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NTAC321

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NTAC321 last won the day on September 27 2018

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  1. Hi there, These are good questions to be thinking of at this stage. Here’s an article that I found useful when I was preparing to apply for PhD programs: https://theprofessorisin.com/2011/07/25/how-to-write-an-email-to-a-potential-ph-d-advisor/ Hope it helps, and best of luck.
  2. NTAC321

    Am I ready?

    Hi there, If you want to do a PhD in New Testament, I think you should go for it this coming cycle. You come from a well-regarded divinity school, you have a good GRE verbal (analytical doesn’t tend to matter much even at top schools), and you seem to know what you’re doing within the discipline if faculty want to work with you. If things don’t work out, you can always do a ThM or something similar and try again the following year. Here are some things to keep in mind: At this point I can’t give very specific advice on which programs you should consider, mostly because your stated interests appear a bit vague. With some more specificity, we might be able to help you draft a list of schools or put you in contact with people doing similar work at other programs. I’m not an advocate for the wide-net approach; I think there are between seven and ten NT programs worth a person’s time given the state of the market and the field, and those can be split (with some overlap, of course) between confessional-friendly programs, like Duke and Yale, and others which approach the field from an RS perspective (Chicago, Texas, Princeton, etc). If you’re looking for a place to do NT exegesis, constructive readings for Christian audiences, etc, then your list narrows somewhat. The same is true if you’d rather avoid theologically-minded faculty and colleagues. “Fit” is a slippery term, but faculty will be looking for that in addition to good stats and recommendations. I think folks are mostly right about the need for more language prep. If you have one more year at the divinity school, why not take another couple of Greek classes? Swap out the exegesis course for one in Classics. It’ll push you, but you’ll be better prepared for doctoral programs. If you can do summer Hebrew this summer, that’d be good, as well (these classes are often happy for last-minute additions). Lots of PhD students tackle modern languages during their PhD coursework ( I had German but crammed for French on my own a couple of years ago), so I’m not sure you need that to happen right away. I say apply to the schools where your interests fit with those of the faculty. If you end up doing another one-year program, that’s okay too, as long as you can stomach the costs (ThM’s are rarely funded).
  3. There are lots of good responses here already, but let me also add that the vulnerability of the job market extends pretty far beyond “large” or “top” research universities. The hiring climate in our field has shown no signs of recovery since 2008, and it isn’t poised to turn around anytime soon. Subsequently, more candidates from the most respected RS programs in the country are going after those small Christian liberal arts colleges because they might be the only options left. If you intend on adjunct teaching while receiving most of your income from parish ministry, then Oxford, Cambridge, Durham, etc will probably be fine for landing an adjunct gig, especially if you have strong ties to a denomination or institution. The school that is “better” will be the one that is suited to your research interests. Look through the faculty at each school and see who’s done something on your proposed topic. If you have a topic in mind (e.g., stoicism in Paul, text criticism, Matthew and the DSS, etc), folks can probably give more specific suggestions. Regarding which is more or less conservative, I know little about Cambridge and only know Durham from friends who’ve attended (there’s also a blog from American NT PhD students at Durham, if you do some googling). Oxford is a cool town but the faculty’s interest in, for example, Pauline authorship of the Pastoral Epistles should demonstrate the sizable gap between these schools and good US programs. And I can’t emphasize enough that any quality US program will *pay* you to be there, while the reverse is true in Britain. FWIW, I’ve heard—but don’t know for certain—that Oxford and Cambridge are increasingly admitting US applicants into one-year MPhil degrees, the successful completion of which gives the faculty the option to admit a student into the PhD/DPhil.
