Thursday, June 25, 2020

Samuel Sandmel on Making Many Books

"A lover of scholarship must in our days wonder if the explosion of learning has not yielded a superabundance. So great a flow has there been of books and essays that no one can keep up with it, as the honest scholar admits. The superabundance in part is marked both by an immense quantity of repetitive writings on the same general subject, and also by articles, some enlightening, but some confused and confusing, on minor points, marked by special theories ingeniously designed to solve the unsolvable." (vii)

"There is no ready cure in our time for the demands of specialization which tend to restrict broad study. Hence, only one who has had the privilege of not years, but decades of study can partially escape from a preoccupation with only a single area of the several here dealt with. Even such a person cannot achieve fullest mastery in all this variety. If I were to set forth a claim of some tolerable mastery, it would be in Bible (Old Testament0, in hellenistic Judaism, and in New Testament. I am experienced in Rabbinic literature, but am by no means an unqualified expert; I have studied and taught the Apocrypha and the Dead Sea Scrolls, but make no claim of special eminence. The full mastery of all these literatures, and of the scholarly writings about them, are beyond what one man can achieve in the normal span of a single life. I have dared to hope that where expertise has eluded me, responsible competency has not." (viii-ix)

From the preface to Samuel Sandmel's Judaism and Christian Beginnings (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978).