SBL 2022: Recommendations for newcomers and my conference program

I’m excited about this SBL, as I haven’t been there for a few years. Below are where and what I present and some of the fun things I recommend for students and scholars new to the weird and wild world of SBL/AAR.


Recommendations for new participants

(I did an article in 2019 on SBL and impostor syndrome, check it out)

(1) It’s good to be a fan. You’ll probably spot your favorite scholars coming and going, and you’ll wonder if it’s okay to say hello, take a picture, etc. I think that it’s good. It’s the only time of year when scholars are all together, and most scholars seem to be fine with a quick hello. Don’t force them to have a long conversation. Say hello, maybe take a photo if you like, and move on. A few memories of mine: I spotted Moody Smith in a breakfast. He was online. I jumped up, stood in line with him, and shared my appreciation for his work. Also: one fine evening, I was running from one hotel to another, and who was walking in the opposite direction? Miroslav Volf and Jürgen Moltmann (wow!). A few years ago, John Goodrich and I hosted Ed Sanders for his last public appearance at SBL – talk about a legend. And very nice too.

(2) Plan ahead to connect with people. Use social media to find out who you might know and message/email them to meet up. SBL can get very busy and crazy (and sometimes lonely), I always plan my schedule to see people.

(3) Be curious and make friends. I hate the word “networking”, don’t think of it as a business strategy. Just meeting people, smiling, being nice, making new friends. Don’t be a snob. Don’t be arrogant. Don’t play us against them on who is conservative, liberal, denominational, ex-whatever, etc. It’s ComicCon for Bible nerds, you’re all here as fellow nerds.

(4) If you are presenting for the first time: Keep your article in time (or shorter!), don’t freak out during Q&A, and don’t consider this your professional debut, but a chance to get feedback on your research and share your research. with interested people. In my first conference papers, I was waaaaay too defensive. People told me that, and they were right. My insecurities got the better of me, sometimes they still do. Smile, have a good time. To learn something.

(5) It’s good to rest. I’m talking to myself here. I used to overload my schedule with things to do. Then I was sick and exhausted on Monday or Tuesday. Give yourself time to reflect, stroll through the reading rooms, enjoy a cup of coffee or a glass of beer.

(6) Thank volunteers and hotel/conference staff. Things will go wrong at SBL, it always does. This is not the end of the world. Go out of your way to thank SBL volunteers and site workers. Too many people are rude, you can be nice.

(seven) It’s okay to leave a session between homework, but if you know you’re going to, sit in the back. Not everyone agrees on that, but when I present and a whole bunch of people get up and walk out, it kinda hurts even though I know it’s not a protest! 🙂

(8) Bring snacks and medicine. Conference food is expensive and not very healthy. Bring your favorite snacks to keep you energized and things like Tylenol in case you need it.

(9) Go out of your way to thank presenters, especially students (who are often nervous). As we all know, presenting your research and soliciting feedback can be stressful. After the session, go give the students a little “good job, enjoyed your paper!” A little word goes a long way.

(ten) Plan your book spending budget in advance and leave some room for impulse. There is nothing more dangerous than walking through the exhibition of books without a budget. Too many good books and bargains. Check book catalogs ahead of time to decide what you really need and want. But also leave $20 for an impulse buy. Sometimes there are big discounts on the last day (Tuesday), but I don’t stay until Tuesday most years.


Where I will be at SBL

friday november 18

3:30-5:30 p.m.: IBR Pauline Theology Seminar (jointly with Enoch Seminar)

We have planned a multi-year study on Paul and Judaism. This year, we are delighted to welcome Gabriele Boccaccini, Lynn Cohick and Doug Campbell. It’s going to be awesome!

7-9 p.m.: IBR Annual Conference

This is a large ‘big conference’ event with 500-800 people attending on a regular basis. David deSilva will speak on “Sanctification, the Spirit and Salvation,” with responses from Tim Gombis and Erin Heim. Reception to follow with coffee and desserts (and a free book for IBR members).

Saturday November 19

1:00 p.m.-3:30 p.m.: Scripture and Paul Seminar

I was invited to give a talk on the Jewish Scriptures and 1 Thessalonians. My article is called “Called to Consecration: Jewish Holiness, Roman Piety, and Moral Discourse in 1 Thessalonians.” The other presenters are Jeff Weima and Douglas Farrow. We are going full-geek on 1 Thess. To like.

7pm-8pm Presidential SBL Address

SBL Vice President Musa Dube will introduce SBL President Adele Yarbro Collins, and the latter will give a presentation on “Ethics in Paul and Paul in Ethics”.

Sunday November 20

9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.: Coffee Hour for students of the Biblical Research Institute

I was invited to speak to students about my tips for preparing well for the future as scholars and writers. I’m told there will be free books on offer, please stop by! (Or it’ll just be Kevin, Melissa and me)

8-10 p.m.: Durham University Reception

I always look forward to meeting friends at the reception in Durham. If you are considering PhD programs, head to reception and chat with some professors, students and graduates. I had a wonderful experience in Durham, I am happy to chat with future students, even though I graduated over ten years ago!

monday november 21

1:00-3:30 p.m.: Session Paul and Politics

I present on “”I Am Plancia Magna”: Rethinking Roman Patriarchy, Women, and Early Christianity.” This is advanced research that I am doing on the Roman social economy. The other presenters are Edward Pillar, Philip Erwin, Linda Joelsson and BG White.

You may notice that I don’t go to many sessions. #1: I burn out pretty quickly, #2, I schedule a lot of meetings to catch up with friends, talk to editors, and have time-consuming events and board meetings. I try to go to 1 or 2 sessions a day, but honestly, I’m more excited to browse the book exhibit and meet old friends and make new ones.


About Jean R. Manzer

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