Last weekend, on September 15, I attended and presented a paper at the regional ETS meeting at Heritage Theological Seminary in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada. The theme this year was “The Holy Spirit and Revival.” For a small region, there were a total of 20 parallel sessions (in which 11 papers were from McMaster Divinity College people). The two plenary sessions were first by John Vissers of Knox College, Toronto, entitled “The Holy Spirit and Canadian Protestantism: Can a Dying Church Be Revived?,” and the second by Ronald Kidd of Tyndale University College and Seminary, entitled “Blaze of Renewal? The Canadian Experience of Revival.”
My paper was entitled: “Another Look at Galatians 6:16: Its Meaning and Relevance to Supersessionism.” As this verse is often used to support supersessionism, I investigated two areas related to Greek grammar in the interpretation of this verse: the function of καί and the meaning of the genitive construction τὸν Ἰσραήλ τοῦ θεοῦ. The paper, in a longer form, is projected to be in an edited book (eds. Stanley E. Porter and Alan Kurschner) on addressing supersessionism, so I appreciated the feedback and interaction from those who attended my paper.
As I reflect on this year’s regional meeting, I wanted to make a few musings, sprinkled with some general suggestions.
First, these regional meetings are great ways to develop and maintain professional and ministry relationships. I have met some great people at this conference through the years and have had some edifying conversations during breaks, with both new and old friends. The regional meetings tend to be smaller in number of attendees, depending on where you are, and the regular attendance each year makes the meetings more personal. Because I participated in both the ETS and SBL regional meetings most years of my PhD program, I have developed relationships with other colleagues in the area, which is a large part of these academic conferences. So if you are a PhD student, I would highly recommend being consistently involved in your ETS and SBL regional meetings.
Second, these meetings are helpful venues where graduate students and junior scholars can gain some good academic experience. I made it a goal at the start of my PhD to present at every ETS and SBL annual and regional meeting. First of all, it is probably easier to get your paper accepted at the regional meetings, as I find that the committees tend to give more opportunities to PhD students. I may be wrong about how this is handled in other regions, but I have never been turned down for a proposal at a regional meeting. Second, my commitment to present at every regional and annual meeting has pushed me to become a better scholar—there were certainly a few years that I wished in the moment that I hadn’t sent in a proposal. But by pushing myself, I have now presented at a total of 33 conferences and meetings, outside of classroom presentations. I didn’t think the number would end up being that high when I first started the PhD program, but that commitment to not only attend every meeting but submit a paper has been rewarding. It was definitely painful some years, including this year having come off completing the PhD (and the wear-and-tear that comes with it) and having a few pending projects that I’m very behind on.
My final observation is not only related to this conference but an observation I’ve made for some time now about the New Testament guild. One of my research interests in biblical studies is Greek linguistics. In fact, one of my primary reasons for pursuing seminary studies, even before I knew anything about verbal aspect or discourse analysis, was to learn Greek. I had read a book (probably more of a commentary than book) by one of my seminary professors that explained Greek so technically (although I now disagree with his Aktionsart model, but I still appreciate his influence) that I wanted to master Greek in a similar way. I still can’t say I’m a master yet, even as a PhD who did a discourse analysis of the Greek of Galatians. But I’ve noticed for a number of years now, especially during my PhD studies, that too many students, professors, and scholars seem to shy away from Greek linguistics. Some have tackled it, and there seems to be a growing interest in Greek linguistics in some places (for example the still-growing Facebook group, Nerdy Language Majors, started by my friend Will Varner to promote discussion in the biblical languages). While I might disagree with some on their approach or conclusions, or even their understanding of Greek linguistics, I do appreciate their interest and efforts. But I would guess that the reason for shying away might be that there is a whole set of terminology and pretty much a new field of study that needs to be learned, and for senior scholars, they might not have the energy to invest in such an endeavor—I get that. (However, I know one senior professor, Craig Price of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, who has become a good friend, who in the latter years of his career made a commitment to learn Greek linguistics, and he did. Craig, for that I have the utmost respect for you and very much look forward to seeing you in Denver.) But my hope for this upcoming generation of New Testament scholars—and I’m very hopeful—is that they would value Greek linguistics and engage in learning and using it, as much as they value the other areas of New Testament studies.
— David I. Yoon