can be typical of such critiques and responses, and they are far more interesting and engaging for that restraint. A word about the editor of JSNT, David Horrell: he is doing a fine job of producing these kind of exchanges from top notch scholars on recent major works of interest, and getting them out in good time. Good for him, and long may it continue. I now find that I look forward to the latest JSNT more than any of the other journals, and that certainly did not used to be the case.
Eventually I departed from London Stansted for Rome. Sadly, the associate producer of the programme was unable to come with me because of passport difficulties so we simply met at the airport and I travelled alone. Slept lots more on the plane but also finished Martin Hengel's Crucifixion, a book I have long wanted to read properly but have only recently purchased, second hand.
Rome alone, for the first time, with no Italian and little idea of where I was going was a challenge, but I did managed to find my way to my hotel with the help of a taxi driver named Paolo who pointed to key sites on the way. I'm not quite sure precisely where I am, but a late evening walk on a pleasant, mild evening, a beer and a sandwich sitting outside on a cobbled pavement and watching Friday night Rome pass by, have given me a happy first taste of the place. But it will be nice to meet up with some people I know tomorrow.