Welcome to HEL: ISBL/EABS 2018 Recap

Words and pictures by Tavis Bohlinger

This year’s joint meeting of the International Society of Biblical Literature (ISBL) and the European Association of Biblical Studies (EABS) was held in Helsinki during the last few days of July and into August. Strange to say, the weather was almost unbearably hot. This is Finland, mind you, not Spain. Finland is the country of reindeers and Father Christmas. The hottest thing in Finland is usually their famous saunas. The airport signs even capitalized on the heat wave (hence the title of this article).

And yet, faithful biblical scholars that we are, many of us persisted in wearing the ‘uniform’: clothing that should be reserved for cool autumn days when the leaves turn a splendid brown and yellow from loss of chlorophyll, not because all the water in them has been burned away. But we had to look like scholars; confound the heat!

In spite of sweat stains and glistening foreheads, the conference was a massive success. This was the result not only of high numbers of scholars in attendance, which meant a high number of good papers being presented, but also thanks to the kind hospitality of the University of Helsinki. Indeed, there was air conditioning in at least one room, the beautiful cafe where some of the “Conversations” took place (see pics below).

In the photo essay that follows, I invite you to participate (perhaps for the second time) in the conference, to taste the pure joy of hearing the results of a young scholar’s hard-won effort at expressing new ideas, to experience the awe of hearing a famous scholar articulate complicated ideas in everyday language, to wander the halls of the University of Helsinki and to enter the glorious Rock Church for a spectacular musical performance (yes, that happened).

And if you are bold, I challenge you to fully immerse yourself in the experience by first entering a hot shower fully clothed with your laptop in hand. Only then will you know what it was truly like to be in Helsinki for ISBL/EABS 2018.*


The University of Helsinki logo is a bold symbol in a city of even more impressive architecture.
Helpful signage directed attendees through the University.
Chiaen Liu (McMaster Divinity College) delivers a paper entitled, “Holy and Catholic Church: A Study of Paul’s Purity Language.”
Rodney Duke (Appalachian State University) presents “A Critique of Substitutionary Atonement.”
Sessions were well attended, despite the lack of air conditioning.
Mohr Siebeck’s booth was typically uniform and aesthetically appealing.
The Logos booth was busy as usual, offering attractive conference-only discounts and friendly conversation.
The front steps of the venue were always buzzing with conversation, and attendees were clearly visible in town thanks to the colorful green lanyards everybody wore.
Johannes Vorster (University of South Africa) on “Rhetoric on the intersection of HIV/AIDS and Biblical Discourse.”
Alesja Lavrinovica speaks on “1 Cor 14:33b without vv34-5: Internal Evidence and its Six Possibilities.”
David Clines (University of Sheffield) holds court over a session devoted to his newly revised “Dictionary of Classical Hebrew.”
Göran Eidevall (Uppsala University) discusses Cline’s new dictionary with another attendee.
A highlight of the conference was an extended “Conversation” between Paula Fredricksen (Hebrew University of Jerusalem) and Adele Reinhartz (University of Ottawa
The rapport between the two was exceptional, as they have been friends for many years.
Paula and Adele fielded questions after their talk, mostly concerning Early Judaism and Paul.
Paula Fredrickson’s views on Paul, whether live or in book form, are as stimulating as they are controversial.
Yes, there were wine receptions. Join us next year in Warsaw, Poland where more wine will surely be flowing.
Everybody’s favourite part of any biblical conference is the publisher display center. Helsinki did not disappoint.

Panayotis Coutsoumpos (Universidad de Montemorelos) speaks on “Paul, Adiafora, and the Greco-Roman Context.”
Maya Prodanova (Humbolt-Universitaät zu Berlin) gives a paper entitled “Christians on the Western Black Sea Coast according to the Epigraphic Evidence from Moesia Secunda and Haemimontus.”
During the 30-min breaks between seminars, the publisher’s hall was full of activity.
Although quite humid, the halls of the University were always full of scholars talking shop.
Samuel Tedder (Finnish School of Theology) speaks on “Re-appropriating Scripture for Cultural Transformation: Comparing the Allegorical Practices of Philo and Paul.”
Shaily Shashikant Patel (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University) delivers a paper called “Marginal or Mainstream? Magic in the Acts of the Apostles.”
John Ritzema (King’s College London) delivers a paper titled, “Comparison and the ‘Semiotics of Epiphany’: Isaiah 6 and the Homeric Hymn to Demeter.”
T. M. Lemos (University of Western Ontario) speak on “Dehumanization and Mass Killing in the War Scroll, ּḤērem Texts, and Neo-Assyrian Sources Compared.”
Mateusz Krawczyk (Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University in Warsaw) speaks on “Reproaching for Transgressions of the Law and Boasting in God: The Wisdom of Hypertextuality.”
A free concert was organized by the Center of Excellence Changes in Sacred Texts and Traditions in the magnificent Rock Church.
Leena Tuomisto-Saarikoski and Laura Kajander delivered an unforgettable performance.
Mauri Saarikoski plays a variation of one of Bach’s sonatas.
The copper roof at the Rock Church.

Do make plans now to attend next year’s EABS in Poland, and ISBL in India, and keep alert for upcoming calls for papers from both.


*The Editor of the Logos Academic Blog accepts no responsibility for damages caused to the clothing or computers of those following this suggestion. But if you do it, please send us pictures. 

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Written by
Tavis Bohlinger

Dr. Tavis Bohlinger is Editor-in-Chief of the Logos Academic Blog and Creative Director at Reformation Heritage Books. He holds a PhD from Durham University and writes across multiple genres, including academia, poetry, and screenwriting. He lives in Grand Rapids with his wife and three children.

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Written by Tavis Bohlinger
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