Reflections on SBL - 2006

1. The highlight of the conference for me was finally being able to see the covers of Codex W first hand. There hasn't been much written on them since the 1930's, and it is now my mission in life to get access for a fuller autopsy. I don't want to make any premature pronouncements on the implications these covers hold for the study of early Christian book technology, but if manufactural markings on the spine of the (now loose) Codex W indicate that the covers were produced secondary to the text, then a number of interesting points could be made about how early Christian bookbinding affected the use and perception of the canonical gospels.

I am crossing my fingers about that access, though, and may just have to proceed on the basis of my time with the covers during the exhibition and the somewhat unhelpful photographs we currently have.

2. Lots of good papers in the Textual Criticism and Papyrology seminars. I was particular interested to hear response to Holger Strutwolf's paper (see my summary below from the NA/27 conference at New College). Lo and behold, he fared well in the face of Epp's just criticism that Strutwolf has appeared to have not actually said much about the textual tradition beyond Epp's original work on text types. As it turns out, Strutwolf's suggestion that we conduct criticism within the parameters established by the textual tradition of each text is an intriguing idea.

2.5. Peter Head's paper on Tregelles was fascinating, I hope that either shows up in print, or that he will make copies available to interested parties.

3. I haven't the slightest idea why they scheduled Hurtado vs. Ehrman at the same time as Gathercole vs. Dunn. Poor programming decision. But in the epic square-off between the "Lord Jesus Christ" guy and the "Misquoting Jesus" guy, Earliest Christian Artifacts emerged as the winner. Ehrman's critique centered around the fact that Hurtado spends a lot of time in the book simply retreading old scholarship on the various issues that occupy each chapter. I really don't have a problem with this, that sort of synthesis needed to occur in this area and many students and scholars of other specializations will benefit from it.

4. The Scottish Universities Reception was exactly how I thought it would be.

5. My paper in the Bible in Ancient and Modern Media section went quite well. It was a rather polemical paper, which is always a gamble. But the gamble seemed to pay off and I now hope to see it in print some time from now.


P. Smith said...

If you need a place to stay if you ever be back to see W, my folks live in Baltimore.

Peter M. Head said...

Thanks Michael,

Re Hurtado vs Ehrman: the other issue in Bart's critique focused on the tacit Christian/canonical assumptions embedded in Larry's anachronistic categorisation of early Christian manuscripts as OT, NT, Apocryphal etc. Larry eventually seemed to admit that there was some point here. Any thoughts from your end? [I especially liked his memorable phrase: "F@#% it, I am a Christian."]

M. Leary said...

I don't think using those as heuristic categories is problematic, as you have to seperate the texts in an index somehow. How else do you do it? By size? Date? That being said, by default I tend to use something like "Hebrew Scriptures" as an appellation for OT and some Apocryphal texts, and then "Early Christian texts" for both canonical and non-canonical literature. (But then even this is problematic, as Kraft often disagrees with Hurtado over some specific fragments as to whether they were used by Jews or Christians.) On the other hand, I don't think Erhman's alternative categories are any less problematic. Making any and every Christian fragment an "Early Christian text" does not do justice to the frequent appearance of the canonical tradition in 2nd century Christianity, as well as an historicist apology for these texts as early as Papias that may serve as an indication why we find things like the Gospel of John so early.

Implicit to any list of manuscripts of this sort is an historical reconstruction of Christian and Jewish textual transmission patterns and history. I don't see how this can be avoided.

In Hurtado's favor, which Erhman quite pointedly did not point out, he uses the term "Jesus books" for both canonical and non-canonical texts about Jesus. I was actually a bit surprised this was not taken up again in the index.

How is that for a non-answer?

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