Among those who read the Bible as Christian Scripture, the best biblical scholars genuinely love Scripture, and come to its pages ready to hear God’s address. They exhibit both a certain posture vis-à-vis the text and their own formation in relation to it, and a commitment to the hard work of reading Scripture that takes seriously the nature of the text.
The former involves the life of discipleship, of Christian formation, of worship, and of prayer. As I have written elsewhere: “Formed by our reading of Scripture, we become better readers of Scripture. This is not because we become better skilled at applying biblical principles. The practice of reading Scripture is not about learning how to mold the biblical message to contemporary lives and modern needs. Rather, the Scriptures yearn to reshape how we comprehend our lives and identify our greatest needs. We find in Scripture who we are and what we might become, so that we come to share its assessment of our situation, encounter its promise of restoration, and hear its challenge to serve God’s good news.”
The latter comprises the scholarly work of making the biblical languages one’s own, of finding a home with other readers of Scripture who reflect on its contexts, of exhibiting hospitality to interpretive traditions other than one’s own, and of patiently exploring with others the significance of Scripture’s witness within and to our world. This means, of course, that it is never enough—at least, not for “the good biblical scholar”—simply to live within the world where those biblical materials originated. Good biblical scholars recognize that their work must be set within and engage the grand tradition of the church’s faith and life in service to God’s agenda in the world.
Good biblical scholars don’t think of these as separate parts of the job description, this concern with Christian formation and with engaging biblical texts faithfully. Together, they comprise the singular vocation of the biblical scholar.*
*Note: the original version of this post was amended to clarify the context to which Professor Green directed his comments.
Joel B. Green (PhD, Aberdeen) is professor of New Testament interpretation, Fuller Theological Seminary. Author or editor of more than fifty books, he edits the New International Commentary on the New Testament and founded the Journal of Theological Interpretation. Follow him on Twitter @JoelBGreen
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