Rome and Teaching the New Testament (need advice)

Later in August, my family and I are taking a holiday in Rome to end our time here in Europe.  I haven’t been to Italy since I was in high school and I am very excited (my wife graciously let me choose the location of our European holiday).  One of the things I am particularly excited about is visiting those places that help illuminate the world of the New Testament, particularly Paul’s letters (and especially his letter to Rome).

Can anyone tell me the ‘must sees’ for NT archaeology (other than, of course, the colosseum and Roman forum)?  What should I be taking pictures of to use as visual aids in classes on Paul?  Basically, what would you drool over seeing in person in Rome that relates to Pauline studies?  I am specifically interested in what the normal guide books would not bring up.  But feel free to suggest anything.  Thanks!

Interview with M Goodacre on publishing with LNTS

I have recently had the pleasure of exchanging some emails with Mark Goodacre (Duke) who is the series editor for the Library of New Testament Studies under T & T Clark (Continuum, London).  T & T Clark has very wisely offered a helpful website dedicated to offering potential authors information on the series.  See HERE.

Mark has agreed to answer some key questions about the series and provide some pointers for potential authors.  Thanks Mark!  May LNTS prosper for many years to come!

NKG: As editor of the Library of New Testament Studies (T & T Clark, Continuum), why do you think LNTS is a first-rate monograph series?

MG: Well, our official blurb says that “All the many and diverse aspects
of New Testament study are represented and promoted, including
innovative work from historical perspectives, studies using
social-scientific and literary theory, and developing theological,
cultural and contextual approaches”
(http://ntgateway.biblia.com/LNTS/).  What that is trying to get at is
that quality is the key.  We throw the net wide in terms of the topics
covered, the methods employed, the comparative material chosen.  I
like the fact that we publish monographs from a large range of
international scholars, from those right at the beginning of their
careers to senior and well known figures in the guild.  There is a
good balance of people from all over the globe, though the majority
inevitably comes from the USA, Canada and the UK.

NKG:  Do you have an idea of the rate of acceptance of manuscript submissions?

MG: I would have to check with Dominic Mattos at T & T Clark to get the
details, but my impression is that we reject more than half of what we
are offered.  Of course the process works differently if one is an
established scholar with several strong books to one’s name over
against a newly qualified PhD.

NKG: Is there something that a potential author can do to put himself/herself in the best position to get published with LNTS?

MG: Yes, write something of high quality!  Seriously, the key thing is
that we want the best work. In order to be published, the work has to
be of first class quality.  That’s the key thing.  I never want any
reader to pick up an LNTS volume and think, “Why on earth did they
publish *this*?”!  But there are also, of course, practical things
that one can do, like being efficient and co-operative in
correspondence and and manuscript preparation.  A detailed publication
proposal form at the beginning of the process is very helpful to us.
If it is thin and gives us a lot to do to work out what is going on with
the manuscript, that can delay things.

NKG: I know that when a manuscript is submitted, it goes out to an expert reader who assesses it.  Do you have a set of names on a list or do you approach whoever may be a reasonable choice for the topic (whether or not they have read for LNTS before)?  If he or she gives feedback, is that to the effect of mandatory corrections/changes or ‘recommended’ changes?

MG: We have an editorial board made up of a range of experts and these are
always the first port of call, as far as possible.  Each member of the
board acts in an advisory capacity and they will often read
manuscripts.  These people are the unsung heroes of LNTS because they
give a lot of their time to the series.  They have a feel for what
works and what does not work, and they are a great help to me.  And
several members of the board work extra hard and will have an even
greater reward in heaven.  However, many of our manuscripts of course
go to those outside the board.  As the editor, the decision is usually
mine about where the manuscript goes.  We never send out the entire
manuscript “cold”; we always approach people first and discuss it with
them.  This is one of the reasons that the publication proposal form
is so important.  The person chosen will always have some kind of
expertise in the specific area or methodology dealt with in the
manuscript.

NKG: Some publishers or series have the mindset: a published thesis should be as close to the phd thesis as possible (i.e., only correct the ‘mistakes’, make few global/structural changes).  Others take a ‘a monograph is a higher standard and is different from a phd thesis’ approach.  Where does LNTS (traditionally?) fall on this matter?

MG: I think we are somewhere in the middle of these too extremes.  The
series has changed a bit over the years.  As the JSNTSS (Journal for
the Study of the New Testament Supplement Series), volumes were often
quite close to the PhD thesis. That can still be the case but
regularly people revise and improve their PhDs for publication.  One
of the ways that people do this is through cutting extraneous material
of the kind that might be appropriate in a PhD (e.g. appendices and
massive, bibliographical footnotes) but is not necessary in the
published version.  When you are writing your PhD, there is an extent
to which you have to show your examiners your “workings”.  In the
published version, you include what you need to include to make your
case.  We have a word-limit of 80,000 which, in my experience, has
greatly improved many manuscripts over the lengthy, 100,000 or more
word versions that were first submitted.

