I recently had the privilege of conversing with Josh McManaway, the author of the blog titled "A New Testament Student." The interview went well and as you will sense while reading below, Josh is an interesting fellow with some good insights. Enjoy the interview (it is the first in a series of interviews that will take place with other bloggers) and be sure to visit Josh's site frequenty at: Josh McManaway: A New Testament Student.
Michael: Josh, tell us a little bit about yourself: Where you are currently studying and some of the goals you hope to achieve?
Josh: I'm a North Carolina native. Just turned 23 July 1. I'm entering my senior year at Southeastern College at Wake Forest (the undergrad program at SEBTS) double-majoring in Biblical Studies and History of Ideas (a great books program, basically) and minoring in history. After graduating next may, I'm hoping to pursue a MA in New Testament, then on to a PhD, then on to teaching at a university somewhere.
Michael: Well, let's shift away from the academy just for a moment, we'll come back to it but, I want to ask you, "How long have you been blogging and why did you start?"
Josh: I started blogging February of this year. Basically I had read the blogs of Mark Goodacre, Chris Tilling, David Alan Black, etc., and really enjoyed them. But I noticed that most Biblioblogs are run by guys who are at least in graduate studies. I figured that it would be a neat experiment to see what happened when an undergraduate started blogging. So, I kind of use it not only to discuss the New Testament, but also to document my time at school.
Michael: Would you say that blogging has been beneficial to you, then?
Josh: Absolutely! I've been able to ask questions about Greek and have them answered, ask for good books to read, blog about my frustration with my school's grading scale (which is insane). I think it's been extremely beneficial thus far.
Michael: That kind of leads us back to the academy. In the field of biblical studies what interests you most and why?
Josh: Certainly the New Testament and the Early Church. Within those sub-fields, I'm really interested in the Synoptic Problem, Source Criticism in general, Patristic Hermeneutics, and the whole "historical Jesus" quests. I think there are several reasons why I became interested in the New Testament. For one, I was a thoroughgoing atheist for quite some time. So, I suppose God has a sense of irony. Secondly, it's hard to imagine the level of impact that the Bible has had on Western Thought. Reading through the History of Ideas program has given me an opportunity to see just how much the Bible has shaped ideas like democracy, or philosophy, or literature. And thirdly, I think it's just an interesting time period in history to study. It's pretty perplexing as to why this nominal Jew in the 1st Century is so important. I don't think people realize how big of a deal (both historically and spiritually) this is.
Michael: Your "history of ideas" and "new testament" studies would seem to give you an interesting perspective on some things, could you say a little bit about how you see the Bible's influence in early American history and compare it to what you're seeing today?
Josh: Sure. I should start by saying that I don't think that America is, or ever has been, a Christian nation. As a Baptist, I feel like my Anabaptist forefathers worked far too hard to separate church and state for me to buy into civil religion. Nor do I think that the New Testament is a prescription for civil religion (far from it!). However, I think that the fathers of America used Judeo-Christian principles in the forming of their ideas. For instance, when one reads Alexis De Tocqueville's "Democracy in America", he discusses how important religion is in the American life. I think this is because a lot of the principles contained within our laws are contained within the Bible and make significantly more sense to those who are Christians. Now, what am I seeing today? People who don't care at all about the law in any shape or form (from the top down!). But I'm not really a sociologist, so that's really just my silly opinion (and we all know what they say about those).
Michael: Interesting insights! Well, switching gears just a little bit, “What scholar would you say has influenced your thinking the most when it comes to biblical studies?”
Josh: A very good question. There are so many! I'd say that the first author I read who really kicked off my critical study of the Scriptures was N.T. Wright. Calvin is a close second because of his amazing ability with exegesis and Biblical languages. But Wright's "The New Testament and the People of God" (although I didn't finish it the first time I read through it) started me thinking about critical study of the New Testament.
Michael: Wright and Calvin! That is an interesting combination there!
Josh: I'm a bit of mutt in my theological studies. I rarely seem to be able to camp out with one crowd. I think that's probably healthy, though.
Michael: I would agree. Those two authors represent more than just differing views on some things, in my opinion, they stand as monumental scholars of their time. They should be read! Which leads me to my next question, "What are you currently reading?"
Josh: As I posted on the blog, I just got some new books in so I'm currently reading "Studying the Historical Jesus" and "Jesus in Context" by Darrell Bock (who is a really brilliant guy and is overlooked a bit too much in NT studies today), along with re-reading Hurtado's "Earliest Christian Artifacts"...it's such an exciting book. And I'm also reading E.P. Sanders "The Historical Figure of Jesus.” I like to read a lot of books at once because I generally find that the ideas interact with each other in some way, so, it helps me remember what I read versus just reading one book straight through.
Michael: So, you sound like you lean in the direction of The New Perspective, is this correct?
Josh: Not necessarily. I'm generally uncomfortable with titles just because I tend to agree with some things from some groups and other things from others. So, I end up not wanting to associate myself with "The New Perspective" only because there are things with which I disagree. But yeah, the emphasis on understanding Jesus as Jew is something I'm completely into. I think it's a vital part of understanding Jesus, so on that issue I'm completely in agreement with the New Perspective crowd.
Michael: Well, that makes sense; probably many people share your thoughts on that subject. Before we end the interview, I want to ask you one more question, “If you could own only one book (along with the Bible), what would it be and why?”
Josh: I rarely read anything outside of New Testament studies or philosophy, but if I had one book to read over and over again...it would probably be either C.S. Lewis' "Mere Christianity", Martin Amis’ "The Rachel Papers", or J.D. Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye.”
Michael: Alright Josh, well thanks for taking the time to interview.
Josh: It’s been my pleasure.