Several days ago, when I actually checked the programme, I realized that Saturday was going to be a big day. Somehow, I had managed to find myself speaking three times on the one day. The first of these is not, strictly speaking, part of the SBL Annual Meeting. Rather, as some of you will know, the Biblical Archaeology Society holds its annual "BibFest" round the corner from the SBL and several of us go to address the conference there on topics of interest to us. My topic this year was "Paul's Letters: Women, Men and the End", some reflections on the roles played by women in Paul's churches (specifically Phoebe, Prisca, Junia) and then some analysis of the troubling passages in 1 Cor. 11 and 14, with conclusions on the eschatological nature of Paul's views on women and men, in discussion of Gal. 3.28. I like speaking at the BAS -- it is an audience of enthusiasts who always have interesting comments and questions, and who appear appreciative of our coming along to speak to them.
My second stint of the day was in the Ideological Criticism section. This is where all the cool kids hang out, and it is not my usual haunting ground. The topic was James Crossley's book Jesus in an Age of Terror. My paper offered a critique of James's discussion of the "politics of the bibliobloggers" and it is probably something that I will offer here in the blog in due course to generate some further discussion. Zeba Crook spoke second and discussed the representation of the context group in James's book -- and he had some critical things to say. Bill Arnal offered a more sympathetic reading of James's book and Roland Boer offered some sophisticated and often very funny reflections on what James was doing.
James gave a response to our four presentations and there was a very lively discussion afterwards. I am still reflecting on this session and I am not really sure what to make of it. I think I'd like to read all the papers and James's response and to work out where things stand. I'll come back to this in due course. I did not have any time to chew over that session in my mind, though, because I went from a panel with the cool kids to a panel with the bigwigs.
Pat McCullough organized a session entitled "Finding your 'niche' in Biblical Studies". There were five panelists, Christopher Hays, Katharine Doob Sakenfeld, Dale Martin and Paula Fredriksen and me. I have shared here in the blog the substance of my short presentation. I was hugely impressed with the other speakers, all of whom were witty, engaging, compelling. We had ten minutes or so each. The room was packed. There must have been two or three hundred people there, and there were people standing at the side. After we had finished speaking, the room emptied out a good deal, but then there was time for discussion of the topic and many of the contributions from the floor were excellent too.
I dined tonight with an old friend at Azio, an Italian place just a couple of blocks away from the conference and it was a hugely enjoyable evening. There is also a nice little Irish pub not far away from the conference hotels that is well worth a visit.