Hearing 15 scholars read academic papers over the course of 9 1/2 hours — and then listening (or joining in) as their colleagues respond — can make for a happy day: especially when periodic breaks can be spent on the San Diego waterfront.
On the first full day of the joint Society of Biblical Literature / American Academy of Religion meeting, I chose a triple-header of sessions, and all were fascinating. A morning section on the book of Deuteronomy explored an emerging trend to see influence from northern prophetic and priestly traditions on the shaping of the book. The ideas presented were intriguing, though I struggled not only to understand some of the scholarship, but the accents: though all of the presentations were in English, only two of the five spoke English as their first language, and one of those cited all of his focus texts in Hebrew.
An afternoon session on “Hebrew Bible, History, and Archaeology” was right up my alley. I learned about recent findings relative to the Bronze Age administrative palace at the northern city of Hazor as well as an Iron Age altar complex on Mount Ebal. We also discussed some of the issues related to identifiying ancient sites when there’s no inscription saying “this was Geshur,” and reviewed cult sites in the southern Negev as they related to the Midianite-Kenite hypothesis of emerging Yahwism.
The last section I chose (out of so many) was in the smallest room, but with one of the biggest crowds. The section title (“Current Historiography and Ancient Israel and Judah”) might not excite, but most of the papers dealt with various aspects and approaches to the David narrative, including multiple references to the Tel Dan inscription and an intriguing look at different ways in which the ark of the covenant was described and remembered.
Today offers a similar plethora of offerings to tickle the minds of academics, though I confess they don’t make for particularly exciting photo opportunities. Fortunately, the bay is always close at hand.