>“A scholar’s wisdom comes of ample leisure; if a man is to be wise he must be relieved of other tasks” (Sirach 38:24).
My sabbatical was spent working on a book on Jeremiah. I spent most of my time reading books and articles on Jeremiah and the task of the ministry. The aim of my book is to provide pastors and seminary students with a study of Jeremiah and how he viewed his ministry. My goal is to demonstrate how Jeremiah can become a paradigm for prophetic ministry today.
During my sabbatical leave I saw the publication of my article “ . . . And Not a Drop to Drink: Water’s Effect on Civilization Development,” in the Biblical Illustrator 34/2 (Winter 2007-08) 10-15. During my sabbatical I also wrote several book reviews, some of which I will make available on my blog after they are published. I wrote an article on the concept of the Servant in the book of Isaiah. The article will be published in 2009. I wrote short biographies on Walter Brueggemann, Norman Gottwald, Julius Wellhausen, and William Foxwell Albright. These four biographies will be published in 2009. I also wrote the introductions for the books of Joel and Micah to be published by Fortress Press in The People’s Bible in October of this year. My book review on Reading the Bible With the Damned by Bob Ekblad was published in The Expository Time. My book review on the Song of Songs by J. Cheryl Exum was published in the Review and Expositor.
As I come to the end of my sabbatical, I remember the words of Jesus ben Sirach, the same words quoted in the opening of this post. Two things drew my attention to Sirach’s words. First, Sirach said that a scholar’s wisdom comes from “ample leisure.” Although a sabbatical is not leisure time, it offers the kind of time a professor needs to develop his or her scholarship. This sabbatical, although uneventful, was very productive.
The other statement of ben Sirach that came to my mind was the declaration that anyone who desires to be wise “must be relieved of other tasks.” These words are true. Anyone who desires to write and publish needs to be relieved of other tasks to concentrate on reading and writing. The sabbatical, so generously given by the seminary, allows professors to be relieved for a time from other tasks so that they might accomplish their scholarly goals.
During my sabbatical leave I discovered some things that will change the way I will spend future sabbaticals. The truth is that, although I was relieved of my tasks at the seminary, some other tasks demanded my time to be completed. Students, friends, family, and church demanded attention and requested things to be done. These distractions, at times, tend to take away time from research and often serve to break concentration. For this reason, I have decided that on my next sabbatical, I will go away from the seminary to a place where there will be no telephone and no one to interrupt my work.
I would like to thank the administration of Northern Baptist Seminary and the Board of Trustees for allowing me to have ample time to do research and write a book designed to help pastors and seminary students. This book will complement my work at the seminary. Since the goal of a seminary is to educate men and women as they prepare to serve Christ in different areas of ministry, my book on Jeremiah serves that purpose because it will hopefully help men and women who are engaged in preaching and teaching the Word of God. Without the seminary’s commitment to provide time for study and research, this book could not have been written.
During my sabbatical I was unable to blog regularly but every time I was able to post, readers responded well. Beginning this week, I am returning to blogging and hope to post at least three times a week. Teaching requires time and hard work. While I am teaching this year, I still need to finish the manuscript of my book, so, I will probably will not be able to post every day.
As I return to the classroom in a few days, I am grateful for this wonderful experience and I am eager to meet the challenges of a new academic year. As for the future, I hope to accomplish several things is the next few months. First, I want to finish writing the book so that I can use the manuscript in my class on Jeremiah next Spring. Second, I have several other book reviews that I want to complete during this coming academic year. Third, I will attend the annual meeting of the SBL in Boston.
I want to express again my gratitude to the seminary and to the Board of Trustees for granting me this sabbatical leave. I also want to express my appreciation to Dean Charles Hambrick-Stowe for his constant support. The commitment of Northern Baptist Seminary in helping the faculty to write and pursue scholarly goals contributes to the faculty’s academic growth and intellectual development. This in turn, helps students know that they are studying with people who are also students of the Word of God.
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary