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SBL SUrvey

The SBL has received an NEH planning grant to develop a website, “The World of the Bible: exploring people, places, and passages.” The site is intended for general audiences and will share scholarly views and encourage critical engagement with the Bible, including its ancient contexts and interpretive legacy.

We encourage you to share this survey with people who are not bible scholars—your students, perhaps, or friends and family. The goal is to gain a diverse representation of our intended audience and to assess their current level of familiarity with and interest in the Bible.

Survey Link:
http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/NH3V5ZZ

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Gems from proofreading

I’ve been in the throes of book projects that we are trying to get readied for AAR, ETS, and SBL. Earlier this week I completed a proofread of a collection of essays from Will Campbell, edited by Richard Goode. I grew to love Campbell more than I had. There were gems aplenty in the manuscript, but I didn’t note any of them because I was afraid I would be overrun. Needless to say, I highly recommend the book, Writings on Reconciliation and Resistance. It will be available by AAR.

Another book that I am currently proofreading and which should make it to AAR is from the folks at The Other Journal. It also happens to be the book with my most favorite title of the season, “God Is Dead” and I Don’t Feel So Good Myself: Theological Engagements with the New Atheism. It is a wonderful collection of essays, interviews, poetry, and art. Currently I am in the middle of an essay by Merold Westphal, “Atheism for Lent.” All of the contributions up to this point have been fascinating, but I was particularly struck by this sentence:

Taking the Lord’s name in vain is not just a matter of swearing: we violate this commandment whenever we put our theistic, even our specifically Christian, beliefs and practices in the service of our own interests insofar as they have not been fully brought into conformity with God’s will.

This book, too, should make it to AAR. If you are in Montreal, go by the Wipf and Stock booth (#514) and check these books out, and while your at it browse the many other wonderful books we’ve published this past year. Unfortunately I will not be making it to AAR this year.

If you are going to be in New Orleans for ETS and/or SBL, find your way to our booth, browse the books, and say hello. I’ll be there. If I have time, I’ll treat you to a coffee (or chicory!).

I’ve been reviewed!

This past week I was privileged to have met R.W.L. Moberly at the North Park Symposium on the Theological Interpretation of Scripture.  He informed me that he had recently written a review of my book for the most recent edition of the  Journal of Theological Studies [NB: requires subscription for online viewing]. It’s a nice review with several good and helpful critical comments.

I’m now even more excited to hear Moberly’s contribution to the Theological Hermeneutics of Scripture session at SBL this year.  The session on Friday at 9 a.m. is entitled “Assessing Theological Interpretation.” Markus Bockmuehl and John J. Collins will also be presenting.

By the way, if you are interested in the North Park Symposium, we publish the proceedings every year in the journal Ex Auditu.

Together Again

There is a bit of a blogger buzz about the announcement that the AAR has rescinded its decision not to hold concurrent annual meetings with the SBL.  As far as I can tell this is good news for everyone, except for a small few in each organization who simply do not like associating with one another. [I suspect the small few in the AAR are the most disappointed in the recent announcement, since, I suspect, they were the ones who spearheaded the separation in the first place.]

  • Booksellers no longer have to organize displays at two essential conferences, paying set up and travel expenses twice.
  • Schools no longer have to organize receptions at two conferences.  They can also consolidate their job searches at one conference.
  • Joint members no longer have to pony up a good bit of change to attend two conferences or decide which conference to attend each year.
  • Other organizations who hold annual meetings around the same times and locations as the AAR/SBL no longer have to weigh the benefits of coordinating with one or the other each year.  This is especially helpful when these other organizations have members who are also members of AAR and/or SBL.
  • Members of both organizations can continue to have fruitful interdisciplinary dialogue without attending two conferences.  They can also continue to see old friends and colleagues that they would otherwise not see if it were not for the joint meetings.

AAR has its meetings scheduled through 2011.  In 2011 there was always the plan to hold a concurrent meeting in San Francisco.  The SBL has its meetings scheduled through 2013.  With the announcement of concurrent meetings again beginning in 2012, the AAR has essentially also announced the locations of its 2012 and 2013 meetings—Chicago and Baltimore, respectively—although, these locations do not yet appear on their list of future meetings.

