As questions continually loom about the relevance of religion in American life, hundreds of biblical and religious scholars are expected to attend the 2023 annual meeting hosted by the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) and the American Academy of Religion (AAR) at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio, Tex., Saturday–Tuesday, November 18–21. According to Steed Vernyl Davidson, who was appointed executive director of the SBL in June, this year’s meeting coincides with “a critical moment in history to determine the relevance, sustainability, survival, and innovation of biblical studies as an academic discipline.”

The event provides an opportunity for scholars to hunt for teaching positions and talk shop from Apocrypha to Zachariah. “Annual meetings are high moments in the life of a scholar,” Davidson says. “It is one of those spaces where the communal nature of the profession can be reaffirmed.”

With its focus on biblical scholarship and research, religious studies, and theology, the annual meeting has long been important for publishers of academic religion as a place to lobby for course adoptions and sell books. Religious leaders and interested laypersons are also among the attendees, using the opportunity to browse newly published books, network, and learn.

More than 1,200 academic sessions and workshops will be held during the event. A Saturday session entitled “Women Mystics and Devotional Writers as Biblical Interpreters” will span several centuries to explore the writings of Marguerite de Navarre, Julian of Norwich, Katharina Schütz Zell, Eva Gore-Booth, and others. Another session that day, “The Disputed Paulines: A Word of Hope for Healthier and Safer Family Relationships,” examines global statistics on domestic abuse and features presentations of papers on toxic masculinity, women’s autonomy, family conflict, and more in the Bible. Other sessions include “The Spectrum of Divine and Human Emotions in the Hebrew Bible” and “Reproductive Justice and the Bible” (both scheduled for Sunday). In between sessions, attendees can visit the exhibit hall, which features one of the world’s largest collections of books and digital resources for biblical study.

Attendance at the annual meeting has declined since the Covid-19 pandemic began, but Davidson says the upcoming event will surpass last year’s total of 7,300 participants. The numbers are “recovering somewhat this year,” he says, “but still far from the 2019 numbers.”

When asked what he’s most looking forward to at the meeting, Davidson says, “The chance to be with members and to engage them even further with the possibilities for collaboration, to advance creative dreaming, and to inspire upcoming generations to further innovation.”

The 2024 annual meeting will take place in San Diego, Calif., November 23–26.

Read more from our Academic Religion and Spirituality Books feature:

Meeting Readers Where They Are
New books address cultural changes and America’s shifting religious demographics.

Publishers of Academic Religious Books share Topics for Tomorrow
When asked about their plans for their publishing programs, several publishers of academic religious books shared their ideas.

Origin Story: PW Talks with Bible Scholar Jacob L. Wright
In 'Why the Bible Began: An Alternative History of Scripture and its Origins' (Cambridge Univ., out now), Jacob L. Wright, Hebrew Bible professor at Emory University, offers answers to a question many have never considered.

Books Ask New Questions on Paul
The life and writing of the apostle inspire continued study.

The Debate between Science and Religion Evolves
New books bring evidence of a detrimental divide between science and religion.

Studying the Buddha, East to West
Scholar Philip C. Almond examines perceptions of Siddhartha Gautama.

Thrillers Reveal Real Biblical Fears
Historian Andrew S. Jacobs explores the popular fascination with fictitious threats to the Bible.

Evoking an Interfaith Champion
Scholar Murray K. Watson explores the agenda behind the translations of André Chouraqui.

How Talking About Hell Hurts Believers
Pastor Derek Ryan Kubilus calls eternal damnation “unbiblical.”