Michael Halcomb’s 15 Things that Make Being a Biblical Scholar Difficult

15 Things That Make Being A Bible Scholar Difficult

1) Retention of the languages & syntax/grammar rules
2) Retention of the details of historical events and the various interpretive nuances about them
3) Retention of key figures and discussions in interpretive history
4) Keeping up with the mass of relevant academic studies/literature
5) Keeping up with the mass of relevant popular literature
6) Being able to, at one and the same time, be a generalist across the spectrum (history, literature, etc.), and a specialist/particularist in a given area or two
7) Being able to share with others why and how these things are meaningful and relevant in meaningful and relevant ways
8) Being able to navigate the triple worlds of the academy, church, and society without being completely awkward
9) Dealing with people who think that scholarship is not needed and/or even a spiritual detriment
10) Being careful not to let one’s doctrinal or theological biases override what the text says (whether one is an atheist, agnostic, Christian, Jew, etc.)
11) Being able to see the big picture of how everything (history, theology, research, exegesis, etc.) relates
12) The pressures to make “unique” contributions to the field
13) The pressures of being ousted by one’s academic institution for saying things that may question or challenge doctrinal assumptions, in other words, job security
14) Separating scholarly debates from personal relationships
15) Practicing an apologetic of humility

  • Robert Rogers

    A general knowledge of logic and the art of debate doesn’t hurt either.

  • Bill C

    One thing that makes being a bible scholar easy: There is generally ample time between when a question is asked and an answer is required!

    Another: The advice of bible scholars doesn’t generally effect how people live!

  • Ben Witherington

    Oh I don’t know about that Bill C, sometimes its a matter of eternal life or eternal death. BW3

  • http://patricklmitchell.wordpress.com Patrick Mitchell

    As one about to embark on PhD studies, I suppose it’s good to be aware of the long, dark road ahead….

    And Bill C, the best advice I’ve received and gleaned has come from trusted Bible professors, not pastors (not that it’s one versus the other).

  • D. Foster

    Ditto to what Patrick said. The most life-transforming things I’ve come across are from biblical scholars and the like–including Ben’s posts here. I’m a generally silent, but avid reader of this blog. Pastors and churches in general have made very, very little impact in my spiritual life by comparison.


  • Bill C

    Gather around! Protect the group! Really, Come on lighten up!

  • http://patricklmitchell.wordpress.com Patrick Mitchell

    Bill, there’s no animosity. You simply made a sweeping, unfounded statement. Those rarely get looked over–unless they’re in a sermon.

  • http://www.lbc.edu Bob Spender

    Great list – all that and then keeping the study of the Bible fresh in one’s own life – it’s so important!

  • Max

    How about challenging political correctness?

  • Matt

    To stretch and piggyback on numbers 8 & 14: staying on top of things academically but still making family (spouse and kids) your priority.

  • Ben Witherington

    Well actually God should be your priority and doing his will, and family and kids need to fit into that. BW3

  • Pat Pope

    To #13, I’d add the Church as well. Many don’t look kindly on questioning or challenging doctrinal assumptions.

  • Jeff Martin

    Bill C,

    Jesus was a Rabbi, he said some important things that we should listen to. When you say it doesn’t affect how people live, I would say, maybe it should!