By the time you see this I'll be well into my marathon week at ETS, IBR, and SBL. So what are they? All three are professional societies for people who hold a doctorate in Biblical Studies or a related discipline.
ETS stands for Evangelical Theological Society. It is the most narrow group of the three (theologically). Members must believe in the Trinity and in the inerrancy of the Bible. This year ETS is meeting in Milwaukee, Wisconsin from Wednesday to Friday of this week. About 2000 scholars usually attend.
IBR stands for the Institute of Biblical Research. It is an affiliate of the larger SBL. Members of IBR affirm orthodox Christianity, but in a broader sense than ETS. Wheaton has historically had a strong connection with IBR. Many of the officers and members are Wheaton professors. IBR and SBL are being held in downtown Chicago this year (from Friday afternoon to Tuesday noon).
SBL stands for the Society of Biblical Literature. It is the largest group, and its meetings are held concurrently with AAR (American Academy of Religion). SBL members might be Jews, Christians, and even Muslims or atheists who study and teach the Bible in any academic setting (Universities, Community Colleges, etc). Theologically this is a very diverse group. Over 10,000 people are expected to attend SBL and AAR.
I am a student member of all three organizations, and I'm so thankful for a way to reconnect with colleagues, further my education, and stay on top of my field—all in one convenient week each year! This is my fourth year attending, and—from an academic point-of-view—the most important week of the year. Those presenting papers include biblical scholars from around the world whose work has been so helpful to me. This is a wonderful opportunity to meet them in person, ask them questions, and learn from them.
Perhaps the thought of leaving home to go listen to scholars read academic papers from morning to night for 6 straight days doesn't excite you. That makes you normal and me weird. I love it. (Though I admit that by day 6 I have a hard time assimilating much of anything!). These conferences are the best possible opportunity for hearing cutting-edge research in biblical studies, networking with other scholars and with publishers, fellowshipping with like-minded friends, and buying lots of books at deep discounts. It's like a reunion, a series of intensive courses, a research trip, and a shopping spree all rolled into one! This year is extra special, though, because it will be a date with my Dad, too.
My parents are coming to Wheaton for Thanksgiving, and they are arriving early enough so that Dad can join me at SBL on Monday. He'll get to see my world and meet scholars and friends who have influenced me. It takes a brave man to agree to sit through papers on Hebrew linguistics, metaphor theory, ancient Near Eastern Covenants and archaeology. Thanks, Dad!