PhD Stuff

As with physical health, the core matters. One of the ways to have a strong core when studying Christian origins is a good general sense of the ancient world through primary texts. While you (or I!) may not be able to devote the amount of time that Shawn Wilhite describes in this post on A Strategic Approach to Reading Background Texts of the New Testament, doing any aspect of it will help.

As we have been working on Reading Mark in Context, the follow-up to Reading Romans in Context, it’s struck me again how much knowing this contextual literature is essential. What Shawn’s post captures is that it’s the consistent devotion to reading practices over time that is the most formative.

I’ve just learned that John Webster is leaving the University of Aberdeen for the University of St. Andrews. What a huge move!

I am pleased to announce that my Durham thesis is now published. I’ve just received word that the publisher has received the advance copies and that the rest of the stock will arrive at their warehouse very soon. All of this comes some weeks ahead of schedule, which is quite nice, since in my youthful impatience I feel as if the entire process from submission to release, while uncomprisingly thorough, has been rather lengthy!

I’m sure it will take some additional weeks for booksellers to receive their stock, and even longer for libraries to process and place volumes on their shelves. But the book is already viewable on amazon and googlebooks, for those of you who wish to take a peek. It retails at a very reasonable $99 (yikes!). But I guess that’s why we write book reviews.

Thanks are due to Cambridge University Press for their courtesy and professionalism along the way, as well as to my wonderful wife and family for their patience and support since the writing process began back in the fall of 2007 (wow, that seems so long ago now!).

Here is all the relevant data:

John K. Goodrich, Paul as an Administrator of God in 1 Corinthians (Society for New Testament Monograph Series 152; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012). xiii + 248pp. Hardback. $99.00. ISBN 9781107018624.

This book looks in detail at Paul’s description of apostles in 1 Corinthians 4 and 9 as divinely appointed administrators (oikonomoi) and considers what this tells us about the nature of his own apostolic authority. John Goodrich investigates the origin of this metaphor in light of ancient regal, municipal and private administration, initially examining the numerous domains in which oikonomoi were appointed in the Graeco-Roman world, before situating the image in the private commercial context of Roman Corinth. Examining the social and structural connotations attached to private commercial administration, Goodrich contemplates what Paul’s metaphor indicates about apostleship in general terms as well as how he uses the image to defend his apostolic rights. He also analyses the purpose and limits of Paul’s authority – how it is constructed, asserted and contested – by examining when and how Paul uses and refuses to exercise the rights inherent in his position.


Table of Contents
1. Apostolic authority in 1 Corinthians
Part I. Oikonomoi as Administrators in Graeco-Roman Antiquity
2. Oikonomoi as regal administrators
3. Oikonomoi as civic administrators
4. Oikonomoi as private administrators
Part II. Paul’s Administrator Metaphor in 1 Corinthians
5. Identifying Paul’s metaphor in 1 Corinthians
6. Interpreting Paul’s metaphor in 1 Corinthians 4.1–5
7. Interpreting Paul’s metaphor in 1 Corinthians 9.16–23
8. Conclusion
Index of passages
Index of authors

I am entering late into this discussion (perhaps too late in blog time), but this is my first opportunity to do so. As is well known by now, Larry Hurtado has been expressing the view (here, here and here) that New Testament PhD students in Britain should have reached a certain standard of linguistic competency by the time of completion (which could include testing at the viva – no thanks, I’m scared enough as it is). For traditional NT PhDs, this seems a reasonable proposition. However, there need to be some fairly major changes to the teaching of theology in the UK if this is to be taken seriously.

At Durham, we naturally have opportunities to study both ancient and modern languages, but I wouldn’t like to have started any from scratch. I am doing this with Latin this year, but fear that I may not be able to devote the time to make it stick. Realistically, therefore, the British candidate needs a reasonable competency prior to beginning research.

In which case, there needs to be more emphasis on languages earlier in the education system. It is pretty much expected these days that applicants for PhD will have an MA in an appropriate subject. These degrees are described by the AHRC as ‘Research Preparation’ degrees since they are meant to be the preparation stage for the PhD. In my Biblical Studies MA at King’s College London, we had to take a module in a language, either ab initio or advancing previous study. This is good, but is it enough? Should there not be a larger language component if the PhD is the aim? However, one academic year is not a lot in the study of a language. This turns the spotlight on undergraduate degrees.

Which is a problem, because it is quite possible to get a degree in Theology and Religious Studies in the UK without studying any ancient languages. Then again, there are plenty of subjects within this field which do not require them. However, if we are hopeful that there will be future generations taking up the discipline, then they will need the tools to enable them to do so. This is particularly acute with ministerial training in almost all denominations (a route which many PhD students have typically taken), where courses often avoid original language study altogether.

If we enforce Hurtado’s language requirement for the PhD and do not change our earlier theological education, then I fear for those educated in the British system. I fear that this will mean in practice that the subject of traditional NT Studies will remain open to (a) those who are self-motivated enough to do the language study on their own (good for them); and (b) those who have studied Classical languages at school, which in the UK, almost entirely means public school (i.e. private school). I am not comfortable with the potential class implications of this, and indeed, it would be interesting to know how many of our current senior figures in the subject have a public school background which has contributed to their linguistic ability.

