Saturday, February 13, 2010

SBL Midwest Morning One: Matthew, James, Hebrews

The morning started with Brian Dennert, a first year PhD student at Loyola University Chicago, who argued that the Son of David in Matthew was a leader of national spiritual restoration rather than a political deliverer. He drew from Psalms of Solomon 17 and was quite persuasive, though I wonder what Warren Carter would have said?

Robert Kinney, a PhD researcher at the University of Bristol, UK, argued for a Hellenistic context for understanding Jesus and his approach to teaching in Matthew. Since I think that Jewish teaching and learning discourse is the proper background for understanding Jesus' approach to formation, I was highly interested in his argument. Kinney ultimately argued that characteristics of the philosophical schools is the proper framework for understanding Jesus' educational approach (e.g. the way Euthydemus became a disciple of Socrates). He rightly noted the lack of discipleship language in the Hebrew tradition, however, since the family was the primary focus of education, domestic/kinship language would provide a way forward in this regard.

Russell Sisson of Union College presented a paper that looked at possible sayings of Jesus in James. I found it interesting that the first clear allusion to James is in Origen. He noted that scholars see as little as 8 or up to 65 allusions to Jesus' teaching in James. The crux of the issue is the lack of exact wording. To solve this problem, Sisson relies on the concept of oral performance in which exact wording is not required, the text is ancillary. He suggests that the allusions are located in the so-called Q source (insert a question from Mark Goodacre here, if he were present). In addressing the question as to why James was not referenced clearly until Origen? Sisson concludes that if the early Church Fathers were looking for Jesus material they would not have looked to James, but they continue to be aware of the document.

Jeffrey Gibson from Harry S Truman College argued, quite persuasively, that the Sitz im Leben of Hebrews was the Jewish War. The writer of the letter was addressing issues of non-violence in the context of the threat of the Romans and Jewish desire for violent revolt by the zealots. I really enjoyed his discussion of Heb. 13.13 and the departure from the camp. I think Jeffrey is on to something here and hope others will consider this interpretive framework, originally put forward by Alexander Nairne.

This was a great morning of stimulating papers and good discussions with old and new friends. Afternoon sessions to follow soon but I should probably read over my paper, on identity formation and Paul, imagine that!

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