My Time at Central States SBL- Part 2: Research Highlights

Check out Part 1- Key Takeaways. I spent the past weekend at the Society of Biblical Literature, Central States meeting, hosted at Eden Theological Seminary. Here I got to listen to new research papers by various Professors, Graduate Students and other Bible Scholars. Papers presented here were all in the writing stage, so they were not at the peer-review or public stage. Alongside paper reading there was direct dialogue surrounding the research papers that were read. There was many papers that were presented at the conference. I spent most of my time in the Old Testament session, but was also present for several New Testament papers. Both sessions were going on at the same time so there were many sessions I did not get to observe.
Research Highlights (Note I do not necessarily endorse the research below, these are just the papers that stuck out to me)

 The Lost World of the Israelite Conquest
The renowned John Walton was there and was the keynote speaker. In his presentation (which summarized his book The Lost World of the Israelite Conquest which is a detailed treatise of the issue), Dr. Walton explained how the Israelites were not commanded to destroy or “utterly blot out” the Canaanites, rather to drive them out. God did not make a command of genocide as is often stated, but Israel was to remove the land of its Canaanite identity by expelling the Canaanites. Inevitably, armed conflict and slaughter did occur when the Canaanites refused to leave the land. In the view of the ancients, they all recognized that land was gift from divine beings. As we know from the Bible, Israel failed to obey and did not fully drive them out. Instead, the Canaanites assimilated into the culture and turned many away from Yahweh into idolatry.
 Let He Who is Without Sin Cast The First Stone: Jesus and the Law of Moses in the Pericope Adulterae-
This was a paper presented by some people affiliated with the LCMS seminary (I am not sure if they are faculty or students), which is here in the St. Louis area. The “Pericope Adulterae” is the literary unit of the “woman caught in adultery”. It is debated whether or not this section of Scripture is original part of the Gospel of John, because many early manuscripts do not contain it. The presenters suggested that the pericope fit well into John and reinforced the theological themes of the surrounding narrative context. They made it very clear they were not suggesting it was original to John, but it was added in later as commentary. Regardless of its originality (which is unlikely) this does not impact the Bible’s inspiration. Regardless if the event happened or not, the teachings of the passage are aligned with the rest of Scripture’s picture of Jesus.

Suffering Servant or Substitute King? Reevaluating the Imagery of the Suffering of the Servant in Isaiah’s Servant Songs
This paper was actually presented by a recent undergraduate student at Indiana Wesleyan University. This paper was based off the groundwork of John Walton, who was actually present for the reading of the paper- this gave a unique opportunity for the author receive feedback directly from the scholar, whom his work was based on. The author of the paper further explored the idea that the Suffering Servant of Isaiah may actually be using the image of a “Substitute King”. A substitute king was someone who would die in place of the real King who deserved to die. This parallel, if accurate, would have been clearly understood by the original readers. Of interest was critique from some of the scholars in the room that it is not appropriate to identity him as Jesus. It is not that Jesus did not fulfill the prophecy, but in the original context, the hearers would have not known of Jesus as a specific messianic figure. The passage may have been talking about a particular figure at the time, that Jesus later embodied in his own suffering as a servant and a king.
 The Third Commandment as a Prophetic Call 
This paper was written by a graduate student as Asbury Seminary. The general interpretation he suggested of the Third Commandment (don’t use Yahweh’s name in vain) extends far beyond using God’s name as a curse, but it is a general call to obedience. That is to say, if someone “bears” the name of God, by claiming to be his follower (i.e a Christian or in those times a Yahwist) and does obey God the name has been used vainly. This is very similar to what Henry and I have articulated in our video broadcast about God’s name. While the researcher did not say this directly, this could be also be extended literally to people with theophoric names or even cities.

 Two Sermons: A presentation of the thematic relationship between the Temple Sermon of Jeremiah 7 and the Baptism Pericope of Matthew 3:7-10 
This research paper drew upon the work of earlier ideas of parallels between The Book of Jeremiah and the Gospel of Matthew. This paper specifically recognized literary parallels between Jeremiah 7 and the Baptism narrative of Matthew. The author related how John the Baptist’ baptism was similar to many aspects of Jeremiah’s prophetic ministry. There were many other papers I heard, these are the ones that particularly stuck out to me.


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