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Sunday, November 22, 2009
  David Clines' SBL Presidential Address
It's almost the first time I've attended an SBL presidential address. I know I'm (getting) old, it's the first time I've known and respected an SBL president as more than a name on some papers and books (usually ones I have not read).

DJA Clines is an iconoclast, I vividly remember the time I met him, SBL International in Jerusalem in '86. He was sharing a room with Robert Carroll, one of my few friends from Glasgow, and a guru I admired, but never tried to follow. I had the room next door. (The rich occupied the flash SBL hotels in town, the creative, the European and waifs like me occupied student accommodation at the Hebrew University.)

It was at that SBL International (or at the IOSOTS that accompanied it) that David met Heather, but I remember it more for one phrase. I think it was Clines' but it could have been Carroll's. I've Googled it, but could find no attribution (if you try that NOW, Google leads to me, but I know I did not invent the phrase - I just wish I had). That phrase, picked up from whichever intellectual nomad from the neighbouring room actually coined it, has guided, or at least served as Leitmotiv for two decades of (my) biblical study.

But back, from senescent ramblings about times past, to David's presidential address, David is an iconoclast, and his address topples many cherished icons of the academic world: the dichotomy of teaching and research, and the primacy of the latter, the modes of teaching, the hierachy of teacher and student... David is an entertaining speaker, and most of us chuckled and a few even dared to laugh... David is a prophet, and his address may even (like Muillenberg's in 1968, an SBL even I am too old to have attended) provide a stimulus for years to come... But is was not NEW. And there's the tragedy, Biblical Scholars are still not listening to other disciplines, we "borrow", occasionally, an unfamiliar notion torn from its context (preferably non-Anglophone) in Psychology (especially the esoteric and academically dubious fringes of Psychology) or Literary Studies for these can provide the dillettant biblical scholar with a neat paper for many sections in the SBL program guide, but we systematically turn our backs on the professionals. Professionals in teaching above all ;)

And that may be the truly iconoclastic element in DJA Clines' SBL presidential addesss in 2009. If he stimulates a few younger scholars to toy with the ideas of teaching theorists and researchers as he once stimulated me to toy with ideas of the unnecessary "hypothesis of the idiot redactor" then thank God for SBL Presidents!

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