Selling your UK PhD to employers

I recently interviewed for an academic job (unsuccessfully!) and for the second time now the issue came up of uk phd students having too narrow expertise.  If you are only researching for your thesis and not taking courses, does that not make you incapable of teaching more broadly?  This is the kind of issue you may have to deal with if you do your phd in the UK.

Here are some ways to deal with this: Before your phd: choose a thesis topic that is multi-topical.  Obviously it has to be manageable for your research project, but think about gaining some expertise in two areas.  For example, I have a friend who compared Josephus and Paul on relationship and attitude to the Roman empire.  I have another colleague who is comparing Colossians and 1 Peter.  I think this is very wise.  These kinds of theses are often very interesting to read.

During your phd: audit courses in your university (post-grad courses).  At Durham, I audited Paul and His Interpreters  (John Barclay), the Septuagint with a focus on Tobit (Loren Stuckenbruck), Social-Scientific Criticism (Stephen Barton), and the Gospel of Mark (William Telford).  Also, try to do some teaching, even if only as an assistant.  I TA’d for undergrad courses: intro to NT and NT theology.  Even better, seek opportunities to teach.  Perhaps the university will let you teach Greek.  If the University has a theological hall or college, see if they have needs.  I taught Greek at Cranmer Hall, an Anglican ministerial training centre under the umbrella of Durham Univ.  Also, do book reviews and broaden your horizons with the books you review (I have done several posts on how to do book reviews; do a search on my blog to see them or look at the Guide for Researchers under the Pages above).

Other options: for your thesis, if it is narrowly focused on one thing (like Paul’s view of such and such), do one chapter on something related.  I had contemplated doing this, with one chapter on Philo and another on 1 Peter.  Unfortunately, it didn’t work out.

During the interview for a job: If you get the ‘too narrow’ quest, inform or remind the interviewers (if you are interviewing outside the UK) about the New Testament seminar – a regularly scheduled event (almost weekly at Durham) where scholars come and test their ideas.  The topics are varied and sometimes very productive and significant conversations take place.  I wish this tradition made it across the pond!

In any case, keep in mind that many potential employers will be small liberal arts colleges and they care more about teaching and teaching experience in their candidates than their research potential (in my experience).  This takes forethought to get that experience and also some on-your-feet thinking during the interview.  You need to remember that, while finishing your thesis is a necessity, it is not the only thing you need to be doing during your phd.  If you want a job, especially in this economic climate, the bar has been significantly raised.

New Interpreter’s Dict of the Bible I-Ma (vol. 3): notes

I just received for review the New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible I-Ma (Vol. 3) (Abingdon, 2008). I have the first two volumes and I have found the articles to be well-written and the contributors are highly respected scholars internationally. How does it compare with the Anchor Bible Dictionary? First, there are less volumes and less space given to any entry. Secondly, the NIDB is directed towards pastors and seminarians, rather than being a more critical-scholarly reference. Nevertheless, end-of-entry bibliographies are excellent and the scholarship represented in this series is current. On a more personal note, I like the font, size, layout, and colors of this series. It is very visually appealing and the font in quite large. In this third volume, I had wondered (just reading I-Ma): what kind of important entries are included in this volume? Flipping through it, I soon found out just how significant this volume is!

Here is a sampling of titles and authors.

‘Image of God’, T. Fretheim

‘Immortality’, Alan Segal

‘Incarnation’, James Dunn

‘Inspiration and Revelation’, Sandra Schneiders

‘Book of Isaiah’, Richard Clifford’

‘Israel, Origins of’, Norman Gottwald

‘James, Letter of’, John Painter

‘Jerusalem’, Jerome Murphy-O’Connor

‘Jesus Christ’, Dale C. Allison, Jr.

‘Jews in the NT’, Adele Reinhartz

‘Job, Book of’, S.E. Balentine

‘John’, R. Alan Culpepper

‘Judaism’, James Vanderkam

‘Judges, Book of’, Victor Matthews

‘Justice, NT’, Pheme Perkins

‘Justification’, Calvin Roetzel

‘Kingdom of God’, Bruce Chilton

‘Knowledge’, James Crenshaw

‘Law in Early Judaism’, ‘Law in the NT’, both by S. Westerholm

‘Leader, Leadership, NT’, R. Beaton

‘Leviticus, Book of’, Frank Gorman

‘Lord’s Supper’, I.H. Marshall

‘Love in the NT’, J.S. Koppenborg

‘Luke, Gospel of’, John T. Carroll

‘Marriage, NT’, M. MacDonald

Highly recommended!

Bookstore page added

Please note that I have added a bookstore page (see tabs at top of blog). I will continue to expand what is in there, but I thought it might be nice to highlight what I think are the best commentaries, survey books, textbooks, scholarship, etc…

The bookstore is still a work-in-progress, but I have added several titles under the ‘commentaries’ category along with my own annotations on why I like the particular volume. These will be short comments, but may be helpful tips on which commentary to purchase.

As choices in the bookstore are very personalized, I probably won’t be spending time defending my choices or responding to comments, though you may make your case!

NB: the bookstore does link to an Amazon store. If you purchase a book through my link, I will get a ‘cut’ of the sale or something like that. What will be done with the money? I would like most or all of it to go into giving honorariums to scholars for doing interviews with me, or guest posts, or for purchasing new books to review on the blog.

I will continue to announce when I have added new categories to the bookstore.

For convenience, you may simply click HERE.

