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Is there a Doctor in the House?: An Insider’s Story and Advice on becoming a Bible Scholar Paperback – September 10, 2011
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About the Author
Ben Witherington III is professor of New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary. He is considered one of the top evangelical scholars in the world and has written over forty books, including The Brother of Jesus (co-author), The Jesus Quest, and The Paul Quest, both of which were selected as top biblical studies works by Christianity Today. Witherington has been interviewed on NBC Dateline, CBS 48 Hours, FOX News, top NPR programs, and major print media including the Associated Press and the New York Times. He was featured with N.T. Wright on the recent BBC Easter special entitled, The Story of Jesus. Ben lives in Lexington, Kentucky.
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Top Customer Reviews
The book reads extremely easy, and quickly. For the average reader this could be read over a weekend. If you have a passion for teaching the bible, and have always been curious about all the aspects of becoming an expert in the field, this book will be like an encouraging conversation with an experienced friend. I highly recommend it!
That being said there is one part of the book which is insufficient, namely, Witherington's treatment of hermeneutics and the types of skills required in this area. There is no mention of the importance of epistemology (the study and understanding of knowledge) and linguistics. His exploration of hermneutics reflects an endemic problem in biblical theology - namely that few actually take hermeneutical prolegomena and pre-interpretational methods seriously enough.
Without careful consideration of knowledge and linguistics we are at risk of going ad fontes without a full awareness of our own subjectivity and the distance between our own horizon and the horizon of the text.
My only real complaint was the lack of new insight. And I say this for the sake of those at the beginning of their potential academic careers. The points Ben makes are those which you will learn from anyone who has done Ph.D. work. If you're considering an academic career in Biblical Studies and you don't already know the importance of original languages, primary sources, context sensitivity, literary nuance, etc. then you're in for a real shock. But if you've done a few hours of online research about doing a Ph.D, then you know the importance of those things. One of the blessings of the proliferation of blogs is that you can find many blogs written by those engaged in, or having just completed, doctoral studies, and eager to dole out advice. Nevertheless, the book is a fun read, makes you feel like you're sitting down with Ben to talk over coffee, and definitely must be read by those considering academics.
Witherington's first and final chapters were a helpful dose of wisdom and perspective wisdom regarding the realities and difficulties of completing a Ph.D. program - what it takes and what it will cost to achieve the goal. Much of middle of the book, though, covered ground that an aspiring doctoral student should already know. For example, although Witherington argues persuasively for the value of original and research language study, it seems obvious that these are required skills for doctoral study. Of course we need to know languages and historical background, have literary sensitivity and a grasp of hermeneutics. Learning the value and lay of the land in these disciplines was one of the main goals of Seminary. Witherington surveyed these fields succinctly, but there was no need to explain, for example, that the Bible has diverse genres and a scholar needs to interpret them correctly.
In much of the book, Witherington shared his own experience and journey. Sometimes this was helpful and encouraging; other times I thought, "Yeah, there's a reason you've published dozens of books and the rest of us haven't. You are incredibly gifted!" This, too, I suppose is good to remember, and he both stressed his indebtedness to God and other people for what he has accomplished and made clear that we each have different gifts and callings and we should not try to be someone we're not.
Witherington also offered a few practical steps and suggested resources for budding scholars. For two examples, he suggested Campbell's book, Keep Your Greek for staying sharp in Koine, and he listed 20 important monographs that a Bible (esp. NT) scholar should read. It was nice that the book did not create an overwhelming "to do list," but I would have liked a few more of these practical suggestions throughout.
One final quibble: I felt some chapters lacked a clear internal organization and momentum. For all his discussion about the need to be a clear communicator, I would have liked a little more focused presentation. Each chapter had a main point, but he bounced around a bit in the making of it. This fuzziness was offset by an abundance of creative wordplays and catchy turns of phrase that so characterize Witherington. Each chapter finished with a piece of his own poetry, which was enjoyable and achieved his aim of delivering the book's ideas in different and artistic way.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
As a text, the work is a great survey regarding the requirements of scholarship.Read more