Here's one example:
Finegan's Handbook of Biblical Chronology draws some conclusions I agree with and some I do not. I believe I know which are right and wrong. And I honestly think that I'm right. But to WRITE any paper explaining that, I've got to master his whole thought. Specifically, for one example, I've got to figure out WHY he denied Josephus' years on Archelaus' reign and argued for variant textuality on Josephus' statements about Philip's reign. It won't do, in a paper, to assume this attempt was merely a sloppy convenience poorly justified. Instead, I have to examine his evidence for the second claim and then point out that, even if we accept it as such, that only gives us a contradiction in Josephus' accounting and no reason to accept one over the other. But THEN, if I actually (properly) go THAT far, I've got to go on to consider, seriously, whether any other solutions exist to the problem as he laid it out.
And all I realy WANT to do is go over that which seems to work far, far better. Like so:
Philip cannot have died when Finegan says he did because of the other issues going on in the region in those extra two years. If Philip wasn't dead, Aretas would have fought PHILIP for Gamala, not ANTIPAS as he did. [More to the point, if Philip wasn't dead, Aretas probably wouldn't have gone into Trachonitis or the Golan. Philip governed the Arabs in his tetrarchy very well.] I'd have to find some appropriate way to say that Finegan included less than one paragraph about Aretas in his entire Handbook and a regurgitated non-contextualized summary without any analysis or consideration of consequence, at that. Sigh. BUT THEN I'd probably have to go on to justify my feeling that the Nabatean history is so absolutely vital to the whole situation. And so on.
I'd probably have to close with a complimentary statement about Finegan such as that he should easily be forgiven because he bit off more than any one man could possibly hope to chew. And I'd WANT to add: I bet I know how he felt.
ANYWHO... I MAY or MAY NOT ever get as far as defending these Year Books formally. Time will tell. Fish or cut bait. Reconstruct? Or defend? What would Doctor Johnson advise me to do? ;) In some ways, however, these weaknesses of mine are also strengths. How would I ever have built my own reconstruction if I'd spent twelve years absorbing, rehearsing, adopting and merely adapting or modifying the mindset and opinions of other scholars?
By the way, SBL is in Boston this week. I actually wish I was there. But at the same time, I don't. I've got a lot of work left to do...