January 2008


Durham has some office space that is allocated to theology postgrads, and I was fortunate enough to hear from someone that spaces were open last summer.  Three of us that started in NT last year jumped on the opportunity and settled in with a couple of others already there.  It’s got two rooms with comfortable room for about 6-7 people, a couple of computers, and a spill-over library from the department.  After moving there, I felt obligated to pass along to the department that more spaces like this should be opened up. 

At the request of John, I wrote a short assessment of study space for theology postgrads and submitted it to him along with recommendations for changes.  As with most things like this, I thought it might be a ‘nice to know’ thing but not much done about it.  To my surprise it was shared with all the faculty on staff, discussed in a couple of departmental meetings and then passed along to the dean of Arts and Humanities–all within a couple of months. 

In December John scheduled a meeting with the Dean, who was kind enough to listen to our requests.  He recounted the problems of being situated on a World Heritage site with limited options for immediate improvement.  There is dedicated (but underutilised) postgrad space (Elvet Riverside 144) about a 5 min walk from Abbey House that he said would need to be the focus of any improvements.  I believe the general consensus from the meeting was that ER144 would need to include mostly individual carrels if updated.  (Maybe it would fit 30-40 carrels?).  We were told they would look into it and take a survey of postgrads.

Again, I thought, ‘well, that might happen sometime in the next couple of years’ as it gets caught up in the school’s bureaucracy.  But the survey was sent out in less than a month and the deadline has already passed.  Also, there apparently was better postgrad recruiting for the Arts and Humanities faculty for 07-08, so there is some additional unallocated money in the budget that must be spent by 31 July.  Part of this money has apparently been tagged for this project. 

In addition to ER144, I’ve heard that the department is also attempting to secure some space in the cathedral just for theology postgrads.  If both opportunities open up, it will provide a couple of nice additional options.  Nothing has been definitely communicated, but the winds all seem to be blowing in the right direction for improved space.

[You might ask about how current study spaces stack up.  Most people study in the libraries--Palace Green, Sharp (Cathedral), the main university library, or college libraries.  PG has a dedicated room for postgrads with individual but unassigned carrels, with lockers to leave books or laptops.  (That's where I studied last year, though I also regularly used the Sharp and John's libraries.)  Also, laptops can be checked out from PG and main libraries, so you don't have to lug yours around if you don't want to.  Also, a good number of people study at home so they don't have to commute.  I get too distracted so I have to go into school each day, plus it's nice to see people more regularly.]

I was recently asked to speak, along with others, about how to get funding at one of the regular informal postgrad lunches since I got the Durham fellowship.  Since I wasn’t really sure myself what put me over the top, I asked John Barclay what the criteria Durham uses for funding decisions.  Here is what he wrote:

I would say the three most crucial things are:

1.  A very good degree/previous qualifications (high GPA, if applicable, preferably from a good or well-known institution, but this is less essential).
2.  Very good references, esp. from people who are known to us in some way.
3.  Interesting research proposal, well articulated, and offering something that looks like a real contribution to the field, based on obvious knowledge.

I am not sure I would want to rank them as all three make a strong application together.

Also, if you think about it, these three criteria are also really the basis for acceptance in the program as well, too.

Jaroslav Pelikan gives a nice turn of phrase about the transition from Jewish Christianity to Gentile Christianity:

The leaders of [the early church] were Christians of Jewish origin; despite their differing answers [re: the Acts 15 issues], they asked the question of continuity between Judaism and Christianity with a deep personal poignancy. As converts began coming more from pagan than from Jewish ranks, the poignancy lessened and the obverse side of the question became more prominent. For Jewish Christians, the question of continuity was the question of their relation to their mother; for Gentile Christians, it was the question of their relation to their mother-in-law. What was offensive about Christianity in the eyes of Gentiles was, to a considerable extent, what it had inherited from Judaism. [He then goes on to cite criticisms from Celsus, Marcion, et al.]

The Emergence fo the Catholic Tradition (100-600), Univ. of Chicago: Chicago, 1971, p. 14.

My parents came to visit over Christmas, and they were generous enough to treat us to some trips around the UK.  We did some brief sightseeing through London, Oxford and Cambridge after they arrived in London.  Then after Christmas we swung through Edinburgh, Stirling, and St. Andrews.  We rounded out the trip with a stay over in Carlisle and a visit to Blackwell, England. 

