The season of mists and mellow fruitfulness feels as if it's well upon us, and those heady days of summer when the year still seemed to be in its prime now register only as dim memories. The jungle-drums of panic are already starting to beat away for SBL/AAR, and I'm considering just not bothering unpacking my last conference bag and hoping that whatever clothing I wore for the last gig will miraculously wash itself and be appropriate for San Diego.
But what a conference season it was for Biblical Studies this year. For me it kicked off with the wonderful Jesus and Brian conference at King's College London, which included the cracking line from John Cleese; 'if someone were to ask me what the most interesting thing to come out of Monty Python was I'd be tempted to say this conference'. I'm thrilled that we'll be publishing the book of the conference in August next year (if everything goes to plan). The Jesus and Brian papers were uniformly excellent. I particularly enjoyed George Brooke's, which included another great line; 'after all the Pythons had done more than most of my students do, they'd actually read the Dead Sea Scrolls'.If you're interested, T&T Clark live-tweeted the conference ---and you should be able to find soundbites on our twitter feed quite easily.
ISBL in Vienna followed shortly after we'd looked on the bright side of life, and I had many profitable meetings in between slabs of sacher torte and Wiener melange. I also shared a 'Viennese Sausage Experience' in what later turned out to be a favourite cafe of Freud's. My dining partner and I decided we wouldn't analyse that one too much. It was particularly great to catch up with series editors, and publishing colleagues and friends from other houses.
Next in line was SOTS - which I didn't attend myself. This was a great sadness as I was looking forward to John Day's presidential conference. I still remember his lectures on Genesis 1-11 from my student days. They were very good - as evidenced by the fact that I actually went to them. We were represented at SOTS by Miriam Cantwell and Matt Porter. I've heard it was a great conference, and that a particular highlight was John J. Collins' paper on 'Torah and Jewish Identity in the Second Temple Period'.
Whilst SOTS was going on I was in Providence, RI, for the meeting of the Catholic Biblical Association. This was great fun, and the Dominicans hosted the event wonderfully. Great to see so many young friars. White habits everywhere. The seafood in Providence was truly excellent as well.
After CBA came SNTS in Szeged, which from Providence was a time-difference I didn't particularly enjoy. This conference was superbly organised, which makes a huge difference for us publishers. I enjoyed Keith Elliot's paper on the historical critical method... which included a cheeky line that went something like this; 'sometimes might it be best to admit that we do not know what the text means?' Lots of thumping great bowls of goulash for all to enjoy at the conference dinners. I also enjoyed eating Magalica pork whilst I was there. This comes from a curly-haired breed of pig, and it is delicious. It is the closest we can get to the now-extinct British breed, the Lincolnshire Curlycoat. The Curlycoat became extinct as a direct result of the 1955 Howitt report, which recommended a simplification of pig breeds. Curlycoats were used to help boost the Mangalica stock in Hungary and Austria in the late 50s so there is at least some genetic crossover. This pig story has absolutely nothing to do with Biblical Studies, but it was a valuable part of the conference experience for me. It also reflects just how much attitudes towards food production have changed in the UK since the 1950s.
The final conference of the season was BNTC (British New Testament) in Manchester. Great papers from Eric Eve and Rafael Rodriguez on Oral Tradition and the NT. Note Rafael's recent book on the subject. Similarly a great plenary from Professor Joan Taylor on Mary Magdaelene --- trying to find the missing Magdala. It was also nice to see James Crossley's Harnessing Chaos, which appears in our new Reception History sub-series (Scriptural Traces), feature as part of a panel review session. All present enjoyed Jorunn Okland's 'method dressing' approach to the session. A hint as to what this involved can be found on the book's truly extraordinary cover!
So a fun summer of conferences. Lots of good conversations. Lots of interesting people. Lots of good food. Now all I have to do is try to sleep, diet, and exercise between now and SBL/AAR... and try to find the will to unpack.