Religion and Theology Conference in South Africa
The Joint Conference of Academic Societies in the Fields of Religion and Theology was held 22–26 June, 2009 at the Faculty of Theology, Stellenbosch University in Stellenbosch, Republic of South Africa. The conference, in which 13 separate societies participated, coincided with the 150th anniversary of teaching theology at Stellenbosch.
Participating societies included the following:
According to Joint Conference organizers, participants (including day visitors) numbered over 500 and the tally of papers presented exceeded 260. An additional society, the Association for the Study of the Septuagint in South Africa (ASSSA), convened the Sunday and Monday morning immediately before the main Joint Conference but “stayed under the radar,” joked Johann Cook of Stellenbosch University, its coordinator.
The participants in the Joint Conference braved hard rain and cold throughout the week; the sun came out only on Friday, the last day. It is winter in the Southern Hemisphere. As is typical of older buildings in South Africa, the stately one housing the Faculty of Theology is not heated—and neither is the dormitory where many stayed. Participants kept their coats on; a few presented their papers wearing gloves. A common moan during tea breaks was this: “My feet are wet and cold and haven’t warmed up all week!” To which the hardy chuckled and bellowed, “South Africa is not for sissies!”
Author’s Methodology and Inserts of South African Proverbs in Italics
I read two papers at OTSSA and SASNES and co-read a third at ASSSA. This blog continues my tradition of blogging for Biblical Archaeology Review. I blogged earlier for the 2008 International Congress of the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) in Auckland, New Zealand, and the 2008 SBL in Boston. This blog represents my own interests and the papers I attended. The time slots of all societies overlapped. In general, it seemed that the participants kept within their societies and mingled with others at tea; an exception was the six plenary sessions. This blog is organized via papers and insights so that it can be read and skimmed easily. Many of the descriptions of the papers do not include the speaker’s conclusions but are the highlights of my notes taken during their talks.
Interspersed in italics between the sections are Afrikaner proverbs, Southern Sesotho proverbs, and Tsonga proverbs—three representative languages and cultures in South Africa. They are translated into English with their English equivalents below. Thanks for the proverbs go to Paul and Helena Kruger for the Afrikaner ones, Ephraim Baloyi for the Tsonga additions, and Rantoa Letsosa for the Sothern Sesotho contributions; all are my colleagues at North-West University in Potchefstroom.
The bullet is right through the church.
Welcome and Additional Thoughts by Elna Mouton, Dean of the Faculty of Theology at Stellenbosch University
On behalf of Stellenbosch University, Elna Mouton, Dean of the Faculty of Theology, welcomed participants to the Joint Conference from five continents and numerous institutions. The conference coincided with the 150th anniversary of the opening of the DRC (Dutch Reformed Church) Seminary. She mentioned that today the seminary has 400 students, and two-thirds of them are post-graduate.
The seminary encourages ecumenicity and seeks students from various churches and convictions, Mouton said. The faculty makes particular effort to accommodate students from other African countries. Amid today’s culture, which she described as filled with “moral and social alienation,” the Stellenbosch faculty “strives to practice dynamic theology.” The pedagogy is reality-oriented and gives hope, Mouton said.
When asked about the importance of theology in South Africa, Mouton said that although she understands the prominence of the natural sciences like chemistry and engineering for funding, the government should not forget the social sciences. Both sciences benefit society. The government and funding bodies that give only or primarily to the natural sciences run the risk of “paying the piper” at another time “if they neglect the social sciences of which theology is one,” she said.
Mouton continued by saying that if the government and funding bodies did not fund the social sciences, “we all will pick the fruit of that too late. Without monetary attention to research and programs in the social sciences, we will lose out on responsibility, communication, moral leadership, and on the ability of people to own their calling in life,” she said.
Reflecting on the conference after the closing plenary paper, Mouton said she hopes that lasting seeds for the participants will include the ability to embrace the complexity and ambivalence of the texts. “We need to come to terms with our own complexities and our interrelatedness,” she said.
A seat is prepared by the one who sits upon it.