Bibleworks 8 (Review Part 1): First Impressions

I installed the version 8 upgrade of Bibleworks yesterday. I am very excited to have this new version and I have already found many of the new features very useful. Here are some first impressions that are noteworthy.

– Many features seem streamlined without the kind of total-changeover that can be daunting to users familiar with the way BW works. Its the little things that make a difference. For instance, when you want to change the Bible version you are seeing displayed, before there was a drop-window that you had to scroll through. Now, when you click on the box with the versions, it brings up the various languages (‘English’, ‘French’, ‘Greek’, etc…), and then when you select English all of the versions are displayed at once for you to select one (i.e. no scrolling). This description may sound overly convoluted, but trust me – its easier!

-Databases. Perhaps the most attractive feature of the new version for me is the inclusion of the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha in Greek and English. Before, I had to use the user-created database (Charles edition) which did not have the Greek. When I needed the Greek, I had to ask my study-neighbor to search the Greek in his Accordance (Mac) program! Now, I am free to search all I want on my own! It is also nice to have the English of the Targums and Mishnah.

– Exporting text. In BW 7, I had trouble getting BW to export to Word using unicode. I know it was possible, but I couldn’t get it working. Now, in BW 8, I quickly set it up and it works marvelously.

– Additional Module – Moulton and Milligan now comes free (as an update) with BW8. This is a great resource.

More thoughts to come.

NB: I think that future versions should begin the think about what Greek and Latin classical resources are going to be most useful to researchers.  Here it will take a bit of predication as to what sources and authors are being given attention especially in NT studies.  I would like to see the Greek and Roman philosophers (Epictetus, Plutarch, Seneca) and some of the historians (Tacitus, Heroditus).

Bibleworks also needs to begin thinking about talking to Richard Bauckham and Jim Davila about getting in on the ground floor on More Old Testament Pseudepigrapha.  Its never too early for collaboration if its makes the texts more accessible faster and cheaper…. 🙂

Need Help from Greco-Roman specialists…

I am doing some research on the history, habits, strategies, ethos, and organization of the Roman Army from its inception to the the end of the first century AD.  I can find books on the Roman army relatively well (though suggestions of highly respected authors and sources are welcome!).  I need to get to know the most respected journals in which to look.  Who can help me out?  What online resources are there for searching journals of classics and ancient Roman history and society?  I am pretty new to the Greco-Roman world research, so feel free to ‘dumb-it-down’ for me 🙂


NB: Some of the fruits of this research will be presented at the Tyndale Fellowship conference in July, so I can thank you in person if you are in attendence – please let me know if you are going!

Review of Dunn’ BFJ (Sources)

In our last post on Dunn’s Beginning from Jerusalem we noted his discussion of how a Jewish sect became a Gentile religion (i.e. Jesus to Paul). Dunn goes on (in ch. 20) to discussion various solutions to this issue including F.C. Baur’s approach, the history-of-religions approach, gnosticism theories, and sociological approaches. Dunn sees that a solution can only be found when one reckons with this question: ‘What was it that caused the first Christian evangelists to take the gospel to non-Jews?’ (50).

Before making the long and arduous journey through the primary resources in defense of his own perspective, Dunn discusses the ‘sources’ in ch. 21. He quickly mentions external sources such as Josephus, Epictetus, Tacitus, Suestonius, Pliny, and Cassius Dio. Then he concentrates on the most important source: Acts. The challenge here is that questions are raised as to the reliability of this document for making historical conclusions about the emergence of Christianity. Here are some key points he makes.

‘We’ passages. Dunn defends the fact that the ‘we’ passages reflect first-hand witness of the events described. Here is his defense: ‘the abruptness of the transitions from third person to first person and back again is more obviously explained in terms of personal presence and absence, and overall it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the narrator intended his readers to infer his personal involvement in the episodes described’ (p. 66).

Genre and historiography. According to ancient standards, Dunn argues that ‘it has to be accorded the title “history” in at least some sense’ (p. 68). The integration of theological (or ideological) interests in an attempt at recounting historical events was not unusual. Dunn refers to Acts as ‘tendentious history’ where Lukan distinctives are emphasized in the midst of his historical account. He generally concludes:

No doubt it is necessary to discount, or at least take account of, the “spin” which Luke puts on his narrative, but the twenty-first-century reader (or viewer) of historical studies and portrayals is well accustomed to doing so. It is of first importance in all this that we neither attribute to Luke an unrealistically idealistic quality as an ancient historian nor assume that his mistakes and Tendenzen show him to be unworthy of the title “historian” (87)

The Speeches in Acts. Dunn points out that there is great suspicion about the historical validity of the speeches in Acts. The speeches of Paul, for instance, are generally recognized as not ‘authentic’ (i.e. actually preached by Paul verbatim). Dunn does not try to defend a view that these speeches are historically accurate. However, he does think that Luke seems to have drawn on tradition that is ‘related to and….representative of the individual’s views and well suited to the occasion’ (p. 89). There is a creative mixture of the thought of the speaking character (e.g. Peter, Paul, etc..) and the mind of Luke; ‘it is history and theology seen through Luke’s eyes and reflecting also his own concerns’ (p. 89).

Other Sources

Beyond Acts, Dunn also discusses Paul’s letters as well as what we can learn from ‘Jesus tradition’. This brings us to page 132 and just before Dunn’s third new chapter (technically ch. 22). This will have to wait for the next post!