May 2010

I just happened to have an exchange with one of the publishers of, and I thought I’d pass their link along.  It’s US focused but it has several interesting and helpful areas.  One that I found most interesting was the Succeeding in Graduate School area, not least because they pull in links from articles that appear in various places.  Check it out.

As one of the primary preparations for a NT (or Patristics) PhD, I recommended focusing on primary text background sources.  I got an email question about which specific sources I would recommend, in order of importance.  These are the lists that I drew up.   Am I missing anything?  Would you recommend a different order?  Other thoughts?


  1. OT Apocrypha
  2. DSS
  3. OT Pseudepigrapha (esp. 1 Enoch)
  4. Josephus: Jewish Antiquities, Jewish War
  5. Philo: ???  (Recommendations on 2-3 works on where to start?)

*Need it be said that you read the OT itself first (possibly even from the LXX): Deuteronomy, Isaiah, Daniel, etc.?


  1. Cicero: De Natura Deorum, De Finibis (both read like a 3 views on theology and ethics, respectively)
  2. Plato: Timaeus, Phaedo, Symposium (longer works like The Republic will also repay attention given)
  3. Epictetus and/or Seneca
  4. Histories: Herodotus, Suetonius, Tacitus
  5. Homer (which was the “Bible” of Hellenism)
  6. Rhetorical handbooks by Quintillian or Aristotle

Mike Bird has a list here which has a similar focus, but also points to key secondary sources.


  1. Apostolic Fathers
  2. NT Apocrypha
  3. Nag Hammadi
  4. Justin Martyr and Irenaeus

Durham hosted a postgrad conference yesterday that was a new version of a ongoing tradition. For several years there has been an annual exchange between the NT areas of Durham and Sheffield. We alternated locations each year and had about 6-7 plenary papers, with a mix between postgrads and staff. This year, at the direction of Prof F Watson, it was opened to all Biblical Study areas, and Manchester was invited as well. We had 3 concurrent sessions with 8 postgrad papers each, mixed roughly evenly between the 3 departments. I had the honour of chairing one of the sessions, which had primarily NT papers. Manchester had a larger contingent than I expected, and Sheffield seems to weathered their potential shut-down last year well. I typically shy away from postgrad conferences, but almost all the papers in my session were excellent–interesting, clear, well structured, and, importantly for me as moderator, well within the allotted time limits. I will say that my opinion of Sheffield and Manchester was boosted by the event and my already strong opinion of Durham was confirmed.

I got an abstract accepted for SBL in the Disputed Paulines section.  Now all I have to do is figure out what I’m actually going to argue…  Ideas?

Here’s the abstract:

In Colossians 2.9 the author makes a striking statement about Christ: ‘in him all the fullness (pleroma) of deity dwells bodily’.  The meaning of this claim is much debated, with primary evidence being the close parallel in Col 1.19, the nature of ‘deity’ and the function of the adverb ‘bodily’.  However, this ‘fullness’ is not limited to Christ alone because the author subsequently states that the Colossian believers ‘have been filled (pleroo) in him’ (Col 2.10).  With the parallel use of filling, it appears that believers are filled with deity through Christ, but this exegetical option is often quickly denied by most interpreters.  Accordingly, this essay will explore the referent of this filling with regard to the Colossian community.  Importantly, this exploration will add to the growing discussion regarding deification, or theosis, in the Pauline corpus.

Today was the big election day.  The core of the election is the same as the US.  The different parties beat each other up and promise a better society.  Here are a few differences:

Electioneering only really goes at it for a month, once the current Prime Minister calls an election.

Elections don’t happen on a regularly scheduled time ever x number of years.  There has to be an election every 5 years, but it can be called more often if the PM wants to call one.  There are no term limits, as far as I’ve heard.

The day of election is usually on a Thursday, and the polls are open until 10pm.  Interestingly, even with this late timing, there were several places where they were waiting in a queue (a line) to vote, but they then turned away because of time in some places.  I’m sure it will be reason for court battles.

There are 3 main parties here–Tories/Conservatives, Labour, and Liberal Democrats.  The first 2 are equivalent to the Republicans and Democrats, respectively.  The Libertarians in the US are larger than all the third parties combined with about 1-2% of presidential votes in the last couple of elections, but they’re no where near as large as the Lib Dems here, which seem to get about 10% of the seats.

With 3 major contenders this has caused a stir this year because neither of the 2 big parties seem to be set to get an outright majority of 326 seats this year so that they can choose their PM.  This is termed a ‘hung parliament’.  As a result, there will be some wrangling with the Lib Dems to see whom they will form a coalition with to form an overall majority.

As a parliament, you only elect your local MP (member of parliament), and the PM is just selected from the party (or coalition) that has the majority.  (I like the US system better in that you can elect the president separately from the local representative.)

The House of Lords is not elected at all, though there is talk of reforming that.  An interesting fact is that Anglican Bishops sit ex officio in the House of Lords.

The funny/crazy thing to me is that there are 650 MPs for the House of Commons.  So, for a country with only 20% of the US population (60M vs 300M+) has a 50% greater number of representatives.  The UK deficit is bigger by percentage than the US, and much of the electioneering has been about cutting it.  It seems to me that they could cut the number of MPs by 1/3 and save lots of dosh (money, that is), and still have adequate representation.

Interestingly, this election saw the first televised debates between the top three candidates for PM.  This gave a big boost to Nick Clegg of the Lib Dems, but from exit polls it doesn’t seem to have turned out for much in this election.

The voting is by pencil and paper, so all the counting takes a while since it is by hand.  Apparently people stay up until the very early hours of the morning watching all the talking heads.  There’s only one time zone and no issue of the electoral college, so no excitement of forecasting president.  But there is plenty of forecasting as I write regarding the potential of the conservatives taking control of the parliament after 13 years of labour control.

As of midnight, only 3 of the 650 seats have been declared.  It will be interesting to see how it all turns out.

Here’s an email I received from a prof at a former school. He captures an aspect that of the journey that I couldn’t express better:

A hearty congrats for finishing a long and arduous journey, of which few can fully understand. Family members are sympathetic and supportive but don’t really comprehend the gravity. Everyone says, “Well, we knew you would finish.” I also say that it is easy to be confident for someone else. The educational path you have taken is strewn with bodies of those who did not finish. Hurray for completing the road less traveled.


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