An Early Old Testament Scholar in South Africa
Herrie Van Rooy, North-West University, presented a biographical paper on the first South African to receive a PhD in Old Testament, Dr. P. C. Snijman (1875–1915). Dr. Snijman received his PhD in 1913 from the Free University in Amsterdam. His church had given him two years of paid study leave, and he had taken his wife and seven children with him to the Netherlands. He returned to South Africa in frail health and died two years later. Van Rooy noted that Snijman’s life seemed to have been cut off in its prime, and that if he had lived, he probably would have been involved in Bible translation.
For the paper, Van Rooy read Snijman’s thesis (as a dissertation is called in South African culture). Unlike today when a student and his promoter (the chairman of his dissertation committee) work out a problem to look at and solve, the topic of Snijman’s thesis —the prophecies of Zephaniah—was assigned. “As was typical of the times, the theological argument pointed to Christ,” Van Rooy said.
In his thesis, Smijman interacted with contemporary research and displayed excellent talent in translation. “It is clear that his death impacted negatively on Old Testament study in his own church and in South African theological circles,” Van Rooy said.
An old lion
Darwin and Calvin Compared
Hansie Wolmarans, University of Johannesburg, spoke on “Darwin, Calvin, and the Future of Theology.” He argued that the theology of John Calvin and Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution support two contradictory master narratives on the origins and destiny of humankind. In addition, they offer different explanations on the behavior of human beings. He pointed out that natural selection takes place in organisms and social institutions.
Wolmarans looked at Calvin’s impact on Geneva society and whether or not it was successful. The conditions in Europe, in the 1530’s and 1540’s, were horrible. The Black Death reportedly had taken two-thirds of the population. Consequently, morals declined and illegitimate births were common. The middle class was restless. The Catholic Church held many lands and was corrupt.
Wolmarans said that socially on a horizontal level, Calvin in Geneva operated on rules backed up by Biblical principles. For example, children had to obey their parents and people had to obey the magistrates. Sex was for marriage only, and taverns were closed. Wolmarans noted that Calvin’s social system succeeded for a while. Yes, morals did improve, and yes, trade flourished.
“Yet Calvinism had its dark side,” Wolmarans added, saying it frowned on creativity, was intolerant of other lifestyles, oppressed women, and was anti-intellectual.
Regarding Darwin, Wolmarans said that nature does not exist according to a plan. He added that Darwin attributed his lower back pain in later years to the time when his forebears walked on all fours. He said that Darwin grew up a Unitarian, the son of a man described as a free thinker. With the death of his daughter at age 10, he stopped going to church.
Darwin’s work looked at monism, observation (and its ally, free thinking), chance, natural law, agnosticism, and religion as a tribal survival strategy.
The ears of a hippopotamus
Calling himself “a lone ranger for decades for the Septuagint,” Johann Cook of Stellenbosch University launched a major contribution to the study of the LXX called Septuagint and Reception (Brill 2009, $200). Septuagint and Reception contains the work of 21 scholars, some of them students of Cook, Gert Steyn (University of Pretoria), and Pierre Jordaan (North-West University)
Steyn, Jordaan, and Cook together coordinate the Association for the Study of the Septuagint in Southern Africa. The ASSSA met before the Joint Conference for a series of papers that also will seek publication. Earlier papers of the new society have been published in Journal for Semitics and Vetus Testamentum. The ASSA, a very friendly and collegial society, at this point requires no dues—only an intense scholarly interest in the LXX.
To find a dog in the pot
2 Maccabees: Political Prayers
Chris De Wet of UNISA presented a paper at the ASSSA called “The Politics of Prayer in 2 Maccabees.” He sees 2 Maccabees as a text representing the power structure of the day; consequently, the prayers in it have political aspects and overtones.
He identified three functions of the prayers: Group cohesiveness, the spread of Temple propaganda, and the promotion of anti-Hellenistic propaganda. Prayers can have a military flavor or tone and be read later in public as liturgy in worship, he added.
The prayers in Maccabees, reflecting the times they were written, promote piety, unity, the purity of the Temple, and the exclusiveness of the people.
To put your spoon in the ceiling
The Holy Spirit, Faith, Responsibility and Political Life
Clint Le Bruyns, Stellenbosch University, argued in his paper, “The Holy Spirit and Responsible Faith in Political Life,” that although political life is essentially concerned with the task of making and keeping human life human, as it were, political life likewise is characterized by ambiguities. These ambiguities in turn challenge churches and theology in South Africa and beyond its borders.
