I love research! I love going to a library and spending hours making mental notes of all the latest journals, books, and other things relating to New Testament scholarship. When I was a undergraduate student I worked at the library. When I was not helping patrons with questions, usually you could find me scanning the TOC of all of the journals we carried—both paper copies and electronic copies. I would store important articles away in my head for use on a rainy day. The really important ones I would make photocopies of; or if it was electronic, I would save a PDF of it to a thumb drive. By the time I graduate I had a collection of some 100+ articles. The same could be said for books. I got to know our library so well that when someone came in looking for a particular title I could take them straight to it without having to check our records for its location. All this to say, I have a unquenchable curiosity for what is going on in the field.
Now, why do I say all of this? I have been asked a few occasions how I have attained my knowledge of these things. The simple answer is I have no life. I would rather stay home and catalog my library or download the latest TOC of NovTest, NTS, etc. than go see a movie or eat a fancy dinner. While potential PhD students are looking for an advisor for their dissertations, I am looking to get info on their latest writing projects. So, this is my attempt to flesh out what I do stay on top of the latest trends in NT scholarship.
Before I say anymore, let me state that I am no scholar nor do I claim to be. There are far smarter people than me out there. Nevertheless, one does not have to be a scholar to stay informed.
1. The Publishing World
One of the easiest ways to stay informed in to get copies of every major academic publishers catalogs of forthcoming books. When I worked at a Christian bookstore in my hometown I use to spend my lunch breaks reading through the Baker Academic, Eerdmans, and Zondervan catalogs. Whenever I came across a book that looked promising, I would make a mental note of it (I seem to have a strange ability to remember books without writing them down). If it was really good, I would also selfishly have the store order it so that I could get it at 40% off. Now, with the ease of Amazon I can also search by publisher and then sort by publication date to see what books are coming later in the year. Speaking of Amazon, I use their wish list to now keep track of what I want to get at some point.
2. Blogs and Blogging
I have been grateful to befriend a number of people through the medium of blogging. These connections have helped me meet some new friends that are involved in the world of academics and publishing. I have made connections with some key publishers like Baylor, Fortress, Zondervan, and others, for which I am grateful and blessed to know. I have also become friends with scholars in the field of NT studies. People like Mike Bird, Nijay Gupta, and others are doing some awesome things in their area of expertise. Heck, I have even gotten to sit in a room with other bloggers and interview N.T. Wright! See, blogging pays off.
3. Read, Read, and Read
I read all the time! At any given moment I am in the midst of 3 or more books. Like I said above, I would rather spend the evening with a few books than at the movies. I get up at 5am to read and go to bed around 12am with a book in hand. Thankfully I have a wife who understands my love for reading and puts up with my nose constantly in a book. While I read, I am not only tracing the argument, but I am again making mental notes of the bibliographic citations in the footnotes. I find footnotes to be a book in and of themselves. I keep track of what books are being cited and tuck them away in my mind.
With social media this has become easy! I get to know people through twitter and then have a beer with them at SBL in November. Also, by working at Logos Bible Software I have been lucky to befriend folks like David Garland, Joel Willitts, Josh Jipp, Lynn Cohick, and Mike Bird!
5. Love for History
When I was in school I always did well in history. When everyone complained about having to remember dates, I always loved that part because it was the dates that I used as containers for the information. I loved tracing important historical facts from one point to another, from cause to effect. It is the same with NT scholarship. I like to trace the development of one area of research through all of the key players along the way, reading their works as I do.
I could add more but I will stop there. In truth, when I am asked how do I know what I know I really do not know how to answer. My brain is just wired to remember random facts and information.
None of this may make any sense, but it is what makes sense to me. I also don’t know if you can teach somebody this. I think it is just in their bones.