Here it is, just mailed:
I have given your rather extraordinary letter much thought, although it did cross my mind at first that it was hoax, a prank pulled by a friend or colleague. But then I realised you were in earnest.
Initially I pondered a few other sub-titles, such as:
‘The Prophets and the Bald-Headed Jesus’
‘The Case of Curious George and the Prophets’
‘How to Analyse the Prophetic Dangling Participle’
‘How to Deal with the Executive Staff Member of the Prophetic Guild’
‘How to Blow a Prophetic Trombone’
However, I prefer to stay with the original title for the following reasons. First, I do not think it is appropriate for the SBL to censor titles or papers of scholarly work, especially when such a paper has already been accepted and is part of the program. As John Lyons already pointed out to you in an email message, this is the first step down a long and slippery slope. Second, the paper asks us to think earthily and concretely about the Bible, which is indeed a very earthy and at times crude collection of texts – as I will argue in more details in a book of mine, now complete, called Fleshly Readings. The title of the paper reflects this element and it would be misleading to change the title with a view to softening its impact. Third, I do find it strange that the effort to censor the title of the paper should come from the United States, a country that stands up and champions freedom of speech, and in our case, freedom of research. Without blowing my own trumpet, I would remind you that original ideas arise in this fashion. Fourth, as you are no doubt aware, there has been considerable debate in the blogosphere – here, here, here, here and here – as well as on my own blog – here and here. It would be unnacceptable for me to accept such a change in light of that support. Finally, on a matter directly related to the paper’s argument, I wonder whether the nervousness about the paper from those who have mentioned it to you comes from the anticipation that the paper objectifies male bodies, especially genitals. When it comes to biblical words describing women’s bodies and genitals, as in Ezekiel 16 and 23 for instance, commentators are all too happy, gleeful even, to objectify, analyse and disempower. But to do the same to male biblical bodies is a no-no.
For these reasons, then, I must remain firm and insist that the title stays as it is.