SBL 2010: My Report

This year’s conference travel was enjoyable for me. I had two “paper” responsibilities.

I was invited by Linda Belleville to give a review of Tom Wright’s Justification book at ETS in a Pauline Studies session, alongside Mark Seifrid and Michael F. Bird. I have never attended ETS, I am not a member and I had no plans on ever going, but I was pleased that a Methodist was invited to a Reformed and Baptist (and Reformed Baptist) stronghold. Plus, because Tom couldn’t be there, I was sort of supporting his views in the main, though I had a critique or two.

The Q & A time was fun and it made me think on my feet. The turn out was OK – many people left after Mark’s paper (60-70 people to hear Mark, 20-25 to hear me…) Anyway, I like being the “welcomed” Wrightian of the group.

My second paper, which was at SBL, was in a graduate workshop where I was invited to talk about PhD studies in the UK. Here is my bottom line -if you got the money, do it. Its shorter, the supervision is (can be?) amazing, and Europe is a lot of fun. Plus, you can’t beat the accents. I had a chat with someone interested in studying with John Barclay, Eddie Adams, or David Horrell – all good choices, of course I think Barclay is the best, especially on Paul.

BOOKS – I am transitioning into Johannine studies – so there were many things that were of interest, but few “new” things. I grabbed textbooks from Culpepper, Koester, and Powell. I also happened to pick up a couple of new Revelation items from Wipf & Stock which I will blog on soon (I teach on Revelation next week). There were few “hot of the presses” books, but I would point out Roy Ciampa and Brian Rosner’s 1 Corinthians commentary (sure to offer some fresh ideas and good “old-in-the new” discussions) and Dunn’s monotheism and Christology book.

FRIENDS – I had a great time meeting up with friends, old and new. I stayed with buddies Ben Blackwell (recent PhD grad of Durham), Jason Maston (the new Mike Bird in position, not quite yet in scholarship!), Kristian Bendoraitis (nearly at the point of his Durham viva), and John Goodrich (Durham grad, Moody prof). Fun times in the Hilton.

I met some very promising grad students and prospective PhD students – it looks like there is no end to the potential for good scholarship. Some bright minds coming out of all sorts of schools.

Update on where I send people for PhD studies: For Paul: still Durham. Sorry, but its the truth. For Jesus studies – can you still get in with Larry Hurtado? Simon Gathercole too. Tom Wright knows a little about the NT as well. 🙂

In the US, Duke and Princeton all the way around. If you want to go the evangelical route, Fuller is good. Asbury has a good program, but they are needing to fill in some faculty gaps (they are searching now)

RECEPTIONS: The Durham and Scottish Universities receptions are always good. I would feel that some university receptions might be a bit inward focused and elitist. At the Durham one, there were a number of prospective students and I hope they felt welcome.

PUBLISHERS: I had a good long chat with Chris Spinks from Wipf & Stock – a great guy and doing some fantastic things over there. I am going to be working with them and I am excited to have such a sharp and enthusiastic press who treats me well. I also met with Continuum, also good and I really like some of the essay-collections they have been doing. I think IVP is also very good right now – they are exploring some creative things and I will be blogging on that later.

FOOD: Honestly, I had loads of coffee at Starbucks (no Peet’s Coffee around) and I ate Larabar bars for breakfast and lunch. Dinners I often went to the food court. All in all, I only paid for a meal at a restaurant once!

INTERVIEWS: Because my position at SPU is not tenure-track, I did look for jobs at SBL. More on this anon. If your institution is looking for a young NT person, shoot me an email!


8 thoughts on “SBL 2010: My Report

    1. Jordan,
      there are lots of good schools out there that I didn’t mention. That doesn’t mean I don’t approve. I was giving a few exceptional institutions. Wheaton has some fine scholars. I am friends with Doug Moo’s son, another good scholar.

  1. nijay,

    good to find your website. I’ve been reading it over for an hour now, and there’s a lot that I feel could have easily been written by myself just as easily!
    But, we did both graduate from gordon-conwell.

