Running Heads

From the editors of Cascade Books and Pickwick Publications at Wipf and Stock Publishers

Tag: SBL

Runners at AAR/SBL 2015

All runners—no matter how fast or slow!—in Atlanta next month for the annual AAR/SBL conference, you are invited to join me and others on a casual run along the Freedom Park Path Trail on Saturday morning at 7am. Here are the details:

When: Saturday, November 21st, 7am

Where: Meet in the lobby of the Hyatt Regency Atlanta (265 Peachtree St NE.).

What: Run on some streets until we connect to the path. Follow path to Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum. Turn around and head back to hotel. About 5 miles. You can turn around sooner or continue past the planned turnaround spot, if 5 miles is not your preferred distance.

Who: You, me, and anyone else who wants to run before the conference frenzy hits us. Contact me if you need more info: chris[at]wipfandstock[dot]com.

View route map for Freedom Trail From Hotel on

I Just Felt Like Running

Over eight years ago I arrived in Eugene with my pregnant wife and a new job. Up to that point in my life I had never been much of a runner. In fact, I actively resisted it, much to my wife’s chagrin (she has had running as a part of her active lifestyle ever since I’ve known her). But my managing editor, and therefore kinda my boss, asked if I’d like to go running with him at trail not far from our new house. He even had some hand-me-down running gear that he gave me. So I started to run every once in a while, again much to my wife’s chagrin (being pregnant she was not able to run much, right at the time I started to take it up!). Something took hold. It was the company for sure, but also the culture of running that is woven into the fabric of Eugene.

Eventually I started to run during my lunch hour at work with my colleague and office-mate Charlie Collier. Charlie had run several races in the past but was looking to pick it back up after some time away. Running with Charlie got to be a pretty regular thing. Two to five times per week we would go out from the gym near our office and make our way to the river path or Pre’s Trail. The first time he and I went on a run together, we followed a route of about 3.75 miles that crossed the river twice. At the second bridge, with about a mile to go, we both were out of gas. We walked across the bridge and then picked up the running from there. We got to a point in our running where stopping was not necessary. Later we were able to push a little further and run a route that stretched to just over 5 miles. After several months (maybe even a year or so), we made it a goal to run that route in less than 40 minutes. It took a while, but we did it. Charlie, having run more than I and knowing the personal milestones for races, suggested we try to run a 5K in less than 20 minutes. And so we started training for my first race. On Valentine’s weekend 2011, Charlie blew by me in the last stretch of the race. (This has become a constant theme of mine. I don’t manage race paces well.) Neither of us broke the 20-minute barrier, but we were only seconds off. From that point on, I’ve been hooked on reaching certain goals. Just last month I finally went below 20 minutes in a 5K! It’s the only goal I’ve reached. I’m still working on under 90 minutes for a half marathon (I need to trim three minutes) and hitting the qualifying standard for my age group for the Boston Marathon. My one and only attempt at a marathon was not fun and I’ve had nagging pains ever since. But now that Charlie has done it, I might have to give it another try some time.

All this to say, I see myself as a runner now. And like Forrest Gump, running with company is not a bad thing. (I miss running with Charlie, by the way, now that he’s moved to Portland.) I know there are several folks who attend AAR/SBL every year who also enjoy running. Last year I organized a run for conference goers. A small handful showed up on Saturday morning to run along the San Diego harbor. It was beautiful! This year in Atlanta I am putting together another Saturday morning run. It will be a casual run along the Freedom Park Path Trail section of the larger Stone Mountain Trail. All speeds and abilities are welcome. I’ve mapped out about 5 miles, but the path can be shortened or extended as runners wish. In another blog post to follow shortly, I will provide all of the details. If you are a runner and attending AAR/SBL, set aside Saturday morning at 7am to join us!

Being a Good Academic

Each year around this time the pace in our offices start to pick up. Students and professors heading back to school need books. We make books. Academics also seem to get back in their groove after a summer spent feverishly writing enjoying their breaks, and now they want to get their books in shape for publication before the annual conferences taking place in later autumn. Editors, designers, typesetters, and marketers (at least the ones with whom I work!) are doing their parts to make sure these books see the light of day. The intensity builds right up until we board the plane to make the trek to that year’s location for the AAR/SBL conference, the apex of our publishing year.

