British New Testament Conference 2007

So, a few days after the event, I have a few moments to look back and reflect on 3 good days in Exeter at this year’s BNTC.  Others have already contributed impressions: Jim here, James here and two members of the Durham PhD posse, Ben here and Nijay  here.

It was a good time for all sorts of reasons.  First, my paper to the Paul seminar went OK.  I suffered in comparison to Francis Watson, whose Introduction to his revised Paul, Judaism and the Gentiles, was the focus of discussion for the 45 minutes prior to my allocated time. I think there were several overlaps between the two papers (more or less explicit critique of some aspects of the New Perspective; emphasis on aspects of Paul’s letters that suggest discontinuity with Judaism) but Francis is such an elegant writer and exegete that my own paper felt a little clumsy by comparison.  The discussion was constructive.  Bruce Longenecker wanted to question my reading of 1 Thessalonians 2.14-16, but I stuck to my guns and saw John Barclay nodding in agreement with me (making me feel instantly more confident).  Otherwise the questions were around the possible implications of the overall thesis for our understanding of Paul’s theology.  I think I responded OK to everything.  However it is still intruiging to me how often people default to Paul’s understanding of Judaism in Romans as the lens through which all other statements should be understood.  So it was great to meet up with two people afterwards whose work on Romans 1-2 seemed to fit clearly within my own framework.

The second Paul seminar was on Paul and contemporary philosophy.  Ward Blanton’s paper, offering an overview of the work of Badiou, Agamben and Zizek on Paul (as well as others) was really useful.  I came away with an idea for a paper on Paul and Pulp Fiction – but that is for another time.  These recent works are obviously maing an impact (see Ben Myers’ recent post here.) Roland Boer offered an analysis of Julia Kristeva’s reading of Paul and the discussion revolved around the notion of church as therapeutic/healing community.  What was excellent about these papers was the fact that the seminar itself was breaking free from the dominance of historical/theological papers (of which my own paper was an example) and broadening its horizons.  The appointment of Ward Blanton as one of the chairs of the seminar for the next 3 years (along with Jorunn Okland) should ensure a continuing breadth.

From there to short papers on the numerical significance of Paul’s sevenfold enumeration of his Jewish privileges in Philippians 3.5-6 (not convinced by a great paper from Todd Still) and another on the infancy narratives (the point of which I am afraid really eluded me).

I got to two plenary sessions.  Morna Hooker on Paul as Pastor, which was for me a disappointment, and Larry Hurtado on his new book topic: NT Manuscripts.  If he is right, then all NT scholars should probably stop doing everything else and translate the remaining 99% of unpublished Oxyrhynchus papyri for the next few years.

And then there were the inevitable and highly enjoyable whiskey sessions at night.  Friday night was a late one, but great fun, so thanks to all who entertained in room 130.