In November, I had the opportunity to attend and present papers at two back-to-back conferences in Denver, Colorado: The Evangelical Theological Society (ETS), and the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL). Fellow Vanguard colleagues Gary Tyra, Marc Groenbech-Dam, and Rodolfo Estrada also presented papers. At ETS, I presented a paper called “Ezekiel’s Two Sticks and Eschatological Violence: An Intertextual Reading of Ezekiel 36-39 and Revelation 19-20,” in which I presented some of my research from my Ph.D. thesis. I also served as chair for a fascinating session on Psalms and Hebrew Poetry.
I was grateful for the opportunity to meet several evangelical scholar colleagues—with whom I have worked remotely—in person for the first time. As a result of meeting with publishers regarding a forthcoming book proposal, I received a contract from Baker Academic to write a book on a biblical theology of reconciliation in Israel/Palestine. One of the highlights of ETS for me was attending the ETS Women’s reception, where 125 women scholars working on biblical studies and theology gathered. (While this may seem like a small number out of about 1,000 conference attendees, this is actually a large number for this conference. Historically, the number of women scholars at ETS has been smaller due to theological beliefs among some ETS members regarding restrictions on the roles of women in ministry and leadership). It was encouraging to meet so many women doing such powerful work for the kingdom, pastoring and teaching biblical studies and theology in seminaries and universities across the globe.
My paper for the second conference (SBL), “The Role of Violence in the Restoration of Israel,” was at an Institute for Biblical Research meeting, in an interest group focused on Scripture, Hermeneutics, and the Middle East: https://www.ibr-bbr.org/annual-meeting/research-groups/scripture-hermeneutics-and-the-middle-east-3. I presented a paper called in which I argue that the prophetic restoration of Israel envisioned by the Old Testament prophets is nonviolent and includes Israel dwelling in the land with the nations in peace and justice. I presented alongside New Testament scholar David Crump, with Palestinian scholar Mitri Raheb and Old Testament scholar Darrell Bock as respondents. The two-hour session was lively and intense, to say the least! While our theological differences on Israel in the biblical text and today were apparent, as the conversation progressed, we realized that we shared the same heart for unity in the body of Christ and peace and justice for all peoples living in the Holy Land today. One person who attended the session shared afterward that it was powerful to see such an intense topic discussed with civility and grace. I was privileged to be part of the conversation among such esteemed colleagues. Our hope is that while we disagree, we can still model the type of love, reconciliation with unity that we endeavor to work toward in Israel/Palestine and among the body of Christ in the U.S.
Other highlights included dinner with Pentecostal biblical scholar friends who I know from Society for Pentecostal Studies and breakfast with my dear friend, Messianic Jewish scholar Dr. Jen Rosner who continues to do such important work in conversations on Judaism and Christianity. You can learn more about her work here: https://www.jenrosner.com/
Another serendipitous conversation with my Old Testament scholar friend Beth Stovell turned into a bit of an adventure, as we were walking to the conference convention center (directions courtesy of Siri/Apple maps), and yet somehow, we walked 20 minutes in the wrong direction! We laughed as we discovered that we are both equally directionally challenged while wandering in the frigid Denver wilderness (finally we called an Uber). While I felt terrible that Beth was late to a session for which she was a panelist, we both sensed God’s grace in the “ministry of interruptions,” as we had the unexpected gift of deeper conversation and more time together.
I returned from the conferences exhausted and yet encouraged by connecting with and learning from scholars, ministers, friends, and brothers and sisters in Christ. As the saying goes in education, “The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.” I learned a lot more about lots of things I don’t know! I have more ideas to chew on and more research to do. It is humbling and awe-inspiring to be a lifelong learner in these academic spaces where the study of Scripture collides with the academy, and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to represent Vanguard at the ETS and SBL 2022 conferences.