Prepare, Succeed, Advance: Why Buy the Cow?

I have recently announced that my book Prepare, Succeed, Advance: A Guidebook for Getting a PhD in Biblical Studies and Beyond (Wipf & Stock) has been published. I know that some of you know my blog from the post “Interested in a NT PhD?”

So, you might naturally be asking, “Why buy the cow [the book] when you get the milk [the blog post] for free?”

Good question! This is important, because I want to ensure that folks understand that  the differences between the book and the post are many and significant.

#1: CONTENT – the book covers three major phases of academic life, while the blog post contains just one. The book deals with preparation for a PhD (Prepare), the successful writing of a dissertation and its defense (Succeed), and getting a job and beginning a teaching career (Advance). The blog post really only covers the first area.

#2: LENGTH – the book is about 4-6x longer than the blog post. However, I have re-worked the information so much that it is about much more than length. I have many lists and bibliographic notes that are not on the blog. In terms of quality of information, it offers far more than looking at page length.

#3: RESEARCH – when I chose to write the book, I had to actually back-up some of the information that I had only known through personal experience, rumors, and anecdotes. I did research on statistics for various matters. Some of the stats were quite shocking!

#4: EDITING: My editor, Chris Spinks, pushed back on some issues and challenged several statements I made. He definitely made this a much better book because of his keen editorial eye.

#5: MATURITY: I am not saying I am a wise old scholar now, but I wrote the blog post in bits and pieces during my PhD. Now I have had some time to think more, talk with scholars, and really “sit” with the issues. Knowing it will be a book in a library gave the matter more gravitas – I invested more of myself in making the book helpful and accurate.

#6: EFFICIENCY: On my blog, whether in one post or as a whole, the information is somewhat “stream of consciousness” – for the book, I wanted there to be a very clear and simple flow. I believe it is an easy book to find the information you are looking for.

#7: REFINEMENT: If you go to the blog post, it has scores of comments from readers. I have read through them all, but unless there was a glaring error, I did not change the blog post (it is hard to keep up!). However, I was careful in the book to take account of these comments.

#8: BEST PRACTICES: One of the enduring qualities of the book, I hope, is my advice on “Best Practices” for writing and research. This is not in the blog post, but it may be the most important thing I contribute in the book.

These are some of the reasons why you might be interested in buying the book, even if you have read the blog post on which it is roughly based. If the book had a heavy price-tag, I would not be recommending it (and I would not have written it!), since the very basic information is available elsewhere. However, since it is a reasonable $15, I think having it couldn’t hurt. It’s cheaper than the SBL Handbook of Style!

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My New Book: Prepare, Succeed, Advance

I am very excited to announce that Wipf & Stock has recently published my little PhD guidebook called:

Prepare, Succeed, Advance: A Guidebook for Getting a PhD in Biblical Studies and Beyond

This book is a detailed expansion of some of the work that I did on my blog regarding getting into a PhD program, surviving it, and beginning a career in academia. It comes at a very reasonable price of $19.00, with W&S selling it at $15.20. I wrote this book because I really wish I had something like this seven years ago when I was contemplating doing PhD studies. It maps out, as best as I can offer, the appropriate preparation for a PhD as well as tips on choosing a school. There are a number of other features of the book like how to publish an article and book review, how to present a paper, how to do good research in Biblical studies, how to interview at a conference, and how to publish your dissertation as a monograph. Please do check it out and recommend it to others!

If you are wondering whether it is a repeat of what I wrote in my blog post Interested in a NT PhD, it is most definitely NOT. I did not copy and paste it into a file and publish it. I started from scratch, now that I have some distance from my PhD work. I reconsidered some things, added loads of new information, and I called up a number of current and recent PhD students to offer more perspectives on what I was talking about.

I will say that it is in the same spirit as my Interested in a NT PhD post, though I have much more to say in the book. It may help you to know that that original post has been “clicked” over 15,000 times since I first wrote it.

Finally, I will say that the blog post is exclusively about preparing for a PhD (not about doing one), whereas the book seeks to be comprehensive, beginning years before entering a program, following you through one, and following up afterward. I would say you could refer to it for some time after you begin a job as it offers some early career advice.

