On March 8–9, scholars from Sweden, Norway, England, Scotland, and USA gathered in Örebro for a conference entitled ”Healing and Exorcism in Second Temple Judaism and Early Christianity.” Örebro School of Theology (ÖST, a part of ALT) hosted the event, and a total of 50 participants took part in creative conversations. According to Steve Walton, one of the keynote speakers, this was one of the best conferences he had attended in a long time.
The conference started with words of welcome from Mikael Tellbe (lecturer at ÖST) and Niklas Holmefur (president at ÖST). The first paper was read by Lena-Sofia Tiemeyer (University of Aberdeen). Her focus was on how Zechariah 5:1–4 talked about getting rid of evil (which Tiemeyer labeled ”toxic waste”) by literally dumping it abroad. Greger Andersson, lecturer at ÖST and professor in comparative literatures at the University of Örebro provided a response. The general discussion that followed set the tone for the conference as a whole by being both creative and constructive.
Tiemeyer’s paper was followed by Cecilia Wassén (Uppsala University). She discussed how to best understand the impurity of the impure spirits which Jesus referred to. A great survey of related texts, not least from Qumran, was provided, and it served as a backdrop to the words of Jesus. David Willgren (ÖST) gave a response.
Other speakers on Thursday included Karl Olav Sandnes (Norwegian School of Theology, Oslo), who spoke on Jesus as miracle worker and was given a response by Gunnar Samuelsson (Gothenburg University), and last, a paper was read by Susan R. Garrett from Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, which had the interesting title ”The Miracle that Jesus Cannot Do”. So, what miracle was it? According to Garrett, it was the miracle of opening the minds of people. She showed how the Gospel of Mark portrays the ones hearing Jesus as not understanding, not even his disciples, despite Jesus’ intentions to reveal his message to them (Mark 4:11–12). A response was given by Mikael Tellbe (ÖST), who also read a written response by Anna Runesson who could not be there in person.
The keynote lectures were followed by a number of short papers, and in the evening, a nice buffet was served, followed by specially designed cakes. One had the conference poster, and the other an ancient manuscript – ”The Curative Gospel of Matthew”. If you want to hear Tommy Wasserman introduce the cakes, please go to our Facebook! The day ended with some live music.
The second day of the conference started off with a paper by Larry Hurtado (University of Edinburgh), focusing on how the name of Jesus was used to cast out demons and evil spirits in the early church (Hurtado has provided a brief summary of his paper here). James Starr (Johannelunds teologiska högskola) gave a response. He was followed by Sigurd Grindheim (Fjellhaug Internasjonale Høgskole, Oslo), who spoke on exorcism and forgiveness, with an ensuing response by Tobias Hägerland (University of Gothenburg). The penultimate lecture was given by Steve Walton (Trinity College, Bristol). He discussed the fact that Paulus silences a girl with a spirit of divination (Apg 16:16) despite her words being true, and suggested that the episode could be read in light of Jesus’ silencing of an impure demon in Luk 4:33–37 (for hiss lides, see here). A response was provided by Rikard Roitto (Stockholm School of Theology). Last was Tommy Wasserman (ÖST), who showed how the narratives about the miracles of Jesus were highlighted by means of paratexts in early Christian manuscripts, as well as by being depicted in early Christian art. James Kelhoffer (Uppsala University) gave a response.
The conference, which was arranged by support from the Swedish Research Council, was very appreciated, both as to content and organization. In the final discussion, thanks were extended to Tellbe and Wasserman, as well as to Ludvig Svensson (ÖST) who had been greatly involved in the planning of the conference, as well as seeing it through. If you want to hear more voices of appreciation, see the short video clip further down on this page, or check our Instagram (@altubildning).
The papers will be published in a volume in WUNT (Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament), edited by Mikael Tellbe, Tommy Wasserman, and Ludvig Svensson.
We thank all participants for making this a great experience with a lot of stimulating papers and constructive discussions.