We continue our series on the qualities and practices of good biblical scholar with the esteemed Grant Macaskill of Aberdeen University.
I’m sensitive to a number of things on the back of the intellectual humility work I’ve done recently, and obviously such humility would be a key marker: we are all imperfect, finite thinkers, who are dependent on God and on other creaturely thinkers, and have to be open to exchange with others if truth is to be comprehended. John Barclay, Simon Gathercole or Loren Stuckenbruck are all lovely examples, I think, of such openness, by contrast to some others who may be rather more entrenched in their own positions.
I think humility is wrapped up with other characteristics, though, and I’ll just mention these quickly. The first is gratitude: humble thinkers recognise their dependency on God and on others and show proper gratitude to the giver for the gift. That allows them then to share the gift with others. The second is patience: humble thinkers wait and seek to listen while they are waiting. The third is kindness: if we really allow what we are studying to master us, we must share in God’s generosity. Again, John, Loren and Simon are really lovely embodiments of that.
All, I think, goes with a particular way of thinking of our relationship to the object of our study. Do we see our task as one of mastering biblical texts, or allowing Scripture to master us? If the latter, we see the place of theology in a very different way.
~Professor Grant Macaskill, Kirby Laing Chair of New Testament Exegesis, University of Aberdeen