Search SBL

SBL Forum Archive
<< Return to SBL Forum Archive Richness in Rome 2009: Scholarly Exchange of Ideas

Kent Richards
The Society of Biblical Literature’s third visit to Rome for our annual International Meeting made it possible for us to share the hospitality of the Pontifical Biblical Institute (PBI) and the Pontifical Gregorian University. At the first Rome meeting in 1991 I said,

Rome is a gathering place for persons from around the world. The sounds, sights, and aromas of this city have generated for centuries a sense of incomparable excitement and energy. Gather up the gifts of this historic city and experience them with colleagues from around the world. May the scholarly exchange of ideas, the anticipation of new-found colleagues, and the company of old friendships be strengthened as we meet for the ninth International Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature.

These same words could have been used 30 June 2009 at the opening session. Maurice Gilbert, member of the PBI faculty and author of the recent history of the PBI, opened the Rome meeting by highlighting some dimensions of the PBI’s 100-year history. Then Paul Achtemeier, former President of SBL and the Catholic Biblical Association of America, began with his responses to the PBI history. He was followed by Larry Boadt, a former PBI student, who reflected on the importance of the PBI for Roman Catholic scholarship. The panel was concluded by Jim Kugel, who made some interesting comparisons and reflections on his experience with PBI faculty and publications. This opening session helped enlighten attendees about the extraordinary importance of the PBI in bringing Roman Catholic Biblical scholarship into the center of the international research surrounding the Bible.

Sixteen exhibitors, several representing multiple presses, kept the exhibit halls busy with attendees looking at and purchasing new publications and software. SBL sponsored a book signing of Ramsay MacMullen’s new SBL publication, The Second Church: Popular Christianity A.D. 200–400, which was preceded by his lecture on “Christian Ancestor Worship at Rome.” A full program of Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) and the Hebrew Bible were developed by Armin Lange and Kristin De Troyer. One of these DSS evening sessions featured papers by Emanuel Tov and James Kugel. A number of special sessions on Rome were held, including one jointly organized with the Society of Mediterranean Religions. The Nida Institute for Biblical Scholarship at the American Bible Society, a key sponsor and partner of the entire congress, organized several sessions, including one with Klaus Berger and Christiane Nord on “Intertextuality in Early Christian Literature: Theological and Translational Perspectives.”

The breadth of the program was demonstrated by sessions on the Bible and various media, Eastern and Oriental orthodox traditions, archaeology, along with the very lively sections on traditional areas of biblical research, such as the Writings, Prophets, Paul, Synoptics, and apocryphal texts. Several books were reviewed, including PBI faculty member Fred Brenk’s With Unperfumed Voices: Studies in Plutarch, in Greek Literature, Religion and Philosophy, and in the New Testament Background. A session on the international discussion surrounding the Toledo Guiding Principles: Educating for Religious Literacy was advanced by Shabbir Mansuri of the Institute for Religion and Civic Values, and one of the Italian authors of the Principles, Silvio Ferrari of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, helped attendees understand the international context of teaching religion and the Bible in grades 9–12. A memorial session honoring Henri Cazelles, famous Roman Catholic scholar, was organized by Thomas Römer.

There are too many sessions to mention all that the 750 attendees from 46 countries had the opportunity to visit. As always, the success of the meetings depends on the members who offer their work for discussion and debate. We are especially grateful for the presentation by Italian colleagues and members of the PBI faculty.

Elizabeth Struthers Malbon conducted a visit to the Museo Pio Christiano and delivered a lecture on the early Christian sarcophagi. Then, on the Sunday following the end of the congress, L. Michael White led an all-day tour of Ostia Antica for over 50 attendees. His insights, humor, willingness to answer questions, and awareness of the site—since he is excavating at Ostia—were greatly appreciated by members.

SBL is grateful for the assistance of so many people who make it possible for us to engage in the scholarly exchange of ideas. We are also grateful not only for the members who attend, exhibitors who bring their products from great distances, but also to Peeters Press, who has been an ongoing sponsor of SBL International Meetings almost from the first meeting over twenty-five years ago. Grazia.


© 2021, Society of Biblical Literature. All Rights Reserved.