Le Bruyns noted that South Africa’s constitution is a moral consensus document that sums up the noblest ideals “that we hold very dear.” He advised that the work of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life demands attention and cautioned that “personal is not synonymous with private.”
In singling out contemplation and prayer, Le Bruyns commended struggle. He challenged his audience to struggle with the complexities and ambiguities in their individual and varied contexts as they seek to live out their faith in the world. He concluded that political life involves responsibility, moral discrimination, and the establishment of a new public context. “A spirituality that nurtures an ethic of responsibility at the personal level should be taken seriously in post-apartheid, democratic South Africa today,” he said.
He drove the vineyard cart.
Darwin and Dogs
David Chidester, University of Cape Town, gave a plenary paper titled “Darwin’s Dogs: Animals, Animism, and the Problem of Religion.” In a speech to a very friendly audience, Chidester looked humorously—and a bit sadly at times—at the influence of “dogs and savages” on the scientific thinking of Charles Darwin and his contemporaries in the 19th century.
Chidester, who has written widely on the topic of religion, made everybody smile and chuckle when he connected religion to Darwin and Darwin to his dogs. The audience responded with new jokes for Chidester’s repertoire—especially regarding dogmatics/dog-matics and Canaanite/Canine-ite culture.
Chidester mentioned the influence of dogs on religion by noting that dogs attribute life to the wind or inanimate objects like the a piece of paper by barking at it, fearing it, or fighting with it. Second, dogs submit to a higher power. He recounted that Darwin remarked on and appreciated the deep love of dogs for their masters.
Chidester briefly discussed the problem some have with the word religion, offered alternatives to it, rejected them, and concluded that “we’re stuck with” the word.
The hasty dog burns its mouth.
The Economy in Corinth During Paul’s Time
J. M. Wessels, North-West University, presented a paper called “The Not-So-Wealthy Corinth in the Time of Paul.” Wessels argued that Corinth was not as rich and prosperous as is often claimed in books and from pulpits. Because of Paul’s extended plea for Corinth to contribute to a collection (2 Corinthians 8–9), it has been widely accepted that Corinth stood out as a wealthy city. Scholars say that Paul was active in Corinth around AD 50–57.
But images of a wealthy Corinth are based on images of a “glorious Greek city before its demolition by Lucius Mumius in 146 BC, and even on the basis of Corinth’s famous trade from AD 2–4,” Wessels said. Mumius attacked the city and took all its survivors captive. Wessels also mentioned that the city suffered an earthquake in AD 77 and “the damage was of disastrous proportions.” He argued that the image of a wealthy Corinth focuses on the scenery, location, games, entertainment, religious sites, and other tourist attractions. “In a sense, Corinth may have been beautiful from afar but far from beautiful,” he said.
Wessels’ research indicates that during the time of Augustus (14 BC–AD 27) there was a time of prosperity in Corinth but that the economic situation in the city declined until the reign of Vespasian (AD 69–81) where it picked up again.
Wessels agreed with S. J. Friesen (2004) by concluding that the lives of most people in Paul’s congregations and the life of Paul himself were lived at near subsistence levels.
I can’t remove the hair of the hound.
No Text Exists in a Vacuum
Yehoshua Gitay, Stellenbosch University, spoke on “History, Literature, and Memory.” Gitay, well known in academic circles in the US, South Africa, and Israel, maintained there is no closed text. The growth of biblical narratives and the history of narration show how a new community, reading the text in its own time, has a new religious understanding or philosophy. This new religious understanding replaces the old narration and serves to reshape the collective memory of Israel.
Similarly, no text exists in a vacuum, he argued. Texts engage in a non-stop dialogue between each other and among themselves. Taking the example of Chronicles, Gitay said the Chronicler, who was not a historian like Herodotus, responded to a new situation and looked for the meaning of history rather than for the recovery of history as such.
Gitay said that in the time of Chronicler, “the Temple and its worship reappeared as the need of the present.” Consequently, the Chronicler’s focus was to reshape “the collective memory of Israel around the David dynasty.”
From curiosity the prison is full and the church is empty.
