My Free Greek Reader Textbook Now Available (Gupta)

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I am excited to announce the publication of Intermediate Biblical Greek Reader: Galatians and Related Texts. This book is an open-access textbook, which means that it is free to download and read through the George Fox digital commons. In the academic year 2017-2018, I taught an advanced Greek seminar with 8 students. Their main project was writing this Greek reader (via GoogleDocs). This textbook is designed for students who have already learned the basics of Biblical Greek grammar, syntax, and vocabulary. IBGR offers guidance for reading through the entire text of Galatians. Then, it guides the student through “related” Greek texts, such as the wider context of LXX passages that Paul quotes in Galatians, the faith/works section of James 2, and a reading from John Chrysostom’s homilies on Galatians. There are also chapters on the basics of textual criticism with examples in Galatians, and the book concludes with a short discussion of Marcion’s redaction of Galatians.

This textbook is designed for both group study (there are discussion questions in each chapter) and independent study. In each chapter, the Greek text is given, followed by study notes that include grammar and syntax helps and reminders, vocab for rare words, and other helpful textual notes. There are several lengthy theological “word studies” of important terms in Galatians such as faith, works of the law, and gospel.

This textbook was funded by the George Fox University library as well as the Open Textbook Network/Library. It is free to everyone forever. I am proud of Portland Seminary and GFU’s commitment to affordable education and the free sharing of knowledge. Please pass this book information on to teachers and students of Greek!

Second Edition – Dictionary of Paul and His Letters (Gupta)

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InterVarsity Press shared the news today that a second edition of the Dictionary of Paul and His Letters is officially in the works. I am serving on the editorial team alongside Lynn Cohick, (general editor) Scot McKnight, and IVP editor Anna Gissing. We are planning for a release year of 2022.

I vividly recall sitting in my seminary dorm alongside my roommates, in awe of the first edition and thumbing through the impressive list of contributors. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that I would be a part of the leadership for a second edition. Given the developments in Pauline studies in the last couple of decades, I have no doubt that this new volume will offer an important tool for scholars, students, and pastors.

You can see the official press release here.

Second Edition of Prepare, Succeed, Advance: Need YOUR Help (Gupta)

One of my first published books as a scholar was Prepare, Succeed, Advance: A Guidebook for Getting a PhD in Biblical Studies and Beyond (Wipf & Stock, 2011). In the last six years or so, I have received lots of positive feedback—more than any other piece of writing I have done to date. It feels gratifying to know it has helped lots of people who are interested in doctoral studies.

The reality, though, is that the path to getting a PhD and a permanent job has evolved and changed since 2011. Frankly, some of the material in my book is now outdated (e.g., the GRE process). So, I am working on an updated, second edition. I am even planning to incorporate some new material written by current or recent doctoral students from elite programs (since I earned my PhD almost ten years ago!)

Here’s where YOU come in. What are the most pressing questions you have (or hear about) when it comes to navigating biblical studies academia—related to doctoral programs, publishing, interviewing, research, etc.? 

Crowd-Sourced Wisdom:

Also, what advice helped guide YOU through the labyrinth of academia? What do you often pass on to others?

Please leave a comment here or, if you prefer, you can dialogue on Twitter: @Nijaykgupta

THANKS!

If I Could Go Back…15 years (Part 2) (Gupta)

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Let me take you back 15 years. The year was 2003, and I was about halfway through Seminary (and 2 seasons into Alias). I studied for my M.Div and Th.M. at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. I chose GCTS for its emphasis on biblical languages and Christian discipleship. When I started at seminary, I didn’t have a particular vocation in mind, but I will say teaching/academia was not on my radar. Because my studies (from grade school through college) had been in the secular educational world up to that point, I just had never imagined what it would have been like to be a “Bible prof.” But as I journeyed through seminary and came alive in these Scripture courses, I had a fire in my heart for lifelong study of the Bible and the compulsion to share with others what I was learning.

When did I “know” I wanted to be a prof? Probably that second year of seminary.

Good Decisions

Well, Gordon-Conwell was a good decision. It had an excellent language program. I tested out of both basic Greek and basic Hebrew, but at GCTS I took advanced Greek, advanced Hebrew, LXX Greek, patristic Greek, Ecclesial Latin, German, French, Aramaic, and Akkadian! I took 7-8 Greek-level exegesis courses. All of these have helped me immensely.

I applied every year to be a TA—most years I got this opportunity, and for a few years I was a Greek TA, which gave me lots of teaching experience. The institution came to trust me enough that I taught a course (Paul and His Letters) on my own as an adjunct at the urban extension campus. It was an amazing experience!

Instead of switching to a “pre-PhD” style MA, I stayed in the MDIV. Even when I knew I wanted to be a professor, I still felt that the MDIV would round me out and help me to be a “pastor” to the students. I have never spent even a second re-thinking that decision.

By a kind of happy accident, I spent six months working in sales for a theological publishing company. This gave me lots of industry information and I have made friendships and connections that have thrived over more than a decade.

 

Done Differently

There is a long list of reconsiderations! None of these keep me up at night, but I try to counsel students to do better than I did.

Master of Theology. I did my Th.M. at GCTS out of convenience (my wife was finishing her degree at GCTS at the time); but my desire was to do the Th.M. elsewhere. I didn’t have a problem with GCTS, but I knew a different faculty and community would offer something new and special. I always encourage folks to get diverse experiences with different people. But I enjoyed my Th.M. at GCTS in any case.

