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Interview Professor Martinus C. de Boer Secretary of SNTS 204-2014

Interview Professor Martinus C. de Boer
Secretary of SNTS 204-2014

1. How was SNTS established 69 years ago?

SNTS was actually founded in 1938, in Birmingham, England. The idea came from Prof. Johannes de Zwaan of Leiden, The Netherlands. The first general meeting was scheduled for 20-22 September 1939 in Oxford but World War II intervened. The first general meeting then took place in 1947 in Oxford. The Society has met every year since then, with two general meetings taking place in 1952. For that reason, the general meeting in Szeged is the 69th rather than the 68th!

2. What was the original purpose of setting up this organisation? What are the aims and tasks of our times?

The Society has sought and still seeks to promote rigorous, academic study of the New Testament internationally. It seeks to provide a forum for New Testament scholars from all over the world. Most members have come from Western Europe and North America. In recent years, the Society has sought to increase the membership from other parts of the world: Central and Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia, and Latin America. It now has special liaison committees to foster New Testament scholarship in these parts of the world.

3. Several Christian denominations’ universities are represented at SNTS these days. How is SNTS is linked to Catholic Church?

The Society is not only international but also inter-confessional. It has no special link to any church or faith community. All varieties of Christianity are represented among our members; there are also members who belong to other faith communities (e.g., Judaism) or who belong to no faith community.

4. Who can join your organization? What are the conditions of obtaining membership?

Membership is by nomination and election only. Candidates for membership must have a doctoral degree in New Testament Studies or a related field, and they must have published two scholarly books (at least one of which must be in English, French, or German) or a substantial number of scholarly articles in leading journals of the field.

5. How does SNTS help scientific work of member scholars and scientific institutions?

A brief note on the word „scientific”: In English, „scientific” is a word used almost exclusively in connection with the exact or natural sciences (physics, chemistry, botany, etc.). For the humanities (Geisteswissenschaffen) the word normally used is „scholarly” or „academic”. As biblical scholars and theologians, SNTS members are scholars (not „scientists”) and do scholarly or academic work. SNTS helps these scholars by providing a public forum for scholarly discourse at institutions of higher learning (universities and seminaries). The Society also publishes its own journal with scholarly articles that have been subjected to anonymous peer review. There is also a monograph series sponsored by the Society.

6. Will you please mention a few examples for results of SNTS-members’ cooperation?

The general meetings are themselves the primary examples of co-operation. In additions to the presidential address, the four invited main papers (in English, German or French), and the 15-18 offered short papers, where scholarly research is shared, discussed and critically evaluated, there are also between 15 and 18 seminars. The seminars are organized by members; each seminar has its own research topic; and each seminar meets three times at each general meeting. A paper is presented and thoroughly discussed at each session. The papers are usually published either in a leading journal of the field or in a collection edited by the leaders of the seminar.

7. How is SNTS’ worldwide organisation connected to other biblical conferences: European Biblical conference, SBL conference, etc.?

We have no formal connection to any of these other societies but most members of SNTS are also members of EABS or SBL.

8. How did you decide for Hungary and Szeged to be venue of current year’s General Meeting.

We received a formal invitation from Prof. Benyik Gyorgy of Szeged University. SNTS meets only upon invitation from members and their institutions.

9. As secretary of SNTS you’re in touch with 700 scholars New Testament scholars from different countries of several cultures, languages and religions. What differences can you find between their specific characteristics? How does language and culture influence or determine the approach and aspects of academic questions? What problems do these differences induce in the field Bible translation?

We have more than nearly 1000 members at the moment. Your question would take much more than 600 characters to answer. Nevertheless, it can be said that a common dedication to rigorous, academic biblical scholarship in a public forum provides a bridge between different cultures, languages, and religious commitments. Obviously these differences have an impact on the translation of the New Testament into various modern languages.

10. And finally a personal question: Have you already met personally with Hungarian colleagues? Would you tell us about your impressions and experiences, please?

I have met only with Prof. Benyik who is indeed a fine scholar with a deep commitment to biblical scholarship and to international, inter-confessional, and intercultural exchange. We are extremely happy to be meeting in Hungary with its own long tradition of fine biblical scholarship (among both Catholics and Reformed theologians!).
2014.július 23

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