Joshua Mann on “What Makes a good Biblical Scholar?”

What makes a good scholar-theologian? Here are seven things:

1. Careful, patient research, the driving motivation of which should be increasing knowledge (rather than the host of real but lesser motivations, such as CV-building, funding, tenure, esteem, deadlines, etc.).

2. Wariness towards scholarly consensus, behind which often hide many unjustified assumptions, unchallenged claims, and unconsidered evidence (and, at times, laziness).

3. Courage with restraint, i.e., a willingness to make a justifiable, bold claim or critique while at the same time maintaining reasonable deference towards others.

4. The ability to communicate concisely, clearly, and capture the interest of your audience (and to improve in this area year by year). This includes writing and teaching, as well as less significant contributions such as commenting or asking a question at a conference.

5. Humility to hear and consider critique without hasty defensiveness.

6. Awareness and sensitivity toward the impact of one’s scholarship outside of the guild, including the impact upon faith communities and popular audiences.

7. Self-awareness, including a knowledge of one’s own abilities and limitations, as well as the impressions one makes on others.

Of course, to these other qualities might be added. However, in my experience and in light of the scholarly counsel I’ve received over the past 15 or so years, these stand out as the most important.

Joshua Mann (PhD, Edinburgh) leads a research nonprofit, Expositus, and his research engages subjects in digital humanities, biblical studies, and where the two intersect. He blogs irregularly at https://josh.do.

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Tavis Bohlinger

Dr. Tavis Bohlinger is Editor-in-Chief of the Logos Academic Blog and Creative Director at Reformation Heritage Books. He holds a PhD from Durham University and writes across multiple genres, including academia, poetry, and screenwriting. He lives in Grand Rapids with his wife and three children.

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