Recently it was my privilege to present a short paper at the Pacific Coast regional meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature, which took place not far from Disneyland, at the campus of Hope International University. I was exceedingly nervous, and felt underprepared in a room filled with researchers, professional educators, and other intensely-interested specialists.
Most of all I was worried about my presentation, but remarkably, it went well—not to say there was no room for improvement (there certainly was). But if felt like the kind of experience I would like to repeat.
[Note for next time: powerpoint + handout = crushing it
BUT a decent paper and a good attitude will get it done].
The star of the show was Tammi J. Schneider from Claremont Graduate University. She was the sole presenter at the general session (which was catered!). In her presentation Looking through the Veil, How Do the Men Shape Up? Men in the Book of Genesis, Dr. Schneider discussed the biblical characters of Jacob and Laban in the Old Testament using tools she had previously sharpened in her body of feminist critique, and offered a strong argument that Leah—and not Rebecca—was the real love of Jacob’s life.
There were twenty speakers or so in total, presenting their research under titles like Cult and Warfare: The Role of the Priesthood in 1QM (Mike DeVries), The Pauline Concept of Reconciliation in Dialogue with Otfriend Hofius (S. Michael Ahn), In the Image of Moses, in the Image of Christ: Pauline Hermeneutics in 2 Corinthians 3 (Margaryta Teslina), and How Much Did Paul Know About the Historical Jesus and How and When Did He Know It? (S. Scott Bartchy). I found Dr. Bartchy’s inquiry into the lines of connection between the historical Jesus, the first Christians, and the historical Paul to be very intriguing, and I especially look forward to seeing that work develop.
As for me, I presented The Almighty Dollar: Money, Power, and the Number of the Beast. I spoke to an audience of about thirty-five. I had no handout or Powerpoint, but I did my best to be dynamic like Dad taught me—eye contact, clear words, natural movement, engaged tone—and even made one or two successful jokes (at least the jokes felt successful, but they could have been humoring me).
In my presentation I rejected the Nero theory, and drew attention to the obvious connection between 666 in the New Testament and the large horde of treasure recorded in the Old Testament as 666 talents of gold (2 Chron 9.13, 1 Kings 10.14). I argued that the 666 oracle in Revelation 13.16-18 represents a sort of “wisdom” challenge, in which the hermeneutical preferences and orientation of the audience or reader are tested, and that the true or authentic solution to the puzzle lies in the exegetical logic of the early church, which utilized the Old Testament in order to validate the New.
I further suggested that—in light of the monetary significance of 666 as a symbol of false worship—it is possible to receive the 666 oracle as a prophetic condemnation of false prosperity preachers that place the acquisition of wealth and power at the center of religious life, as well as political leaders and ideologies that place profits over people.
Afterwards, several people expressed an interest in a complimentary copy of my short commentary on John’s Revelation, The Apocalyptic Gospel: Mystery, Revelation, and Common Sense, which were available to those in immediate attendance.