What NT scholars need to know (addenda to Krentz)

From: Edward Hobbs (EHOBBS@wellesley.edu)
Date: Thu Jun 27 1996 - 17:30:03 EDT


        Greg Carey's question about what a Ph.D. program in NT should include
        elicited a wonderful response from Edgar Krentz, one of the best
        scholars on our List. I've annotated his message myself, marking
        my indented notes with ****** preceding them.

--Edward Hobbs



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.
******It was assumed, in my student years at Chicago, that the Ph.D. program
      for N.T. students would take a minimum of four years, AFTER a 3-year
      theological degree, and NOT COUNTING learning the languages, and
      NOT COUNTING the dissertation year(s). So Edgar is exactly right--
      three years won't do it in any really high-calibre Ph.D. program.

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.
******Chicago added (in my day) Aramaic and Syriac (which I have never
      regretted). Spanish was the only language in which I was fluent
      before I arrived there; I confess I have rarely had use for it in
      N.T. studies, more's the pity. Edgar has, apparently.

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as historical document.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 see that I've had one more year of teaching NT than Edgar! (That
      was preceded by two years of teaching philosophy.) And I've been
      attending SBL meetings since 1949, SNTS meetings since 1961 (the year
      after I was elected). I didn't spend time with Kaesemann in Tuebingen,
      but a year with Bultmann in Marburg (and later Fuchs, when he arrived
      from Berlin). But I DID actually co-teach a doctoral seminar WITH
      Kaesemann (in Berkeley) on Romans (while he was writing his commentary)
      during which we fought much of the time, retiring after each session to
      my home. [There I offered him any wines he wished from my legendary
      3,000-bottle cellar; but he would always tell me that his stomach
      was bothering him. My offer of milk (the first time) was refused,
      whereupon he asked (this time in English!), "Haff you any Viskey?"
      I provided Scotch, but learned to keep Bourbon on hand for later (I
      hated Bourbon!). Bultmann also liked Bourbon. Well, even the greatest
      have feet of clay!]

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.
******Mine given above. Incidentally, my comments don't reveal my deep
      admiration for Edgar Krentz's scholarship; it is his postings, plus
      those of Carl Conrad, which above all keep me interested in this List.

--Edward C. Hobbs
  Wellesley, MA

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