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.


10 thoughts on “Nijay’s List of Top NT programs (at the request of a commenter)

  1. Just curious, if the single criteria in your UK evaluation is excellence and expertise in Pauline studies, then why would you place Cambridge over Durham right now?

    Clearly Gathercole has already arrived as a Pauline specialist, and will gather more and more prominence in the field as he continues to publish and supervise at a high level, but that will make him the ONLY true Pauline scholar in Cambridge this fall. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure Lieu, P.J. Williams, and the rest of the supporting cast at Cambridge are competent Pauline scholars (although, honestly, I don’t know what they’ve contributed to the study of Paul), but nobody else on the faculty at Cambridge or the staff at Tyndale House is regarded as highly in Pauline studies as Barclay or Watson, right? Cambridge might be considered superior for several other reasons (i.e., name recognition, resources, department size, location), but based on its faculty alone, do you believe that it can compete with Durham in the arena of Pauline studies? If only the Durham faculty were coupled with the Cambridge name and resources!

    I’m no expert on these matters, so please share your thoughts.


  2. A very interesting list, even for us non Paulinists. I have a friend who may very well end up studying at McMaster. If she does, I’ll try to get her views on its level of expertise. I know Stephen Westerholm is the main Pauline scholar at the university… He may not be extremely well known, but he does have several published works focused on comparing the new perspective(s) to the “old.”
    The divinity college has Stanley Porter for NT, though I do not believe that Paul is his speciality.

  3. Thank you, all of the above, for your comments. First, let me just say again that this list very subjective and I don’t wish to defend my choices because each person has their favorites and the commentary on this matter could be endless! That having been said, let me make a couple of quick comments.

    1. Cambridge – sorry if I wasn’t clear enough; even though I did prioritize Pauline scholars over Gospels/other, I did take into account prestige and resources. They have endowed lecture series and vast library holdings – I took all these things into account. But the staff was an important factor as well. Additionally, I consider the NT staff in the area of second temple Judaism to be very important – and Cambridge still does well in this area. Also, Cambridge has seen Stanton and Hooker retire in the last decade, but I am assuming Cambridge will seek to acquire more tenured staff shortly. Also, I hold Gathercole in extremely high regard. Aberdeen, on the other hand, has hired 3 staff to replaced Gathercole and Williams and (though they have potential) none of them would be considered first-class scholars.

    2. As for University of Chicago – I consider the NT staff at CUA and SMU to be more attractive than U of Chicago – a subjective decision, I know.

  4. Thanks for the clarification above.

    Also, have you heard any recent rumblings regarding Watson’s replacement at Aberdeen? Any idea if a replacement will even be decided before his transition is final?

    Anything new regarding Bockmuehl’s replacement at St. Andrews and his (possible) move to Oxford?

  5. Thanks for your posts, they have been most helpful. I do have a question, though. In your opinion and experience, which would you pick first: your dissertation topic, or your advisor.

    I was perusing the SBL website and found a person who started with the schools/advisors and came at her dissertation topic that way. I, also, know people who have dedicated themselves to a topic, then approached the decision of advisors. I’m planning to pursue Ph.D. work, but have not been able to narrow down my focus on either front, so I was hoping a nudge would help.


  6. Thanks for the comment, Josh. I would say that you need to have at least a general area you want to study (such Suffering in Revelation or looking at the Gospel of John from a new hermeneutical perspective, or doing some comparative analysis between 1 John and something in Qumran, etc…). But, I am all for snooping around in a particular professor’s area of interest to find something that would appeal to him or her. I big component of this is contacting the potential supervisor via email and getting thier thoughts on some of your ideas and see if they bite at all.

    Typically, a supervisor is looking for someone who seems like they can come up with the idea all on their own – that shows that the student will be ‘low maintenance’ as a student. If you are looking at US programs, having the research topic is usually not critical.

    As for how to come up with an idea. I would suggest five things. First, get to know a particular text or group of texts in 2nd Temple Judaism. It could be Dead Sea Scrolls, Philo, Josephus, Apocalyptic texts, Testament books, etc…Some of the best ideas of comparison and contrast come from digging into these texts IN DEPTH and discovering important themes, parallels, differences in use of Scripture, etc… Second, read the latest journal articles in NovumT, NTS, JSNT, JBL, Currents in Biblical Research, Biblica, Catholic BQ and get a feel for whats going on in research. Third, pick a NT book and read an indepth commentary on it (once you have translated the book yourself) and look for areas where the commentary has skipped an important question or answered it insufficiently. Fourth, go the SBL website and look at old (or new) meeting programs and read the abstracts in your general area of interest. Which NT books are often neglected? Which hermeneutical methods are being explored in new ways? How can they be applied to different books? Lastly, read some of the latest volumes of the Monograph Series such as JSNT, SNTS, CBQ, Cambridge, and see what people are working on. Sometimes, if you strongly disagree, that is the beginnings of an idea. Other times you see something that sparks ideas about using thier technique in another epistle or book.

    OK, good luck. Also, Durham is a great place to do research with friendly and wise staff – keep us in mind!

  7. The PhD in NT at Brite Divinity School at TCU in Texas is also an excellent choice for those wanting to study the historical and social context of NT and Early Christian Lit. NT faculty include Carolyn Osiek, Warren Carter, and Francisco Loszada.

  8. [… – is another wonderful place of advice. Car insurance claims [… –

  9. Aw, this was a really good post. Finding the time and actual effort to generate
    a very good article… but what can I say… I procrastinate a lot and never manage to get nearly anything done.

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