We love Durham. It has such character and great people. This story came out a month ago, but it’s a great look at this fair city and the North East: Lost in Time in England’s Northeast. I’m excited that my wife and I will get to go back and visit this Christmas when I head back to teach an intensive module with Westminster Theological Centre.


Many of you will know that I helped in the editing process of the Voice, and so I wanted to let you know that Thomas Nelson, the publisher of the Voice, is giving away a trip for two to Africa (in association with World Vision). Head to and  follow the link in the upper right hand corner.  The contest is over 12/27/2012.

On a related note, if any of you are reading through the Voice and have comments for edits for future versions, please feel free to send your suggestions my way.

I had a great time in Rome last week.  The department had some postgrad money available, and so they offered postgrads bursaries if they presented papers at conferences.  This additional money made it economical to take the family along with me. 

While we saw lots of sights, we also got to spend some good time with friends.  We shared the trip with Kevin and Ashley Hill.  Kevin you will know from his Courting the Mystery blog.  They have been good neighbors over the past 2 years and good friends.  Unfortunately the call of the wild back to Calgary is too strong, so we’ll miss them when they move home this summer.  So this trip with them was a great way to spend some time, plus they had been to Rome before and therefore had many good ideas.

We also met up with old college friends Justin and Jill Hardin.  Justin’s teaching at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford and is world famous for his Galatians and the Imperial Cult.  Their apartment at the Irish College had a pool, and we accepted their gracious invitation to partake of it with them and to share dinner with them.  They have some great kids, and it was one of the best parts of the trip.

So the initial reason I went was to give my paper Righteousness and Glory: New Creation as Immortality in Romans.  I think it went well.  Here in the office we have been debating about how fast to give a paper, and it was confirmed to me that 110-120 words per minute is what I have to target for.  Others here said they go with up to 150 wpm, but I start to get jumbled with that kind of pace.  Unfortunately, my fellow presenters in the session had no awareness of their paper length, and a couple of them before me went 10 minutes over their alloted 25.  Thus, when I finished in about 21 min with time for questions, the presider said that even though we had an allotted 30 min break (now only 10 min) there was no time for questions for me!?!  He didn’t cut off the people that rudely and selfishly went over but rather the person that fell within the limits?  I’ve not seen this situation before at previous SBLs, and since it was my first SBL presentation, I just let it go.  But thinking back now, I should have said something.  Ultimately, the presider should have cut the other people off at their time limit, as I heard that others did in other sessions.  Fortunately, when I presented this paper in a different venue I had plenty of time for questions and got some good feedback that helped me better nuance the argument.  I also attended the Bible Interpretation in Early Christianity section, where Kevin did a fine job on his paper on Anthanasius’ interpretation of Hebrews 6.4.  It’s incouraging to see the inclusion of historical interpretation in the plan, and hopefully it will gain a larger following.

As far as sightseeing, Rome is quite the place to visit.  It was a bit warmer than here in Durham, but it’s nice to get some sun.  The city is quite walkable, and the numerous public water fountains are great for refilling water bottles.  The real fountains, the churches, the ancient sites–nothing compares to this.  I’ve spent a bit of time in London, Berlin, and Paris and none of these have anything on Rome.  I’d say the highlight of the trip was St. Peter’s.  Hopefully I’ll get around to posting a few pics.

Mark Mathews, another Durham student who also happened to go to DTS, and I made our semi-annual trip to Cambridge together last week for three days.  It was a great trip and I got quite a bit of work done.

We intentionally timed it to meet up with Dan Wallace and his photographing crew.  As part of the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts, which he leads, they have a small goal of photographing every extant NT manuscript by 2020.  They just finished shooting all those at the Univ of Michigan and will be spending a couple of months in the UK shooting things over here.  We happened to see them working with some fragments from a 7th century uncial manuscript of Romans 8 that had been cut up and used in the binding of an old Latin book.  The task of piecing it together was quite fun, especially since I’m currently writing a chapter on Romans 8.

Rather than hanging out at Tyndale House, we spent the majority of our time at Cambridge’s Univeristy Library, which happens to be located fairly close to Tyndale.  It was quite easy to get access to the library–you just have to show a current student ID card and have proof of address at a quick admissions appointment (see here).  Even better, as a student at Durham, there is no fee and the library card is valid for the full term of your program, rather than the £10 for 6 months.  Mark wanted to look at the Cairo Genizah document, so he got a letter of introduction from Loren Stuckenbruck for it.  At his admissions appointment he got an extra ‘M’ on his card, so he had free reign access to all their manuscripts–not just the one he had the letter for.  Quite nice.  For internet access, they give you a temporary login/password good for 2 months, just go visit the Digital Resources Area. 

That’s not to say that everything is super easy there.  You can’t take bags or water bottles in (like at Durham), so you have to buy a 20p clear plastic bag to carry your laptop and notes around in.  Also, they have their own numbering system which doesn’t group all the books together for a particular subject, as it is partially determined by book size.  But you get over that because as one of the UK’s ‘copyright’ libraries, the the Cambridge UL should have a copy of every book published in the UK.  I happened to find one not in their system–Kovacs and Rowland’s Revelation commentary.  Fortunately, Tyndale had it so I didn’t have to order it from Durham.  Locals can only check out 10 books at a time (vs 30 at Durham + another 30 at St. John’s if you are a member), but you can leave your books you’re working on at your desk with a specific marker so you don’t have to reshelve and find them each day.  While Cambridge’s physical holdings of journals is quite nice, I was surprised to find that they don’t have many more electronic versions of journals than Durham. 

We found a relatively cheap hotel next to the rail station: Cityroomz.  The room was clean and all have en-suite bathrooms.  However, they were tiny–think jail cell, with bunk beds.  Since we only went there to sleep, it more than met our needs.  Also, the continental breakfast was better than average.

I had a brief chat with Richard Hays at Tyndale, who is on his sabbatical there this summer/autumn.  It was nice that he remembered me from our car trip to Manchester earlier this year.  He told me that he thought NTW would give me lots of work to do.  I should have my kick-off meeting with NTW in the next week or two, and I’ll find out then the extent of the work expected of me.

One other highlight of the trip was finding a duplicate book at Tyndale’s library–Hahne’s Corruption and Redemption of Creation: The Natural World in Romans 8:19-22 and Jewish Apocalyptic Literature (LNTS 336)–because it had been ordered under the Romans section and the eschatology section.  I told the librarian that I would be interested in taking one of the copies off their hands if they were interested.  She thought that would be good and gave it to me for £12!  I also picked up a new copy of Pickett’s The Cross in Corinth: Social Significance of the Death of Jesus (JSNTS 143) for £6 at Galloway and Porter.  I’m not a big book buyer, but these were too good to pass up.

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.

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.