A Vision for International Biblical Scholarship
In an hour or so I’ll take part in our summer graduation ceremony in the University of Edinburgh, and one of the pleasures will be the graduation of a particularly fine young New Testament PhD student from a country in the southern hemisphere, a “developing” country. He is one of the most talented PhD students whom I’ve supervised in my years in Edinburgh. His thesis passed easily, and will, I presume, be published in due course, an excellent critical analysis of certain issues in the Gospel of John. I blog here to express a plea on his behalf and on behalf of other young scholars like him from developing nations.
His studies were financed through his winning one of the highly competitive and prestigious PhD fellowships offered by this University. He will be a major asset to the theological college in which he will take up duties, to his country, and to wider circles . . . especially if he is enabled to continue to develop and deploy his strengths as a biblical scholar. But this will be difficult in his home setting. He will have a heavy teaching load. The libraries there are basic and hardly adequate for advanced research. It is most unlikely that his college will be able to finance him to take the sabbatical/research leaves that are absolutely necessary for serious research, especially in Humanities subjects such as biblical studies.
What we need, and desperately, are financial resources to allow talented scholars such as this one to be sprung free periodically from regular duties to pursue some major research and writing project, which is typically how research leaves are spent. There are a few trusts and foundations that wonderfully finance PhD studies of “third world” students. But I know of no such trust or foundation that offers funding for research leaves for scholars in these countries.
So, I make this plea, for a charitable trust or foundation, a well-off individual, or a body of committed individuals to take up this vision: A scheme to which scholars such as my excellent student can apply to have the opportunity to take an extended research leave, relocating to a place where they have access to an excellent library and opportunities to confer with other scholars in their subject. It is a shame to invest in helping students get their PhD and then simply leave them immersed ever thereafter in the heavy teaching and administration duties in their home setting in countries that lack adequate research facilities. Is there anyone else out there who shares my concern?
With such a scheme, “third world” scholars could write textbooks, articles and books that would build up the scholarly resources in their native languages and cultures. The student graduating here today could become a major figure in NT studies, and I covet the chance for him to achieve this, and for other students like him.