Tuesday, November 23, 2004

More SBL reporting, Sunday

Wednesday, 1.20 a.m., flying over the Atlantic. I made the connecting flight in Newark with five minutes to spare so will, after all, be back in Birmingham by morning; greatly relieved.

So back to my narrative of events at this year's SBL. I'll go back to Sunday. In the 1 pm slot I was speaking in the Mark Group on "Scripturalization in Mark's Crucifixion Narrative", part of a themed session on the death of Jesus in Mark, the first of three. I like speaking in the Mark Group, the second time I have done so. Papers are circulated in advance and one is given twenty minutes to "summarize" one's paper followed by 25 minutes of discussion. As I have mentioned previously, the general habit seems to be to read papers, both here and elsewhere at the SBL, but I decided this year to have a go at extempore delivery on the grounds that it is much easier to communicate with your audience this way. Having listened to many papers being read out, I reckon that less than 50 per cent of what is being read out gets heard or, rather, listened to. A read-out paper simply washes over its audience, who only pick up bits and bobs as their concentration comes in and out. Well, I was pleased that I gave it a go. I felt that I was able to communicate more directly, was able to see people's faces while I talked and could gauge reaction as I spoke. So it's something I will definitely do again. I received some very helpful comments and questions on the paper. Larry Hurtado asked about the relationship between the "scripturalization" thesis and the liturgical thesis and whether the latter is dependent on the former, or held to strengthen the former, or whether either can stand alone. It helps me to reflect about strategy and how I go about working on these two interrelated theses, one of which (the liturgical theory) will be unpalatable to some. I also had a useful question on the term "liturgy", which suggests that to some the term conjurs up the wrong kinds of image, of set liturgies in contemporary worship. Joel Marcus was sceptical about the liturgical theory and asked how it could be taken from speculation to establishing probability. I replied that I thought that NT scholarship would be more interesting and engaging if we learned to think of speculation as a positive rather than a negative term, adding that informed speculation is a virtue where our alternative is to go ignorant. But I also noted that in Crossan's theory (for example), only one of the time indicators in Mark's narrative, the darkness at midday, is explained, whereas in my theory all the time indicators receive an explanation, so I win over Crossan by eight to one. But that slightly frivolour answer aside, it's another useful reminder of the importance of thinking about how I lay out the case when I write my book on the topic. It really is very useful to get reactions to one's research in progress.

Incidentally, that session was really well attended. The other two speakers also generated some useful and interesting discussion. I am ashamed to say that as I sit on the plane late at night I cannot remember their names, though the first was Jocelyn. I'll check it up later.

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