Diligence and Vices: Andreas Köstenberger on Plagiarism

In light of the recent discovery of Andreas Köstnberger’s plagiarism of D. A. Carson’s Pillar commentary on John in his own BECNT volume I thought I’d check what he had to say on the issue in a book of his that I recently picked up called Excellence: The Character of God and the Pursuit of Scholarly Virtue. In a section entitled “Diligence and Vices” Köstenberger says:

The lack of diligence leads to such vices as plagiarism and laziness. Plagiarism generally becomes a temptation when a student of scholar fails to put in the diligent work necessary and suddenly finds that the deadline is fast approaching. Once there is no time left to do original research, plagiarism can seem like the necessary quick fix, but there is hardly a more deadly ethical violation of the ethos of academic work. If you plagiarize, you are engaging in a form of theft, stealing the intellectual property of others.

What is more, once a scholar’s reputation has been marred by plagiarism, it is virtually impossible to regain credibility. Even if those whom you harmed by plagiarism forgive you and you avoid losing your job and you avoid being expelled from an academic program or institution, you can never turn back the clock, and your reputation will likely suffer permanent damage. What is more, you bring dishonor to the God whom you serve and with whom you have chosen to publicly identify. Of all students, it is those engaged in biblical and theological studies who should hold to impeccable standards when it comes to respecting and referencing the work of others.

Like other forms of sin, plagiarism may seem appealing when tempted, but it is never worth it. Why would anyone working on a theological degree plagiarize? As mentioned, as a form of intellectual theft, plagiarism is completely at odds with the study of God and his ways. Ultimately, plagiarism is a selfish act that says, “I want a degree, or recognition, without putting in the work, and I don’t care if I hurt or deceive others in the process, as long as I get what I want.” This hardly is good character, and even if repented of, still casts doubt on the character of a person who committed this kind of act, especially if repeatedly and egregiously.

Andreas J. Köstenberger, Excellence: The Character of God and the Pursuit of Scholarly Virtue (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011), 98-99.

This reads like both prophecy and memoir. I wonder if it ate at him while he penned these paragraphs knowing that he had stolen from one of his mentors. I wonder how readily he’ll accept the reproach brought on his name and character by his intellectual theft. Also, I’d note how easy it was to attribute this material to its author. It’s not a difficult thing to do and there is absolutely no harm in quoting others. Just give them the credit for the things they’ve said.



4 thoughts on “Diligence and Vices: Andreas Köstenberger on Plagiarism

  1. I️ sin in lots of ways that seem obviously easy to avoid. So I️ don’t mean this as a virtue signal, but rather something else. When I️ write I️ struggle a great deal with trying to footnote everybody who’s ever said something similar…and part of that is a desire to be thorough and part of it may be pride of the sort that I️ want people to know/think I’m well read.

    The other difficulty in today’s age is the ease of electronic copy paste work that may lead one to accidentally move something from Evernote to word, take a break, and come back to work on it days later and just incorporating it in without attribution (never done it as far as I️ know).

    One thought that just came to mind is how frequently authors in the past used previous works without attribution…but writing wasn’t typically how you made money and modern authors are paid not to plagiarize.

  2. Thanks for the posting. I am one of the three leaders of a Facebook group based in Korea named Anti-Plagiarism for Theology Books with some 4000+ members. For the past several years we have been fighting with seminary profs here in Korea for the issue. And the last year’s Peter O’Brien’s case started from Korea due to a civil lawsuit with a Korean prof and the leaders of this group.
    Your posting has been shared with our group members (translated for those who can’t read English well enough but do let me know if you are not happy with it and we will remove your introduction and the endwords. I apologize in advance if that has to be the case) and we will be encouraging our members to share this with their professors. Again much appreciated.
    In case if you want to see the posting the link is listed below.

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