    anyway, a word on the UK vs. NA doctorate discussion. I remember back in my undergrad someone warning me that profs generally recommend whatever route they took, and so I realise you have a dog in this race, and so do I. But all the same, I really am glad I took the NA route (toronto) rather than UK. As you note, the UK program is so much shorter, omitting the coursework and comprehensive components (not to mention, in my perusal, the language pre-requisites — Toronto required german, french, hebrew and greek). This does have obvious advantages: namely, you graduate sooner and can thus get a jump on the job market (and to that end, I’d note that I also applied for the position you landed at SPU, and since our CV’s are otherwise quite similar, I can only conclude that at least part of the advantage that ultimately secured you the position was the fact that you were actually already completed your doctorate, whereas I, even though I graduated GCTS years before you, was yet “completing” my doctorate at toronto). All the same, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think that that advantage was outweighed by the other advantage of the longer NA program. Simply put, had I gone to the UK then I would have been graduating at the point of what was approximately only year 3 of my NA program; when I compare the scholar I am now to the scholar I was at year 3, I’m very glad I wasn’t graduating and teaching young people then! I think the time between year three and now (year 6?) has been absolutely integral to my growth and development, both personally and academically.

    Now that’s not to imply at all that you are at some immature state because your PhD program was shorter, but it is to admit that if *my* phd program was shorter then *I* would have been in a less mature state. And not just me, I’m sure there are others like me too.

    My point? Students should take that into account, I think, when deciding between the NA or UK program style. Sure, the UK will be shorter, but will you really be ready to teach in just 2 or 3 years? Some people will be, and that’s great for them. Others will need to consider that though.

    1. Ryan! Good to hear from you. I appreciate your perspective. Truth be told, and I tell people this quite candidly- I applied to US schools for 2005 and I rejected to every single one of them! Durham (UK) took a chance on me and I hope I have done them proud.

      Anyway, I can appreciate your point on being a more mature student and scholar by the time you finish your NA PhD. That is absolutely true! I have never argued against that. However, someone else who studied in the UK put it to me this way: you shouldn’t compare “years in PhD” between NA and UK, but years in general. When you finish, let’s say in 5 years, you will be a more mature scholar than my 3 years. But 5 years after we both started our PhDs, you will be more mature and have earned your PhD, and I will be (potentially) at equal maturity five years later with a PhD (after three years) and two years (hypothetically) of teaching experience. You will have had, by that time, more courses. I will have had more teaching experience.

      Finally, if you look at some of the finest American seminaries in the US (where I was born), many NT scholars (perhaps most) studied in the UK. More mature or less mature, this is an acceptable course of study to teach seminarians as long as ministry experience is there.

      All this to say, I was bummed that Princeton, Yale, Emory, and Notre Dame turned me down, but I don’t feel that I am much different (academically) NOW, five years after I began my PhD, than folks that studied a those schools. Perhaps my Syriac is not as strong 🙂

    2. Ryan and Nijay,

      I appreciated both of your insights. Academic development is important and I had never really given it much thought, but it makes sense that this is part of the road of attaining the doctorate. If, as an upcoming PhD/DPhil, one cannot learn to think critically and broaden one’s horizons then it almost would also seem that those years laboring toward the doctorate are for nought. As a finishing MA student trying to get an idea of the ropes a doctoral student must face, I understand that a doctoral student will be stretched in many areas, and this includes the area of scholarship.

      In terms of my personal goals, I have placed and continue to place more weight toward the N. American PhD. I don’t have anything against a UK DPhil at all, so there isn’t any particular reason for pursuing a NA PhD except that it suits me better for what I want to do. However, since my SBL experience the other week, I have begun to reconsider the UK a bit more seriously than I previously had. I had the opportunity to have lunch with a (recent?) DPhil graduate from Oxford. There are a couple of points that he made that I found helpful.

      First, the theological language attainment seems to be somewhat more rigorous in that students are expected to interact with German/French scholarship. While NA PhD’s should also be competent to interact with the German and/or French, I got the impression that in Britain there is more of an expectation because they are so close to the UK. (Of course, one’s area of study will dictate how much interaction with German and French scholars are to be done. I’m also willing to consider that maybe the expectation is only at Oxford. Perhaps this is the case of the person recommending this route because it is the one he took, as Ryan said.)

      Second, DPhil students will at times have to take classes while they write their dissertation. Classes are usually given when a student is deficient in a certain area—and I think that many students coming into a PhD are deficient in some area related to their dissertation topic. I also understand that the dissertation supervisor may assign particular works to read (this may be in lieu of or in addition to classes the student takes) in order to educate the student as the dissertation is underway. I have heard of both of these taking place from more others apart from the DPhil I had lunch with.

      In my view, these two aspects make a UK DPhil education comparable to a NA PhD as far as being an expert in the field is concerned. Of course, the NA PhD has the comprehensive exams, which I understand to be very intense. Perhaps that sort of challenge is why I prefer to go the NA route over the UK. I would still be happy with either one. We’ll see who takes a chance on me. 🙂

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