In other words, this is an important topic with implications for the structure of theological education as a whole, and not just for reasons of academic competence.

Guest post series by Ed Kaneen on his experiences at the Workshop for Aspiring Academics:

Finally, the session on teaching and curriculum design was given to TRS students by Mel Prideaux, a Teaching Fellow atLeeds. Given her background as a secondary school teacher, it was interesting to hear that part of her current job is to help new undergraduates adjust from the highly varied and interactive teaching methods in modern schools, to the more traditional lecture-style approach of universities. She went through the elements of planning a course and getting it approved atLeeds, noting the importance of objectives and learning outcomes as guides to that process. Most universities will follow a similar pattern, and it was observed that it is now compulsory for new members of the teaching staff to undertake a postgraduate teaching qualification. More and more universities are now offering part of this qualification to PhD students who are Teaching Assistants and it was unanimously agreed that such a course should be taken wherever possible, not only because it will look good on the CV, but because it will exempt the new lecturer from some of the compulsory classes.

One of the contrasts with the Edinburgh day was that the speakers were generally early-career researchers themselves, as opposed to Professors. While we did not, therefore, have the benefit of years of experience, we could hear about recent experience, which was important. The job market is increasingly difficult, and it was sobering to think that many of those attending will not get the jobs for which they hope. This was perhaps summed up by a question in the final plenary session: ‘How long after graduating and not getting a job should I keep the academic dream alive?’ The answer given was that the dream will live as long as you want it to. In practice, I suspect that there is a more finite cut-off period than this, but the encouragement from this day was, at least for the time being, dream on.

Guest post series by Ed Kaneen on his experiences at the Workshop for Aspiring Academics:

The second area of getting a job was covered by Jason Turner of the Department of Philosophy at Leeds, and Chris Renwick, a lecturer in the History and Philosophy of Science at the University of York. Jason focused on the application process, particularly CV’s. Given that universities are only interested in research and teaching, there is little point adding anything else. Key strengths should be emphasised at the start, and highlighted in the covering letter, even though this may never be read. There may be as many as 400 applicants for each job, so keeping it clear and concise is in the applicant’s favour (it was noted that this is different in the UK to the US, where a great deal of supporting material may be requested. This should be actively avoided in theUK, unless specifically asked for). The writing sample, as well as being excellent research, concise, clear, etc. should be of interest to a ‘broad audience’ within the discipline, as it will almost certainly be read by non-specialists.

The importance of publications came up time and again during the day, and Chris Renwick presented a whole session on this, as a new lecturer who had already published a number of articles before the end of his PhD. Having at least one publication in a highly regarded, peer-reviewed journal, was considered essential for the CV, and quality matters more than quantity. Chris recommended publishing one or two chapters from the thesis as you go along [although this should be checked with University regulations, as not all institutions permit this]. Indeed, he took the perspective that students should only focus on their thesis, and not waste time on publications outside their research topic. Although no ranking of journals is currently considered in assessing research within TRS, it is clearly worth getting published in as good a place as possible. However, Chris also made the point that, with the REF coming up, it may be harder to get published as a student, since many established academics are trying to get articles into print before the deadline for submission. Moreover, students should bear in mind that there will typically be an 18-month period in-between initial submission and final publication, so there is a need to start as early as possible.

It was an indication of how seriously the REF was being taken by some leading universities that Chris recommended not publishing in edited volumes, but only in journals. The reason for this is that it is more difficult to judge the quality of a piece which has not already been peer-reviewed. However, he did accept that, as an unknown academic, there are benefits in getting your paper published alongside more established names, as a ‘status indicator’. Keith Crome, one of the contributors from Manchester Metropolitan University made the point that not all institutions are reliant on the REF outcome, and those like MMU which focus more on teaching than research will be much more interested in teaching quality and experience on a CV than research publications.

Guest post series by Ed Kaneen on his experiences at the Workshop for Aspiring Academics:

The academic landscape was explained by Shearer West, Director of Research at the AHRC and Sean McLoughlin, Head of the Department of TRS at Leeds. Both emphasised the importance of research to British universities, and particularly the Research Excellence Framework (REF) forthcoming in 2014. I hadn’t realised that approximately 75% of a university’s research funding is dependent on this assessment of scholarly output, which explains the importance paid to it. Given this is the case, one of the questions candidates may expect at interview is which is of their publications are ‘REFable’, and what level would they attain (1* to 4*=world class). Inevitably, a discussion about ‘impact’ ensued, noting that 20% of a ‘unit’s’ (i.e. department’s) score would depend on the ‘economic and social benefits’ of the research. It is not yet clear how this will work in practice, but, as one working in biblical studies, I was pleased to hear that it was thought that impact on ‘the church’ should count. Post-docs were considered a ‘good thing’, although scarce, as they allow time to establish a research reputation, but with the new £9k undergraduate fees coming in, it is thought that teaching quality may have a higher profile in the future.

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