Friday, September 05, 2003

British New Testament Conference Day 1

The conference is underway successfully here in Birmingham. It was utterly hectic for me and the local team yesterday. Note to myself for future reference: don't organise a conference again until this one is a distant memory. Further note to myself: in future avoid doing anything as bonkers as hosting a conference at the same time as being secretary of the society. I've found time to blog while my printer whirs away printing out last minute versions of papers for speakers, hand-outs for speakers and so on. The only conference item at the moment going on is Prayers, led my former colleague Dr Darrell Hannah. I'm afraid I've never yet been to the Prayers at a British NT Conference; some might think it an odd tradition for an academic conference to have prayers scheduled at the beginning of each day; but my guess would be that the vast majority of the delegates are Christians of one sort or another, and it has been a tradition of the society always to have 30 mins. prayers in the morning. I suppose my own inability to attend has usually been more to do with the luxury of being able to lie in and not having to get the kids up for nursery, school etc. than it has with anything else, if I am honest.

Anyway the main event yesterday was the eagerly awaited paper from Professor Ulrich Luz. His title was Myth and Christology in the New Testament. I wish I were able to write a decent precis of the paper here but I cannot. I did sit and listen as intently as I could all the way through it (i.e. I didn't fall asleep as I almost always do in conference papers, regardless of the actual quality) and I kept catching all sorts of interesting bits and bobs. And there were many points at which those sitting around me hummed with approval. Jimmy Dunn asked the first question (well, three questions; John Riches' -- in the chair -- attempted to stifle the third because of time constraints but unsuccessfully) and, if I remember correctly, he said the paper provided a "fascinating and brilliant sketch". Lots of the paper was about "Myth" and appropriate definitions of this; lots of it was about the centrality of the "Christ Myth" in early Christianity. Luz dwelt for some time too on how extraordinarily early Jesus was worshipped as God, using the term "Christological monotheism" a good number of times, a term I know from Bauckham though Bauckham was not mentioned. Luz talked about 1 Cor. 8.5-6 and Paul's redefinition of the Shema. He talked a good deal about the Gospels. He was firm that the old-fashioned view that the deification of Jesus came in as a result of Hellenisation was nonsense. I remember him commenting at this point that the Jewish Matthew's Christology was very high while the more hellenised Luke's Christology was much lower. He must have mentioned Gerd Theissen's work ten or more times -- he was clearly highly influential in his thinking. It emerged very clearly in the question time that this paper was the beginning of a major project; it was delightful to hear the humility of such a fine scholar's answers to his questioners, often simply to defer to the future working out of his grand project. He clearly sees the project as intersecting theology and religious studies; he ended by bemoaning the traditional separation of the theology of the New Testament from the history of early Christianity. Alas, my problem was that I was simply so fatigued from running around all day trying to sort out problems (e.g. 12 boxes of books from Continuum have simply not turned up. It seems clear that securicor delivered them somewhere, but they did not deliver them here. Why does it have to be my publisher whose books go missing? Let's hope our efforts to track them down today come off) that I was just not able to concentrate on the whole paper. So it came to me in little nuggets in between my trying to resolve conference problems and making mental and physical notes to do this and do that the next day. But I can tell you that the consensus in the bar afterwards -- from where I was standing at least -- was that the paper was an enormous success. So a great start to the conference.

The Friday is the major day of the conference, though. We will be packing it in today. In an hour's time, at 9.15, the ten seminars meet simultaneously. If all goes well and I am not running around sorting out problems, I'll be in the Synoptics seminar and among other things we are looking forward to papers this year from Helen Bond and Larry Hurtado.

Among other things, it was good fun to share notes with inspirational blogger Jim Davila yesterday, by the way.

Right, time to dash.

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