SBLAAR20 Academic Conference Highlights

Early in the conference, an Institute of Biblical Research (IBR) section focused on how scripture is used in the Old and New Testaments of the Christian Bible. Gary Schnittjer presented on how Hebrew Scriptures are used by the Old Testament in such a way that may provide a resource for how the New Testament uses Hebrew Scripture. It is exciting to see an interest in more technical comparative and interdisciplinary approaches to reading between the Old and New Testaments. Christianity will certainly benefit from more precise understanding about the relationship between literature, its author, and their philosophical environments. Another paper along these lines was delivered by Brent Strawn. He explored Bonhoffer’s use of the imprecatory Psalms as a means of understanding why God forsook Christ to death.

Teaching Religion

There were a number fo papers given on approaches to teaching undergraduate students about religion and the Bible. Areas of interest included the use of technology to encourage students to develop a personal record of learning and interests online in the form of an e-portfolio. There were a number of sessions on creative ways to teach concepts of language and literary structure of religious texts. Brian LePort delivered a paper explaining how he creates an archaeological experience for his students.

Gender & Sex in the Bible

I heard a number of interesting papers delivered in a variety of sections with interest toward developing different approaches to reading biblical text. One session focused on the misalignment of gender stereotypes and sexual orientation. This is part of a longer ongoing effort to understand how gender is perceived and shaped through modern culture an how that perception shapes our reading of ancient texts. Another session looked at the roles of men and women in the Hebrew Bible, for example a paper by David Firth revealed an ethical value for identifying women as a source of wisdom in the revolt narratives in 2 Samuel. The topic of how gender is defined and perceived in biblical texts is important for challenging assumptions about ancient texts that might distract readers from the transmission of true values in the biblical text. often times, modern readings get caught up in arguing the merits of gender, sex, and hierarchy instead of understanding what the text is trying to convey.

Video Games & Theology

There were a number of papers given to explore theological themes in video games. This is a special interest of mine, since I am an avid video gamer and my family plays video games together. There is so much to go into on this topic. I was excited to discover the interest and desire of so many scholars to look at the implications of religious themes in games, the religious activity of gaming, and other related aspects. I will be exploring this in future blogs. A section on religion and gaming has inspired me to design a course, which I will hopefully teach this fall 2021, entitled Sacred Space in Digital Games.

Science & Theology

Another area that has become recently very interesting to me is the interdisciplinary approaches to religion and science. There was a large panel introduction the T&T Clark Handbook for Christian Theology and the Modern Sciences in which several aspects of science and theory were discussed. I am on a waiting list at the University to access this book when it is processed. I am also working on some preliminary research in the area of evolutionary biology and biblical ethics. I was very intrigued by the inclusion of this topic and look forward to more interdisciplinary approaches to biblical studies in the future.

Myth and the Bible

I spent the final days of the conference in session exploring myth and myth theory and its connections to biblical texts. This is an area I worked on in my dissertation research. My particular area of exploration was in comparative literary readings of Ugaritic mythological texts and a mythological text in the Hebrew Bible, Psalm 82. I am currently working on a paper proposing how interliterary readings of ancient texts can explore ethical concerns of ancient communities. This provides insight for how we might understand Hebrew Bible ethics. More to come.

I am looking forward to engaging in next year’s SBLAAR sessions, particularly in the Psalms, where there is expected connections with ecology and feminist sessions. I am also looking forward to continued connections with theology in video games. I have begun thinking about religious themes in a video game that my family has been playing during the 2020 lockdown—Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I am also interested in furthering my engagement with science and theology, especially in areas of artificial intelligence, evolution, game theory, and morality.

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