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SBL 2019 Review

I had a great time catching up with a number of friends, colleagues, and bloggers at the latest Society of Biblical Literature conference in San Diego in November 2019. I enjoyed listening to the papers in my session about whether Luke’s rewriting of Matthew’s text has any parallels with how other non-canonical Gospels treat Matthew, about the history of the oral gospel hypothesis among Synoptic Problem specialists since the nineteenth century, about whether the Patristic references to the lost “Gospel according to the Hebrews” should be identified with Matthew’s and Luke’s shared non-Markan source, and about whether the author of Luke was dependent on John’s Gospel. I received some great feedback from Mark Matson, whose source-critical analysis of the story of the woman who anointed Jesus has influenced my own approach.

I also attended a few book review sessions on Joel Marcus’s John the Baptist in History and Theology and Matthew D. C. Larsen’s Gospels before the Book. For the former book, the debate among the panelists mainly focused on either bigger historical method questions or on specific historical arguments (e.g., John the Baptizer’s relationship with the Qumran community). The latter book encourages readers to reconsider the nature of the Gospels as discreet, finished, literary texts and compares them to the genre of hypomnēmata or commentarii that were more like unfinished pre-literary texts open to continuous expansion and revision. The panelists and audience members were receptive to the thesis, but they did offer some push-back about how Mark’s sophisticated literary techniques or the reception of Mark’s Gospel in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke may indicate that Mark’s text was more “bookish” than Larsen gave it credit for, but I found it striking that I had noted in my book on Mark that various Patristic authors judged Mark’s text to be like a rough draft without literary taxis or “order” (Papias) and made for private circulation among Mark’s Roman hearers (Clement of Alexandria). Finally, I caught a Paul and politics session where my friend Ralph Korner was reading a paper on his work on ekklēsia.

The last thing to note is that we were all made aware of the sad news about the passing of Larry Hurtado. There are a number of excellent online tributes to him from Helen Bond, Chris Keith, Bart Ehrman, Greg Lanier, Michael Kruger, Holly J. Carey, Tommy Wasserman, Eldon Jay Epp, and Carey Newman. I had the pleasure of briefly interacting with him online and by email about my engagement with the early high Christology paradigm (see here, here, and here) and we chatted after I presented at an SBL session on the Christology of Mark a few years ago. He was a brilliant scholar who made a lasting contribution to the study of Christology by shifting the focus to the devotional practices that the Christians directed towards the risen Jesus and he was extremely generous in providing constructive and critical feedback to my own work. He has undoubtedly had a huge impact on colleagues, students, and Christian laypeople and he will be missed.

 

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