In many ways AAR/SBL (and ETS, which immediately precedes it in a nearby location) is an exciting and fun trip. It’s a lot of work to be sure, with days beginning in the early mornings and going into the later part of the nights, but it gives us a chance to show off our books, meet in person authors we’ve known only by email and phone for months, see old friends we’ve not seen since the last conference, and meet new authors and friends that will become a part of the two aforementioned groups. A good many of the academics I know who go to the annual conference year after year do so for two reasons: friends and books. Of course there are those younger, eager students or would-be-students who attend to meet luminaries, get that first paper presentation under their belt, and generally soak in the environment. There are also those seasoned veterans who like nothing more than attending sessions and hearing paper presentations. And usually there is a session or two featuring a hot topic, book, and/or figure that people will look forward to attending. But on the  whole the “academic” side of the conference is not at the top of most people’s list of reasons to attend. I’m lucky. My primary reasons for being at the conference—selling books and building relationships—are at the top of most lists.

This post is not about why people attend AAR/SBL, or to tell you how excited we get as the conference approaches. Rather, this time of the year makes two blog posts I’ve read recently especially pertinent, and I want to bring attention to them.

The first is a post from a while back by David Lincicum, “Some scattered tips for not being a jerk at conferences.” (See also Mark Goodacre’s much older post “How to enjoy SBL“) The second references David’s post and was written by an author with whom I’ve had the privilege of working: Christopher Skinner, “Negative Reviews and Unintentional Slights: Some Further Tips on Not Being a Jerk in Academia.” Both of these posts have great advice for academics: praise others effusively and genuinely, network without instrumentalizing, have fun, keep your ego in check, retaliation is rarely worth it, maintain perspective, be nice, etc. The thing is this is all advice for living as a human, whether one within or without academia. Though I wouldn’t use the same words every time, this is advice I’m trying to pass along to my three boys: encourage others, toys do not a friend make, have fun, don’t hit back, keep your reaction the same size as the problem, be nice. What Lincicum and Skinner are really saying to their academic peers is “Be a good person! Or, at least try.” And never forget to use turabian annotated bibliography.

See you in San Diego!

Robert Jenson on Scripture as Scripture

In somewhat the same vein as my post last week, “The SBL and Faith,” I want to point to a provocative bit from Robert W. Jenson’s contribution to the forthcoming (next week? at least by SBL) book, Apocalyptic and the Future of Theology: With and beyond J. Louis Martyn (edited by Joshua B. Davis and Douglas Harink; Cascade Books). Jenson’s essay is titled “On Dogmatic/Systematic Appropriation of Paul-According-to-Martyn” (pp. 154–61). At the beginning of the essay Jenson addresses the testy relationship between “guild exegetes and the church’s theologians.” He comments in a footnote:

No reading of Scripture as Scripture in fact proceeds without theological presumptions. Since many guild exegetes pay no attention to this point, the theology that goes into their exegetical mill is subliminal and almost always childish; and so what comes out is the same. And of course, those scholars who have ceased to read Scripture as Scripture are then simply engaged in a possibly interesting antiquarian enterprise, rather like excavating nineteenth-century pots in Manhattan.

 Surely the Society of Biblical Literature is more than a bunch of pot-excavators!
Update: By request, the Table of Contents.

The SBL and Faith

As the conference for the Society of Biblical Literature approaches, I am reminded of the debate among SBL’s members about the role of faith in biblical studies. It seems like every so often someone makes a case for getting rid of the groups, sessions, and affiliated meetings that are too explicitly faith-based. I think a part of bringing faith into the public sphere of academic discourse is acknowledging the biblical literature as sacred texts of faith and allowing for their treatment as such. This of course means handling all the necessary associations that come with this acknowledgement. J. D. G. Dunn, in a discussion of the term “Scripture,” sums up this very point and suggests some responsibilities “faith”-ful interpreters will need to accept as they wrestle with the issues of sacred texts and experiences of faith:

The very term “Scripture” makes the same point: we are talking not simply about “writings” (graphai), which is the primary sense of the term in Greek; we are talking about writings regarded as sacred, which is always how the term graphe/graphai is used in the NT. The implications which follows immediately is that such writings cannot be adequately appreciated and understood unless they are treated theologically. That in turn means that the interpreter must have a sensitivity to the character of the texts being interpreted as theological, as Scripture, a capacity to appreciate the fundamental theological convictions which have shaped the whole, and an empathy with the experiences of faith from which the texts emerged and which they express (“Ex Akoes Pisteos,” Ex Auditu 16 (2000) 35).

It seems to me that if the SBL has as one of its aims “Facilitating broad and open discussion from a variety of critical perspectives,” then it ought to be encouraging more faith-based association. Not so that the SBL will be influenced and steered by these groups, but so that in associating with the SBL these groups will have healthier engagements with their sacred texts. That is, by rubbing elbows with the SBL and its variety of perspectives, faith-based groups develop better levels of the “sensitivity…capacity…and empathy” Dunn mentions. So rather than seeing these groups as cancerous and detrimental to the life of the SBL, it could see itself as providing a service and fostering a culture in which all who are associated with it become better and more careful readers of the Bible, even those who consider the Bible sacred.

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