  4. Hi Barker, You have three good options, I think, and each of the three offers a unique school culture and set of strengths/weaknesses. I’d make your decision based on those factors, alongside financial aid offers, and not terms as abstract and ultimately meaningless as “rigor” or “reputation.” Divinity school is a kind of choose-your-own-adventure experience. You can go by the path of least resistance or you can intentionally challenge yourself, taking advantage of good professors, doctoral seminars, and directed readings. As others have said above, the experience is what you make of it. You’ll find good conversation partners and faculty mentors at any of these schools. You might be interested to know something of the academic and religious environment at each of the three. Others can weigh in here, but I’d characterize Harvard as a mostly post-Christian, inter-faith school with lots of folks interested in further academic study and/or activism of one kind or another. Yale, I think, is made up of mostly mainline, liberal Christians seeking ordination into the priesthood and people looking to do PhD’s after divinity school. Duke appears to have a broader mix of (mostly) Christian students (reflective, I think, of the diversity within the United Methodist Church). Duke has a more theologically conservative reputation than either Yale or Harvard. Others should feel free to jump in on this point if my quick and dirty summary seems off. If you have interests in particular fields of study within a divinity school (e.g., systematic theology, the Ancient Mediterranean, religion and art, etc) or in other university departments (e.g., Classics, History, Environmental Studies, etc), these things might also be factors in your decision, and I’m sure folks could weigh in on the strength of each school with respect to a given area of interest if you want more detailed information. This is only marginally important unless you’re thinking of further study after the M.Div. My advice: student loans are bad. Go to Duke.
  5. Hi @JHubbs, Harvard’s top NT faculty just left for Yale, so to me the decision seems pretty clear. Also, Yale MAR students in New Testament pretty regularly run the table on admission to top PhD programs. Some of that may be changing with recent faculty retirements, but it looks like they’ve already made a great replacement hire for Attridge.
  6. This was a few years ago, but I had a Skype interview with U of Chicago. It was with faculty from my subfield, and it lasted about 20 minutes. Old emails reveal the date of contact was early February. If I recall, Harvard decisions were the last to come out my year (Very late February). They didn’t do interviews, either, so the wait feels quite long. One last note: hearing nothing from a school typically, though not always, is bad news. There are some institutions that keep something like an unofficial waitlist in case their first picks go elsewhere and they need bodies in the department.
  7. Blindobserver111, You are unlikely to be a good fit at all those institutions. The profile of an admitted student at Harvard, Chicago, or UT will look rather different than that of an admitted student at Princeton Seminary or Baylor. DO you have specific faculty at each of those 10 schools with whom you’d like to work? Do they publish on the Historical Jesus/synoptic gospels? Are you aware that Yale’s NT faculty are all junior at the moment? Have you reached out to Laura Nasrallah or Karen King to ask if they have any interest in advising dissertations on canonical texts? What about at Princeton U or at UT Austin? I don’t know many faculty/grad students from these schools whose work concentrates on canonical gospels, and I know even less who work on Historical Jesus, though this might be owing to the fact that I don’t work in these fields. At the risk of adding even more schools to your list, I’d recommend University of Toronto if you want to work on Historical Jesus. Perhaps also UNC Chapel Hill, though I hear Ehrman is all but retired at this point. ON an unrelated note, does anyone happen to know what’s happening with Yale’s senior search in NT?
  8. Welp, looks like I spoke too soon. I don’t know anything about that from a modern perspective. If you’re trying to do a constructive, theological project for the benefit of the Church, I imagine your language needs will be largely Latin, German, and French (the first because you’d be working with Catholic documents, and the latter two because they’re the assumed - for better or worse - standard languages of academic study alongside English). Getting back to your initial post a bit, your GRE scores are probably fine if you’re strong elsewhere. Work on your personal statement so much that you have it nearly memorized. Show it to faculty and colleagues regularly. Make sure your writing sample showcases your abilities as a writer and solid thinker. Make sure you’ve got good recommendation letters. Reach out to friends already in PhD programs in your field and ask for their advice. Apply broadly. Vote tomorrow (this has nothing to do with applications but you should still do it).
