Thursday, February 12, 2015

DeConick Returns

I don't know if anyone noticed - well, James McGrath notices everything - but April Deconick has been active on her blog again after a several month hiatus:  She has posted some book notes for people interested in Gnosticism and Mysticism as well as her role in a new documentary about the Gospel of Judas.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Jesus as Creator, Sustainer, and Destroyer in Hebrews

I thought after last night's post that I would go ahead and post the abstract from my own paper at the Midwest SBL, which generated more discussion than I expected - always good.  So, here it is:

Jesus as Creator, Sustainer, and Destroyer in HebrewsCreation imagery extends throughout Hebrews more than any other New Testament text, yet has received less attention than John 1, Colossians 1, or 1 Cor. 8:6.  Those who have discussed creation in Hebrews have focused on how it relates to the work's cosmology.  This paper, however, will analyze its relationship to Christology, arguing that Hebrews maintains a consistent division between what and how God and the Son create.  God creates and is the source of all things, including the heavenly tent and city, while Jesus is the creative agent of the "ages," who inherits, sustains, and destroys heaven and earth.

A copy of the paper is available upon request - just send me an email to my Illinois College email account.

Midwest SBL

I am currently attending and presenting at the Midwestern Region of the SBL.  I have never attended a regional meeting before.  It is nice, intimate.  Mostly, it is a space to throw out new, creative ideas that one is toying with, and so I have heard some very interesting papers.  Here are my personal highlights.

This morning I heard a paper on the Testament of Job by a young scholar, Scott Cason of Jacksonville University (that's Jacksonville, FL).  He analyzed the text using Bakhtin's Carnivalesque (from Rabelais and His World), Michael Serres's concept of parasitism with a dash of good ole fashioned Victor Turner / Arnold van Gennep liminality.  There is also a lot of interesting gendered issues going on with Job becoming emasculated/feminized in the text and Job's wife become masculinized according to Cason.  The audience was unfortunately very minimal for this paper, but I would like to reproduce the abstract for everyone's benefit:

Job as Parasitic Grotesque in the Testament of JobWhile tradition credits Job's patience for having pulled him through his ordeal, a reading of the Testament of Job through the lenses of Mikhail Bakthin's grotesque and Michael Serres' work on parasitism suggests otherwise.  Just as the grotesque consumes the material realm to achieve rebirth, so also does the Testament's Job symbolically cannibalize his wife.  The implication here is that it is not Job's patience but his parasitism that leads to his triumph.  

I hope he develops his idea for a paper next fall in Atlanta.

Secondly, I attended a reception of the Bible / gender theory section that focused on the appropriations of the story of the rape of the women at Shiloh.  The papers ranged on the many misidentifications of Shiloh throughout the centuries to a comparison of the story with U.S. Reconstruction era.  The paper that caught my attention was that of an older scholar who works for ATLA (American Theological Library Association): Lowell Handy.  He gave a presentation on how especially artists (among others) combined the story of the rape of the Shilonite virgins with the story of the rape of the Sabine women.  I have long been thinking of a class comparing stories from the Hebrew Bible with those of Greek and Roman literature, and this is definitely on the list.  Here is his abstract:

Classically Illustrated: Benjaminites and the Sabine Women
It has long been recognized that the episode concerning the Benjaminite men and the Jabesh women of Gilead in Judges 21 is a counterpoint to the Rape of the Sabine women in Roman tradition.  This presentation takes a quick look at select biblical illustrations for the episode in Judges, demonstrating their reliance on a history of illustrations of the classical narrative.  Classical literature was for a long time the major comparative material for biblical exegesis; classical art and its later representations also provided a visual "exegesis."

Perhaps what struck me most was when you look at artists depictions of these two episodes, one from the Bible and one from Roman legend, it is almost impossible to discern the difference without the artist's title.

In the evening, everyone gathered to listen to David Aune, who is best known for his work on early Christian prophecy in the context of Greco-Roman (and Jewish) oracles and prophecy, give an autobiographical discussion of the directions of his career.  It was, indeed, a highlight of the day likely not just for me (as the previous two were) but for most people there.  Here is his abstract.

Confessions of a ParallelomaniacThis talk consists of a series of connected autobiographical reflections on how the author became increasingly convinced that the New Testament and early Christian literature are virtually incomprehensible apart from knowledge of the Greco-Roman linguistic social and cultural world in which they were almost seamlessly embedded.  However, far from regarding ... this framework as simply a background to a foregrounded New Testament, the competent scholar should be equally acquainted with these two intersected worlds.  On analogy with what Patrick Henry is now thought not to have said, "If this be parallelomania, make the most of it."

He noted some interesting influences, such as Hans Dieter Betz and Morton Smith, who challenged him to provide a systematic framework for offering parallels to biblical materials.  As he noted in the talk and Q&A, he is an unrepentant parallelomaniac, though I should note that in the Q&A he did offer caution on how to be a responsible parallelomaniac.