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PhD program with Gnostic roots of Christianity folks


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Hi-

I am starting an MTS this fall at a local seminary, but I'm planning to eventually apply out to a PhD program. As a 48-year-old who has been out of school for over 20 years, I'm trying to get a jump on the process now-- to come up with a sound thesis for my MTS paper (upon which I can build an eventual dissertation)-- because it takes me double the amount of time to complete projects I could zip through in my 20's. I have lots of ideas, but I would like to read some of the scholarship of current scholars in my fields of interest and learn about the PhD programs where they work. So far, I know there are people in Gnostic/Pagan roots of Christianity at Harvard, Rice, Emory, UNC Chapel Hill, Princeton U, UC Santa Barbara, Ohio State, and Brown.  

Anybody here know of any additional schools or people I should look into?

Also, what the hell am I going to do about the GRE? I absolutely hate standardized tests.

Thanks for any insight. 

:)

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I don't want to discourage you, but to be blunt, your chances are not good. The biggest challenge is your age. It is perhaps unfortunate, but I think true that most academics at the schools you're after will not want to devote energy to training you when the time you would be working as a scholar in the field is limited (if you're 48 now, you are looking at something like 8-10 years from now when you would finish the PhD). Moreover, you will encounter pushback against the idea that you can turn an MTS project into a 'good' dissertation (again, thinking here of the academics at the schools you're after). Again, I'm sorry to be so negative! Others please feel free to join in and offer some more positive feedback.

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On 4/11/2020 at 6:36 PM, ask2266 said:

Hi-

I am starting an MTS this fall at a local seminary, but I'm planning to eventually apply out to a PhD program. As a 48-year-old who has been out of school for over 20 years, I'm trying to get a jump on the process now-- to come up with a sound thesis for my MTS paper (upon which I can build an eventual dissertation)-- because it takes me double the amount of time to complete projects I could zip through in my 20's. I have lots of ideas, but I would like to read some of the scholarship of current scholars in my fields of interest and learn about the PhD programs where they work. So far, I know there are people in Gnostic/Pagan roots of Christianity at Harvard, Rice, Emory, UNC Chapel Hill, Princeton U, UC Santa Barbara, Ohio State, and Brown.  

Anybody here know of any additional schools or people I should look into?

Also, what the hell am I going to do about the GRE? I absolutely hate standardized tests.

Thanks for any insight. 

:)

An MTS is not going to be enough. For this kind of project you are going to need to be able to read Greek and Coptic at a minimum before even starting, but ideally also Latin and Syriac. You could probably acquire German and French during your PhD but you will have to learn them. If you apply to a department that has a traditional Biblical Studies background you will be expected to know Hebrew before beginning as well. The chances of you reaching satisfactory mastery in these languages in two years are extremely low. You will at least be in your 50s before you are ready and you will certainly face age discrimination as a result. You might be able to get an unfunded PhD at a decent school with bad funding like Rice but you will be in debt for the rest of your life. I'm not saying don't do it, but go into it with open eyes. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

I am laughing because the 2 responses I got did not answer the question I asked.... Who are the people in my field of interest? 

But I do appreciate the honesty about how terrible my prospects are.  Lol. :) 

Yes, the language requirements are ridiculously daunting, but what I want to write on is in Syriac, so I am hoping to get away with just Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic and Syriac at the time of application. Adding Coptic is a truly terrifying proposition, not to mention Latin, but I imagine they would be necessary at some point. I do not intend to apply straight from the MTS-- I was going to do additional coursework and language work for a year or two or three after the MTS.

As for age discrimination, yes, I am sure that is something I will face, also. My appeal might be that if in fact Jesus was a real person, his ministry was only 3 years or so....maybe then, number of years in the field does not equal the potential magnitude of the scholarship. 

But I do appreciate the heads up about my challenges. And I will have open eyes :)

 

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2 hours ago, ask2266 said:

I am laughing because the 2 responses I got did not answer the question I asked.... Who are the people in my field of interest? 

