Years in the making, with a stellar lineup of contributors, a 700-page Festschrift was recently presented to Dr. Michael Holmes at SBL in Atlanta.
A little background: SBL—or Society of Biblical Literature—is the largest society of biblical scholars in the world. Nearly 10,000 people converge on a North American city every November, to meet for scholarly debate, lectures, and to see new books that scores of publishers bring to the conference. (Many of these folks are also or only members of the AAR—the American Academy of Religion, which is much broader in its compass.) The conference takes place every year over an extended weekend (Saturday through Tuesday) just before Thanksgiving. Last year the annual meeting occurred in San Diego, spread out over several hotels (as always). This year it was in Atlanta, next year in San Antonio, in 2017 in Boston. Hundreds of papers are read to small groups of scholars in parallel sessions on a variety of topics. These range from covering virtually every book of the Bible, to Jewish backgrounds, Greco-Roman backgrounds, hermeneutical methods, linguistics, grammar, textual criticism, historical-critical studies, and just about every imaginable approach to the Bible (and many unimaginable approaches!). The program is hundreds of pages long, and finding two or three sessions that one is interested in attending that take place at the same time (a common occurrence) makes the conference both tantalizing and frustrating.
Scores of publishers display thousands of books in an area that seems to be about half the size of a football field. One simply can’t go through the book area in the four days of the conference with any depth of examination. The publishers sell the books at a steep discount (as much as 50% off), which means that the annual SBL conference is the time and place for many professors, students, and pastors to add significantly to their libraries. Christmas comes early for Christian bibliophiles! For my interests, I focus on the publishing houses that regularly offer high-quality works, including New Testament commentaries, textual criticism, canon criticism, Greek grammar, linguistics, hermeneutics, backgrounds, biblical theology, historical studies, Coptic, patristics, and church history. Some of the more academic publishers, which unfortunately do not typically offer big discounts, include E. J. Brill (Holland), Peter Lang (Switzerland), Walter de Gruyter (Germany), and Gorgias (New Jersey).
Monday afternoon, November 23, had a session that was not in the program. It was by invitation only, just for the contributors to a Festschrift for Michael Holmes of Bethel University and Seminary. (A Festschrift is a book written by many contributors to honor a scholar, usually on the occasion of his or her 65th birthday, retirement, or some other notable point in the scholar’s life.) Mike was also escorted to the meeting by his long-time friend, Bart Ehrman, although Mike was completely unaware of what was behind the closed doors of Hilton Room 407. A representative from Brill (which published the Festschrift) barely made it to the room with a copy of the volume before Ehrman and Holmes showed up. She literally ran to the room, having been held up at her booth by Mike who was drooling over the recent tomes. Unbeknownst to him, one of those volumes was his own Festschrift!
We all yelled ‘Surprise!’ as he walked in. He admitted total surprise and that he was ‘almost speechless.’ Below is a photo of three of the people present. See if you can tell who is who.
Holmes Reception SBL 2015
The book—Studies on the Text of the New Testament and Early Christianity: Essays in Honour of Michael W. Holmes—was edited by Daniel M. Gurtner (Bethel), Juan Hernández Jr. (Bethel), and Paul Foster (Edinburgh). The twofold theme of textual criticism and patristic studies reflects Dr. Holmes’s twin interests. There are 26 chapters (16 on textual criticism, 10 on patristic studies) by 30 authors. The authors include Amy Anderson, J. K. Elliott, Eldon Epp, Paul Foster, Dan Gurtner, Paul Hartog, Peter Head, Juan Hernández, Charles Hill, Hugh Houghton, Larry Hurtado, Clayton Jefford, Dirk Jongkind, Christina Kreinecker, Harry Maier, Bruce Morrill, Rod Mullen, Tobias Nicklas, J. C. Paget, David Parker, Wilhelm Pratscher, Jean-François Racine, James Royse, Ulrich Schmid, Holger Strutwolf, Christopher Tucket, Joseph Verheyden, Klaus Wachtel, Dan Wallace, and Tommy Wasserman.
I do not yet know the price of the volume, but I am certain it will be in the triple digits (virtually all of Brill’s books are!). I’ll update this blog when the book appears on Amazon.