More footnotes on "NT Scholarship"

From: Edward Hobbs (
Date: Sat Jun 29 1996 - 19:19:47 EDT

Once more, dear friends!

Greg Carey's original question about Ph.D. programs and what NT
scholars should know has stimulated much more response than I would
have expected, most of it to the point, enlightening, and (sometimes)
intimidating. Let me only add comments to what has appeared since my
posting (a series of footnotes to Edgar Krentz's excellent offering) a
few days ago.

(1) Spanish:
     I seem to have been misunderstood on this. It was my most-fluent
language other than English when I began my graduate studies; compared
to most of the languages Edgar listed, and which we all use, I said I
rarely use it in NT studies. A couple of messages since then have
mentioned some articles in Spanish. I do know them, but read at the
most a half-dozen articles in Spanish per year, since there are dozens
and dozens of articles in German to be read, and a couple-dozen in
French, not to mention great numbers in English, and an occasional one
in Italian, not to mention the ones in languages I can't read.
     The plain fact is that Spanish, and even French and Italian
universities, lacked the tradition of freedom in research which the
German universities had for centuries, above all since von Humboldt's
great new foundation of Berlin in 1800. Since 1943 (Divino Afflante
Spiritu), and especially since Vatican II (1962-65), an explosion of
Roman Catholic Biblical scholarship has meant also an increase in
recent important work done in languages such as Italian, French, and
     But if the TOTAL VOLUME of important Biblical research published
in Spanish is more than (say) 2% to 3% of that in German, I would be
much surprised. There are many decades, even if not centuries, of
playing catch-up. How I wish it were otherwise! I still read Spanish
more readily than German (to which I came as an adult, like most of
you, and unlike blessed and fortunate Edgar Krentz). But an
examination of New Testament Abstracts each four months drives me to
far more publications in German than in Spanish.

(2) Time (and money) needed for the Ph.D. in New Testament: Alas,
we do demand a lot of both! There are fields in which Ph.D.'s take a
mere three years out of college. So be it; it takes what it takes.
Law school is three years, then after bar exams you are a lawyer. But
medical school (in which I spent 25 years of my life teaching, in
addition to trying to being a Biblical scholar and a constructive
theologian) takes four years, plus a year of internship, plus
(usually) three years of residency, then Board exams, and ONLY then a
practice which pays good wages. If the response is that an M.D. earns
a lot more money than a NT scholar does, so what? If you want money,
lots of other professions beat teaching, and lots of other fields pay
more than NT and classics! IT SIMPLY TAKES TIME! And Edgar's point
is well-taken, that these days languages are much less in hand than
they were a half-century ago. (On the other hand, just think of how a
computer makes all sorts of tedious, atrociously time-consuming
research a matter of hours, even minutes. TLG means you do not have
to be a Bauer yourself; dozens of search engines make child's-play out
of what we used to spend months working at. You win some, you lose
some, by coming along a generation later!)

     Money: The problem is increased when the would-be scholar is
married, and perhaps has children. Time was when most of us simply
postponed marriage until we could afford it, meaning, after the degree
was in hand, or almost so. That means paying a price, and not
everyone can or will do it.
     But it's also much more expensive today, even relatively, if we
are speaking of the top schools anyway. I don't know the solution to
this. Society doesn't value our discipline very highly, and the
churches will only pay for what they see as fairly direct benefits for
themselves. Maybe the solution is to become a Jesuit: IF you make
the grade, and after you get an M.A. in some other field (e.g.,
economics) and do a few years teaching, they may decide you are worth
investing in, all the way. Why else are there so many top-notch
Biblical scholars who are Jesuits? The only thing even remotely
parallel to their system is the one-time Missouri Synod system (of
which I believe Edgar Krentz is an example). But Missouri Synod came
to demand a doctrinal price, and limitations on what a scholar could
publish (even think, perhaps), driving the Krentzes and Dankers out.
(Let's hope the Society of Jesus doesn't follow that precedent!)
     So, I simply don't know the answer.

(3) Coptic:
     Edgar admitted to not learning it; neither have I, about which I
periodically feel guilty. It came along a bit late for both of us,
and I suppose we let Jim Robinson stand in for us as our generation's
surrogate, with mostly younger scholars doing the first-hand research.

Edward Hobbs

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:37:45 EDT