Friday, March 18, 2016

Feel Free to Ignore this Rather Long Post about my First Experience with the Society of Biblical Literature

It's been a fairly productive spring break. I'm choosing to see it that way. Regional SBL was last weekend, and I'm thrilled to report that I was able to keep up somewhat. It took me a paper (or "speech" as I like to refer to them) or two to get into the mode, and then I enjoyed it.  

Bill and I went to the first session together which was John Duncan from Baylor on reading Acts 19:23-27 alongside the Material Remains from Ephesus and Pompeii.  Then I bravely went on my own to hear Rebecca Poe Hays from Baylor do a paper on Characterization in the Song of the Vinyard and the Parable of the Wicked Tenants. 

After her was Warren Carter from Brite on "Writing A/The Book on God Constructions of God in the New Testament. He talked about his process and what he would and wouldn't include in his book. It must be nice to be so good that you can present a paper on how you wrote your book (Coming Soon to an Amazon Near You.) He had an accent, so I missed the first 10 minutes of his speech determining if it was, in fact, a Kiwi accent, and by the time he had said "Nyeew Tistament" twice I had it nailed. Then I was like "Hey, ok. What's this New Zealander from TCU talking about?" The answer? His book. Also, first time an audience member asked a question that had me doing a Minion-esque "whaaaa??" Dr. Carter said that one of the main points of his book was "How God interacts with Humans" and the question was "In your book, do you address God interacting with non-humans?"  (Turns out that dude was David Burnett from Criswell who will be on a panel at SBL in November talking about his paper: "A Neglected Deurteronomic Scriptural Matrix to the Nature of the Resurrection Body in I Cor 15:39-42?" so after hearing his paper, his question made more sense. 

Next was Trevor Thompson from the U of Chicago on Intentional Ambiguity: The Rhetoric of 2 Thess. Bill dug that one more than me, but it was interesting. That was the first talk where I realized that you really have to enter the framework that the speaker has set up in order to follow through to their thesis. He was coming from the idea that 2 Thess was psuedoepigraphical. Shrug. Ok. 

I also sat through a bit of the panel on Writing a Feminist Commentary: Authors from the Wisdom Commentary Series. That was pretty interesting, but only as far as hearing the authors talk about writing a feminist commentary, not about the OT. I kept wondering why one author kept clearing her throat, and it turns out she was saying "Nahum." 

My two favorites on Saturday were Amanda Brobst-Renaud from Baylor and Sharon Betsworth from OKC University. Amanda's speech was "The Scoundrel, the Miser and their Patron (Luke 15:11-32)" She was funny and smart and talked about characterization in the pericope of the Prodigal Son. She talked about Theon, Hermogenes and Quintillian, but I can't really remember how each applied, so minus one point for me. She also had her 11 week old baby with her. #womanoftheyear  

Sharon Betsworth's presentation was  "Doule and Paidiske: Female Servants and Slaves in the Writings of Luke." She cataloged all the times and ways in which each term was used in the gospel of Luke, and the meanings of each term. It was simple and yet very engaging. 

Sunday we heard David Burnett's paper, mentioned above, and David Ritsema from B H Carrol Theological Institute on "The Divine John..." which was when I was scribbling notes to Bill surprised that he seemed to be defending a high Christology in GJohn.  I thought that was a given. Then it was Jeremiah Bailey from Baylor, talking about "Jesus as Eschatological High Priest in the Gospel of John."  Nathan Hays, also from Baylor did the one I was waiting for: "Greater than Jacob: The Johannine Community and the Samaritan's in Dialogue." It was all done with the given of a Johannine community, and some dude in the back asked, in a rather rude way, why he had to analyze it from that perspective, it seemed that there was enough to look at it from a literary and theological point of view without having the community as a factor. He made me angry. He said "Well, we know that the woman is representative of Samaria, given that she's a harlot..." I was very torn between chasing him down to "talk" to him afterward about that, but I ended up talking to Nathan instead, and he was very nice indeed. I wrapped up our conversation by asking him if was getting enough sleep and had eaten breakfast. #momproblems #nurseproblems  

Here were my main take-aways from the meetings: 
-There were more women there than I expected but it was still mostly white dudes. 
-There is definitely a language to learn besides Greek and German. It's Scholar-ese and it's rough, man. 
-There's pretty much a formula to these papers and it looks a lot like the research papers I had to read and write in nursing school. Very different topics, but same method, minus the hands-on blood and guts. It's more theoretical blood and guts.
-There is a lot of good thinking that goes on and that's sparked from these meetings. But I do wonder, what's the end result of all this? 

Which leads me to: why exactly am I doing this? 

And that's where I'm currently stalled out. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

"You Are Right," Said Jesus

"Jesus said to her, 'Go, call your husband, and come back.' The woman answered him, 'I have no husband.' Jesus said to her, 'You are right in saying "I have no husband"; for you have had five husbands, and the one you are with now is not your husband. What you have said is true!' The woman said to him, 'Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you (plural in the Greek) say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.' Jesus said to her, 'Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem'."  John 4.16-20

I have been in it deep for the last few days, thanks be to spring break, reading and thinking a lot. Today, I was reading the above passage and I was struck by two things. 

First, when the woman says she has no husband, Jesus could have accused her, but he chose to affirm her. The first thing that comes out of his mouth is "You are right..." I'm sure there's irony here, but he isn't shutting her down.  It means that when he tells her that he knows all about her, she doesn't dissemble. He doesn't minimize her or knock her down. And so, she keeps her focus on him and proceeds to ask a very big question.

That's the second thing. When I put myself in the sandals (as it were) of the SW, and I run into a prophet who tells me "everything I have ever done,"  what is my first question going to be? Here are some of the options that run through my mind: 

"How do you know that?" 
"How can you make my life better?" 
"How do I keep a husband from dying/divorcing me?" 
"So about that water..." 

These might say a lot more about me than about her, but the point is that she goes straight to her burning question: where to worship. She refers to "our ancestor" (4.12) and "our ancestors" (4.20) and she is arguing that they used to worship on Mt. Gerazim, but the Jews say it's in Jerusalem.  She doesn't actually ask a question, but a question is implied. THIS is what she wants to know about and talk about. This is what fuels her fire. She wants to talk about the separation between Jews and Samaritans and how it affects their relationships to God. 

This conversation just gets higher and higher. They start with basic need (water), move up to social matters (husbands), then on to location of worship, and Jesus, without hesitation, elevates the conversation straight to the top: 

"Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth."   (4.21-24) 

Because I have been learning so much,  I have to insert here that for years I have read her character as "unworthy" and so I saw this question as a challenge. It seemed that she was trying to prove that she had thoughts and was a real person, and she needed to move the conversation to safer ground- because if this guy isn't a prophet, he may be looking to take advantage of her. IF the SW is of questionable moral character, then this may very well be the most likely situation, but if she ISN'T, then the other might be likely. I'm bending really hard toward the "upright" version of the SW than the "fallen" version.