SBL 2008 Day 1
Day 1 of the SBL was a packed. Schmoozing with the denomination, giving a paper and spending hard-earned cash in the bookroom takes a lot out of one (and then there were the receptions!). So here is a brief summary of the day.
In the morning I hit the Mennonite Scholars & Friends Forum. The topic was “Teaching Bible: Setting, Method, Agenda;” and the forum was a roundtable between Jo-Ann Brant (Goshen College), Wes Bergen (Wichita State), Jonathan Isaac (Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary) with Thomas R. Yoder Neufeld (Conrad Grebel University College, University of Waterloo presiding. It was an interesting discussion. While none of these scholars was dealing with the demographic of students that I encounter, I found Bergen’s points to be most applicable to my own (we both teach at state schools). My biggest disagreement with the consensus of the room came in regards to the question of faith. My pedagodgy does not and cannot take the faith of the students into account. I purposely act as advocate to all religious text that my students encounter, not just he onese from my own faith community.
My afternoon was of course filled with Ugaritic Studies and Northwest Semitic Epigraphy section. While I try hard to be gracious in these summaries, here’s a take on the papers given. William D. Barker (University of Cambridge) gave a paper entitled “And Thus You Brightened the Heavens: A New Translation of KTU 1.5 i 4 and Its Significance for Ugaritic and Biblical Studies.” The paper proposed that Lotan (Hebrew Leviathan) had a special relationship with Motu in the Ugaritic ritual consciousness. This relationship explains Lotan’s mention in CAT 1.5 i as well as the biblical references to this mythical monster. Barker threw a lot of information at us, a handout (or a few more slides) would have helped us all to keep up. I don’t know if he has or plans to publish this paper, but I think he should.
Daniel Belnap (Brigham Young University) presented a paper entitled “Invite Me, Baal”: A Look at Ritual Failure in the Baal and Kirta Texts.” As the title suggests, his paper focused on infelicitous ritual encounters in the Ba`lu cycle. The paper was supposed ot also deal with Kirta, but due to technical difficulties he had to cut the paper short. (Hint: always make sure that you’ve plugged in the laptop and have the powerpoint primed before the presentation.)
Daniel A. Frese (University of California, San Diego) spoke on “Prodigal Sons and Estate Clearance at Ugarit: Another look at RS 16.129.” This a technical paper on legal matters at Ugarit and the larger ancient Near East. Very nice, but difficult for us on the pannel to follow since he gave all his handouts to the audience. Still, very good stuff.
My paper on CAT 1.90, 1.164, and 1.168 went well.It worked out well to have Belnap’s paper before me. It served as a nice transition from myth to ritual (in a very non-myth-and-ritual way). I had made 50 handouts, and there still were too few to go around! Ugaritic is making a comeback at the SBL!
Stephen Sang-Bae Kim (University of Pennsylvania) gave an excellent paper entitled “Ilu’s Epithet Thoru in the Ugaritic Literature.” He used powerpoint effectively, spoke for the given ammount of time, and had little bits of humor to keep things interesting. It was very nice.
The last paper was Hugh Rowland Page Jr. (University of Notre Dame) on “Anat’s Palatial Battle: A Reconsideration of CAT 1.3.ii.17–41 in Light of Research on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).” Very nice stuff. His work was a nice break from the predominant historical-critical method usually enailed by Ugaritic scholars. Once again, I hope that this paper is in press somewhere.
In the evening I hit Jonathan Smith’s presidential address. Since the text will bre presented in the first JBL of next year, I’ll leave it to y’all to read that if you missed the event. Suffice it to say, it was an amazing talk.