I gave all the official details in post 1, but I thought I’d give a few of my impressions and experiences here. This was quite an experience.
One of the most exciting parts was the first NT paper given by Francis Watson on ‘Beyond the New Perspective’. Watson challenged many of the NPP ‘doctrines’ and said this would be the last of his works on the NPP. As Nijay noted, the audience included Richard Hays, Tom Wright, Jimmy Dunn, Joel Marcus, and John Barclay, among the rest of us. It wasn’t unlike SBL, but just a more intimate environment. Joel Marcus asked a probing question for Francis that still hangs in the air: Was Paul’s characterisation about Judaism right, or was it just a caricature? I don’t think that was adequately answered, but on the whole Watson’s critique of the NPP showed its weaknesses without turning back uncritically to the old perspective.
As one of the organisers, I got the opportunity to chat with all of the Duke people at one time or another. The best meal was that at Bishop Tom Wright’s home at Auckland Castle at Bishop Auckland. I had the fortune to share the table with Tom Wright and Richard Hays and several others. But even cooler was going into the chapel at the castle. It was awe-inspiring to see the lists of bishops dating back to 900 AD or so. Two of England’s greatest NT scholars and also bishops in Durham–JB Lightfoot and BF Westcott–were buried there. It gives a sense of the ancient faith that has been carried along by the leadership of the church.
The end cap of the weekend was the opportunity to drive Richard Hays to the airport because his flight was too early to catch a train. He was gracious enough to let us bend his ear for a couple of hours. He had good things to say about my thesis topic and that it is timely. He mentioned specifically that 20+ years ago hardly any in the NT guild would ever think we could learn about Paul from patristic writers, but now the field is ripe for studies like this. That was encouraging. He also mentioned the need to have a manageable scope–like not trying to do all of Paul. That will be harder advice to take since the patristic writers don’t focus on just one passage when talking about theosis. So somebody has to do the big picture stuff, right?
At the castle dinner I heard Tom Wright comment that he would have benefited in his postgrad days to have participated in an event like this. It was good to see scholarship at its best and also to get to know people personally as well. It will be one the highlights of my time here.