Scholars to Spend Time With
If you could spend a weekend with an NT scholar (living or dead), and have fun shooting the breeze about biblical studies, theology, and life in general, whom would you choose? Here’s my top-10 list. Schweitzer’s my obvious top choice; I found myself surprised that Morton Smith came in second.
1. Albert Schweitzer. I’d be so in awe that I’d hardly know what to say, though there would be a lot of ground to cover: NT studies, classical music, travels abroad in service, all of which interest me. Above all else, I’d want to hear Schweitzer’s critique of the so-called 'third quest' of the historical Jesus, and find out what he thinks of the work of the Context Group.
2. Morton Smith. Certainly one of the most intriguing scholars: a genius ahead of his time, able to bamboozle people with the hoax of the century. Far from a pleasant man, but one you could learn a lot from, in more ways than one. I’d have him read Stephen Carlson’s Gospel Hoax, and ask him if he laughed himself to sleep every night thinking about what he did.
3. Richard Rohrbaugh. My mentor as an undergrad, an amazing authority on biblical culture, and a swell guy to boot. Has great stories about his time living on the West Bank. I’d want to hear more from him about how relevant the honor-shame Jesus can be in the modern west. His essay on the parable of the “prodigal son” is just amazing.
4. Dale Allison. He has sense and wisdom in abundance, and deals so well with the relationship between history and modern needs; Resurrecting Jesus ends up being surprisingly stronger for its excursions into theology. I could easily warm to this “reluctantly cryptic deist”, as he describes himself, living his life as though God made the world and then went away.
5. Philip Esler. He puts scripture in context like no other, and has a dynamic approach to theology that leaves me tongue-tied -- urging communion with one’s biblical ancestors, disagreement with them when necessary, and a willingness to remain challenged by their alien ways of thinking. I’d like to hear more about which books of the canon, besides Galatians, he believes to be inappropriate for theological guidance.
6. Michael Goulder. A brilliant and fascinating man -- in fact, a bit too brilliant for me to appreciate until Mark Goodacre later spelled out some of his anti-Q ideas more clearly. I'd enjoy hearing more about why he turned atheist after almost becoming an Anglican bishop.
7. Mark Nanos. A Jewish scholar willing to give Paul the benefit of the doubt all the way, a rather rare phenomenon. Mystery of Romans has to be one of the most fruitful cases of thinking outside the box. Mark is a cool guy too, and understands what Jewish-Christian dialogue should be all about.
8. Ed Sanders. An academic giant who deserves his reputation, but rather opaque about his own beliefs. Who is the real Sanders? What makes him tick? It would be neat to find out over a few beers.
9. Stephen Carlson. A cautious scholar who keeps his cards close to his vest -- but watch out when he’s finally ready to let loose. Stephen sets a good example for all of us, having no (discernible) axes to grind, and just seems to enjoy solving puzzles and letting chips fall where they may. Still waters run deep here, and I suspect that we've only begun to appreciate his penetrating ideas about source criticism.
10. Richard Bauckham. My favorite evangelical scholar, who has been shaking things up with a big-bang theory of high Christology. I’d be keen on discussing his book on hope and eschatology, since my sympathies lie more in the opposite direction, with the pagan souls portrayed in Lord of the Rings. For things are ultimately hopeless.
UPDATE: See Mark Goodacre's comments.