At the beginning of the month I said that I might do some interviews. Well, here is the first of hopefully many. I do hope you enjoy.
John Kloppenborg is professor and Chair at University of Toronto’s Department and Centre for the Study of Religion. He has been involved in research of the origins and sources of early Christian texts (such as the Q document). He was kind enough to answer some questions a emailed his way. Here you go:
First, tell us a little about yourself.
B.A. (University of Lethbridge, 1974), M.A. (Theology, University of St. Michael’s College, Toronto, 1977), Ph.D. (Theology, University of St. Michael’s College, Toronto, 1984). Taught at the University of Windsor 1984-88; St. Michael’s/Toronto School of Theology (1988-2001); Claremont Graduate University (2002); University of Toronto (2002—present). Visiting Professor at University of Calgary, University of Helsinki, Centre chretien des etudes juives (Jerusalem), Tantur ecumenical institute (Jerusalem).
What motivated you to enter your field of study? What keeps you going?
Can you divulge any information on any new publication or project on which you are working?
Letter of James (Hermeneia) (Fortress); Collegia, Cult Groups, and Guilds: Associations in the Ancient World (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2011); Papyrological Commentary on the Parables (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht).
If there is one author/theologian that you believe everyone should read, who is it?
Rudolf Bultmann, not because he is always right, but because he is always thoughtful, theologically engaged, and historically learned.
What do you think are the biggest problems facing New Testament scholarship today?
There is an increasing disconnect between the methods of ‘normal’ historiography and the kind of ‘history’ practiced by New Testament scholars, which is increasingly apologetic and laden with doctrinal assumptions used to ‘manufacture’ data. Theological assumptions are invoked in order to organize historical data, exclude data deemed to be irrelevant, dangerous, or unimportant. Such procedures will only discredit NT exegesis.
What areas do you think New Testament scholars will have to focus on in the next ten years?
Robert Funk once said that Christian scholars will have to show why the historical Jesus matters, or he won’t matter for long. The same applies to the study of early Christian documents. This means not appealing to special Christian beliefs in order to justify to the study of the NT, but demonstrating why the study of Christian origins is inherently interesting, valuable and productive of knowledge.
Where do you believe are the best places for a student to study the New Testament either as an undergraduate, graduate, or doctoral student?
There are too many choices of good schools. What is important is developing real competence in languages – Greek, Hebrew, Coptic, Latin, German, French – a careful grasp of the history of NT scholarship from the nineteenth century onwards, an understanding of how NT scholarship belongs to the wider sweep of theological thinking, and the place of theological scholarship in general in cultural history.
Lastly, if there is one piece of advice you could give to someone entering New Testament scholarship, what would it be?
Learn languages well; read widely; never stop asking questions, even the uncomfortable ones.
I would like to thank Dr. Kloppenborg for taking time out of his day to answer these questions for me. It is very much appreciated. Also, if there is a New Testament scholar you would like to see appear in an interview here, let me know and I will see what I can do.