To San Diego and Back 2: Monday’s Panel

On the Monday afternoon of AAR/SBL, I took part in a panel session of Christian Theology and the Bible.  The make-up of the panel had several permutations before the actual session.  Originally the session was the following:

S19-107Reading Scripture with the Church
Christian Theology and the Bible
11/19/2007
4:00 PM to 7:00 PM
Room: 24 C – CC

Theme: Reading Scripture With the Church

Kathryn Greene-McCreight, St John’s Episcopal Church, Presiding (10 min)
David Ford, Panelist (20 min)
Amy Laura Hall, Duke University, Panelist (20 min)
Andrew Adam, Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, Respondent (15 min)
Stephen Fowl, Loyola College in Maryland, Respondent (15 min)
Francis Watson, University of Aberdeen – Scotland, Respondent (15 min)
Kevin Vanhoozer, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Respondent (15 min)

David Ford had to back out because his father-in-law, Dan Hardy, was seriously ill and eventually passed away. (My prayers are with the Hardy family.  I met Dan once in 2002.  In that short encounter he made a strong impression on me.)  Once David backed out, the plans for the session changed. (Do keep in mind, I am piecing together events from second- and third-hand sources.)  The organizers decided to invite a couple more people to prepare questions and make the session more of a Q&A discussion.  Watson and Vanhoozer were not ready to participate in this more off-the-cuff style.  Suddenly, the organizers were faced with one enquirer (Amy Laura Hall) and two authors (AKMA and Fowl).  In a scramble, apparently—how else do I get invited to participate?—the organizers ask me and John Wright to participate by preparing questions and emailing them to the panel beforehand, if possible.  (Joel Green, whom I had met earlier this year in my position in the dean’s office at Fuller, where Joel was hired, recommended me to the moderator. As a side note, I am thrilled that Joel is at Fuller now!) This all happens less than a week before I leave for San Diego, about 12 days before the panel.

So, I am preparing to leave for San Diego, when the day before departure, an email arrives with a short paper by David Ford attached.  It seems he will participate by having his paper read in his absence. The panel, thus, morphs once again. I am now expecting David’s paper, three sets of questions, and two author responses. In the hustle and bustle around the office, I am not able to send my questions until I get to San Diego. I email them on the Thursday before the session.

Monday arrives and I discover that Francis Watson is now back on the panel. One paper, three sets of questions, and three author responses. And, on top of that the session has been scheduled to end at 5:30 and not 7:00, as originally planned.  Where will we fit in time for discussion and audience questions?  I’m hoping the paper, questions, and responses move quickly.  They do not. The session morphs, yet again. The Ford paper is much longer than I expected (I had not looked at it carefully beforehand), and Wright has prepared not a set of questions so much as a paper in the vein of Ford’s. Both short papers were terrific, by the way. But, that was not the issue. The issue was time and the character of the session. We were going to run out of time, and there would be no room for proper conversation. Oh well. A final bit, seemingly because he wanted to craft a response beforehand, Watson’s response was only to Ford’s paper, although Amy Laura Hall had provided questions a good month before the session and Ford’s paper only arrived a few days in advance.

In the end, I thought the session turned out pretty well under the circumstances. I won’t detail the papers, questions, and responses. I think they will eventually be made available on the Christian Theology and the Bible blog.  I am going to provide my set of questions. Feel free to comment.

Let me first say that I am interested in this discipline (can we call it a discipline?) of theological interpretation, as I am sure many of your are, because it has gap-bridging potential.  So, many of my questions will press on the different “sides” of the debate (can we call it a debate?), not because I am interested in bringing differences into sharper relief, but because I am interested in how the variety of theological interpreters can move forward together in one general direction instead of in many disparate ones.  A few questions, you will see, also push toward clarity of that general direction.  Finally, because I am interested in the movement forward, I want to press some of the questions that arise in the responses of the book.  Many of you ask questions to one another that do not get answered in the book itself because, well, the book had to end at some point. I’d like to bring some of those questions back up.

To all:
I’m sure to be splitting hairs here, but I wonder if the preposition in the title of the book sets the conversation among the four authors outside of or at best alongside the Church, instead of inside of it.  How do you see this conversation that means to move “toward a hermeneutic for theological interpretation” in relation to the Church?  More pointedly, are the four of you, in this book especially, reading Scripture WITH the Church or AS (members of) the Church?  And more importantly, what difference would it make if you were reading with or as the Church? In a related sense, what difference does it make that it’s the CHURCH reading SCRIPTURE and not a group of biblical scholars reading ancient texts?  Finally, I suppose I should go ahead and ask it, because it is bound to come up at some point: Whose Scripture? What Church?

With AKMA’s concluding remarks in mind—”the essays in this volume do not arrive at a concordant resolution” (p. 148)—I wonder if you could speak to how it is this particular conversation among you four, and the larger conversation among all who self-identify as theological interpreters, moves toward A hermeneutic (singular?) for theological interpretation.  I’m not asking here for a review of your individual proposals.  What I’m wondering is if and how you see the conversation itself as a supervening level whereupon theological interpretation, the “theological sonata allegro” (p. 148), plays out.

