Nijay’s List of Top NT programs (at the request of a commenter)

Someone asked me how I would ‘rank’ NT programs in my ‘first tier’ category (see essay above: ‘Interested in a NT PhD?’)

This is challenging for many reasons: first, should it be internationally or by country?  Also, what kind of NT program – exegetically focused?  Jewish backgrounds?  Greco-Roman Backgrounds?  ‘New’ Methodologies (post-structuralism, Bhaktian influenced heremeneutics; post-colonialism?)?  Language centered (linguistics; philology)?  These are important factors.  Also, the list would change if professors (or readers/lecturers) moved to another institution.  That having been said.  I will attempt a rough ranking -but, please don’t criticise my list too harshly, it is very subjective.

LIST #1: USA Only (#1 is the highest in rank on my list)

1.  (3-way tie – is that cheating?): Duke Graduate School, Yale Graduate School, Princetion Theological Seminary [notes: I would pick Duke or Princeton for Jewish backgrounds; Yale for Greco-Roman]

2. (2-way tie – not a very helpful list anymore, is it?): Emory Graduate School, University of Notre Dame

3.  Catholic University of America (you don’t have to be catholic to study there)

4. Southern Methodist University

5. University of Chicago

6. Marquette Graduate School

List #2: UK ONLY (I have prioritised those places with Pauline scholars; as for Gospels or ‘other’ it is outside my academic expertise [as far as you can call it that!]).

1. University of Cambridge [Note: though they have lost Bockmuehl and Stanton is retiring, they are gaining Gathercole and Lieu; also, the staff of Tyndale House make Cambridge that much more attractive; IMHO, only Cambridge grads are able to compete with students coming out of Yale, Duke and Princeton]

2. (2-way tie) Oxford University; Durham University 🙂

3. (2-way tie) University of St. Andrews; U. of Sheffield

4. University of Aberdeen (bumped down to fourth since the staff exodus)

5. (2-way tie) University of Edinburgh; King’s College London

6. University of Notthingham

7. University of Gloucestershire

8. University of Exeter

9. University of Manchester

Where would I put Canada’s Univ. of Toronto and McMaster?  I haven’t decided yet.  I don’t know enough about them, I guess.

Academic Etiquette and email- What do you think?

A few postgrads here were chatting ab0ut the etiquette regarding correspondences with academic professionals.  If, in your doctoral research, you are interested in contacting an expert on a particular issue, is it OK to shoot off an email to this person (you have not met personally) and ask a question?  What has been your experience?  Have you found anyone (no names needed) snobbish and rude?  Have you found scholars generally helpful?  If you are a professional, are you bothered by Phds (not at your institution) who send emails to you about reading their work or answering a question?  Please post a comment about your own experience (with relatively ‘big name’ scholars [please do not give their name either way]).

Here is my experience.  Most scholars are flattered, if you are very polite and tentative in your email (‘would you be so kind…I would really appreciate…if you are too busy and cannot comment I understand…).  I have emailed a handful of ‘expert’ scholars and overall the response has been very good.  Only one did not email back at all, and perhaps he has changed his email address.  I emailed a Philo scholar with a quick question and he was very kind and helpful in his response. I emailed a relatively new lecturer but a leading scholar in his field and he took a long time to get back to me (4-6 weeks), but the response was thorough. I emailed a very prominent evangelical scholar and he emailed back right away but didn’t really answer my question.  I emailed another prominent evangelical scholar and he emailed back with a really good and useful response.  So, its a mixed bag, it seems.  But, I sometimes feel bad ‘bothering’ him or her.  Here are some questions we all could dialogue about:

1. If you get a good and encouraging response, is it OK to email again with another question?  Or, is it a kind of – everyone gets 1 courtesy question, but after that it gets annoying???

2. Should you email them something they have to read (like a word doc of your research)?  Obviously it would be rude and a bit presumptuous to send a 50-page document!  But, what about 3 pages?  What about 1 page?

3. If they don’t respond within 2 weeks, should you email again, or take it as a sign that they do not want to be bothered?  BTW – I had someone who didn’t email for a long, long time and he simply forgot.  He eventually found it and emailed, but it seems that he would not have minded if I would have sent him a ‘reminder’ email.  But I didn’t.