Choosing a monograph series to publish with (case studies)

As I am currently researching and learning more about publishers and thier monograph series, I would like to blog about my experience and also the information I am gathering. I aim to have a page on my blog (see above) which will have information on the top 4-6 monograph publishers for New Testament.

Open invitation: I would like to do two case studies per series, hearing (probably anonymously) from individuals who have published their theses with a major series.  Please contact me (nijay.gupta[At]dur.ac.uk) if you are willing to serve as a case study.  NOTE: I am wanting people with positive experiences (I am not out to make any pubs upset!).  If I am having trouble getting responses, I will be contacting individuals myself.  A case study will involve a brief discussion of why you chose that publisher, how you went about getting your thesis ready for publication with them, and what things you liked about your experience with them.  I am OK with factual comments that may appear negative (‘by policy they do not….’), but I do not wish to have severely critical discussions.

So, please contact me.  If you absolutely don’t want to be anonymous (i.e. you love the pub and you want to be their poster child) you can leave a comment here or on the monograph series page above saying you wish to be a case study.

BTW – I am especially interested in LNTS, WUNT II, BZNW, SNTSMS, and NovTSup.

Thanks for your help!

The Living Word – 2nd Ed Book Notice (JDG Dunn)

I am not familiar with the first edition (1988), but I had talked to Jimmy before about the authority of the Bible and he had mentioned his discussion of ‘the living word’.

Here is a tantalizing quote about how the NT and the canon can be understood as ‘the living word’: ‘The phrase makes it clear that revelation was conceived not as a static, once-for-all speaking of particular words which thereby immediately  became fixed and petrified.  The medium through which the revelation came was conceived of in a much more fluid way.  The words and style and idiom could be reworked and indeed transformed into a different form, with enlarged scope and emphasis and adapted to changed circumstances’ (68).

This is not just a ‘second edition’ per se, but has some additions: four new essays on the subjects of ‘God’s word in human speech’, ‘bridging the gap between the academy and the church’, the hallmarks of ‘good exposition’, and a concluding chapter on the Bible as living tradition.

On a personal note, I think the publishing of this edition is timely as the issue of the Bible’s authority is such a hot topic.  Jimmy, in this book, is trying to soften the defensive views and tones of fundamentalists.  What he does that is different is take a sympathetic view towards the concerns of fundamentalists.  He does not write them off – his book is not an alternative approach to biblical authority from a ‘liberal’.  He wants to address fundamentalists (primarily) with a hopefulness that he is accepted  by them as someone who takes the Bible very seriously.  That should be valued, even if his views are ultimately neglected.
Also, he handles the very serious issue of pseudonymity in the Bible.  He supports the idea that this was common in Jewish tradition and should not be understood as deceptive and, thus, fatal to the view that the Bible is divinely inspired and authoritative.  Though, in the end, I do not accept this common view (for a number of reasons), I think Jimmy pitches the best kind of argument to convince an evangelical.

For those who are curious, the biggest problems I have with pseudonymity in the NT  is three-fold:

1. Can we really prove or know that Peter or Paul did not write the letters ascribed to them in the NT (this is the truth-is-often-stranger-than-fiction-principle)?  Can we decide, in our time, exactly who wrote these letters, why, and how they fooled so many over the years?  Take 2 Corinthians 6.14-7.1.  Fitzmyer says: Qumranist wrote it.  Betz -nah, anti-Pauline Judaizers did and someone slipped it into the letter.  Murphy-O’Connor – fellas, this looks as much like Philo as Essenes or whoever.  A few squeaky voices are heard in the distance:….could it be Paul…?

2. Good false-writers pick someone long gone (Enoch, Moses, Abraham, etc…).  That way everybody is on the same page – did Enoch really write this?  No – duh!  With Paul, hm… did he write Colossians?  [false author of Colossians says: did I not make that clear?]

3. It is very uncommon to find epistles that are falsely written and yet accepted within a community.  The number of personal details in Colossians and Ephesians (let alone the PE) just seem superfluous unless (1) Paul wrote it [or authorized the writing of it], or (2) a false-writer was really trying to fool someone.  I can understand a basic attempt to be faithful to the genre (the letter), but not at the level of what we find.

Well, I know many of you out there disagree with me – this is a controversial subject.  Be aware – I plan on reading Dunn’s section closely.  I am open to being convinced, but it has not happened yet.

I will keep you posted on any interesting tidbits in this book.  On a personal note, this book was gifted to me by Jimmy himself as a congrats on the viva.  It is a fitting reminder that, even now with a PhD, I need to learn (all the more) what God’s word is, how to properly intepret and respect it, and how to affirm its vitality, bringing it to others carefully and faithfully.

Random Notes on Completing Your PhD

It has come as a surprise to many that I finished my PhD in the timeframe allotted to me (36 months; my viva came at the end of the 34th month).  It is true that many NT students finish later – 3.5-4 years is common and 5 years is not unheard of.  How did I do it?