But I do appreciate the honesty about how terrible my prospects are.  Lol. :) 

Yes, the language requirements are ridiculously daunting, but what I want to write on is in Syriac, so I am hoping to get away with just Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic and Syriac at the time of application. Adding Coptic is a truly terrifying proposition, not to mention Latin, but I imagine they would be necessary at some point. I do not intend to apply straight from the MTS-- I was going to do additional coursework and language work for a year or two or three after the MTS.

As for age discrimination, yes, I am sure that is something I will face, also. My appeal might be that if in fact Jesus was a real person, his ministry was only 3 years or so....maybe then, number of years in the field does not equal the potential magnitude of the scholarship. 

But I do appreciate the heads up about my challenges. And I will have open eyes :)

 

The reason I did not address the question directly, and I suspect the same for the others, is that it is too vague. "Gnostic/Pagan roots of Christianity" may strike some as nonsensical or, in light of scholarship on earliest Christianity in the past few decades, backward looking. So it's hard to recommend any scholar in particular. But, really, this forum is not terribly great for these kinds of questions--I wish it were, but most of the posters and conversations lean toward M* applicants. You are better off a) researching yourself using department websites, google books, jstor, etc. and then b) emailing current doctoral students/scholars in the subfield/s you see yourself in. 

Re languages, Syriac isn't going to get you very far in "gnostic studies"; there are a few wildly understudied Syriac texts with "gnostic themes" (forgive the imprecision) recovered among the magnificent remains of fourth-century Roman Kellis, but unsurprisingly these are Syriac-Coptic texts, which again brings up the importance of Coptic for studying "gnosticism." But, still again, "gnosticisim" may mean something very different to you than it does me (so you know I'm not completely full of it: I'm writing my doctoral dissertation, mostly I work in Greek papyrology, but I continue to work heavily with the earliest surviving Coptic texts).

I am honestly happy to hear you are optimistic! You will without doubt face age discrimination; take some time to browse the current doctoral students at any of the schools you mentioned. I can almost guarantee that none of them will have a single student over the age of 40. The reality, then, is you will probably have to complete a doctoral degree at a lesser known school, which will likely mean no funding or very limited funds, and so on. It really does pain me to type this out, because I know how painful it is to hear you 'can't' do something because of conditions beyond your control. I hope I am wrong and I really do wish you the best of luck. 

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Posted (edited)

Sorry if my area of interest was vague, but I copied it from what some professors had written on their schools' websites as their interests.

It's not backward looking, as there is someone at Harvard writing books about my areas of interest. The specific writing that I am interested in has not been identified as Gnostic-- that's the purpose of my dissertation. And, yes, it is in pure Syriac. But I know I will have to have Coptic...I am dreading it.

And the reason I asked about other scholars is because I am well aware that I need additional schools to apply to other than these. Don't think I mentioned anything about my financial circumstances, however. (Perhaps that is one of the benefits of pushing 50) :)

 

 

Edited by ask2266
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11 hours ago, ask2266 said:

Sorry if my area of interest was vague, but I copied it from what some professors had written on their schools' websites as their interests.

It's not backward looking, as there is someone at Harvard writing books about my areas of interest. The specific writing that I am interested in has not been identified as Gnostic-- that's the purpose of my dissertation. And, yes, it is in pure Syriac. But I know I will have to have Coptic...I am dreading it.

And the reason I asked about other scholars is because I am well aware that I need additional schools to apply to other than these. Don't think I mentioned anything about my financial circumstances, however. (Perhaps that is one of the benefits of pushing 50) :)

 

 

I think we might be talking about different things, but fair enough.

I would encourage you to look at European schools for a few reasons. One, even the 'greats' - Oxford, et al. - are comparatively easy to get into; they seem to have far more American, non-traditional students. Second, they will be receptive to you knowing, at this stage, exactly what you want to write your dissertation on (good American schools will not). Third, and most important, you have the funds. 

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