Thanks to Dave Black (Friday, July 18, 2008 at 2:25 pm) for this description of a “New Testament Scholar”. I don’t know about you, but this is the type of “scholar” that I want to be:
Good afternoon, bloggers and bloggerettes. Today I want you to meet a really great New Testament scholar. You’ve probably never heard of him before. But trust me, he’s an outstanding expert in the New Testament. His name? Nathan Black. You say, “Wait a minute! How can you consider Nathan a New Testament scholar? He doesn’t even have a post high school education!” Now hold on there. Nathan is VERY well educated, and I’m not talking only about the certificate in carpentry he received from our local community college. You see, it all depends on your definition of “educated” and “scholar.” (In Anabaptism, by the way, appeal was made to the plain manâ€™s judgment, unspoiled by the university. Those who toiled with their hands [craftsmen] or who worked in the soil [peasants] were presumed to be more receptive and teachable than those who had been corrupted by the folly of worldly wisdom.) My translation of “New Testament scholar” is one who knows the New Testament backwards and forwards AND who follows radically the Jesus it talks about AND who lives according to its hard teachings. So just by having a doctorate in New Testament, just by holding a chair in New Testament, just because everyone reads your famous books about the New Testament, doesn’t automatically make you a “New Testament scholar.” Not in my book. Just go to some New Testament blogs. Do they ever talk about sharing their faith in Jesus with others? Do they ever talk about pledging allegiance to Jesus and His Church — the ONLY Christian nation that has ever existed? Do they ever talk about getting their hands dirty in the name of Jesus? Why are you staring blankly at me? Truth be told, you can be a full professor of New Testament in a prestigious university and still not walk or talk with Jesus! I recall being at a scholarly meeting a couple of years and listening to a newly-minted Ph.D. in New Testament refer to himself in his paper as “a New Testament scholar.” “As a New Testament scholar, it is my opinion that….” He did this consistently and quite un-self-consciously. I’m sorry, but I actually chuckled OUT LOUD.
Now let’s contrast Nathan. He and Jessie started attending a small church called Hebron after their wedding. Hebron was founded in 1880. (If you ever want to visit Hebron, here are the directions: just drive to Podunk and turn right.) The first Sunday there the people asked Nate to teach. He said, “Why not?” and he’s been teaching ever since. The meeting starts at 10:00 and goes to 11:00, or else to 11:30, or else to 12:00 — well, you get the picture. (Ain’t nobody in no hurry.) They don’t really have “church” or a “worship service.” Just Bible study, prayer, maybe a hymn or two (Nate also plays the piano for them), and lots of talking. They wanted to pay Nathan but he just said, “Keep it.” He teaches only from the Bible — no notes, and no published curriculum. Deep stuff, yet simple. Right now he’s teaching through Hebrews. Or should I say leading the flock (all 13 or 14 of them, mostly farmer-types) in a discussion from the Bible about our Great High Priest, how we’re all priests in the kingdom of Jesus, how salvation is FREE (seems some folk think you need to get wet to get saved), how the Spirit lives in us so that we do not have to depend on the experts to explain what the Bible means, how the Church is more important than the church, how “believers” are a dime a dozen but “lovers” are few, and how people and not a building are the “temple” of God. They love it! Speaking of a building, the church meets in an old clapboard meeting hall off of a long gravel road. No restroom facilities, but there is a cemetery. I believe our world is in desperate need of such churches. And of such New Testament scholars. What an example that 25 year-old is to me!
Sat plene biberunt. That’s Latin for “shut up and sit down.” So I’ll keep my peroration short. Say you’re a New Testament “scholar” and you’re reading this right now and you are just furious. You’ve been taught to think, “Scholars don’t talk about their private lives. We need to keep Jesus out of the academic guild!” Honest to goodness, I once thought that way myself. But listen, it all comes down to the cross. As a much greater New Testament scholar than you or I will ever be once said, “We go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless…. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world” (1 Cor. 4:11-13). If that isn’t clear, then maybe some of us have been educated beyond our intelligence. The great French theologian Jacque Ellul put it this way: “Christians should be troublemakers,…agents of a dimension incompatible with society.” A DIMENSION INCOMPATIBLE WITH SOCIETY. Man, I like that. So, my dear scholar friends, keep on earning your doctorates (I have one myself), keep on writing your books (many of which I own), keep on lecturing at your conferences (I may attend one myself). But for Christ’s sake (I am NOT swearing), get radical for the Jesus of the New Testament or quit the moniker “New Testament scholar”!
How about you? What kind of “scholar” are you?