Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Highlights from SBL

This was a great weekend. I tested some of my own SBL advice and got to witness how uncannily accurate my "hierarchy" could be.

I focused on meeting people, not listening to papers, but I still attended my fair share of sessions.

On Saturday, I heard Yosef Garfinkel describe their work excavating Khirbet Qeiyafa. It was a fascinating talk because their results demonstrate that this was a fortified city on the border between Philistia and Judah from the mid-11th century to the mid-10th century BCE. While I don't recall it being pointed out explicitly, this conclusion creates serious problems for Israel Finkelstein's assertions that there were no fortified cities in Judah before the 9th century BCE. They found evidence at Kh. Qeiyafa of urban planning of a particularly Judean-style found also at 4 other sites in Judah including Beersheba, Tell en Nasbeh, and Tell Beit Mirsim. He also spoke briefly about the inscription they'd discovered last year and the identification of the site as biblical Sha'arayim.

I think I only sat through one session in it's entirety. I appear to share Mark Goodacre's propensity for nodding off during the sessions. I'm good for one paper, sometimes two in a row. I usually ducked out after the 2nd or 3rd paper or slipped into a session only for the one paper that I really wanted to hear. In fact, I spent most of my time on Sunday slipping in and out of sessions on text criticism, children in the biblical world, diachrony in Biblical Hebrew, and metaphor and metonymy in biblical poetry.

The best part, though, was the people. I had the privilege of having dinner with Chris Brady and his friend Rick Wright on Saturday. On Sunday, I managed to hear Caryn Reeder's paper and browse the book tables with her for a bit (I like to look at books with non-Hebrew Bible people. They draw my attention to things I wouldn't pick up on my own). I had lunch with Alan Lenzi - which was a great time, albeit brief as we were both heading to sessions in a mere half hour's time. I bumped into Chris Heard once or twice as well over the weekend. The list goes on and on. I saw several former professors and many bible bloggers (such as Jim West, Mark Goodacre, Chris Tilling, Bob Cargill, Ken Brown, Michael Halcomb, Karyn Traphagen and John Anderson), especially since I was at blogger-organized dinners on Sunday and Monday nights. I had the pleasure of chatting with George Athas at the Sunday dinner (no, he doesn't blog - we're not an exclusive group). The highlight of the conference, socially, however was the Monday dinner organized by John Hobbins. The food was excellent, the company was fantastic, and the praise for my professor's book (Michael V. Fox, Proverbs 10-31) was just short of gushing. I also had the chance to meet Tzemah Yoreh, get better acquainted with Seth Sanders, meet Seth's wonderful girlfriend Eudora Struble (an archaeologist with the U of Chicago Zincirli project), and chat with Bernard Levinson. I also met Simon Holloway, Tyler Williams, and spent more time with Chris Brady.

I also made it to my fair share of receptions and met many many more old acquaintances who introduced me to new acquaintances. An exhaustive list would be too tedious to read, so don't feel slighted if I didn't "name drop" that I bumped into you at SBL.

Back to my "hierarchy," most people are very polite and gracious when you meet them. Some, however, are too keenly aware of the fact that their place on the pecking order is just a bit higher than yours. Those people don't have time for you if there is no direct benefit to their attempts at moving higher up the food chain. Sadly, even some senior scholars can exhibit this lack of courtesy sometimes. My tongue-in-cheek ranking is a serious caste system to some.

Finally, the one session that I sat through in its entirely without nodding off at all was the Monday afternoon review session of Bernard Levinson's book, Legal Revision and Religious Renewal in Ancient Israel. But to that session, I intend to devote an entire post . . . later.


  1. I enjoyed meeting you too. The Sunday & Monday dinners were a terrific way to meet up with lots of folks. It's great to finally put a face (and personality) with a name!

  2. Doug,

    great to see you again and hear what you are doing! By way of encouragement: keep up the energy to pursue the research topics that YOU are interested in.

    I'll second your assessment about the good sessions at SBL this year, as well as your comments on hierarchy--though I think it is also true that the gracious people outnumber the ungracious.

    see you in Atlanta next year!