This morning I returned home from San Diego, where I attended the annual meetings for the Evangelical Theological Society and the Society of Biblical Literature. I immensely enjoyed the sunny weather in San Diego (where I lived in 1994–1995 and where Jenni and I honeymooned in 2004), seeing and making new friends, and buying and browsing books!

1. ETS and SBL differ in several ways.

  1. Requirements for full membership: ETS requires “a Th.M. degree or its equivalent” and adherence to its doctrinal basis. SBL requires a Ph.D. Only some members of ETS are members of SBL, i.e., those with Ph.D.s and who focus on the biblical disciplines.
  2. Size: ETS has over 4,000 members, and SBL has over 8,500 members. I’ve heard that about 2,000 people attend ETS’s annual meeting. SBL’s annual meeting last week drew over 10,000 people. Consequently, there are about ten times as many books for sale at the latter.
  3. Doctrine: ETS consists largely of professing evangelicals who are orthodox, but such people are a large minority in SBL, which does not have a doctrinal basis or statement. It is not surprising, then, that the SBL meeting is diverse, including conservative evangelicals, post-conservative evangelicals, liberals, Buddhists, agnostics, atheists, and much more.

2. There are four prioritized reasons to attend ETS/SBL annual meetings.
(This is not original with me. I’ve heard D. A. Carson explain this a handful of times in various settings.)

  1. Network: Catch up with friends, and make new friends and acquaintances.
  2. Buy books: Everything is on sale, which warrants spending the majority of one’s book-buying budget. The stalls at SBL are superior.
  3. Meet re projects: If applicable, meet with certain people regarding various projects, proposals, contracts, etc.
  4. Attend sessions: If there is time, attend some sessions that you’d find profitable. Beginners often go with the mindset that #4 should be #1, but most valuable sesssions will be published shortly anyway. One exception for this general rule is when a particular session directly addresses a topic on which one is currently working.


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