Pacific Coast SBL Meeting

Chris HeardOver there on the left is a picture of Chris Heard announcing some paper or other at the first session of three sessions on the Hebrew Bible.
I heard, no pun intended, a number of very good papers and one that left me confused even as to its subject – if it had one. While most papers give the listener some wiggle room to disagree, one paper seemed to me to be completely definitive. It involved a Mesopotamian omen and it wasn’t my paper. It was by Ryan Roberts of UCLA. Based on a Mesopotamian earthquake omen and witness reports of recent earthquakes, Ryan demonstrated that the expression “YHWH roars from Zion (Amos 1:2 and Joel 3:16 (4:16)” refers to earthquakes. I say “demonstrated” because I think that is exactly what he did. I may have more to say about a couple of other good papers in another post.
As to the paper I was confused about: We saw some abnormally interesting clips from films nominated for best picture Oscars. We heard words about, I’m not sure what, and about student’s theological emotional reactions to movies but not necessarily the movies in the clips. All this was somehow related to a topic, “general revelation,” which very likely lacks a subject and the Bible with a little postmodernist literary theory thrown in for good measure. I was both amazed and depressed.
While this presentation by itself was not necessarily indicative of a trend (or much else), I do worry about the risk of increased confessional activity in these meetings. I was surprised by the number of folks in attendance, giving papers, chairing one session, and participating in the business meeting, from a school, Azusa Pacific University, which has a rather narrow sectarian perspective. I hasten to add that the speaker who confused me the most was not from Azusa Pacific. There was absolutely nothing in anything said of done to cause my worry and perhaps they have been as active in the past. These folks were all collegial and scholarly. I learned from the one paper by an Azusa Pacific student that I heard. I enjoyed the session moderated by an Azusa Pacific professor. But that doesn’t keep me from worrying.
Oh, how did my paper go? Despite it coming in well under the 30 minute limit in practice, in presentation it was too long and I was forced to skip some important stuff at the end and rush to my conclusion skipping some parts of it also. I wasn’t very happy with my performance. As to the content, several comments after the session were encouraging and now I need to finish writing the thing up and see if anyone will publish it.

2 thoughts on “Pacific Coast SBL Meeting”

  1. Duane, on the “confessional” and SBL: I was intrigued to see this addendum to the email I received accepting my proposal for the Book of Daniel consultation at the 2012 annual meeting:
    “Please note that, by submitting a paper proposal or accepting a role in any affiliate organization or program unit session at the Annual or International Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature, you agree to participate in an open academic discussion guided by a common standard of scholarly discourse that engages your subject through critical inquiry and investigation.”
    I don’t know whether that’s an innovation of the Daniel consultation, or whether that’s become a part of the responses SBL-wide. Either way, I was glad to see it.

  2. Brooke,
    Thanks for the comment. I’ve not seen that, but in recent years I haven’t made a proposal to the annual meeting so I don’t know if this is universal. There was absolutely nothing in the words of behavior of the participants from Azusa Pacific that would be counter to the addendum you quoted. My worry is no more than a worry.

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