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The Work of the Professional Scholar 1: Introduction

                In some of the back and forth that I have been involved with over the past few weeks there have been questions raised about whether “experts” in a field have any privileged standing when it comes to making judgments about the acceptability or force of evidence that is adduced for one position or another.   I am not going to go into that question here, but a related topic did occur to me as I was thinking about it:   My hunch is that there are a lot of people outside the academy who do not know what it is professional scholars actually do.   That’s not surprising.  I, frankly, don’t really know (or understand) what a hedge fund manager does, or a state lieutenant governor, or an industrial chemist.

     And so, with that in mind, I thought maybe I should describe what it is that someone like me – a senior professor at a major research university – what a person like me actually does with his time (one quick answer: NOT watch a lot of TV!!).   I will simply use me as the example, since I’m the one I know most about.  But my sense is that my story is fairly typical, not at all unusual.   There is a range of activities that scholars like me are involved with, and I think I will devote a post each to some of the most obvious ones, in no obvious order.  That is, the posts will not be arranged according to the ones I devote the most time to; the ones I like the best; the ones that take the most brain power; or anything else.  They are simply a random collection of things I do in no obvious order.   My posts will cover such things as:

  • Phd Dissertations I am Supervising
  • My Own Writing Projects
  • Editorial Work I do
  • Courses and seminars that I teach (both undergraduate and graduate)
  • Undergratuate Theses I have been Directing
  • Languages that I work on and Reading I do
  • The Training (Languages; fields; theses; years) that someone like me needs to have to become a scholar in the first place
  • Conferences and Seminars I attend and what doing so entails
  • And possibly other things as they come to mind 

     I’m not trying to make any great point by any of this.  It just occurred to me that people may be interested in knowing what it is a university professor in a Department of Religious Studies at a major research institution does, and how it is he came to start doing it.   These posts will appear on the membership site, under “Bart Answers His Critics” (though I’m  not actually responding to any particular criticism in this case; but it’s an issue related to one that has been raised).  I hope you will join the blog so you can read them!

The Work of a Professional Scholar 2: Supervising PhD Dissertations
A Recent Interview



  1. Brad Billips
    Brad Billips  May 3, 2012

    It’s that damn TV Dr. Ehrman. That’s what’s getting me! I can’t keep up with scholars with the TV on all the time.

    I am very proud of our scholars. We owe a lot to them. I can’t remember the details (sorry book is at home), but in the book “The Reliability of The New Testament,” I think it was Robert B Stewart that mentions that we owe a lot to texual scholars. And with that, I so truely agree.

    It is funny that we listen to medical doctors, but won’t listen to NT scholars because they differ from our own personal opinions. What separates professionals, I am a CPA, is the fact we can tell people what they don’t want to hear, along with backing it up with facts and evidence. Most professionals can’t do this.

    Thanks Dr. Ehrman for all you do.

  2. Avatar
    Ryan  May 3, 2012

    I think this post is key for your readership. Unless one has been to graduate school and worked with a professor, it’s not surprising that some think only teaching a few classes a year is involved. Having recently finished your undergrad New Testament textbook, I look forward to delving deeper into some additional readings and discussion on this blog. Keep up the good work.

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