Saturday, November 24, 2012

full head ... full heart

Last week I succumbed to the wonderful sort of malady that strikes all who attend ETS, IBR, and SBL—mental gluttony. Falling each year on the week before Thanksgiving, ETS, IBR, and SBL are remarkably similar to that American holiday characterized by

  • sitting too much, 
  • eating too much, 
  • gaining weight, 
  • and feeling profoundly grateful. 
The primary difference between ETS/IBR/SBL and Thanksgiving is that, in the case of the former, the consumption is mental, not physical (the prices of food at most conference centers and hotels ensure that I do not overeat). The smorgasbord of papers presented on just about any topic defy description. Still, my weight gain is measured in pages, not pounds—the deep discounts offered by every major publisher are simply too much to resist. (This year's prize acquisition was HALOT for only $99!)

At ETS I attended 14 paper presentations, 5 meetings, and the annual banquet.
At IBR I attended 8 paper presentations or responses to papers.
At SBL I attended 22 paper presentations and 3 meetings.

As with previous conferences, this year was simply packed with conversations with former classmates and professors as well as publishers and scholars I know from my research and TA work for Dr. Block. These conferences bring out the most outgoing side of me. I talked personally or asked questions of 17 of the 44 presenters or moderators for sessions I attended, and stopped to meet many others whose work I had read in the past year. I could give a much longer list, but highlights included conversations with Bruce Wells, Herbert Huffmon, Andrea Weiss, Sandra Richter, Terrence Fretheim, Miles Van Pelt, Peter Vogt, William Eerdmans and John Oswalt. It's amazing to rub shoulders (literally, since some of the sessions are very crowded) with great scholars whose work has helped me immensely.

The other big highlight was having my Dad along for the day on Monday to see my world. He was a great sport, attending paper after paper on Esarhaddon's Succession Treaty and its affinity with Deuteronomy 28, and listening to conversations that must have seemed quite pedantic (such as debates over the ending of one word in Psalm 24:4). I inherited my love for learning and my knack for networking from him, though, so I think he had fun seeing "himself" in this world—so different from the world of kitchen remodeling he regularly inhabits. He's looking forward to using some of his new words (like 'prosopological exegesis') on my brother when they get to the job site Monday morning. Sorry, John. I really am.

And so on Monday evening we headed home, loaded down with new books, my head full of new insights and new stories, tremendously grateful for the gift of learning and the gift of friends. ETS, IBR, and SBL did more than fill my head. They filled my heart as well.

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