The Secretary of the Chicago Society for Biblical Research has been after me for a long time, to read a paper at one of the meetings we hold (meetings that I hardly ever have time to go to, so why I should be reading a paper at one escapes me). The papers I remember typically concern Chicago-school sorts of interpretive questions — detailed social and litarary analyses of texts, good stuff — so when he emailed me a few weeks ago, I said that there’s really nothing I’m working on now that would answer. “Well, what are you working on?”
At this point, most of my readers would have had the common sense to cough, or change the subject, or lose his email. I, however, am simple enough that I just told him what was on my present work agenda (kneading some of the ideas from my last year of lectures and papers into a preface for the Fortress Press book) — not at all the usual run of CSBR fare, more broadly hermeneutical. “We can take a hermeneutics paper,” he said. “Plus, it would be really rough; it’s work in progress,” I apologized. “We assume that all these papers are work in progress,” he assured me, and I had no polite way out.
So a week from Saturday, I’ll be presenting a paper on the legitimacy of academic biblical interpretation, a sort of mirror-image consideration of the questions concerning theological interpretation that I’ve been chewing on for the past year. Few in the audience will have heard my previous talks, so I can reuse some of that material, and I’ll bend it around to confront a different set of questions, but I still have to come up with a formal academic paper for the scholars of one of the world’s most theologically-sophisticated cities, in ten days.
More later. Rolls eyes, smacks forehead, again.