Well, I didn't find any good bbq in downtown Atlanta (though I can't say that I tried very hard). I ran into a lot of old friends, though, which was nice.
The only program unit sessions that I went to were the three sessions of the Disability Studies and Healthcare in the Bible and Near East unit. There were some very fine papers presented in this session and I took a lot of notes, trying to nail down as many references as possible. The work being done in this unit is really innovative and interesting. It relates to many other areas of biblical scholarship. I can only see interest growing in the topics addressed by this group in coming years.
I think that an area that needs more attention has to do with intellectual disability and the Bible. I'm not sure how to get at this, though, because the category is so foreign to the biblical writers. Lots to think about....
Unfortunately, all the other program unit sessions that I wanted to go to (and there were several) were at the same time as the disability studies sessions, or they were on Monday or Tuesday (and I left Monday at lunchtime).
On Friday night of the conference I had the opportunity to hear N. T. Wright give a lecture called "The Kingdom and the Cross." It was typical N. T. Wright: eloquent, theologically interesting, and thought provoking. Yet the highlight of the evening, in my opinion, was the respondent, Michael Bird of Crossway College (Australia). Bird's response was not only pointed and well informed, but engaging, humorous, and well delivered. Though relatively young, Bird is certainly making a name for himself in the field.
On Sunday night, the Association of Theological Schools honored Dr. Kathleen O'Connor of Columbia Theological Seminary for her work in theological education. O'Connor gave an outstanding address on the vocation of the theological educator and the need to listen to voices speaking from a variety of contexts as we engage the Bible in the classroom.
Every time I attend SBL I'm more keenly aware of how much I have to learn. Then again, I suppose that's at least part of the point. Complacency is the enemy of good scholarship.