As you all are thinking about this, I have a couple of suggestions.  First, you should try to dialogue with scholars in the field. Biblical studies is a small world and if you go to SBL you will understand that.  But, when you email, be polite without being obsessive – give them to option of saying ‘sorry, I cannot help you right now’.  Also, don’t ask them a question that anyone could answer – make sure they are really needed for this issue, or else you are just wasting their time.  Finally, use their institutional email before their private email – or else they may think you are stocking them!  Not really, but its like showing up at their house as opposed to their office.  I know I would find it a bit wierd.  Finally, make use of any connections you have – ‘I heard you speak at a conference at my undergrad’ or ‘We met the Eerdmans booth at SBL’.

I am anxious to hear anyone’s experiences – either from the end of the eager student or the busy (but gracious?) scholar.

Durham Alum, Did you know…

This is not (necessarily) an opportunity to toot our university’s horn, but a chance to demonstrate that some pretty excellent scholars have come out of Durham (as either undergrads or postgrads):

Did you know that Durham has produced:

Simon Gathercole

Bruce Longenecker

Stephen Finlan (now at Drew)

Helen Bond

Paul Trebilco

Maurice Casey

Ben Witherington III

Judith Lieu (for her MA)

So far just a short list.  Can anyone think of others who have some recognition in academia?  OT people as well?

My experience with the HOST UK program

During Freshers week (something like ‘new student’ orientation week) we had the chance to fill in a form to be hosted by a British family for a weekend to help us feel more comfortable in England and experience real family life.  You had the option of the general area of the UK to be hosted in (Northern v. Southern England, Scotland, etc…) and you fill in a form detailing your favourite activities and interests to find a good family match.  We were interested in a nearby location (for reasons of the cost of travel).  The Host is supposed to take care of your housing needs (i.e. you stay with them), and they look after you for most meals.

We just came back from our visit to a family in Hull which is a coastal city about 2 1/2 hours south of Durham (1 hour south of York).  It was an enjoyable visit.  Our 10-month-old baby was adored by both Ms. Dent (our host) and her son Niall (10 yrs old).  We ate most meals together and played games together.  We went to the city centre of Hull and there are many things to see and do.  A major attraction is the William Wilberforce house where the famous Abolitionist and Member of Parlaiment was born and raised – it has now been turned into a museum that is really impressive.  There are several museums in Hull and they are all free.  It is a fun city for children as well with a maritime museum and a ‘streetlife’ museum that replicates daily life in Hull 200 years ago (and throughout following eras).

We had a wonderful time and we recommend the HOST UK program to international students studying in the UK.  For more information CLICK HERE.

German (and French?) Online Helps

A few of us at Durham were chatting about the challenges of reading German (and French) literature and shared some websites with each other that have been helpful as resources and references.  Now, please let me make this caveat: I do not advocate using online computer translators to replace learning German for your thesis work; rather, our discussion was about getting help for ‘tricky’ portions of a translation or for re-rechecking your translation for accuracy.

I will list some resources we discussed, and I hope you will comment with ones that have aided you.  Now, there are dozens (perhaps hundreds) of German-learning resources – please comment with only the ones you have found that have been very helpful (and free!).


There is somewhat of an online student consensus (of learners from many fields) that LEO is the very best for a number of reasons.  It offers audio-links to pronunciation of any given word; it also links to a full conjugation of any given verb.

I have used BEOLINGUS as well, but I am not extremely satisfied with it; if you have a verbal form that is quite different from the lexical one, it is not of much help.


Once again, the most well known is  BABEL FISH by Altavista.  You simply type in the section of a translation (preferably enough that the program gets an idea of syntax and word order), and it generates a rough translation.  But, beware, it is not well-schooled in theology!

A different site that does much of the same is  I think that it runs a bit more smoothly.

Keyboard Layout

Sooner or later you will need to learn to German Keyboard (if only to quickly produce letters with the umlaut).  I found a graphic of the layout HERE.   It has been a great help to me.


When it comes to French, online sites are just as plentiful, but I will only mention one –  You can go to Babel Fish for a translator, but ‘wordreference’ is a dictionary.  The advantage is that it has ‘forums’ where you can find a discussion of idioms or common phrases that you may trip up on.  It has benefited me greatly.


For Latin, especially Ecclesiastical Latin, see Notre Dame’s basic online lexicon.
Once again, if others out there are excited about a certain German (or French) site, please share.

