Report from the American Academy of Religion, Part 4.

Continuing yesterday’s post on the American Academy of Religion, Pacific Northwest Region, here I detail some more of the talks I attended.

3.  New Testament, Interreligious Engagement

The first talk from this session was given by Th.M. student Steven Marquardt, who examined the use of ἐκκλησια (church, assembly) in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 in the context of Pauline authorship.  He argued that the plural use of the noun here marks this verse off as non-Pauline in origin.  As he notes, Paul uses the plural, ἐκκλησιαιto denote multiple churches in the same region, which does not match this particular usage.

Of course, arguments about authorship are always dicey, particularly when based on the usage of one word in two verses.  Paul could have been inconsistent in his usage of the term.  His letters were not collections of systematic theology, but particular epistles to particular groups responding to particular situations.  The level of certainty of any argument like this is low.  But even though I wasn’t convinced by his argument, I enjoyed listening to Marquardt’s talk and getting a sense of how a biblical scholar approaches these issues.

Another talk from this session that interested me was Nijay Gupta‘s “Covenantal Pistism: Faith and Human Agency in Galatians.”  Gupta applied the New Perspective on Paul to his use of the word πιστις, looking at it especially in the context of Galatians.  He argued that πιστις did not mean “faith apart from works,” as if Paul opposes faith with works.  Instead, Paul uses πιστις to refer to “trusting faith,” faith which both believes and obeys (works).  Paul’s radical move was not arguing that one is justified by faith, but instead arguing that one can be justified by faith through Christ without Torah.  Both Paul and his opponents saw believers as justified through πιστις, but Paul separated πιστις from Torah.  I didn’t know much about Pauline scholarship before Gupta’s talk, so it was illuminating for me.  I like how careful he was in examining πιστις in various sources — Second Temple Jewish sources, Septuagint, Josephus, etc. — to get a better grasp on how Paul used it.

Since I am headed toward biblical studies in graduate school, I really enjoyed going to some talks in that area and getting a taste of the kind of work going on.  I even thought of a prospective topic to research and present at next year’s SBL.

4.  Asian and Comparative Studies

Just like at the AAR-Western Region, I was lucky enough that my talk really paralleled another talk in my panel.  The first speaker in my session, Cristina Atanasiu, an MA student in Buddhist art at the University of Calgary, presented on “The Young Prince Seated Under the Jambu Tree: Avatars of the Early Bodhisattva Image.”  She examined a particular type of Gandharan image in the context of early Mahayana sutras and Kushan material evidence, arguing that this image embodies the way in which Gandharan Buddhism supported the Kushan dynasty, since the Kushana rulers were depicted as honorary bodhisattvas.  The connections between royal patronage and art played greatly in my talk as well.  I even skipped some of my background/context material because Atanasiu covered it!

My talk was on “When Herakles Went to India: The Transformation of a Greco-Roman Hero-God in Buddhist Art.”  It went well, and I got some great feedback.  One audience member, a Buddhist studies scholar, said that I pointed out some things she had never noticed before.  If you’re curious about my talk, I’ve posted my slideshow.

Overall a good weekend.  I left energized, already planning presentations for next year’s regional AAR and SBL as an MA student.

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