Sexual Matters in Africa
Isabel Apawo Phiri presented a plenary paper entitled “‘Going Through the Fire with Eyes Wide Open’: African Women’s Perspectives on Indigenous Knowledge, Patriarchy, and Sexuality.” It was co-written with Dr. Sarojini Nadar. Both women are from the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
Phiri began by saying that although Africa is overwhelmingly committed to heterosexual marriage, “marriage remains the most dangerous institution for women in Africa in the context of HIV.” ‘Going through the fire with eyes wide open’ is a proverb she used to describe the fate and determination of some African women who enter marriage, remain faithful to their husbands, but later deal with the reality of the unfaithfulness of their husbands. Many African women contact the HIV virus that leads to AIDS because of their monogamous sexual relationship with their non-monogamous husbands.
Phiri looked at this research question: To what extent does indigenous knowledge contain within itself a critique of patriarchy as it manifests itself through marriage and sexuality, in the context of HIV/AIDS? Some of her research involved asking participants to share proverbs and songs that speak of their sexuality and lives.
She found that in many African cultures, a wife is considered owned because of the practice of lobola, the bride price paid by the groom to the bride’s father. Second, she found an “inability of women to negotiate for safer sex, in the cases of unfaithfulness, because of cultural constraints.” Third, she said “there is a depressing fatalism attached to the understanding of marriage. The value attached to marriage is more than the value attached to one’s own life. Happiness is perceived as incidental to marriage—it is the woman’s duty and life-goal to get married.”
Phiri concluded that what is needed is a complete overhaul of dehumanizing songs and idioms and sexual practices that both genders use and to replace them with new and more life-affirming ones for women and men.
To peel an apple with someone<
Gerrie Snyman of UNISA and editor of Old Testament Essays spoke on “Exploring Whiteness Within the Reformed Calvinist Tradition: An Effort in Hermeneutical Reflexivity.” His paper used statistics from American contexts and there was open discussion as to whether the American experience and American data were relevant in South Africa. The need for further study was mentioned and agreed upon.
Snyman said that “it is a process to think about race, race differences, race privilege, and the impact of race on oneself, others, and society at large.” Snyman said that to him, the theological ideas of Calvin, specifically the doctrine of limited atonement, “create the idea of superiority.”
From the ox to the ass
A Center for Racism Research?
Tinyiko Maluleke of UNISA and president of the South African Council of Churches presented a plenary paper outlining and commenting on 10 aspects of life in South Africa. Obviously well-liked by his fellow academics, Maluleke discussed what he called an agenda containing essentially human themes. “You know them all very well,” he said.
One item in his paper entitled “Black and African Theologies in the 21st Century: Stirring up the Agenda” was racism. “We don’t have a single research institution focusing on racism. We assume we know all about it,” he said, seeming to leave the question open as to whether the many races in his audience really did know all there was to know about racism.
Maluleke said that theology and religion offer important contributions to the national dialogue and assist in closing the gap between democracy and reality. “Religion is much bigger than it is generally acknowledged to be by the media,” he said.
Regarding the pandemic of HIV/AIDS, he said that for 15 years the church and the society and we as individuals have been in denial. All the groups have responsibility. Theological education in particular needs to address the issue with more relevance.
Regarding the country’s effort at truth and reconciliation, Maluleke called South Africa an experiment in reconciliation, a pilot project. “It can succeed, or it can go very, very wrong,” he said. Again, he left the question open for the consideration of his audience: Is South Africa succeeding or failing in its efforts to provide a working, good, stable, equal society for all its peoples?
In terms of church and theology, “We need to deal with Pentacostalism in our Methodist, Lutheran and Presbyterian churches. We are being Pentacostalized before our eyes,” he said.
Finally, he urged participants to pause and to remember. “How we remember and what we remember are very important,” Maluleke warned.
Eat a sack of salt with a person.
Memories of Saints from a Catholic Childhood in New Jersey
Aileen La Tourette, Liverpool John Moores, spoke on “Looking Back at Danger.” La Tourette, a teacher of creative writing, gave a delightful, interpretive, personal paper exploring her musings and reflections on a possible book touching on the influence of saints on her life. She grew up in Catholic neighborhood in New Jersey in the 1950s. Stories of the saints were part of her upbringing and culture. These stories “should not live rent free in my psyche,” she smiled.