Thesis. I chose not to do a thesis in my Th.M., mostly because I couldn’t find a supervisor. So I went into my doctoral program having never written a paper longer than 25 pages. That made the dissertation learning curve very steep. Looking back, it was not wise. The experience of crafting a proposal, thesis, and going through a defense would have given me important pre-PhD experience in advanced research.

Consortium Courses. At GCTS, I could have taken courses through our consortium (Harvard, Boston College, Boston University, etc.). I chose not to mostly because I didn’t want to commute into Boston. I regret not taking at least one course in one of these elite institutions.

Study Abroad. I toyed around with the idea of studying abroad for a term (e.g., London), but again I chickened out. I wish I would have done it, but eventually, I went to the UK for my PhD. 🙂

Guild Involvement. By 2004, I was pretty certain that I wanted to do a PhD and enter into academia as a career. But I didn’t manage to go to SBL until 2006. I wish I would have made more of an effort to get “guild experience” – I did not know how such conferences worked. I needed someone to come alongside. I also did not understand very well that there were regional meetings. Again, wish I had help with these things.

Narrow Focus. In seminary, I loved taking language courses and biblical studies courses—to a fault. By that I mean I chose not to use any of my electives on theology or church history. Now I regret that, because we had a church history professor (Isaac Gordon) who taught a course on Luther, and another on Bonhoeffer. I look back and I wish I could have taken both those courses. I narrowed my educational focus too much and dismissed learning opportunities that would have helped me to be well-rounded. As a bit of karma, I am working closely with Luther’s works these days, and I wish I had taken that course!

GRE Prep Course. When I was applying for PhD programs, I chose not to take a GRE Prep Course. Suffice it to say I bombed the GRE. Twice. That is one of the reasons I ended up going to the UK. A prep-course may have helped me get a better score. But maybe not. 😦

Self-Care. In the throes of seminary and PhD-prep, and working and family, I just didn’t do a good job enjoying the moment and taking care of my body. Late nights. Bad eating habits. Little exercise. And these become a way of life in academia and next thing you know you are sick and fat and tired all the time. Not ideal, trust me. I would have focused more on work/life balance. I am trying to right that ship now (~ a decade into my career), but easier to do earlier.

 

If I Could Go Back (20 Years)…: Preparing for a Career in Biblical Studies (Part 1)

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I am starting a new series called “If I Could Go Back…” I am now almost a decade into my teaching career, and it has given me a chance to look back and appreciate some things I did right, and also to consider how I could have better prepared for this vocation as teacher and researcher.

In this first part, I am going back 20 years to 1998. I was a sophomore in college at Miami University (OH). First I will talk about good decisions, then about what I could have done differently.

Good Decisions

I kind of stumbled into a major – I started first in music education. But I realized quickly this was not that interesting to me as a career. Then, I switched to “Speech Communication” as a placeholder. I had some interest in ministry (youth or college ministry of some kind). It didn’t occur to me at all to become a Bible professor. I wasn’t even interested in seminary at the time.

Probably the first good decision I made (accidentally) was taking Attic Greek. This was my first learning experience in Greek. I needed to take a language to fulfill my “language” requirement, and I thought it might be fun to learn ancient Greek and maybe study the New Testament. I took 8 credits my first year of college and LOVED it. So, I ended up taking 20+ credits of ancient Greek and had enough credits to be a major (even though I never officially declared it as a second major). This knowledge of Greek gave me a leg up (and I tested out of Greek in seminary). Now (2018), I am working closely with Plutarch, Xenophon, and other Hellenophone writers, and some of that knowledge is coming in handy as I return to classical resources.

Another “good decision” I made back then was taking journalism writing courses. My Speech Com concentration was “Public Relations” – I had to take two journalism courses. I cannot tell you how helpful these were both for learning about “research,” but especially for learning to write clearly, factually, and compellingly. I think every aspiring writer should take a journalism course. I also had to take marketing courses, and these came in handy when it came to learning how to “sell” an argument, article, book, idea, etc. And I had to take “interpersonal communication”: I don’t think I need to make a case for how crucial this is, but whether it is working with students, colleagues, or editors, you just can’t be a recluse in the academy and make it very far!

Done Differently

Ok, so what could I have done differently? I was at a public university, so I wasn’t confident in the strength of the religion courses. I took one (with James Hanges to boot!), but I didn’t understand a lick of it at the time (on apocalypticism in the ancient world). I think I would have benefited from a good course in ancient Greek and Roman history and civilization. Also, I wish I would have taken courses on archaeology and ancient historiography.

Perhaps the biggest regret I have from that time is that I didn’t heed people’s advice that I should do a semester abroad. We had abroad programs all over, and I just was too lazy to put any effort into it. I don’t have just one single benefit in mind from this, but I know now (having done my PhD abroad) that it helps to see other education systems, learning styles, and to explore and navigate other cultures.

I actually don’t look back to my college years with much regret. I seriously had no idea I would head down a professorial career. So I don’t beat myself up much in retrospect. Much of what I ended up learning has helped me, even though I made many course choices haphazardly.

When undergrads approach me, asking me how they can prepare for a path to doctoral studies and a career in academia, I often tell them to focus on languages: Greek, Hebrew, Latin, German if you can. Learn history. Explore the world. Become a better writer.

Oh, and sleep while you can. 🙂