Over the last week or two I’ve been very busy doing the things I get paid to do (ie being a university chaplain) and thinking about a paper for the upcoming postgraduate conference here at UNE. I’ve also been reading Birger Pearson’s new book Ancient Gnosticism: Traditions and Literature (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007).
The chaplaincy has taken up so much time because we had a seminar yesterday on God and climate change and it took quite a lot of time to organise. I spent the first half of the week waking up in the middle of the night worrying that we wouldn’t get anyone arrive and then, after I’d done three radio interviews, the second half of the week waking up worrying that we’d get too many for the venues I’d booked. As it turned out, we got nice numbers and good discussion and lots of positive feedback.
The postgraduate conference is something of a challenge. Our university has recently been reorganised to streamline admin so we now have only two faculties and I am enrolled in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (the other is The Professions). I imagine that organising the papers being offered by postgrad students (that’s grad students if you come from the US) for that kind of range of disciplines is going to be something of a nightmare. There is a theme: “Global Directions • Regional Futures • Tomorrow’s Leaders”, but we don’t have to address it, which is just as well. I’m not sure how I could squeeze a paper on my area to fit this theme!
I’ve decided, in the interests of being accessible to as wide an audience as possible, to look at some of the psychological material on factors affecting the accuracy of eyewitness testimony and see what that might say to biblical scholars about the usefulness of being able to identify parts of the gospels as eyewitness testimony. (See my comments on Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses.) I submitted the abstract earlier in the week and will now have to wait and see if it is accepted. In the meantime, I have a small stack of journal articles and a few suggestions from one of the Psychologists on staff about classic works that I need to read to get me going.
I’m about a third of the way through Pearson’s book and am finding it the most readable introduction to Gnosticism I’ve embarked on. Some of this may be due to the fact that I’m somewhat more interested in the topic than I was two years ago when I was reading to get some background for my thesis and some to the fact that this is the first book I’ve read that wasn’t a translation from another language, but so far I think that it’s money well spent. I’ll write a review once I’ve finished it.