To AKMA and Stephen:
I’m sure you will agree that the absence of Kevin changes the complexion of today’s discussion.  So, let me revisit one of his concerns.  How do you respond to his detection of “a pronounced anti-theoretical bias” (133) and his unease “when hermeneutical pragmatists no longer care about ‘getting it right'” (134)?

[If Kevin were here, I would want to know from him what it is interpreters ought to be “getting right.”  He writes, “[Reading to discover all that the human and divine authors do in using just these words in just these ways] yields not a specific method so much as a regulative goal. If I insist on ‘getting it right,’ it is not because I am a hermeneutical monist who believes that texts have but one meaning (much less that I have it!) but because I believe in the integrity (i.e., oneness, wholeness, entirety) of the gospel.”  How does the regulative goal of “getting it right” not become hermeneutical monism? How does it not operate with the notion of one meaning?  And how is “getting it” right different from “having it,” which you disclaim?]

On this same issue, to Stephen, more especially:
Since you call attention to the differences that remain between you and Kevin (125), and since your positions, I believe, well represent different sides of the spectrum of theological interpretation (see my The Bible and the Crisis of Meaning), I wonder how much your differences are an impasse. Can the theoretical lion lie with the pragmatic eagle (or calf [Francis], or human [AKMA])?  What would that look like?

Finally, to all:
It seems to me—I will readily admit I get hung up on this issue; it may not be such a big deal to the rest of you—”meaning” is the monkey wrench in the machine.  I’ve wondered elsewhere whether the images of creating or discovering meaning are the most helpful images.  Each of you, in some way, bring meaning into the discussion.

AKMA – Making meaning seems to be the dominant image.  See discussion of the ways “a hermeneutic that takes verbal communication as the defiitive case of evoking and apprehending meaning inappropriately generalizes from the most formalized and unusual sphere of meaning-making to the more common and less specific spheres” (27).  Also, “…various subcultures…making meaning by the ways that they signify…” (29).

Stephen – Avoids use of the term for the most part (see argument for doing so in Engaging Scripture).  But, one could argue that his discussion of “literal sense” is the same as the one about meaning.  Though neither the image of creating nor the image of discovery has pride of place in Stephen’s chapter, the issue of meaning arises in statements like, “Thus, Thomas claims here that we should neither take falsehood to be the literal sense nor confine the meaning of a text to the extent that we exclude other truthful claims” (44)

Francis – In much the same way that Stephen argues for a multivoiced literal sense, Francis argues that the fourfoldness of the canonical gospels suggests that we ought to have a more comprehensive hermeneutic – “no one-sided subjection of readers to authors, or of authors to readers, will be adequate for the complexities of a given interpretive situation–at least where it is a genuinely theological interpretation that is at stake” (122).

Kevin – Proposes that theology consists of two aspects: “grasping the meaning of the script and determining how to follow its direction in the contemporary situation” (78).  Or, later that there is one literal sense that needs “thick description of its manifold aspects” (136).

There is much that we could discuss here, and maybe our conversation will move to some of these things.  But, I have a fairly simple question: What are we talking about when we use the term “meaning”?

[The following question was not sent beforehand; I posed it on the fly at the session. I must thank John Lyons for raising this same issue with me.]

I’m sure you’ve all noticed that you are all white Western men. How might this discussion of theological interpretation open itself to “theological” models that more often get labeled contextual or ideological? I ask this having in mind David’s longing for more of the “society of friends” feeling (see p. 3 of his short presentation).

To San Diego and Back 1: Schedule

I have been intending to write an interesting and involved post about my recent trip to San Diego for ETS, AAR, and SBL.  Alas, I simply do not feel like writing much these days.  Work is busy and new for me.  We have moved from the edit-and-get-books-printed phase of the year to the acquire-nurture-and-finish-older-projects phase.  I am also feeling the anxiety of the impending arrival of Oliver and Alexander (no more than 2.5 weeks, the doctor tells us!), holidays, and preparing a syllabus for the Ephesians class that starts in January.  So, instead of an interesting and involved post, I decided to break up the report over a handful of post.  I begin with an overview of my schedule, filled with links, comments, and pictures.  I will do future posts on what I learned about being an acquisitions editor, conversations I had, and my experience on a panel session.

Schedule:

A few pictures of W&S booth:

I’m the good looking guy with the orange tie!

San Diego

This is my first year to do the conference season as an editor at Wipf & Stock.  Yesterday we finished up the ETS at Town & Country Resort and moved to AAR/SBL at the Convention Center.  We’re staying at the Omni–much different aesthetic than Town & Country.  The Gaslamp District is exciting.  The weather is superb.  All in all, San Diego is the best convention spot I’ve ever seen!  However, I am dead tired and the AAR/SBL has yet to begin.  Got to go get ready for my first day of it.  If anyone is in San Diego reading this during the convention, stop by the Wipf & Stock booth (#707) and say hello.