It was November 21, 1994. I was less than six months out of graduate school and less than four months into my first full-time ministry work. And this was the same year I became a father for the first time.
For a time in those days, I had a notion that I could break into the world of textual criticism. Dr. Carroll Osburn had mentored me through my study of Greek and ancient Coptic as well as the rudiments of textual criticism. I was one step removed from Bruce Metzger and Kurt Aland.
I had devoted maybe a year researching the history of Coptic manuscripts of the New Testament. So, I dared to submit a paper to the Society of Biblical Literature. I was stunned when I read Bart Ehrman’s reply inviting me to present my paper at the next meeting.
I was thankful to be the last presenter in my section. It did not help that Osburn pointed out that many of the scholars I quoted in my paper were in attendance. I also seem to recall that one of the presenters before me was skewered by the audience. But what did I care? I had a day job, a young family and Karen and I had booked a reservation at the Palmer House Hotel in Chicago for the visit. (Which still reminds me of the Grand Budapest Hotel).
In fact, when it was all over the audience was very kind (perhaps it was late in the day). Everyone was quite gracious and hospitable. The visit to SBL and Chicago was a wonderful opportunity to see friends and colleagues from Abilene. I still appreciate Dr. Osburn’s advice and instruction with my studies. So if you have any interest at all in academics and the early versions of the New Testament, I give you my solitary venture into the high stakes world of textual critical studies. Hey, that sort of reminds me of the one time I worked for the FBI, but that’s another story…