Re: NT Scholarship

From: Edgar M. Krentz (
Date: Thu Jun 27 1996 - 11:49:31 EDT

You asked [shortened by me]
>I have a question: What should a NT scholar know?
>Chicago: ancient Greek and Roman history, culture, religion, early Jewish
>and >Christian literature to Augustine. Languages: Hebrew, Greek, Latin,
>Brown: Greek and Roman culture still important; Hebrew much less. Northern
>>Mediterranean is the big deal.
>Duke: more theologically oriented.
>Claremont: Nag Hammadi, so read Coptic, too.
>Lancaster? History of interpretation, art history, lectionaries, theology.
>Vanderbilt: literary and cultural studies, ancient contexts (northern
>Mediterranean), you learn literary theory, global context, social theory,
>Most folks finish with just Greek and Hebrew.
>All charicatures, some truth to them. What should we know? We have Jewish
>>and Greco-Roman contexts, the wider scope of early Christian history and
>>literature, the history of interpretation, literary theory and method,
>and >biblical interpretation in global context. Languages. No program is
>doing it. >Would take, IMO, at least three years of coursework to prepare
>PhD students >for all this stuff.

Dear Greg:

Three years won't do it! A Ph. D. student selects the graduate program in
part because of interests she has. And after finishing the Ph. D. begins
the process of becoming a more complete scholar. Dr. William F. Arndt of
BAGD fame said on retiring at 70 that he was beginning to feel he knew
enough to interpret the NT.

So what do I think the COMPLETE NT scholar needs to know? Here's my list:

LANGUAGES: Greek [including classical and hellenistic, not just NT!],
Hebrew, Latin [to read Horace, Vergil, both Senecas, Lucretius, etc.],
German, French, and [deo optimo maximo, I sound idealistic], Spanish.

NT ITSELF: Rather detailed knowledge of the Greek NT: content, vocabulary
stock of individual authors and books. Introduction: Theories of
authorship, date, integrity, etc. of each of the NT books. Textual
criticism: know principles employed by text critics, ability to interpret
the Aland apparatus, knowledge of the major editions of the GNT from
Erasmus and the Complutensian on [Elzevir, Mill, Tischendorf,
Westcott-Hort, etc.]

HISTORY: Historical Jesus quest since Reimarus. Life of Paul. Value of Acts
as historical document. Reading of the Apostolic Fathers, Apologists,
Eusebius. History of early Christian worship, ethics.

GRAECO-ROMAN WORLD: History of Greek and Latin literature down to the close
of the philosophic schools; ancient philosophy, literary criticism [origins
of allegorical interpretation in Alexandrian scholarship], rhetorical
theory, ethical theory. A knowledge of archaeological sites [with field
experience in either Israel, Greece, Turkey, or Egypt]; history of Greek
and Roman art. Geography of the Eastern Mediterranean. Political, social
and economic history [ought to know names, dates and significant events in
the period of each emperor]. Religions of the Roman world. Some knowledge
of Greek and Latin epigraphy.

OT AND EARLY JUDAISM: Knowledge of OT, of Intertestamental literature [read
in original languages], Mishnah, Talmudim, Qumran. Acquaintance with
worship in temple and synagogue. Diaspora Judaism, including diaspora
synagogues. Political, social, and economic history of Judaism.

INTERPRETATION: history of interpretation. Canon history. Modern methods:
historical criticism [source, form, redaction,tradition criticism],
social-scientific criticism, cultural interpretation, reading of the great
classics of NT study [Schweizer, Johannes Weiss, etc.]. Knowledge of
bibliography in all of the above areas, bibliographic resources in
classics, Judaism, and NT. A growing awareness of and use of electronic
data bases, computer assisted research tools (TLG and PHI data bases,

ECCLESIASTICAL: If you aim at preparing people for service in the church,
then you do need to know such things as the liturgy of the church,
lectionary readings, interpretation of the NT in such a context, etc.

After a Ph. D. in classics, time spent with Ernst Kaesemann and others in
Tuebingen, 43 years of teaching the NT, annual attendance at the SBL since
1955, participation in SBL seminars and groups, attendance at SNTS
meetings, reading of the major journals, etc., I think that I am beginning
to know what should be known in many of the above areas. GHRASKW D' AEI
MAQWN, as the Greek proverb put it. And it has been an exciting and fun
life so far!

I've described an ideal toward which we all strive. Welcome to the
frustrating, delightful, open-ended study of the ancient world in all its
aspects as the milieu for NT study and interpretation.

I'll be interested in other reactions.

Edgar Krentz <>
Luthran School of Theology at Chicago
1100 East 55th Street, Chicago, IL 60615
Off: 312-256-0752 H: 312-947-8105

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