The Central States Regional SBL meeting was enjoyable. It was my first time at this particular regional event which has been in St. Louis each year since I've been in Missouri.
This event is smaller than the other regional meetings I have experience with in the Southwest, but there were still sufficient slots for the just-over 100 attendees to present and hear papers. The book exhibit is about as small as you could imagine. About 5 presses must have sent in a box of sample books, though Abingdon was present with an actual rep and larger display.
It appears that Central States basically has three sections—HB, NT, and ASOR—though they were also trying to maintain a mini-section on Pedagogy. The presentations I attended were the expected wide range of rich diversity, including moments of understandable inexperience, occasions of insightful brilliance, along with the occasional "Huh?". These regional meetings are indeed a great place for folks to cut their teeth on an academic venue, and the "old guard" who seem to run the meetings do have a good priority for encouraging student participation, even undergraduate. Some of the actual presentations were refreshing and/or notable.
David May of Central Baptist Theological Seminary surveyed "Restoration Coins" from the Roman empire that offer a good reminder to move beyond textual evidence (such as numismatics) when seeking social context for a culturally bound book like Revelation. Mark Nanos, whom I met for the first time and who lives about 15 minutes away from me as it turns out, made a strong argument that the interpretation of πώρωσις in Romans 11:25 is inappropriately influenced by the πώρωσις τῆς καρδίας found in later texts in Mark and Ephesians. The plenary address from Dr. Jodi Magness, the Early Judaism professor at University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill surveyed the issues surrounding the James Ossuary and the Talpiyot tomb. She is very articulate and presented the state of the affair well. One business session facilitated discussions about an issue facing all SBL regional clusters. Due to IRS regulations, the regions are going to have to become separate legal entities. Without a doubt, if these new structures do not find a way to have some sort of "Sponsored by the Society of Biblical Literature" branding somewhere, they will decline in interest.
The most enjoyable aspect of the time was the occasion to get [better] acquainted with scholars in Missouri and nearby. In addition to David May and Mark Nanos, I further enjoyed getting to know Daryl Jefferies of Central Methodist University and Mark Givens of Missouri State University. In some instances, it was an exercise in learning about regional institutions that I had been ignorant of their existence previously. I will look forward to next year.