We did bus sightseeing tours in London and Edinburgh as well as some walking.  To get into many major historical sites in England, we joined English Heritage last year (a student membership is about half price, but the regular adult price is worth the money, plus kids are free with an adult pass).  Once you get into your second year of membership with EH, you also get into the Historic Scotland and Wales sites for free as well.  So we got into the Castles at Edinburgh, Stirling, and St. Andrews for free.  Each were quite interesting in their own way.  At St. Andrews the castle is a ruin, but it has some great siege tunnels that the kids loved.  Stirling and Edinburgh castles were more complete, and you can get a free tour at Stirling.  Stirling is lesser known but a pretty important part of Scottish royal history, plus the Wallace monument is there. 

We rounded out our trip, after dropping Grandpa Mack and Grandma Brenda at Heathrow, with a visit to Stonehenge (an English Heritage site).  It was quite impressive–the stones were much taller (and heavier) than I realised.  You get a free audio tours there.  On the way home we passed through Stratford-upon-Avon.  The town seemed infested with shoppers, and it seemed primarily a vaction town but you can’t really tell with English towns because size is always deceiving. 

That checked lots of places off our list to visit.  I think the only major places left to see are Wales and the Scottish Highlands/Loch Ness.  Thanks Grandma and Grandpa for the visit and for taking us around to so many places.

After joining the blogging world, I thought I was up to date on the major internet waves.  But I suppose now that I’m 33 I should realise that I’m just going to be behind in most internet things.  We’ve heard enough friends talking about Facebook that I finally set up an account.  In under a week, I’ve already connected with a handful of old friends that I had lost touch with so I’m pleased so far.  I suppose it’s a time eater like blogging, so I’ll have to watch myself since one of my new year’s resolutions is to be more selective with my internet time.  Look me up if you are on there.

Here’s the NT Research Seminar for the Epiphany term. I’ve got the pleasure of being invited to present this term. I think I’ve also been penciled into the Patristics Seminar as well at the end of this term, but the schedule hasn’t been published yet.

January 14: Professor John Barclay, ‘Manna and the Circulation of Grace: A Study of 2 Cor. 8.1-15’
January 21: Professor Francis Watson, ‘By Faith (of Christ): An Exegetical Dilemma and its Scriptural Solution’
January 28: Dr Paul Middleton (Edinburgh): ‘Martyrdom is a Queer Thing: Gender-Bending in the Acts of the Martyrs’
February 4: Dr Ward Blanton (Glasgow): “Is There a Scandal in This Text? Exhibiting an Accursed Messiah in Galatians”
February 11: Postgraduate short papers: (i) Mr Ben Blackwell, ‘The Motif of Glory (doxa) in Romans’; (ii) Mr Brad Matthews, ‘Where on earth is the divine fulness? Christ, Church and plērōma’.
February 18: Dr Mark Bonnington: ‘Paul, Prophet to the Nations: Paul’s Self-Understanding in the Light of Jeremiah 1’
February 25: Dr Stephen C. Barton, ‘New Testament Eschatology and the Ecological Crisis’
March 3: Dr Justin Meggitt (Cambridge): ‘The world of the New Testament: why some things do not matter’
March 7: Durham-Sheffield NT Postgraduates’ Day Conference in Durham
March 10: No meeting

For your diaries:
  * Public Lecture by Professor Ben Witherington III, ‘Oral Texts and Rhetorical Contexts: Rethinking the “Letters”’, at St John’s College Leech Hall, on Friday 18 January at 2pm
  * Durham-Duke Symposium in Durham on ‘Identity’, 15-18 May
  * British New Testament Conference at St John’s College Durham, 4-6 September

A couple of weeks before Christmas I went down to Tyndale House for a couple days.  There are a couple of Durham people that moved down there, so Nijay and I thought we’d visit periodically.  Besides walking a bit through the city centre, I really only hit Tyndale.  Tyndale was nice, with the community of scholars and the biblical studies library all in one place.  I can’t say that I wasn’t a little jealous, but I’m still more than happy with my choice of Durham.  Nijay wasn’t as impressed with Cambridge as a whole since the university library has such stringent requirements–no bags of any kind in the library and a limit of 10 books.   I suppose it all balances out somehow, and I know one Durham postgrad who turned down Cambridge for Durham this year.  It’s only a 3-4 hr train ride from Durham, so it’s easy enough to get down to visit.  I also hope to make it up to Edinburgh to visit their library as well.  These trips are also a good way to meet other postgrads.

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