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Eight Things I’m Thankful for: Highlights of SBL

SBL 2013I just returned from the Society of Biblical Literature meeting in Baltimore, where I saw old friends and made new ones.

Here are 8 things I’m thankful for about this SBL meeting.

1) Driving down and back in Pete Enns’ van (Pete gives his SBL report here) with a few other friends: Ray Van Leeuwen, Benj Giffone, and Peter Radford.  We talked about Tamar the pious prostitute (Gen. 38) and the lack of a good English equivalent for the Hebrew word hevel (often translated as “vanity” in Ecclesiastes) as well as a few non-biblical subjects which are probably better not mentioned here.  Thanks for driving, Pete.

2) Preaching at Wilkens Avenue Mennonite Church right in downtown Baltimore (home to Galen and Eboni Zook, IV friends), only a few block from the conference, on the topic of…wait for it…God Behaving Badly (not a shock there).  A small-ish, group, but they laughed at my jokes.  I’d definitely go back. I missed a few academic papers (which are usually extraordinarily boring), but it was good for my soul to worship with them.  Thanks!  (I was sorry, however, to miss the Zondervan authors lunch, next year.)

3) Chatting with contacts at various publishers to discuss projects: Andy Le Peau (IVP-, thanks also for the free Walton & Sandy book!), John Barry and Pete Heiniger (Logos, Lexham), Katya Covrett (Zondervan) and Neil Elliott (Fortress).  Thanks for your time, insight and the generous provision of a meal.  I kept making lame attempts to pay (“No, wait, let me contribute…”), but my half-hearted attempts were quickly swept aside. I’m such a free-loader.

4) Walking into Mark Leuchter’s session unfortunately late (due to a long breakfast with John and Pete from Logos) and being greeted by Mark in the middle of the reading of his academic paper with, “Oh, hi, Dave.”  I’ll never forget his unique greeting, nor his hilarious, pro-Toronto rambling, concluding rant (“No, we aren’t all crack-heads like our mayor…).  The session was focused on his new book from Oxford University Press on Samuel (click here), so we cut Mark a little slack.  Thanks for the refreshing entertainment.

5) Rooming with Paul Joyce (who will deliver his inaugural lecture at Kings College London on Dec. 3, 2013).  We’ve roomed together for 7-8 SBL’s now.  Paul, as my college adviser at St. Peter College, Oxford, helped me through the darkest times of my stay there.  I don’t sleep as much, due to our late night chats, but it’s always worth it.  A delight.

6) Crashing a private, intimate dinner between John Goldingay and his wife Kathleen at the posh Royal Sonesta.  John wanted me to leave, but I insisted on joining them.  We ended up sharing moments when we got emotional while speaking.  For me, it was just that morning while speaking at Wilkens Ave Church.  I eventually left, overhearing them say, “Finally.”

7) Meeting my “competition”, Paul Copan (see also, #8), author of Is God a Moral Monster? (see my review here).  I sent Paul a Facebook friend request about a month ago.  We shared how we recommend each others book to people.  We finally met at IBR and I look forward to further collaboration with Paul.  What a great guy.

8) Disagreeing about the Canaanites in Baker Books with Eric Seibert, author of Disturbing Divine Behavior (see my review here) and The Violence of Scripture.  Eric and I are friends, but we have different approaches to the text of the Old Testament.  I bumped into him in the Baker Book section of the Exhibition Hall.  He told me about his paper he’d just presented.  I made a counter point.  I think he doesn’t take the OT seriously (Marcionite?).  He made a counter point. He thinks that my  views could lead to more Crusades (justifying genocide?).

We went back and forth a few times, a crowd gathered (“Lamb and Seibert are going at it in Baker Books.  Fight!  Fight!  Fight!”).  OK, it wasn’t a big crowd, 2 guys, and there was no chanting, and we were speaking rather graciously.  I blame him for the subdued nature of our interaction, he’s a pacifist.  But it would have been beyond ironic to see two scholars fighting over the topic of genocide.

We both agreed that Copan, Seibert and Lamb (and perhaps others) should get together some time to discuss the Canaanite Genocide sometime.

Perhaps next year in San Diego?

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