Common Latin Words and Abbreviations

Inevitably we stumble upon Latin words and abbreviations in writings (especially of an older generation).  Often I simply ignore them, but they are becoming more important when I really need to understand what the author is communicating in a footnote.  So, I have compiled a list of Latinisms that you may find in monographs and especially in older reference works that rely on keeping words short (like Liddell-Scott or BDAG).  If you come across others that are frequently occuring and would be of aid to the biblical-academic community, please feel free to let me know so I can add it/them.  BEWARE: Many of these are from Wikipedia!  I have tried to double check many of them.

a fortiori.   with yet stronger reason.

a posse ad esse.   from possibility to actuality.

a posteriori.   derived by reasoning from observed facts or experience.

a priori.   from what was before.  Inferences based on propositions or assumed axioms rather than experience (opposite of a posteriori).

ad absurdum.   to the point of absurdity.

ad hoc.   for this special purpose.

ad hominem.   appealing to feelings rather than reason.  Often used for an argument that is driven by a focus on the person one is arguing against rather than the arguments and evidences themselves.

ad idem.   of the same mind.

ad infinitum.   without limit.

ad nauseam.   to a disgusting extent.

alea iacta est.   the die is cast (Caesar).

amicus omnibus, amicus nemini.   a friend to all is a friend to none.

ars gratia artis.   art for art’s sake.

ceteris paribus.   other things being equal or unchanged.

curriculum vitae.   a summary of a person’s career.

de facto.   in fact (especially in contradistinction to “de jure”). In reality (as opposed to ‘on paper’).

de jure.   by right (especially in contradistinction to “de facto”).

de novo.   anew.

deus ex machina.   a contrived event that resolves a problem at the last moment (literally, “a god from a machine”).

eiusdem generis.   of the same kind.

ergo.   therefore.

et alia.   and other things.

et alii (abbreviated et al.).   and others.

et cetera (abbreviated etc.).   and so on.

ex cathedra.   (of a pronouncement) formally, with official authority.

ex nihilo.   out of nothing.

ex officio.   by virtue of his office.

exempli gratia (abbreviated e.g.).   for example.

honoris causa.   as a mark of esteem.

ibidem (abbreviated ibid. in citations of books, etc.).   in the same place.

id est (abbreviated i.e.).   that is.

idem.   the same.

in toto.   entirely.

infra.   below or on a later page.

inter alia.   among other things.

inter se.   among themselves.

ipso facto.   by that very fact.

loco citato (abbreviated loc. cit.).   in the passage just quoted.

me judice.   I being the judge; in my opinion

mea culpa.   by my fault (used as an acknowledgement of one’s error).

modus operandi.   the manner of working.

nisi.   unless.

nolens volens.   whether one likes it or not; willing or unwilling.

non sequitur.   it does not follow (used as an English noun meaning “a conclusion which does not accord with the premises”).

nota bene (abbreviated NB).   note well.

opere citato (abbreviated op. cit.).   in the work just quoted.

pace. ‘with polite respect to’ – used for someone who disagrees with the speaker or writer.  A more irenic form of contra.

passim.   in various places (in a quoted work).

per annum.   per year.

per capita.   by the head.

per mensem.   per month.

per se.   taken alone.

persona non grata.   a non-acceptable person.

post hoc ergo propter hoc.   after this, therefore because of this (a logical fallacy).

prima facie.   on a first view.

pro bono.   done without charge in the public interest.

pro forma.   for the sake of form.

pro tempore (abbreviated pro tem).   for the time being.

qua.   in the capacity of.

quid pro quo.   something for something.

quod erat demonstrandum (abbreviated QED).   which was to be proved.

quod erat faciendum (abbreviated QEF).   which was to be done.

quod vide (abbreviated q.v.).   which see.

re.   in the matter of.

reductio ad absurdum.   reduction to the absurd (proving the truth of a proposition by proving the falsity of all its alternatives).

seqq.   and those that follow.

seriatim.   one after another in order.

si vis pacem, para bellum.   if you want peace, prepare for war.

sic.   thus.

sine qua non.   an indispensable condition.

status quo.   the existing condition.

sui generis.   of its own kind.

supra.   above or on an earlier page.

timeo danaos et dona ferentes.   I fear the Greeks, even when they bring gifts (Virgil).

ultimo (abbreviated ult.).   of the previous month.

vale (plural valete).   farewell.

vice.   in place of.

vice versa.   the order being reversed.