One significant woman, of course, was the Blessed Virgin Mary “or the BVM as we called her,” La Tourette said. “She was difficult for us as young Catholic girls because our biggest problem was our mothers. We tried to turn to her as a good mother rather than to our bad mothers—who were shrewish, shrieking, and probably pregnant,” La Tourette said.
The statues of Mary seemed both calm and a little sad to the young Aileen. “She was silent. She didn’t talk back, and we were always told not to talk back. The nuns told us that if we ran in the corridors of the school, the Virgin Mother would cry.”
For La Tourette and her friends, the important thing about Mary “was we loved her and we knew she loved us.” Over the years, La Tourette realized that subconsciously she was looking for an alternative to the life she saw her mother and the mothers of her friends living. “They were consigned to being housewives,” La Tourette said, “and they didn’t seem happy.”
You’re in the dog box.
The Language of the Kingdom of God
Friedrich De Wet, North-West University, presented on “Speaking the Language of the Kingdom of God in the Context of a Society in Transition.” In a paper delivered with much emotion, De Wet defined a society in transition (like that of South Africa) as going from paternalistic power structures to liberal democratic power structures.
Acknowledging that transition is not easy, De Wet said it is hard to juggle the demands of “politically correct” speech with the intense intentionality of the language of the Kingdom of God. The language associated with the Kingdom of God carries with it zeal, and its roots go deep into the covenant.
De Wet used the implications of the speech act theory as pioneered by J. L. Austin and John Searle as possible markers for this transition.
He stressed that those who, through the work of the Holy Spirit, have received eyes to see the presence of God in his kingdom words and have received ears to listen to what the Spirit says, will speak and listen with a frame of mind that reflects “amazement of the brilliant, clear, and overwhelmingly truthful meaning of kingdom language.”
The jumping of the zebra instructs the unborn zebra.
New Testament Textual Criticism
G.J.C. (Jorrie) Jordaan, North-West University, gave a scholarly paper called “New Testament Textual Criticism for Africa?” The paper documents New Testament criticism over the centuries on the African continent. One listener thanked Jordaan for the painstaking work required for this topic “because now I don’t have to do it!”
Jordaan said that Africa was an early location of text transmission, much of it centered in Alexandria, Egypt. Similarly, Africa was an early location of Bible translation. Carthage played a role in ancient Latin versions. Ethiopic and Coptic versions also were important, he said.
Jordaan said that although “there was an early African involvement, the present state is deplorable.” He suggested that since New Testament text criticism is at present in a cul de sac, it is in need of a new perspective. This new perspective could come from an African scholarly interest in text-critical matters. New media advances can help this.
He suggested a paradigm shift in thought: Scholars should not think about “textual criticism for Africa but textual criticism by and from Africa.”
A far-off fountain makes one die of thirst.
Phil J. Botha, University of Pretoria, presented “Poetry and Perlocution in Psalm 26.” Botha argued that Psalm 26 is a prayer of innocence and a persuasive text because of the way it seeks to persuade YHWH to act. Botha, known for his meticulous structural analyses of the psalms he works on, noted the rich dialogue the psalm contains. The poet uses both positive and negative connotations as a persuasive tool. For example, in verse 2, the poet asks YHWH to examine both his “kidneys” (his feelings) and his “heart” (his thinking processes), Botha said.
Botha sees editorial connections of Psalm 26 with Psalms 32 and 33, especially on the ideas of going around YHWH’s altar, living with YHWH, making YHWH the center of one’s life, and being surrounded by YHWH’s constant love.
We shall say they are zebras when we see their colors.
Lydia of Philippi
Laura Maleya-Mautsa of North-West University spoke on “Lydia—An Entrepreneur and a Leader.” Maleya-Mautsa examined Acts 16:11–15, which is the text mentioning Lydia. Lydia was courageous because she believed Paul’s words, and she was a leader because her whole household followed her in her conversion and baptism. “Lydia was the first European Christian entrepreneur,” Maleya-Mautsa said.
