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<< Return to SBL Forum Archive On Location: The 2009 Meeting of the Catholic Biblical Association

Jim West

            The 2009 Annual Meeting of the Catholic Biblical Association (CBA) was held over the weekend of August 1-4 at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. A number of very well structured papers were delivered during general sessions and in smaller groups called “Task Forces” and “Continuing Seminars” as well as “Simultaneous Sessions.”

            The schedule of the CBA is to begin the morning with members participating in either a “Task Force” (on, for instance, the use of the Old Testament by the Gospel of John) or a “Continuing Seminar” (like The Bible and Ecology). The morning wraps up with a “Simultaneous Session,” which offers members two choices of extended lectures. John P. Meier gave one of them this year,called “Surprises From Law and Love, Volume 4 of A Marginal Jew.” Meier is a very fine and very humorous lecturer; although of course many will not agree with his conclusions, he did confess to being surprised that his research led him in directions he did not expect. Nor, he confessed, did he expect his work to turn into the “Harry Potter of Historical Jesus studies,” since he had originally planned only a small volume on the question.

After lunch, members are invited to “Research Reports,” where papers are read and questions and answers offered. These research reports are given by scholars working on various problems or issues or even segments of books they plan to publish in the near future and for which they desire feedback and critique. One such paper was given by Mark Smith of New York University, titled “Warrior Culture in early Israel and the ‘Voice’ of David in 2 Samuel 1.”Smith’s paper was brilliant and opened up avenues of investigation in new and exciting ways.

            Following dinner, a “General Session” is held in which a major presentation is given.  The first night is reserved for the president of the Association, and this year’s Presidential Address by Kathleen O’Connor, “Let All The People’s Praise You: Biblical Studies and a Hermenutics of Hunger,” was a “hit” with those assembled. Finally, at the end of the day (except for the last, as it ends at noon) all members are invited to a reception, where the conversation flows as freely as the refreshments both liquid and solid.

            One of the most enjoyable parts of such meetings is, of course, the book display. There one can run into all manner of friends and colleagues and also pick up books for a pretty substantial discount. This year the book hall was filled with excellent volumes by publishers such as Paulist, CBA, Eisenbrauns, Baker, Westminster/John Knox, Fortress, Liturgical Press, and Eerdmans. It seems, though, that the economic downturn played havoc with people’s spending habits, and the sellers I informally queried about sales were all rather disappointed. I personally hope that this turns around, or publishers may wonder about the economic viability of sending reps and products to such meetings—and we would all lose.

            This year’s venue was simply fantastic. Members had access to both wired Internet in their rooms and wireless throughout the campus. Unlike the SBL, the CBA meets on college campuses rather than at hotels. Consequently, participants live in student dorms (or, if they prefer, at a local hotel). And though the option of residing off campus is open, most choose to stay on campus, since it is fairly inexpensive (a single room, including all meals during the three and a half day meeting, was scarcely more than $200 this year). Indeed, a recent survey of the membership, which gave off- and on-campus alternatives for future meetings, resulted in over 75% of the members wishing to continue meeting on campuses.

            Participation in the Annual Meeting is open to associate members (those students and others wishing to take part) and active members (those with doctoral degrees or the equivalent), as well as to those specially invited by the president. It is always a fantastic event and one of the most collegial academic gatherings in which one can take part.


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