  9. Hey there, I notice there are lots of bible folks weighing in on this thread. I’m (roughly speaking) a biblical studies person, too, and I can tell you that our subfield is heavily driven by language skills. In the majority of (legitimate) biblical studies PhD programs, a successful applicant will have several years in the languages relevant to their interest. That might not be the case for you, however. We don’t know what you’re interested in studying. If, for example, you want to study the development of the eucharist in the second century, then yes; you’d need a lot of Greek and latin and should probably know Hebrew and maybe Coptic for good measure. But if you want to study post-Vatican II liturgy in Western Europe, for example, you shouldn’t waste your time in antiquity. You’d probably need Latin then some modern European languages. This is to say that your question doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all answer. Typically, PhD programs across the subfields want you to be Abel to read modern scholarship from Europe, which means learning German and French in most cases. But if you want to study middle-english prayer books or the Russian Orthodox hymnal or some other thing, your language needs are going to change. Maybe you want to study architecture and your language needs are minimal at this stage. We can give you better advice if you can be more clear about the work you want to do.
  10. Hi there, @sacklunch makes several good points above. I think you, like most everyone in our field, will need a rigorous MA program before applying to PhDs. Ancient languages are the bedrock of our field, and you won’t get any consideration from PhD programs without them. It seems like you already suspect this is the case, but I want to emphasize this point due to the time and money needed to apply for PhD programs. Wait a couple (or three) years after a masters degree. The following programs don’t usually come with full funding (unless you go to a prestigious undergrad institution and have a great GPA + recommenders), but they typically offer strong packages: Harvard Divinity School - they have good faculty for both STJ and NT/AC, with a later focus for both (i.e. second-fourth centuries C.E.). Yale Divinity School - Yale has some strong connections and a history of really good placement in PhDs (I’d say a majority of my friends in STJ and NT PhD programs went to YDS). They also have an optional third year of MA study, and I think the third year is funded? I’m not sure. Vanderbilt Divinity School - I know they can give really competitive funding offers and they have some strong faculty. Also, Nashville is a great place to live for a couple of years. Kansas, as @sacklunch mentioned, also has a terminal MA in religious studies with really good funding. The University of Washington at Seattle has an interesting MA program, as well. Not sure about your ideological commitments, but these are the major non-theological programs that have funding. Most MA programs with money tied to them are situated in Christian theological institutions (divinity schools, schools of theology, etc), though some (e.g. Harvard) are more pluralistic than others (Princeton Seminary). You should apply to a handful of places if funding is a priority, since you never know what you’re going to get. Other options might include Boston University School of Theology, Princeton Seminary, Emory’s Candler School of Theology, Boston College School of Theology, etc. Oregon State and Tulane also have funded MA programs in Classics, as do others, I’m sure, and you could get a lot of language prep there. Hope this helps. Best of luck.