Maleya-Mautsa spent considerable time in her paper on the economy of the region, especially Philippi. She speculated that Lydia, a seller of purple, may have been a migrant who moved from Thyatira to Philippi, a city known for its gold and a city granted immunity from Roman taxation. Maleya-Mautsa thought it possible that Lydia’s clientele might have been the landowners and other wealthy people in the city. She said it probably was a hard life for the fishermen who extracted the shells for the purple dye from the sea. “Maybe people looked down on them because maybe they smelled,” she said.
The monkey was let out of the sleeve.
Poverty, Women, HIV/AIDS and the Church
Beverley Haddad, University of KwaZulu-Natal, spoke on “Poverty, Gendered Cultural Practices, and the HIV and AIDS Epidemic: Ethical and Theological Implications.” Haddad, a member of the Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians, said that HIV/AIDS is not just a woman’s disease or a disease of poverty alone. However, a high percentage of those infected are poor and are female, she said.
Socio-economic factors fuel the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Any discourse must be mindful of the subordinated status of marginalized women, she cautioned, and of the history of cultures and earlier traditions. For example, in a Zulu context and culture, women and children were not to make eye contact with a man and were never to be above a man in a room, even if that meant crawling to him.
Her paper argued that contemporary sexual practices as they relate to poverty are shown to increase women’s vulnerability to HIV infection. Haddad said that any sexual ethical framework must take seriously the reality of the poverty women face and the oppression they live under.
Haddad maintained that the South African church has not addressed the patriarchy and sexual practices that harm women’s lives. The church must actively work toward becoming a redemptive community for HIV-positive people, she said. Too often these people feel alienated. We must deconstruct the culture and reconstruct social practices and take into account the enormous challenge of poverty, she challenged.
Any sexual ethical framework must take seriously the conditions of the lives of many women—lives lived in poverty and under oppression—in order for the framework to serve as a catalyst for gender justice in church and society, Haddad said. Her work has shown her that “people are desperate to talk and to change”; they are looking for a model that is different from retribution theology.
“We must be a church of inclusion, of dignity to all—men and women,” Haddad said.
One can feel the depth of a deep hope in water by a walking stick.
The Book of Job, Job, and HIV/AIDS
Gerald West, University of KwaZulu-Natal, spoke on “Interpreting Sacred Texts—Particularly the Bible—in the Context of HIV and AIDS in Africa.” His plenary address was well received; West is very well liked among his academic colleagues. He drew nods and laughter when he began by mentioning a popular “soapie” (soap opera) called Isidingo. A character, Len, commenting on HIV said, “The universe could not have thought of a worse punishment.”
West, an Old Testament scholar, said the church framed its initial response to HIV/AIDS in terms of retribution theology and as a sign of the end times. The Qur’an’s response was “do not fornicate.”
West, however, has found redemptive texts in wisdom literature, specifically the Book of Job. The character Job starts reflecting on his wife’s advice of “Curse/Bless God and die!” (Job 2:9) in long discourses with his friends.
West noted that a typical response to HIV/AIDS, or indeed to any suffering, is to put the blame on the sufferer in order to clear God. In contrast, Job explores how to talk to God and how not to talk to God. In his work with people with HIV/AIDS, West has found that they relate well to the text of Job, especially to the passages of lament and protest. West argued that “Job already knew God as powerful. Job needs to be convinced of God’s justice.”
Going ahead of the winds
Excursion to Two Vineyards
The OTSSA organized a wine tasting trip to two nearby estates, the J.C. LeRoux and the Jordan vineyards. Wine tasting, a popular endeavor in the Cape area, involves a small tour of a vineyard (when it is not raining!), the factory, and a sampling of the products. Attractive tables and chairs complete the décor; nearby are buckets where people pour out the remains of the sample they did not consume. Guides explain the foods and settings the beverages complement. A glass is rinsed between samples of red and white wine.
J.C. LeRoux is famous throughout South Africa for “the bubbly,” as the tour guide, herself quite effervescent, said. The vineyard is named for a Huguenot Frenchman who fled France and established a new life in southern Africa.
The tour guide explained that the patented word champagne only can be used for the French product, so J.C. LeRoux counters with sparkling wine. “The pop of the cork means the good times start,” the guide smiled.
