I was plesently surprised when I recently switched on my Kindle to find Ben Witherington’s guide to becoming a Biblical Scholar had arrived. In short, it is a great read for anyone thinking of undertaking Doctoral study in the field of Biblical Studies field. Over the years I have become increasingly concerned by the amount of seminary students who begin their studies planning to be pastors and end up wanting to be scholars. Every one of them should read this book!

In honest and conversational style Ben details his own journey through the various stages to become a renowned scholar and writer. The book is easily read in a day and covers what it really takes to become a scholar (and believe me it is a hard slog). Ben doesn’t pull any punches. He isn’t going to let you off with only your Greek. He wants you to master Hebrew, Aramaic, theological German and even French!  He discusses how to choose the right school and the right supervisor and he advocates the need to go beyond a grasp of the languages and to a well-furnished understanding of historical context (secondary literature).

Perhaps the two most compelling chapters in this small work are the final two on the character of the scholar and the sacrifices required of those wanting to follow this calling (and in Ben’s mind it is most definitely a calling).

The chapter on character is personal and challenging. In it Ben shines.  I have never read about the need for the  academic  to possess Christ like character in their field before. It was refreshing to read. I have seen Ben in action on more than one occasion and his teaching is comprehensive and well presented. In many ways he is a Scholar/Minister. But I have also witnessed him behind the scenes. We have shared coffee and only last year he visited my home and we shared a meal. I know he lives this stuff because I have seen it. What he teaches is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to his character. (That is why I get so upset when people get personal about his work I guess).

Concerning the final chapter; it should be required reading for any young savvy Masters student considering a career path, a calling, as a Biblical Scholar. Ben not only outlines the financial cost of tuition but he also opens one’s eyes to what is, in Ben’s mind, the greatest sacrifice; the relational one.  In this chapter Ben outlines the sacrifices his wife Ann has made in order for him to do what God had called him to do. As I said, It should be required reading (especially for the men) for every student.

Beyond reasonable doubt this book convinced me of my calling to be a pastor and not a scholar. We need both. We need folks who are called to both. If you are considering a vocation as a Biblical scholar I commend this book to you!