  11. Okay, that info is helpful. Here’s a revised plan: First, If you’re going to be in the DFW area for the next couple of years, you should apply to either MA or ThM programs at both Baylor and TCU this round (the deadlines are typically in late December/mid January, so there’s still plenty of time for a Master’s app). Rabbit Run mentioned Perkins at SMU, which might also be a good option (I don’t know anyone there, but I’m sure they have a couple HB folks). Especially if you’re applying to an MA program, you’ll likely get in, since divinity schools appreciate the money. I’d be in contact with current students and some prospective faculty to get their input on which degree you should be pursuing. When it comes time for scheduling next semester, take the heaviest possible dose of language classes you can handle. Language skills are perfectly transferable, and that has to be the best use of your time while you’re still at Southwestern. Language skills are make or break in biblical studies, and you should be preparing now so that by the time you’re applying to PhD’s, your letter writers can proclaim your vast knowledge of Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic, etc. Regarding recommendation letters, you should be able to use a mix of professors from prior institutions alongside maybe one professor at your current institution that can testify to your language ability, writing skills, or something basic like that before you submit your application file in December. Regarding the evaluation of TCU vs Baylor, I think TCU has a stronger reputation. You can work closely with Ariel Feldman, Will Gafney, etc while also learning from good NT scholars like Shelly Matthews and Patricia Duncan who can round out your knowledge. Baylor, moreover, is seen as a pretty conservative institution, so in your particular case TCU might give you the opportunity to show some distance from your SBC past. But I think either one is going to be good enough for lots of schools. Baylor, Emory, Duke, and Princeton Seminary seem to have a good deal of mutual respect for one another, in particular. I don’t think a reputable online Master’s program exists, to be honest. And I’ve never heard of anyone going from an online degree to a legitimate PhD program. One last note: I don’t know whether this would work or not, but you might email admissions offices at Baylor and TCU to see about transferring and beginning in the spring. Masters admissions is honestly not all that rigorous, and I think, if you explained your situation and your desire to go somewhere that’s more in-line with your values, they might allow you to enter in the spring, perhaps as a provisional student, then admit you officially a couple of months later. The worst they can do is tell you that you’ll need to wait until fall 2019, which is what you’d have to do anyway. Rabbit Run, Southwestern may very well be the most moderate SBC school (I have no idea), but I don’t think John Collins at Yale or Michael Fishbane at Chicago is going to appreciate that nuance. SBC seminaries are associated with inerrancy and misogyny, despite Russell Moore’s best efforts, and most PhD admissions committees are going to want to see that an applicant has moved on.
  12. Gah, this is tricky. How far along are you in the ThM? If you’re still 4 semesters away from finishing, I assume you’re not very far along in the program, in which case it might be wise to transfer or drop out. That might very well be terrible advice, but I’m not sure, so you should certainly ask around. Try talking to some former SBC folks (they’re everywhere) about your options. From what I know, it’s very tough to go from a seminary like that into a funded PhD program. Also, keep in mind that getting a PhD from a less than great program creates new problems once you’re done with the dissertation, since the job market is tough for everyone, even folks with unblemished CV’s. Here’s what I might offer as a suggestion: transfer/leave Southwestern ASAP for another masters-granting institution. If you do an MA/MTS/MAR from a legitimate HB program like Harvard, Yale, Chicago, Duke, etc, you have a chance to go to a really good school after that degree. I know several folks who’ve gone this route after doing an M.DIv at places like Southwestern. Honestly, I just don’t know if there’s a direct path from a SBC ThM to a legit PhD program, so the quicker you can get out of there, the better. If you need to stay local, you might even try transferring to TCU or Baylor. Hope this helps. Best of luck.
  13. Hi there, The good news is that you have plenty of time to take it again before applications are due, so don’t panic. You can either be content with the scores you have (which honestly seem fine for the three programs you listed) or try to set aside a few hours each week, take one week off to study hard, then take it again sometime in November. If cost is an issue, I wouldn’t do anything crazy to get the funds; it’d be better for you to use the $100 or so it takes to pay for the test and use it to apply to another school. If money isn’t an issue, you can certainly find the time to take it again. In general, the GRE will rarely get you in to schools but it can keep you out of some. With those scores, I think you’d have a hard time with Harvard, Yale, Princeton U, Chicago, and maybe some others, but you would be fine for plenty of other schools (PTS, Emory, BC, BU, UT Austin, Notre Dame, UNC, etc). There are current PhD’s from Duke GPR active in this forum, so I’ll defer to them on that question, though I assume those scores are fine for Duke’s ThD, if not the PhD. One final note: I took the GRE twice, mostly to get a higher verbal score. On the first attempt I got a 5.0, which I felt was good enough, so on the second time through I didn’t attempt a single practice essay but my score went up to a 5.5 despite thinking my essays were worse when taking it for the second time. This is to say that the GRE is more or less arbitrary bull shit, but the writing section in particular is just ridiculous.
