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British New Testament Conference

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  • Jacob Knee
    Just an initial report on the British New Testament Conference which took place in Edinburgh 2 - 4 September. If you have never been BNTC is an annual meeting
    Message 1 of 8 , Sep 4, 2004
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      Just an initial report on the British New Testament Conference which took
      place in Edinburgh 2 - 4 September.

      If you have never been BNTC is an annual meeting of NT scholars largely from
      British universities, doctoral students, and a few interested amateurs (like
      me). It is relatively small (this year, I guess, around 175) - so it has a
      friendly and informal feel - with papers that are usually of high quality.

      There are 3 main speakers (this year Tom Wright, Bart Ehrman and Judith
      Lieu) along with smaller seminars focussed on more specific areas of the
      discipline. (For more details on this years program see
      http://www.ntgateway.com/bnts/)

      Tom Wright kicked things off with a feisty and provocative overview of
      perspectives on Paul - the old perspective, the new perspective and what he
      called the 'fresh' perspective (which included the emphasis on Paul and
      narrative, and the political Paul - amongst others). He gave a swingeing
      glance at Stephen Westerholm's recent book on Paul (Perspectives Old and New
      on Paul: The "Lutheran" Paul and His Critics) criticisng it for getting both
      old and new perspectives wrong. He noted in particular, I think, the lack of
      attention to the Reformed 'old perspective' on Paul, criticised Westerholm
      for labelling Cranfield a Lutheran and noted the absence of any discussion
      of 'imputed righteousness'. He reminded people that the new perspective took
      the form it did as a corrective reaction against the view that Judaism was a
      religion of 'works righteousness'.

      Tom was then around for much of the rest of the conference - goodness only
      knows where he finds time or energy to do all the things he does. One
      seminar took the chance to review with him his latest book on the
      resurrection. I attended one of its sessions. Prof. Larry Hurtado - gave a
      sympathetic and thought provoking paper. He said he was in basic agreement
      with Tom on many issues - but it would be boring just to say that - so had
      decided to pick out a couple of things which he wanted to hear more about
      from Tom. In particular he pointed to Tom's repeated emphasis on 'cognitive
      phenomena' - beliefs about Jesus or their verbal expression - but with
      apparently little to say about religious experience or practice. Wright's
      response was that he couldn't cover evrything in his book (which is already
      700+ pages long) and was sympathetic to Hurtado's work on cultic devotion to
      Jesus - and saw their work as, in many places, dovetailing together.

      In questions Tom was pushed a little on whether it might not help his work
      (which is explicitly an apologetic for the resurrection) if he were not to
      be open to distinguishing, even a little, elements in the resurrection
      narratives that probably are legendary. Mark Goodacre gave the example of
      the holy ones rising from the tombs in Matthew - widely thought to be
      Matthew's own addition to the crucifixion/resurrection story. But even here
      Tom was not prepared to give ground - he said all sorts of things were
      possible and that he wouldn't like to rule out that God could raise the dead
      in the way Matthew indicated. He went on to explain that the context into
      which his book is written are debates with some scholars in the USA - and
      that if he gave any ground, he opened the door to every aspect of the
      resurrection narratives been called legendary (by those he debates with in
      the States). I found it fascinating (and surprising) to see the extent to
      which not just the form but the content of his work is determined by those
      he debates with in the USA and also wondered whether it was a tactical error
      - since in his debates in the USA it presumably opens him to the (false, I
      think) charge that he is, in fact, a crypto-fundamentalist.

      I'll report more in the next day or two - but just a comment on delivery of
      papers. Reading from papers at conferences just does not work. By all means
      print it out - let your audience take it away or have it before hand - but
      have mercy on us - please do not just read it out! The best speakers -
      Wright, Ehrman - were people who knew what they wanted to say - had a clear
      argument to make - highlighted the most important points - included some
      jokes - gestured trowards but didn't get bogged down in the detail - and
      kept eye contact with their audience. Doing a written paper for a journal or
      a chapter in your thesis and delivering a spoken argument at a conference
      (or as a teacher) are very different skills. Your paper may be the most
      ground breaking research the world of NT has ever known - but if your
      audience is asleep (or wishing they were asleep) - no one is going to know
      about all your hard work.

      Best wishes,
      Jacob Knee
      (Cam, Glos.)
    • John E Staton
      Jacob, Sounds like a good conference. Wish I had been there. Went to a conference in May where Wright s sparring partner, Jimmy Dunn was speaking. He used
      Message 2 of 8 , Sep 5, 2004
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        Jacob,
        Sounds like a good conference. Wish I had been there. Went to a
        conference in May where Wright's sparring partner, Jimmy Dunn was speaking.
        He used Powerpoint to great effect. I remember a remarkable animated scroll
        illustrating a lecture on the "New Perspective" (one area where Dunn and
        Wright agree, I believe).

        Best Wishes
        JOHN E STATON
        Penistone, Sheffield UK
        www.jestaton.org
        jestaton@...
      • James Ernest
        Thanks to Jacob Knee for this 3-part posting--very useful. ... James D. Ernest, Ph.D., Editor Baker Academic +1 616 891 5625 (office) jernest@BakerAcademic.com
        Message 3 of 8 , Sep 8, 2004
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          Thanks to Jacob Knee for this 3-part posting--very useful.

          --------------------------------
          James D. Ernest, Ph.D., Editor
          Baker Academic
          +1 616 891 5625 (office)
          jernest@...
          http://www.BakerAcademic.com
          --------------------------------
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