Words and Photos by Tavis Bohlinger
Last Friday morning at 6:45 am I boarded a train in SE London for a 1.5-hour journey to West London, where there lies a quaint, little town called Twickenham. There, at St Mary’s University, I was to meet a somewhat large gathering of biblical scholars attending the British New Testament Conference (BNTC). BNTC is arguably the highlight of most UK-based NT scholars’ summer conference calendars. But it is also well-attended by scholars from outside England, as every year we get a number of people making the trip over from the United States, not to mention Europe and further afield.
While other conferences can boast of impressive locations throughout Europe or exotic local foods and cultural experiences (that’s not an intentional jibe at English food, as we were provided tasty meals throughout the conference), BNTC stands apart for its combination of small size, big names, and exceptional papers. This is the conference that New Testament doctoral students look forward to eagerly every year, because here lifelong relationships are made with one’s peers, and with one’s idols. You might very easily find yourself, without introduction, seated next to Helen Bond at dinner and then chatting over a glass of wine with George van Kooten, and then forgetting everybody else’s name by the next morning.
Not only is the networking opportune, but if you are lucky (and brilliant) enough to get a paper accepted into one of the various sessions, you’ll be presenting your research in front of a highly specialized audience that includes the heavyweights of British biblical scholarship. Imagine presenting a paper in the Paul section, and having John Barclay ask you a question as Eddie Adams and Peter Oakes listen in (with scowls on their faces). Imagine speaking on Jubilees under the discerning gaze of Philip Alexander, as Susan Docherty slowly moves her head side to side, frowning. Or, if that’s too scary, imagine sitting in audience at one of these sessions thanking God that your paper wasn’t selected so that you wouldn’t have to answer any questions from anybody.
In the photo essay that follows, you’re going to get a small taste of what it was like to be at BNTC 2018 without any intimidation. I sadly wasn’t able to capture the entire event, but what is included below is some of the best of the event; at least the Paul seminar. And lest anyone reproach the editor for only attending the Paul session, there is a heavily enforced policy at BNTC that begs attendees, very politely, not to “seminar hop.” So I didn’t. (You can see other sessions by following the official hashtag #bntc2018 at Twitter and Facebook.)
If you missed out on this year’s BNTC, I hope these photographs have placated any residual disappointment you might have, as well as and whetted your appetite for next year’s conference. See you in Liverpool in 2019 and Durham in 2020.