Well, I honestly believe that some topics require a bit less work than others.  Part of my ‘success’ is having chosen a topic that dealt primarily with Paul (and not in comparison to the DSS, Stoics, Hauerwas, whatever…).  This meant that I really only needed to master one set of information, though I admit my methodology (conceptual metaphor theory) required some intensive outside reading.  So, that is part of it.  My colleague John Goodrich chose a topic that required him to look up and translate a lot of ancient inscriptions.  He spent much of his first year doing that.  He has found some great things and he will make some very substantial contributions to knowledge.  But, it is this kind of thing that I did not have to do.  I am not saying one is better than the other – I just happened to choose a topic that could be dealt with in 36 months.

I don’t feel bad about it (‘should I have done more work on XYZ?’) – I am expected by the university to finish in that amount of time.  So I did!  It was also practical – England is expensive for Americans who are using up their savings and relying on the kindness of relatives who are paying American dollars.  I wanted to be faithful to limiting the expenses.

Having said all of that, I think one can make steps towards finishing on time.  Here is some advice for those just starting our or thinking about graduate work.

1. Set writing goals (words/chapters).  Don’t just set goals for number of hours working on an issue.  Make them very practical – 10,000 words by such-and-such a date. Set lots of small goals so you don’t overshoot or undershoot by too much.  I have weekly goals and I have daily goals too!  I spend a lot of time thinking about my schedule!

2. Take your time during your Phd seriously – you are there to complete this project.  A have a friend who essentially finished his Phd in two years and it was published with SNTS.  I asked him how he did it.  He said, ‘when other students saw the sun out and decided to go “play,” I moved over to the windows in the library and kept at it.’  You may say – BORING.  Yes, but efficient!  Take note, though – I worked from 8AM-4PM – when I got home at 4.30PM I spent time with the family and made dinner.  I never scheduled time in to study after 4.30 unless I was desperate (which was very rare).  I also did not generally study on the weekends, but I did work a bit Sunday nights since I taught Greek the next morning.

3. Meet with your supervisor as often as possible.  I actually did not do this, but I wish I had.  I met with Stephen about once every six weeks (after my first year).  The problem was that sometimes, on the basis of our discussions, my timeline would be bumped back as I would have to do some re-working.  One time I turned in about 30,000 words having worked on a number of chapters without meeting with him over the summer.  My two supervisors did not like what I had done with these chapters and I had to almost completely rewrite that portion of my thesis.  That mistake (not meeting with my supervisor for most of the summer of 2008) pushed my timeline back about 3 months!  So, meet regularly – not every week, but I say shoot for more than once a month.

4. Study with other students if you can tolerate it.  When I studied at home by myself, I got lonely, bored, and I worked slow.  Once in a while I was on a roll and I was productive.  Most of time – not so much.  When I started studying with others, it wasn’t competitive, but if they seemed to be intensely studying, I felt like doing it.  When I heard that so-and-so had already written so many words or pages, it spurred me on.  That intense, let’s-work-together kind of environment helped me.  NB: I have heard, from very reliable sources, that many part-time students doing the PhD do not finish, largely for this reason – they are isolated and without colleagues to help move them forward in their work.

5. Write early and write often (some overlap here with #1).  Some students take the attitude – I will ‘research’ for two years and then ‘write up’ my third year.  That is ‘old school’ and the term ‘writing up’ is still used sometimes for the third year.  I don’t like that one bit.  Literary specialists say that the best way to become a better reader and writer is to do it – to write.  I don’t like writing because I don’t think I am a good writer.  The fact is, though, that the best way to become better is to practice.  In your first six months, at least write some book reviews on books in your field. Do something!  Don’t just ‘read, read, read’.  ‘Read, write, read, write.’  Heck, start a blog!

6. Only do what is neccessary – Yes, generally people think that a thesis is 100,000 words.  But that is the upper limit.  You can write an 80,000 thesis at Durham.   My own thesis came in at around 88,000 words without the appendix and bibliography (which do not count towards the final word count).  And, I don’t feel like anything was really missing!

7. Don’t take on too many ‘other committments’.  Opportunities may arise to teach a course or help on a committee – take it!  You will need to show administrative and teaching abilities to get a job.  But you don’t need to be teaching 4 courses a year and serve on every committee with an opening.  1-2 courses in your second and third year is enough (as a TA or whatever).

Once again, my experience is, I guess, abnormal.  But with UK phds there is hardly any ‘average experience’ that is realistically common (except loneliness and stress!).  Do your best to plan on finishing in 36 months, mainly because one of the criteria for passing is that you dealt with a topic that can reasonably be treated in three years!  Don’t choose a 4-year or 5-year topic!  Best of luck to all.

From Phd thesis to monograph…?

So, even just a day later I am eager to fit this thesis for publishing.  My examiners were happy to pass my thesis as is for the phd, but they tacitly made it known that it needed work for publication.  I am OK with that, but the question is always – how much do I do?  How significant should the changes be to strengthen the thesis?  Adding some clarifying footnotes?  Completely re-writing sections?

I would like to know from you readers who have published your phd thesis, did you change much before sending it to a publisher?  Did the publisher ask for major changes?

Just curious.  I mean, I could do some important changes and I wouldn’t quite know if I have successfuly covered the issues.  I guess it comes down to try-and-try-again, right?