  14. Hi there, I’m no theologian (I work mostly with New Testament/Second Temple Judaism), but I have quite a few friends in the theology world, especially post-liberalism. Two quick pieces of advice: 1. Make sure there are senior scholars working within your interests with whom you can take several courses and from whom you can eventually get a recommendation letter. This is crucial for PhD applications generally and especially for you, I think; those lines on your CV from Jerry Falwell’s institution will take strong endorsements from respected scholars to ease the anxieties of faculty at top-tear PhD programs. 2. Visiting schools and meeting with prospective faculty is a really good way to get a sense for the program. I’d also recommend meeting with junior faculty who might have a better sense for the school’s culture (they’re often the profs teaching the most courses anyway). Ask them about where their recent grads go for doctoral work (i.e. are they going to regional seminaries or to Yale, Duke, etc?) In terms of particular schools, I’d also recommend Duke, though you might wish to read another forum post on this site about some troubling issues with its divinity school. Yale has three of the most influential systematic theologians (Volf, Jennings and Tanner) in the country, so I’d strongly encourage you to apply there, as well. Other options: I think there’s a seminary in Louisville that gives full tuition waivers to all its applicants. Princeton Seminary gives good tuition rates, especially to Presbyterians, though I’m not sure how rigorous the program is these days. Other schools people in theology seem to like: Vanderbilt, Chicago (good funding here as well), Notre Dame (funding + evangelical-friendly), Cambridge (a different kind of thing here, but Sarah Coakly is very highly respected in theology circles), Union Seminary in New York. Hope this helps. Best of luck!
  15. I’m holding to the traditional line of thought here, but I really don’t see an advantage to publishing *anything* until you can reasonably expect that your training is sufficient enough so as not to embarrass yourself in a few years. Consider this: Imagine you’re on the job market. You’ve published in one of your field’s top journals, you have your beautiful new salutation, Dr. Whoever, and you’ve got a real shot at a great tenure-track job. All your dreams lie before you. But, alas, before offering you a very competitive position (all TT positions are at this point), someone on your search committee hunts down that dictionary entry or blog post of yours from several years back, and it’s filled with the kinds of mistakes one associates with non-specialists and less than nuanced thinkers. Your application, already comparable to several others, goes down a notch if only because there are a myriad of similar candidates with no such blemishes upon their resumes. You’ve potentially missed out on a good opportunity because someone took seriously the thing you wrote to earn cheap lines on your CV before your doctoral training. Regarding the suggestion that you should publish with a small journal or dictionary, you are far more likely to write something you regret when submitting to a low-stakes journal without peer review or very high standards. IF you submit bad work to a flagship journal, the only damage is that done to your ego when it gets rejected by the peer review process. I don’t think there’s a necessary “embarrassment phase”. When you want to submit something as a doctoral student, your advisor(s) will have read it beforehand (assuming they’re decent mentors) and your mistake won’t make it past these safeguards. At the risk of repeating what I and others have said elsewhere, the things that matter most in an MA program are pretty similar to those which matter for your BA: learning relevant skills/methods/languages as they relate to your field, showing you can do thorough, sound research, earning the respect and intellectual admiration of your faculty who will write glowing letters on your behalf, and having a record of interesting work which shows that you are an interesting person who’d fit well in an elite PhD program. I’m neither an Americanist nor a theologian, but I suspect that, in your case, languages are less important. Take a grad course in philosophy/American History/whatever at PU, identify the senior faculty in your subfield then make sure to take at least two (preferably small) classes with them early enough for them to write on your behalf in a couple of years, and, when it comes to selecting courses, keep asking yourself and your advisor “will this class help me advance my goal of getting into that dream PhD program?” The best advice I can give is to identify and befriend the people who are a few years ahead of you, doing the things you want to be doing at that stage. If that’s being a doctoral student at Duke, contact grad students at Duke and ask them how they got there, what you should b taking at PTS/who you should be working with, etc. Hope this helps. I loved my M* program and learned a ton, and I hope the same will prove true for you.
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