I have decided to leave to blog post Interested in a NT PhD up even though it may detract from the book’s purpose because I want that information available to the public. However, I want to emphasize that about 75% of the info in the book cannot be found in that post and some of the overlapping content has been re-directed, clarified or even changed.

New Horizons in Biblical Theology issue – themed

I have long confessed that Horizons in Biblical Theology is one of my favorite journals – one of only a few that I keep up with on a regular basis. The most recent issue is apparently themed, on the subject of universalism. I am very excited to read Bockmuehl’s article on the “inclusive Jesus.”  (Note: I copied and pasted the titles/authors below, but the links may not work)

Subscribed Content Content loaded within last 14 days Particularities and Universalities 
pp. 3-8(6)
Author: Greene-McCreight, Kathryn

Subscribed Content Content loaded within last 14 days The Trouble with the Inclusive Jesus 
pp. 9-23(15)
Author: Bockmuehl, Markus

Subscribed Content Content loaded within last 14 days Election Theology and the Problem of Universalism 
pp. 34-44(11)
Author: Kaminsky, Joel S.

Dictionary of Scripture & Ethics (Baker) — Coming Soon!

Almost two years ago, I was contacted by Baker and asked to write a couple of articles for the Dictionary of Scripture & Ethics – what a delight, with great editors like Joel Green, J. Lapsley, Rebekah Miles, and A. Verhey! I just came across the webpage for the book which is due out by SBL time – it looks fantastic! This will be such an amazing resource. While there are a number of Bible dictionaries out there, it is high time one of them focused on ethics from a Biblical perspective. Make sure this is on your SBL wishlist- or maybe Christmas!

Book Review: Becoming Whole and Holy (Brown, Dahl, and Corbin Reuschling)

Even though my day-job is being a “New Testament” professor, I am deeply interested in Christian formation and theological interpretation (and what good Methodist is not!). Thus, I took an immediate interest in the recent Baker book, Becoming Whole and Holy: An Integrative Conversation about Christian Formation by Jeannine K. Brown, Carla Dahl, and Wyndy Corbin Reuschling.

These three ladies are friends who wished to engage in conversation for mutual benefit, and they are also experts in their respective fields: Brown is a New Testament scholar, Dahl teaches in marriage and family therapy (and social sciences), and Corbin Reuschling works in theology and ethics. There are ten chapters on the subject of identity, holiness, formation, and community from a theological perspective. Basically, one author presents an essay – then, the other two offer reflections, constructive criticism, and praise or encouragement. As I was reading this book, it struck me that the respect, generosity, appreciation, and a willingness to learn and grow together is what scholarly interaction should be like at conferences, but rarely ever is. I caught a glimpse of this at the NT Wright conference at Wheaton – Tom was not sweetly praised, as there were some very demanding statements, accusations, critiques, and concerns. However, at the end of the day, everyone called each other “friend” and there was a mood and spirit of hope for the future as work continued in light of cooperation.

It is probably not surprising that my interest in the book immediately turned to Brown’s chapters on Scripture. In chapter five, “Being and Becoming: The Scriptural Story of Formation,” Brown looks at wholeness and holiness from a Biblical-theological perspective – especially recovering the image of God in humanity. How do Christians respond to the work of God in restoring humanity? Brown suggests two rubrics: dependence and discernment. Spot on! The first is a “relational conviction,” setting God as lord over your life. The second, discernment, is like “a compass, setting our course in a God-ward direction” (p. 81).

Brown has another chapter on the subject of “wholeness and holiness.” Her final thoughts in this chapter sum up well the perspective of all the authors and gives you a sense of what the book is about:

According to Scripture, the believing community is on a journey of becoming. Journeying or becoming is inherently part of the human experience because God created humanity as finite and wired for growth. Becoming is also a given because of humanity’s fall and subsequent propensity toward sin and idolatry. In this light human becoming is best conceived as responsiveness to God’s initiating and ongoing covenantal and redemptive work that culminates with Messiah Jesus, so that faith and faithfulness form the pattern of Christian becoming. (p. 96)

I think seminary faculties as a whole would benefit from coming together and reading this book together – demonstrating community and friendship, a common-cause as professors of formation (all of us!), and a spirit of collegiality in trying to learn from each other’s disciplines. If there is one context in which inter-disciplinary interaction is fundamental, it is the theological seminary. Eat this book! (wash it first).