What Constitutes a Biblical Scholar?

Is it a phd?

A book?

Presenting at a professional conference?

A new discovery?

Knowing stuff?

An agenda?

Thoughts?

Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

26 thoughts on “What Constitutes a Biblical Scholar?”

  1. in fact it’s training, pure and simple. training in any field is what makes one a scholar in that field. would anyone ever ask ‘what makes a medical doctor a medical doctor’ or ‘what makes a lawyer a lawyer’. it’s training. it isn’t some slack jawed mouth breather dumping his plow and picking up a bible and professing himself an expert and (lo and behold) other slack jawed mouth breathers believing him.

    training is the word you’re looking for, just like in any other field. no training, no scholar.

    now- a good biblical scholar is also led by the holy spirit. but you didn’t ask about what makes a ‘good biblical scholar’ but a good one is a holy spirit led properly academically trained exegete.

  2. Relevant training is probably one prerequisite, as Jim says. I would add that a scholar, in any field, is either contributing or has contributed to the discipline’s knowledge base. If I have the credentials but I end up in a different line of work I’m not sure I can be considered a ‘scholar’.

  3. Why the need for credentials to be a scholar? Why not include autodidacts?
    Why not say that a scholar is a serious student?
    The medical doctor analogy fails because of the fact that one can be a scholar of medicine and medical science without practicing medicine. Practicing medicine is more analogous to being a teacher or professor. I would also add that John Bunyan had no degree, but wrote one of the greatest books on Christianity that the world has known.
    I think Jim’s definition would apply to the academic more than it does to the scholar. The scholar may indeed be a simple man without formal education, but who is an autodidact.

  4. A true scholar knows how much he doesn’t know. He looks at the scholars of the past–such as R.H. Charles, C.H. Dodd, W.D. Davies, Raymond Brown, etc.–who knew all the ancient languages, had no computers, wrote prolifically, and, though perhaps a bit out of date, still have incredible things in print. Because of that he feels unworthy to be called a “scholar” and so he doesn’t use the term of himself.

    A scholar–one with a name not to be “grasped at”.

  5. You can’t be a ‘good biblical scholar’ if you’re not Christian. And not just Christian, you have to be the right sort of Christian. Therefore I quit because the Bible belongs to Christians (and Jews?) and I can’t possibly interpret it or study its history because I can’t possibly understand and it’s not mine. If I converted I would choose Catholicism, because I like the Latin and ceremony. But right now I’m converting to the most objectionable form of fungusmentalist atheism because I’m sick to death of this religious ownership crap.

    1. Steph:

      I’m pretty sure Jesus felt the same way about a lot of the religious people in his day, in particular the “experts of the law”. I don’t think he decided however to convert to “the most objectionable form of fungusmentalist atheism”. So, I guess my advice is, go become an itinerant teacher, talk about the end of the world, and anger representatives of the Italian government.

      Also, speak Aramaic.

      Your welcome.

      1. Advice not called for. Aramaic is fundamental. I already know that. I was responding to an opinion about non Christians made by my beloved friend Jim, with whom I often disagree. Of course Jesus’ whole mission was to bring people back to God. Of course he disagreed with the ‘experts’ (expanders) of the Law. Please don’t patronise me Mr Barber, especially when you miss the point.

        1. Steph:

          Whoa! I was only joking around! I thought that would have been clear.

          I did not mean to offend you! I’m sorry you felt like I was patronizing you. That was in no way my intention! Please accept my apology.

  6. I like the former comment “serious student of the Bible” if we are referring to Bible scholars. F.F. Bruce was not a PhD and he was considered the “dean of scholars”…. and in fact he did not have specific training in the Bible, but in the classics.

  7. I agree with “serious student of the Bible.” I would add that a scholar continually works to shed new light on the biblical texts, whether in the area of language, archaeology, or other disciplines.

  8. Nooooooooo – all you have to do is greeeeease up to the ‘right’ people who might make ya famous, self publish a book of all your crappy blog posts and weazel up to some gentle old scholar and ‘co’ edit a book and then say MY BOOK. And then you’re reeeeeeeally important and eeeeeeeverybody knows you and thinks you’re reeeeeeeeeeeally cool (at least you think they do). Just say what you think they want to hear – after all you don’t know what you really think because you haven’t got any training, or degrees or academically published peer reviewed monographs or expertise in any area at all (except deception) and it’s all a big pretence. Nooooooooo I’m not talking about anyone in particular. Vomit. :-D

      1. Are you feeling a bit precious Mitchell? Got a sense of humour Mitchell? It’s ok – Joel knows what I’m referring to.

        1. not that I’m necessarily referring to any real person, just an amusing conversation previously had with the owner of this blog in regard to mythtical illusions. And allusions.

          1. huh? why? No. Me not precious. Cheap as chips me. Geez you must be precious reading stuff into stuff so quick. Perhaps it’s your cultural zone sweetie.

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