21st November 2005
OK, so I wasn’t at the Society of Biblical Literature meetings in Philadelphia the last few days — but due to the excellent posts by my fellow bibliobloggers, I feel like I was there! (Truth be told, I REALLY regret not going to SBL this year. It sounds as if it was a good meeting and it especially would have been great to meet other bibliobloggers.)
A number of bibliobloggers have posted their musings on the SBL. See, for example, Christopher Heard’s Friday, Saturday, and Sunday updates, Mark Goodacre’s daily posts (Saturday am/pm, Sunday am/pm, Monday am/pm), as well as Jim West’s numerous posts.
Sessions I Would Have Liked to Attend
CARG Biblioblogging Session. From the papers that were posted earlier (see Jim Davila’s paper here; R.W. Brannan’s paper is here), this session had the potential to be quite interesting — and it sounds like it was. I’m not sure if much was accomplished in regards to setting the future of biblioblogging, but it provided a venue for everyone to meet face to face. For impression of how the session went, see Christopher Heard’s thoughts here, Joe Cathey has posted his impression on meeting various individuals as well as some reflections on the session. Torrey Seland also has posted his reflections here; he also had an excellent pre-SBL post about biblioblogs here. There are also some reflections by AKM Adam and Jim West. I personally find the whole “biblioblog” phenomenon great. I have really enjoyed blogging — I have learned a lot by writing my own posts and reading others. I also think the variety among biblioblogs is great and should be encouraged.
Tel Zayit Abecedary Session. From the number of posts, this session seems to have been one of the more interesting to attend. Even prior to the SBL, Paul Nikkel posted a summary of the presentation on the Tel Zayit inscription at the ASOR meetings (as well as the Tell es-Safi inscription here). Make sure to check out Michael Homan’s interesting firsthand account of the discovery here. Christopher Heard has a number of excellent posts on the abecedary (here and in response to Joe Cathey here), as does Joe Cathey (here and in response to Chris here) and, of course, Jim West’s post may be found here. Joe sees the cup half full and perhaps assumes too much, while Jim sees the glass half empty and questions whether the inscription can bear the conclusions drawn from it. Chris brings his characteristic level head to the discussion and cautions about seeing too much significance vis-a-vis maximalist-minimalist historical questions, though its paleographical significance is immense. Jim Davila also has a superb four-part discussion of the inscription (Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4; for a more general SBL report from Jim see here). His final conclusion concerning the inscription is so good I just have to quote it in full:
So what does it all mean? I’m tempted to picture the final exam for scribes: the candidates walk in and sit down. At each desk there is a forty pound stone. The instructor says, “Now incise the alphabet on this stone with your metal tool. You have 50 minutes.” Unfortunately, our scribe made several mistakes and flunked out. His final exam was posted on the wall as a warning to other students. Don’t let this happen to you.
New Historicism and the Hebrew Bible. This entire session looked interesting, but in particular Jim West notes a paper by Sean Burt (Duke University) who offered a critique of Long, Longman, and Provan’s A Biblical History of Israel. Jim argues that Burt rightly pointed out that “those who privilege the Hebrew Bible as a source should also explain why Jubilees and The Samaritan Chronicles are not.” He further notes that “the ‘maximalists’ owe it to us all to explain why and how they justify their exclusive use of the Hebrew Bible as their only source. Why not use Josephus or Philo instead?” Of course, the simple answer to Jim’s question is that Long, Longman, and Provan limited their sources to the Hebrew Bible because they were writing a “Biblical” History of Israel (note the title of their book!). But, that answer would be too simple. In my humble opinion I would agree with Jim insofar as I think that all potential sources should be evaluated and used when appropriate. In regards to Josephus, they do in fact use him a bit in their work, but I’m not sure why one would use Josephus instead of the Hebrew Bible — especially since Josephus is clearly later and derivative of the Hebrew Bible. That being said, Josephus may preserve some valuable historiographic information. From the online abstract Burt’s paper looked quite interesting in that it explore the ideological nature of historiography.
All in all it looked as if SBL was quite interesting. Of course, what I find most valuable about SBL is not the papers; I find that getting together with old friends and meeting new ones the most enjoyable thing about SBL (and, of course, the book displays!).
Next year in Washington, D.C.