Can the Autodidact be Good Scholars?

I remember, and I can’t find the name, of a 16th or 17th century Englishman who was self-taught in Greek enough to publish a pretty good translation of the Septuagint. Then, you have the self-taught guys like Scofield.

But, can the self-taught be good scholars?

I think so, but they need to, at some point, be trained. I mean, if a teacher doesn’t become a student, then said teacher will never be able to learn anything more than what they can teach themselves.

What do you think?

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7 Replies to “Can the Autodidact be Good Scholars?”

  1. I think there’s clearly a historical precedent for the fact that it can work (at least for some subjects) Is it ideal? No. But books allow us to study under scholars we would never have the opportunity to otherwise, whether because we live in a different time, or a different part of the world, or simply because one cannot afford to.

    However – I’m not positive that it works so well in the present… I can’t really put my finger on what exactly it is. Maybe simply the fact that we have so much else available to us today, that it’s too easy to forever put off learning even something we want to learn, if there isn’t someone giving us a deadline? I keep intending to refresh my French and learn another language on my own, but I never seem to find the time (granted, I’m working part time and working on a second masters degree part time, add in church stuff and there’s not a ton of free time left!)

  2. One of the things pastoral training does is teach a person how to keep on learning. A pastor (or any other calling for that matter) is not someone who has been taught everything but someone who has been taught enough to be able to continue to learn without stumbling into the pitfalls that the Schofields of the world do. I think this can happen in settings other than the traditional ones. A good mentor system can work. I like an old Japanese proverb which states, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” This has happened many times in my life.

    Ultimately, though, there has to be humility on the part of the student. As soon as you have the attitude that you are always right, you are in trouble.

  3. First of all, I’ve really enjoyed reading your posts over the past few months. On the question of the self-taught scholar, I think it is possible even more than ever to do well being self-taught. For instance, I can “complete” a Harvard or Princeton (or various other great college) course by doing all the readings and watch all the lectures. I can learn a great deal from all of this, but I will always lack the ability to have the relationship that seems to put learning on a higher plane. I can learn Spanish all day from a textbook and by watching Spanish movies, but, until I really have interaction with a person, there seems to be something missing. That’s the exact reason why I’ve decided to go to a seminary through the classroom rather than through the internet. Something is lost without human interaction. Though, great scholarship can still be done, I don’t believe it will be the best possible scholarship.

  4. The onyMost of the real stuff I know was self taught. Schools just teach us to memorize. You can’t learn about Christ in a school. You have to gave a relationship with him. Which of the disciples went to seminary?

  5. self teaching! How wonderful and consistent it is!
    I have a dream that people that are now in their private rooms where all needed materials are available will accomplish more and change the world very soon.
    I have done Bachelor in Geography, but I’m changing into engineering by practicing self teaching and I see it is on a good pace.

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