One thing that makes a good scholar is the ability to be an original thinker. In one sense, this means the ability to approach problems from new angles. In another, but related, sense, this means the ability to see the edifice of a scholarly discourse and seize upon an aspect of it that is assumed throughout the discourse but not thoroughly interrogated. Sometimes, the new vista comes by yanking one of the foundation stones out.
A second, more practical thing that makes a good scholar is a willingness to take yourself seriously, but not too seriously. This is a hard balance to strike. You have to care enough about the subject to work hard on it, focus on it for years, and consume as much prior scholarship on the issue as you can. You have to be invested. But you can’t take yourself so seriously that you can’t handle criticism of any kind, or can’t acknowledge that you were wrong on a given point. You’re going to be wrong at some point or another, and you’re also going to be criticized at one point or another. Learning to sift through the helpful criticism and the irrelevant criticism is one of the important skills we must acquire, but is nowhere formally taught.
~Chris Keith, Director of the Centre for the Social-Scientific Study of the Bible and Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity, St Mary’s University, Twickenham, London