Read. Just Read.

Dear Scholar,

I don’t know exactly where you are in your career. You may be a seasoned, experienced, well-published professor. You may be a young graduate student or aspiring, academically inclined seminarian. You may be an undergrad who likes to read too much.

But wherever you are in your process, I have the same request to make of you.

Please read.

I know this sounds obvious. So let me explain.

It seems that the pressure to accumulate footnotes is so great in our day and time that one is allowed to footnote and dismiss someone’s argument without actually engaging the argument or otherwise paying attention to what the article said.

This week I got in the mail a new Romans commentary. It was by a well-established senior scholar. In his discussion of Romans 6, he mentioned Robin Scroggs’ famous article on “the one who has died is justified from sin” in Romans 6:7. He cited it.

That is, he cited it in his discussion of Romans 6:6, and didn’t even mention in his commentary on Romans 6:7 that there was some debate as to whether this “one” might be a reference to Christ rather than a generic “someone.”

Despite the fact that the article he cited was devoted to making that very argument about a Christological reference, the article was cited with no mention of the actual point of it.

This same commentary cited my own article suggesting that dikaioma (δικαίωμα) in Romans 5:16 should be translated “reparation” rather than “justification.” A footnote dismissed my suggestion by saying it never means this anywhere else in Paul, so we should translate the word as “justification,” because the context leads us to expect that meaning.

In saying this, he ignores the evidence of the article to the effect that (1) Paul actually does use dikaioma in just this way–in Romans! and that (2) what dikaioma never means, ever, either in Paul or elsewhere, “justification.”

On the standard of his own argument, his own choice of words does not stand.

Read the article, please.

And don’t just read it, but read it so as to weigh the evidence. And, should you choose to cite it, please actually engage the argument that was made. And, if you choose not to agree with the article, please do so by offering a rejoinder to the argument actually made rather than sticking your fingers in your ears, closing your eyes, jumping up and down, and repeating your own position over and over.

Such a posture is unbecoming a scholar–grad student or senior professor.

Thanks, and best regards,

7 thoughts on “Read. Just Read.”

  1. I suspect that commentary writers (especially senior scholars working on say, Romans, for several decades) have their basic “take” already determined and engage only cursorily with alternative views, just enough to dismiss them with fairly pathetic argumentation. I’d have more respect for someone who mentioned in the intro. that they simply hadn’t engaged with a massive swatch of scholarship. Or, perhaps that they’ve chosen to only engage a limited range of conversation partners. Just to say, I hear you.

  2. Thank you for your call to academic integrity. What has happened just serves to illustrate that many today seem to be more impressed by their veneer as scholars instead of good scholarship. No wonder so many are turned off by academics. And in that we all share the burden to correct.

  3. We are a culture that no longer takes the time to be thorough about anything let alone things academic in nature. Reading, writing and critical thinking require focus and patience to carry out a thought and execute an argument properly. Likewise, we live in a culture where we dismiss other people’s opinions way too quickly in defense of our own. We multi-task and blitz things out rather than being still first. Things of the spirit are not necessarily coming first. Personally, I’m trying to read and write more intensely and it means some things have to fall by the wayside because of time constraints.

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