Craig Keener (again) on Reading, Writing and Scholarship
A few weeks ago, the Logos Academic Blog featured and interview with Dr. Craig Keener of Asbury Theological Seminary about his writing process. Well, this past week, the Zondervan Academic Blog released a video interview with him that was a bit wider in its scope. You can watch the video here. In order to watch it, you will be required to give them your email address.
I won't spoil the video for you, but a couple of things stuck out to me (Joseph Habib) that I would critique and would love to hear others' thoughts on.
At some point in the video, Dr. Keener says something to the effect of "It's hard for me to read a book for an entire week." As in, he usually "reads" them within minutes. I'm really glad he brought this up. In his context, this makes total sense and is an important point to discuss when relating to writing. Dr. Keener is a publishing machine. Google a list of his publications and prepare to feel like the most unproductive human being in history. For most of us (students), we are not yet saturated in a field. When we "read" a book, we usually have to leaf through every word, from beginning to end. The more you grow in your knowledge of a given area, though, the more you can differentiate what is pertinent to your research and what isn't. When Dr. Keener reads about the New Testament, he can probably read the introduction and conclusion of the book and subsequently—very reliably—supply the middle due to his massive mental repository of New Testament studies which he has built up over the years. I've spoken with scholars who will actually put sources in their footnotes FIRST (!), highlight them in red to let them know to read it, and then research it for half an hour later. It's good to have these registers of reading in mind so as to not be overwhelmed by the deluge of sources you find in some books. Might I also add, carefully mining the right book for weeks will do more for you than skimming 10 "less right" books in a week.
If you are not aware, Dr. Keener released a colossal 4-volume commentary on the book of Acts. He mentions in the interview that it "almost killed" him and that he would tell his younger self to "bear the burden in your youth." I would like to, however, kindly challenge this notion. I really think the work can be spread evenly over a lifetime. I once heard a very reputable holistic doctor (and not one of the weird ones) say something to the effect of "the quality of your life depends on thousands of seemingly insignificant decisions you make throughout the day." Fitness and health is very overcomplicated today, but putting into practice these "insignificant decisions" does not have to be. Everybody can look up how to do a proper bodyweight squat. Then get up from your chair every 30 minutes or so and perform about 15 of them. The movement adds up over time! You are probably thinking "what does this have to do with writing!?" Go to any reputable scientific database and look up the connection between movement and cognition. It is overwhelmingly clear that if blood does not regularly flow throughout the body, brain function becomes impaired. In other words, lack of movement impedes creativity. In order to do high-quality work, the writer—not just the writing—must be taken into consideration. You are not just a brain with legs! Having this type of mindset provides a much more sustainable model for doing God's work as long as possible!
I hope you enjoy the video! It is absolute gold and Dr. Keener is so gracious for taking the time to do it!