When she mentioned a sparkling wine “that goes well with oysters on a Saturday morning,” the participants groaned—because it was late in the afternoon and they were very hungry! “It has a flowery aroma and is for easy drinking,” she added.
Going on to another product, she warned with a smile that “it is so light on the palate that it gives you a headache in the morning if you’re not careful!”
The J.C. LeRoux vineyard, only several kilometers from downtown Stellenbosch, looks out on Simonsberg, a long set of mountain peaks that resemble a man lying down. On a clear day, one easily sees Simon’s big nose, big tummy, and big toes!
At Jordan, we sampled chardonnay, which had been placed in an oak barrel; it had a butterscotch flavor and tropical characteristics like melon, the tour guide explained. “Use it with cheeses; use it with a nice cheesy dish,” she advised. Another wine called the Nine Yard Chardonnay (named at the suggestion of an American) has “a butteriness to it; it’s a very, very rich wine,” she said. This wine, because it is so heavy, “goes well with duck, orange glazed duck or a Mediterranean dish,” she said.
The Jordan vineyard tour guide mentioned a significant trend in wine bottling—the trend away from corks to screw tops. American customers are demanding screw bottles, she said. A vineyard traditionally loses up to 10 percent of its products because of cork failure. “White wines are going to screw tops at Jordan, but the red wines will stay with the traditional cork,” she said.
The Jordan tour guide gave us some wine buying, storing, and serving lessons, too. When purchasing a wine, ask your merchant how long it can keep. Many wines keep for years and years. “But don’t put them next to the tumble dryer,” a comment she gave that rendered much laughter. “They simply won’t like that!” Store a wine in a cool, secure place. Also ask your wine merchant about oxidation and containers. Some wines should be opened and put in a glass container for a while before serving. Depending on the wine, this can bring out a chocolate taste, or a pepper flavor, or different, delightful fruit tones, the guide said.
When the sun steps on the mountains
Travel Plans: Life after a Busy Conference
The week ended and the colleagues dispersed to their five continents. Many in South Africa were going camping—taking 4x4’s into the wilderness. Part of living here is seeing the magnificent expanse of the Milky Way and cooking a braai, an outdoor grilling of meat (antelope’s the best!) and a sharing of the good wine of this good land. One gets things in perspective when one hears the cry of the magnificent fish eagle or the growl of a lioness.
Colleagues mentioned vacations like two weeks on the road with three other 4x4’s in Botswana, going to Jeffrey’s Bay to a second house, getting ready for the SBL in Rome, and driving west to Namibia, truly one of the most beautiful places on earth.
Colleagues told stories of treks in Africa. One told of coming upon four Canadians perched on top of their Land Rover and stranded in the middle of a river. They had ventured into brown water, hit a hole, and almost drowned. “We came with a cable and spent the day getting them out. They came ‘to experience Africa’—and didn’t realize that Africa can kill you!” the colleague exclaimed.
But Africa can capture your heart, too. As one who keeps coming back to Africa, I know my heart is bound in love to these people and to this land. I know I will return. Indeed, I must.
The elephant can carry its trunk.
Robin Gallaher Branch
Robin Gallaher Branch is Professor of Biblical Studies at Crichton College in Memphis, Tennessee and Extraordinary Associate Professor in the Faculty of Theology at North-West University in Potchefstroom, South Africa. She received her PhD in Hebrew Studies from the University of Texas in Austin in 2000. She was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship for the 2002-2003 academic year to the Faculty of Theology at North-West University in Potchefstroom, South Africa. The Fulbright turned out to be one of the happiest experiences of her life. She fit in so well with her new colleagues in the Faculty of Theology that she was asked to stay on for a finite appointment through December 2004. Her academic career so far includes these accomplishments: She has presented over 52 papers at US and international academic conferences; published over 50 book reviews; published 49 articles in books; published 19 articles in academic journals; and delivered over 150 guest lectures. In August 2009 Hendrickson Publishers published Jeroboam's Wife: The Enduring Accomplishments of the Old Testament's Least-Known Women. An unexpected and very rewarding award came in January 2009 when Mason YMCA in Memphis chose her for its Spirit Award for 2008; the award cited her work (specifically original plays based on stories from the Bible) with middle-school boys in an after-school program.
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