The world of biblical studies is both strange and dangerous at times. Many enter into the field with very different aspirations and dreams than when they leave. This can be due to a lack of guidance going into Seminary or a lack of mentorship exiting. A Little Book for New Bible Scholars by E. Randolph Richards and Joseph R. Dodson is an excellent volume that offers seasoned advice and insight from two capable biblical scholars.
E. Randolph Richards is dean and professor of biblical studies in the School of Ministry at Palm Beach Atlantic University. Richards received his Ph.D. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and is the author and coauthor of several books, including Paul Behaving Badly and Paul and First-Century Letter Writing. Joseph R. Dodson is associate professor of biblical studies at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. Dodson received his Ph.D. from the University of Aberdeen and is the author of The “Powers” of Personification.
A Little Book for New Bible Scholars is a primer of sorts to the world of biblical studies. Richards and Dodson point readers towards the necessity of falling in love with the study of the Bible, and yet they don’t shy away from the dangers that linger for those who “study” too much. Richards and Dodson also do an excellent job displaying the need for humility that accompanies the field of biblical studies. Richards and Dodson wittingly write, “the field of biblical studies reminds me that I am always only sometimes right” (p. 24). The authors encourage readers towards doing the difficult work of good exegesis because it is here that the life-giving message of the Scriptures comes alive—both personally and professionally (p. 52). Lastly, Richards and Dodson speak to the importance of communicating correctly for your audience, humility, and endurance.
There is much to be praised about this volume. First, despite its small size, Richard and Dodson have packed it full of useful nuggets of wisdom. As a biblical studies major who holds three degrees in the field, I greatly admired the tone of the book and the manner in which Richards and Dodson spoke of the academic field to which we have devoted our lives. Second, while this book is targeted towards beginners, it is also an excellent and appropriate reminder for those seasoned in the field or even those who simply love to read and study the Bible. Lastly, I found the chapter “Biblical Studies is an Equal Opportunity Vocation” to be both refreshing and necessary. This inclusion is vital to the health and wellbeing of both the Church and the field of biblical studies. I commend them for the inclusion of this chapter and echo their encouragement for “female, black, Hispanic, and non-Western scholars to step up and do the hard work of biblical studies” (p. 79).
There are few books that I would classify as essential reads for those entering into Seminary with an eye towards biblical studies, but A Little Book for New Bible Scholars by E. Randolph Richards and Joseph R. Dodson is certainly one of them. This is a delightful volume that will encourage and equip you for the road ahead. Richards and Dodson have done a tremendous job and I would gladly recommend it to incoming students and friends in the future!