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Errantry: Novak's Journal
...Words to cast/My feelings into sculpted thoughts/To make some wisdom last
Theological Notebook/Personal: Speaking on John to the Jewish Roots Seminar; BSG Returns 
7th-Oct-2006 01:02 am
Accept Unexpected/St. Michael
Well, my presentation at the Seminar on the Jewish Roots of Eastern Christian Mysticism this afternoon turned out to be, by such standards, a fairly rip-roaring success. For a Friday afternoon – at 4:15pm, no less – we had a rather astonishing turnout. The Seminar tends to average about a dozen people a session, with nine or fifteen both being unsurprising. Our biggest blow-out was probably around 30. We had 18 or 20 today, with three of my own undergrads being intrigued enough to jump into the deep end of a campus theological discussion and attend. (They'd be three that I'd suspect: clearly interested in theology or philosophy, and displaying plenty of evidence in class of eager and critical minds.) There was a mix of the grad students and faculty that I'd normally expect, and a few faces that I didn't recognize, which was also unusual.

I read my presentation on the Jewish mystical background to the Prologue of the Gospel of John – an expanded version of my doctoral exam question on the material – with as much verve and life that I could give to it, and then it flowed into a strong give-and-take discussion with the crowd as well as I could hope for. I honestly think that this material on the Jewish background to Christian theology of God, particularly the Jewish mystical material and Jewish Logos theology that pre-dates such Christian efforts, has been perhaps the most revolutionary and illuminating material that I've encountered during my doctoral work. And, in fact, there are so many people doing work here that touches on that material, that I'd hazard a guess and estimate that we might be the strongest institution on the planet for such work. Andrei Orlov and Fr. Bill Kurz, S.J., in particular, really got going in the discussion today, with a variety of occasional input then coming from the rest of the floor, but which seemed to be grabbing the attention of everyone there.

I was asked some sufficiently serious questions by faculty members to reassure me that I was not being handled (entirely, at least) with kid gloves, even though biblical studies is not my field.  In fact, I addressed that at one point during the discussion, on my suspicion that the breakthrough insights we've been achieving with this Jewish-Christian work is going to have to be dealt with by systematicians in some way: that it will affect how we articulate our Trinitarian and Christological theologies today, and that I want to be in on that project.  That provoked some further discussion on the methodological overlap between our areas, and the consequences of the shift in biblical methodologies today, particularly in their moving away from the heritage of Bultmann and that lot.   Exciting!  I am curious, though, to find out how my undergrads made it through the material, whether they were able to keep up with enough of it to enjoy the bulk of it or not. Anyway, I got great feedback from people I trust to criticize me when I need it, so that was a happy way to end the week.

But then! Dan, Mike and I retired to Mike's place to join Donna (and Renée and Zeke) and Amy (and Anna and Owen), and Amy's high school friend Janna who was visiting with her daughter Madison. Outrageously hot chili was consumed and a rapt crowd stared, unbreathing, through the electrifying scenes of the two-hour season premiere of Battlestar Galactica, breaking into rushed, over-loud conversation during each commercial break. Mike wondered plaintively why it was that if television that was this good can be produced, it is so rare that it actually is produced. And the epic continues....
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