About seven years ago, Mike Bird approached me with this project. He inspired me to do two things: (1) research and write this volume on the level of something in the Anchor-Yale reference series and (2) read every academic writing on 1-2 Thess in English written after 1984 (and the most importance works in German and French). Bottom line: this is not your grandparents’ critical introduction.
KoineGreek.com has released videos for Mark 1–7. The subtitles are given in Greek according to Robinson and Pierpont’s text. The narration is according to Randall Buth’s pronunciation system. Thus far, I’ve just watched the video for Mark 1 and found it quite interesting. I especially enjoyed the camera angle in the shot of John the Baptist being ἐνδεδυμένος τρίχας καμήλου. 🙂
By this point in your career, you’ve likely worked on several writing projects concurrently (e.g., articles, books). What’s a memorable example of a cluster of projects you worked on concurrently?
A few years ago, I was invited to write a non-technical commentary on 1–2 Thessalonians as well as an advanced guide to academic scholarship on 1–2 Thessalonians. It was helpful ahead of time to set myself up to work on both and let one inform the other. I was also writing a monograph on Paul and a textbook.
Larger projects (e.g., a dissertation, a second monograph) can be more important but less urgent than others (e.g., conference papers, book reviews). How do you avoid letting good-but-less-important projects push out or cause you to procrastinate on those that are more important but less urgent?
I have a detailed weekly and daily schedule where I have firm blocks of research build in. As much as I can control it, I plan out which projects get which blocks of time—if I stick to that (fingers crossed), nothing gets neglected. That method has worked well for me over the past several years.
Also, as much as possible, I try to overlap the content of smaller projects with larger ones, so I “double-dip” on the research. So, if I am writing a commentary, I try to do speaking engagements or papers related to that biblical book.
When you’ve worked on multiple projects concurrently, what processes, principles, or practices have you used to be sure you’re making good progress on all fronts?
The most helpful thing for me is to map out my weekly time (over a period of several months or a year), so that I can plan ample time for each item. And then I have to stick to it! But I intentionally give a project “extra time” in my schedule to allow wiggle room in case I get sick, extra busy with other things, or hit a research snag.
I also try to write on subjects I naturally teach, and I try to teach courses that align with my research interests. So, for example, if your area is Hebrews, give yourself the freedom to spend 5 weeks on Hebrews in your Introduction to the New Testament course. Sometimes, faculty feel this is wrong, but my experience is that students love when faculty bring their passions and their fresh research to the classroom. So, don’t exhaust yourself, but find ways to bring the different areas of your vocation together for research synergy!
When working on multiple projects concurrently, what tools do you use (e.g., filing systems, project management tools, apps)?
I’ve settled into a good routine with apps. I have a master Google Doc with a bird’s eye schedule of my future writing projects. This helps me to see deadlines clearly. I also have separate documents that show a year’s planning of research, another for a semester, and another for a month.
I use Google Drive folders to store data, especially PDFs of important articles, scans of essays, etc. I have a master research Google Doc for each project I am working on. This is where I put my notes for the project. Then I have another document for the writing itself. This document will become to final essay or book.
I use Google Keep as a kind of “short term memory” where I will jot down quick thoughts on various issues when I am out and about and have an idea or two.
Currently I use BibleWorks for intensive research involving the biblical languages. I use Logos primarily for commentaries and dictionaries.
How has your approach to concurrent writing projects changed over time?
I am now at the point where I am re-using some bibliographic items for new projects that I used for older ones. So it is now more important that I have a good organization system for article and essay PDFs I have stored. I also take meticulous notes from ILL resources and books so I don’t have to re-read books. I wish I had thought about these things a decade ago!
What are two or more projects you’re particularly excited about that you’re now working on concurrently?
Right now, I am working on a monograph on Paul’s theology focusing on his language of love (Eerdmans). That will occupy my time for 2–3 more years. Also, I am writing a commentary on Galatians (Zondervan). I have completed the research, so now I am just writing. I am writing a few articles for the second edition of the Dictionary of Paul and His Letters (InterVarsity Press), and I am writing a short New Testament theology for Zondervan.
