We asked a recently graduated PhD student of ours, Prof. Chris Keith of Lincoln Christian College, to contribute to the blog. Chris is interested in literacy in the ancient world and already has his second monograph ready for publication. Here is what he wrote . . .
Helen Bond invited me to contribute a guest post to the CSCO blog and I am grateful to oblige. I just submitted the manuscript for a monograph to T&T Clark and had planned a bit of digital vanity with a short post about it. Today, however, I received in the mail/post a copy of the late Martin Hengel’s Saint Peter: The Underestimated Apostle and it sparked another idea. While reading it, I wondered silently, “Will there be another Hengel?” and thought, “I should ask Helen (Bond, who did part of her doctoral work under Hengel) and Larry (Hurtado, who was, as I understand it, a personal acquaintance of Hengel’s) whether they think there will be another Hengel, and what it would take for a young scholar to develop into that type of scholar.” Since they both contribute to this blog, then, I offer this post as my query, and open it to anyone else reading.
I’ll offer a bit more background on why I wondered these things. First, one of the common complaints in “the guild” is over-specialization; i.e., scholars becoming too narrowly-defined in their work. Instead of being a “NT scholar,” one is a specialist in “Johannine narrative criticism” or “characters in Luke” or “apocalyptic metaphors in Paul.” No doubt this is a product of the huge number of members of “the guild” and the need for each to get published in a focused area, but Hengel is a prime example of a scholar who avoided this type of myopic focus over the course of a career. I admire (and am intimidated by) the vast topics that he addressed in his career, with intimate knowledge of each topic and the pertinent primary and secondary sources.
On this count, then—Can there be another Hengel under the current academic climate of (perhaps necessary?) specialization? Second, I wonder if theological education in general is sufficient to support the type of broad knowledge necessary to be a scholar of Hengel’s caliber. Much like with Schweitzer’s Quest for the Historical Jesus, it astounds me that Hengel wrote Judaism and Hellenism at the very beginning of his career! How many young scholars today would be capable of producing such a study??! Certainly not this one or anyone of his acquaintance. I had this thought similarly once when reading F. F. Bruce’s autobiography. Bruce discusses how he began to study Greek and Latin at an early age and how it paid dividends in his academic work. I immediately wondered whether future critical commentaries on the Greek texts will be poorer since most scholars now begin their language training in their early-20s at the earliest. So, on this second count—Can there be another Hengel under the current state of theological education?
Obviously, Hengel (and Schweitzer and Bruce) are atypical in the best sense of the word and it would be foolish for anyone to use them as their only scholarly barometer of success. The short answer to the question is, of course—No, there will never be someone quite like Hengel. With that caveat asserted, though, I pose these questions more broadly to Helen and Larry and the rest of the CSCO blog contributors and readers. What do you think? Will there ever be another Hengel? What would it take for a young scholar today to get to that stage? I would also be interested in hearing any personal anecdotes from those who knew Hengel. What made him tick? What made Hengel . . . Hengel?