The intention of the Chicago Society of Biblical Research (CSBR) has been to provide a platform for presenting current academic research in the field of Biblical studies. This concentration has been defined rather broadly over the years, but an academic approach has been held as proper. Within this definition, however, higher-critical, textual, reader-response, reception, sociological, contextual, feminist, comparative and history of religions research have all been welcome. Papers of related interest to the biblical field but not on the Bible proper have also been enjoyed. The membership is appraised of the papers and their abstracts well in advance of the meetings, so interested attendees can come prepared to provide helpful discussion.
The three meetings per year of the society convene at Chicago area seminaries in the Autumn, Winter and Spring. Every conference begins at 2:45 PM and concludes with an evening dinner completed by 7:00. The usual format is to have three papers and a business meeting at each session, but the program is flexible. It is the official policy to have at least one presentation from the Hebrew Scriptures and one from the Christian Testament at each meeting; however, special topical meetings may restrict the offerings to a single section of scripture. Papers are presented by the membership, providing current research ranging from just accepted dissertations given by doctoral students on the verge of joining the profession to farewell reflections by professors emeriti retiring from active studies.
Presenters are given fifty-minute slots for presentation and response. How their time is to be used is determined by each presenter. This allows members to present new theories with time enough to get feedback from scholarly peers, or to provide extensive argumentations or field surveys incapable of being delivered in the 20-30 minute slots often provided at conventions. Since the active membership consists of regional academics who meet with regularity on a professional level, the Society has maintained a quite civil temperament over the years. Discussions following presentations are courteous whether respondents are in agreement or totally unconvinced. This has made the society helpful to the presenter and a pleasant experience for those in attendance.
For many members the research itself takes a back seat to the fellowship of the people who gather for the meetings. Visiting is a standard part of the meetings. Early arriving attendees expect to fill the time before the meeting catching up with their colleagues, a 15 minute break in the program is intended for personal interaction, and while dinner may be consumed by 7:00, conversations usually extend well beyond the meal. Professional and personal activities are kept in currency through these meetings. It has been a good format for incoming scholars and established professors to meet each other and exchange ideas.
Lowell K. Handy