What closing advice (if any) would you offer to (post-)graduate students and new faculty as they try to become comfortable and competent for themselves in making progress concurrently on multiple writing projects?
I’d mention a few other pieces of advice. First, don’t overcommit. It stresses you out as a writer, and it reflects negatively on you to the publisher if you delay too long. Don’t stress yourself out over publishing so much that you neglect your health, your family, and your ministry time (or charity work, if you are not interested in ministry).
Second, quality is far more important than quantity. Always have a few academics you trust read your work and give you feedback before you send it to the publisher.
Then, only publish with trusted presses and periodicals. Why waste all your time and energy for a piece of scholarship that is going to collect dust on a shelf or is buried somewhere on the internet?
Similarly, don’t self-publish. In all instances I can think of, if you can’t find a legitimate press wanting to publish your great idea, it might not be a great idea. Keep sharpening, grow as a professional, and keep trying to get it published with a good press.
Lastly—this one is just something I’ve done, but it motivates me—make an academic bucket list. I have set 6–10 things I want to accomplish in my career. It helps me focus, and I get excited at the opportunity to push myself. I get offers to write a book or commentary sometimes, and now I check with the bucket list to help me stay focused.
What’s your single biggest takeaway from this interview?
Nijay Gupta digests the main resources he suggests for “mov[ing] from biblical text to theology and application.”
According to a recent email from the Society of Biblical Literature to its members,
JSTOR has invited SBL into a two-year pilot program that provides access for all SBL members to more than eighty journals in JSTOR’s Religion and Theology Collection.
Members may access the collection by visiting the member benefits page of the SBL website and then logging in. Once logged in, a new link will appear under the JSTOR member benefits giving you access to the journals in the collection.
SBL members also get a 50% discount on annual subscriptions to JPASS, JSTOR’s service that provides access to over 2,000 journals. To claim that discount, click on the JPASS link when logged in to the member benefits page.
SBL is grateful to JSTOR for this member benefit through 2020.
I have learned that I cannot control what other people think of me. I need to be driven by what I think is right, keep my pride in check, have friends and colleagues who can graciously call me out if I err, and pass on generosity to those who are struggling just as others have lifted me up. I think we will be held back from doing all that we are called to do if we are overly occupied with how our work “looks” to others. I try to believe that if we commit ourselves to quality (and not just quantity), we should not be embarrassed with our work and productivity.
This reflection is substantially similar to C. S. Lewis’s thoughts that
Pleasure in being praised is not Pride. The child who is patted on the back for doing a lesson well, the woman whose beauty is praised by her lover, the saved soul to whom Christ says ‘Well done,’ are pleased and ought to be. For here the pleasure lies not in what you are but in the fact that you have pleased someone you wanted (and rightly wanted) to please. The trouble begins when you pass from thinking, ‘I have pleased him; all is well,’ to thinking, ‘What a fine person I must be to have done it.’ The more you delight in yourself and the less you delight in the praise, the worse you are becoming. When you delight wholly in yourself and do not care about the praise at all, you have reached the bottom.
Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call ‘humble’ nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody. Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him. If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all. (Mere Christianity, 125–26, 128)
Late last year, Books and Cultureinterviewed Richard Hays about some of his story and common themes in his work. Stemming from Hays’s similarly titled book, one of the questions addressed is “How is reading backward in a figural sense different from reading prophecy forward?” In response, Hays comments, in part,
To be sure, in the Old Testament, there are a few passages that look forward in hope to a future king who will restore the kingdom, a lot of those particularly in the Psalms. There are also enigmatic passages, of course, in Isaiah that refer to a suffering figure, although that figure is never described there as a Messiah.
But the whole picture doesn’t really come together until you read the text, as I say, “backwards,” through the lens of cross and resurrection. Once you have the story of Jesus, you can go back to the older texts and have a kind of “Aha!” recognition that certain things are foreshadowed there, but there’s a big difference between foreshadowing and prophecy.
When you’re moving forward in a narrative, you can’t know what is foreshadowed until you see the full unfolding of the plot and see what actually happens in the end, and then you can do a second reading of the text in light of its ending. That second reading allows you to unravel clues that you never would’ve seen before.