Sunday, August 07, 2005

Specialist or Generalist

Sometimes I think about limiting my secondary source readings and research to just one area; maybe Historical Jesus OR Paul and just focusing on that. That would allow me to specialize and really get a grasp of the literature in any one given area, which is hard when so many dissertations, articles, reviews and books are being published all the time. Then I could become an “expert” in one particular area and research predominantly in that stream. This was the path I was encouraged to take at University – specialise and develop a research and teaching portfolio for your little scholarly niche. However, I have decided against this approach for two reasons: (1) I like the entire NT, and I want to be a NT lecturer/scholar, not just a Gospels or Paul or Revelation or John scholar. (2) As the only resident NT lecturer at a college, by necessity, I have to have a wide and broad grasp of general NT scholarship and issues.

So how does one become a generalist in NT studies, well, here’s my proposal:

1.Keep up to date with reviews, read and write them on a variety of NT topics. RBL and New Testament Abstracuts are great in this regard.
2.I also try to read secondary books in a topical sequence: Historical Jesus– Gospels – Paul – Later NT – Pastoral/Devotional.
3.Read books that give digests of trends in NT scholarship. The recent volume edited by Grant R. Osborne and Scot McKnight, The Face of New Testament Studies , is an excellent example. The IVP black dictionaries are also an invaluable resource.
4.The journal Currents in Biblical Literature is another excellent publication to keep abreast of trends across biblical studies.
5.If you can’t actually attend conferences at least read the seminar paper topics for various conferences like SBL, ETS, SNTS etc. Ask authors to email you their paper if you are interested in their seminar paper and you can’t attend.
6.If researching, try to work in stages, Historical Jesus for a few years, then Paul, maybe John afterwards. (I must confess that I have tried desperately to stay focused on Historical Jesus/Gospel studies these past three years; however, Pauline studies are a lot like the Mafia, every time you think you’re out they drag you back in by arousing your interest in some new topic, dimension or dispute).

That is my recipe for being a jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none NT generalist. Will it work, ask me in ten years!


slaveofOne said...

Thank you very much for those links.

Brandon Wason said...

Great post! I think I will ask you in ten years how your pursuit is going.

Aaron said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aaron said...

How is this coming along, 4 years later?

I have been thinking that I would like to be a "generalist" before I had come across this, so I am curious as to any insight you can share. ;-)