Quick summary of the pieces I took away from today:

Davina Lopez and Todd Penner gave a joint presentation. They talked about the function of Roman art and warned that it creates the Roman Empire as much as it depicts it. The key piece I took away was the danger of taking past anti-semitic readings and just switching Jews out and Romans in--keeping our same attitudes and prejudices. This too easily allows the interpreter, with his/her projects, to disappear.

Hans Leander talked about the use of the codex, interpreting the opening lines of Mark as an appeal to an authority now preserved in the writing of a codex.

James McLaren mentioned that the Jews provided a safer foil for the gospel writers than did Rome--after all, by the time of the writings, the Jews had been defeated by Rome.

The John, Jesus, and History group had four presenters with Karen King as respondent. She suggested that we need to Mind the Gap between when we wish we knew and what we do know, and be honest about the purposes for which we construct bridges over the gap. She also called for clarity in regards to what we regard as historical and what would have been considered historical in the first century.

It occurs to me that on a website called "Making the Academic Practical" I have not done much of that. From today, I would suggest three practical points:

  • When we read the Bible, who do we construct as the 'bad guys' and who are the 'good guys'? And--once we figure that out--why? Might the reason be located more in our own lives than in the text?

  • Along the same lines--who are our 'bad guys' today, and who are the 'good guys'? And why? Do we choose our bad guys because they can't fight back, or won't hurt us if they do?

  • And finally, we have to constantly remember that there is a lot we don't know about life in the first century. We use our imagination to fill in the gaps--and that's fine--but we need to recognize that's what we are doing and listen to others who fill in the gaps differently.