I have been an active member of EGLBS, the regional meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in my area, since 2013 and, with the exception of 2018, have attended and presented at every annual meeting. I really appreciate the people who have been involved in this meeting and have built some great relationships there. The officers of EGLBS really do a good job of balancing professional and social opportunities at this meeting and of creating an overall great conference. The meeting was held at the Cambria Hotel in Akron, Ohio, March 14-15. Unfortunately, LeBron James did not attend the conference.
My co-blogger, Stan, had an opportunity to join this year’s meeting, as he was invited to be a plenary speaker, so this year’s meeting was especially anticipated. I offered him a ride in my car, but he apparently deferred to his 11-hour trip in two planes and two airports. I wonder if it says something about my driving…
Anyways, I presented a paper which was a critique of John Barclay’s recent book Paul and the Gift, in light of the semantic fallacies that James Barr had identified almost sixty years ago. The Barrian fallacies that Barclay commits in his book are illegitimate identity transfer and confusing word and concept (he interchanges the words gift and grace throughout the entire book). Barr’s critique in Semantics was on the methods of biblical theology utilizing wrongful linguistic evidence to support theological conclusions. Barclay does precisely that, and I find it surprising that no one else has identified this in the past three to four years since its publication. I probably enjoyed the Q&A time after the paper more than the paper itself, as we had a productive discussion on the issues I raised.
Stan’s plenary address was on linguistic stylistics and its potential contribution to biblical interpretation. The talk surveyed the history of linguistic and literary approaches and interpretation, concluding with an example of linguistic stylistic interpretation applied to Paul’s letter to Philemon. One major conclusion was that the letter is not primarily about Onesimus, the slave (although he is an important character), but more on Paul’s relationship with Philemon. A couple tornado warning emergency alerts rang on everyone’s phone during his talk—we obviously survived, thanks for your concern—but he kept going after making a quick joke about dying or something (I can’t remember what he exactly said because I was busy checking my phone). A bunch of us joked afterwards that even if Stan thought God was calling us home at that moment, he wanted nothing more than to finish his paper before facing his Maker.
Besides our own papers, we had a chance to sit in a good number of papers, from a wide range of presenters, including senior scholars, junior scholars, PhD students, masters students, and even undergraduate students. I was especially impressed by a second-year undergraduate student who presented a paper on Paul as potentially a disabled person, interacting with 2 Cor 12, herself apparently a disabled person. However, I was less impressed with some other papers that seemed to lack clear methodology—I asked a couple of questions in a couple of different papers regarding the presenters’ method or approach and justification for their conclusions based on their method (or lack thereof), and I found that either they did not understand what I was really asking, they deflected or pontificated, or assumed that their conclusions were just apparent. I’m grateful that methodology has been such a crucial focus of my training as a PhD.
I was also disappointed that one of the sections in the meeting continues to promote an outdated and unconvincing approach to the Gospels, that the Gospels are a result of multiple layers of editions. Last time I checked, redaction criticism died along with Conzelmann. One of the papers in this section that I sat in on argued that John 12:1–11 was a later attached edition in order to fit the co-text of John 10–13, based on parallels in Mark and Luke. The paper simply assumed redaction for John’s Gospel. Urban von Wahlde, a few years ago, argued for a similar redaction of John in his commentary on John’s Gospel, epistles, and apocalypse, and my essay in Stanley E. Porter and Hughson T. Ong (eds.), The Origins of John’s Gospel (Johannine Studies 2; Leiden, Brill: 2015), pp. 219–38, showed that von Wahlde’s assumptions about the multi-layers of John are unfounded. I didn’t mention that essay during the section, but I did ask a couple of questions, and I guess we ran out of time for continuing the discussion. A promising paper in the same section was on corpus linguistics and lexical priming in the discussion on the NT use of the OT. I’m still not convinced that corpus linguistics or lexical priming has anything to contribute to the NT use of the OT discussion—although I see why the presenter might use CL—but I was encouraged to see someone outside of my circle interested in linguistics for biblical studies.
In any case, I really had a great time at EGLBS this year as I usually do—which is why I keep coming back—and Stan’s participation made it doubly enjoyable. I made some great connections and new friends, connected with some of the usual suspects at EGLBS, and had some great conversations overall, especially during the evening social and breakfast. It’s another plug for scholars and students to be involved regularly in the regional meetings of the biblical societies. Some of us even talked about having an EGLBS reception at the annual SBL meeting, which I would encourage (hint, hint).
And of course, if there is an opportunity to eat at Chik-Fil-A on the way there or back, an even greater incentive.
— David I. Yoon