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SBL in Berlin

Birgit Hallmann




This year, the International Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature was held at the Humboldt University in Berlin, in the second week of August. I was able to attend and to take part in the Catholic Epistles section of the meeting, which focused on the reception history of the Epistle of James in the Reformation. I was able to read a paper I had written during my research semester last year, on "The Second Battle of James," exploring debates concerning James in the middle of the sixteenth century. These Reformation debates help explain why the Epistle of James has often been dismissed or disregarded in Protestant circles (you have no doubt heard Luther's notorious description of James as a "strawy epistle"/“stråwin Epistel”!); and sixteenth-century exegetes raised questions which still occupy commentators on James: who was James? Was he an apostle--and, if so, why doesn't he identify himself as such? Which audience did James have in view? At the same time, Protestant exegetes (Luther included) cited and valued the Epistle of James; Calvin, for example, encouraged Christians to read and cherish this letter, holding it to be of benefit to all areas of the Christian life.

Scott Caulley, former director of the Institute, now Associate Professor at Kentucky Christian University, also read a paper (on the priesthood of all believers) in I Peter in the same Catholic Epistles session; it was great to see him again.