I had the pleasure to attend the BNTC 2007 in Exeter at the end of last week. It was one of the most enjoyable conference experiences I’ve had. Although it was 6 hours oneway, I had a great train trip down and back with Kristian Bendoraitis and Kevin Bywater, fellow NT postgrads. And the conference itself was very enjoyable. Here are a few thoughts…

Attendants: There were around 140 attendees. A nice size that allowed one to mix with others as you wanted. I noticed a low Oxbridge participation (e.g., no J Lieu, PJ Williams, M Bockmuehl) and John (Barclay) noted that is a common occurrence, though Simon Gathercole was there. But I suppose 3 of the 5 Durham lecturers also didn’t attend–just John and F Watson. We also noted that it seemed that there was a really low number of postgrads in attendance. The far south location was probably a strong influence. It seemed that there were only about 10-15 there, and four of us were from Durham. From the sign-up list, it looks like maybe up to 30 were signed up (based on no ‘Dr’ designation), but unless they were all middle aged, we didn’t see near that many.

Plenary: (90 min) Unfortunately I only got to hear 2 of the 3 but they were very good. Morna Hooker kicked it off with a talk about Paul as Pastor. She noted that Paul’s repeated credal statements of Christ dying for us are also the basis of several of his ethical commands. (Credal Summaries: 1 Thes 4.14; 5.11; Gal 1.4; 2.19-20; 3.13; 4.4-5; 1 Cor 15.3ff.; 2 Cor 5.14-15; Rom 4.25 // Ethical application: 1 Cor 5.7; 8.6; 8.11; 2 Cor 5.21; 6.14-18; 8.9; Phil 2.6-11; 3.4-11, 17-21). ‘The self sacrificial love of Christ is our model of the true ethical behaviour to be applied especially in morally ambiguous areas.’ The second session was Larry Hurtado giving a summary of his book on ancient manuscripts as artefacts. I never realised how ‘innovative’ early christians were with the use of the codex (vs scrolls) for manuscripts, which hint towards the importance of reading aloud scriptures. Also, I didn’t realise how popular the Shepherd of Hermas was, a writing in the Apostolic Fathers corpus.
Short Papers: (45 min) Bruce Longenecker gave a helpful adjustment to Friesen’s Graeco-Roman Poverty Scale. But I was most impressed with Nijay’s paper on Phil 1.21-22. It was stimulating, and he did great on responding to questions. That’s right, our own Nijay Gupta. There were only 2 papers going on at the time, so he had about half the conference attendees in his session. John mentioned that it is rare to have a postgrad present in this session, much less a 1st year postgrad (where it is even uncommon for a seminar paper). So props to Nijay.
Seminars: (25-90 min) I enjoyed the Paul seminar. Since they distribute the Paul papers before hand, it allows for more depth in discussion b/c a smaller amount of time is spent summarising the paper before questions start. I’m glad John is my supervisor because he regularly asked the key (sometimes ‘bombshell’) questions that struck at the heart of the papers. I’m glad he’s asking me those questions in private so my public presentations are stronger from the beginning. I had a 90 minute slot in the Hermeneutics Seminar–session 2–all to myself. We had 6 of us in there. I felt really good about it. The questions weren’t too challenging, but key issues did arise to help me better focus the paper for when I try to publish.

Meeting People
One of the best parts of the BNTC that really sets it apart from other conferences that I’ve been to is the communal nature of it. Almost everyone stays onsite, and all meals are shared together as a group. I had two meals with Morna Hooker, my academic grandmother, which was great. I also had good discussions with Angus Paddison (Nottingham), Sean Winter (Manchester), Ward Blanton (Glasgow), Darrell Hannah (vicar in Oxford), and David Horrell (Exeter). In addition to talking those I also got to meet quite a few others such as Eddie Adams and postgrads from St Andrews. The cap stone of the event was the train ride home. Larry Hurtado was in the car next to ours, so after an hour or so we got the idea to invite him to come chat with us. He graciously accepted and we got to pick his brain and chat for about 45 minutes before he had to switch trains. Who could ask for a better ending.

Durham postgrads were definitely well represented with Kevin, Nijay, and me presenting. I’m glad that I took the opportunity to present a paper, and I’m already looking forward to when the conference comes to Durham next year.