Interested in a NT PhD?


I have published a book on the subject of getting a PhD in Biblical Studies (Wipf & Stock, 2011) called

Prepare, Succeed, Advance: A Guidebook for Getting a PhD in Biblical Studies and Beyond.

While this post (below) offers some helpful advice for preparing for a PhD program, the book is much longer, deals with many more topics (such as choosing a dissertation topic, defending the dissertation, publishing articles, interviewing, etc.), and has helpful research and writing tips. Click HERE for more information on the book

If you are wondering how the book is different than the blog post (below): read WHY BUY THE COW?


Preparing for Post-Graduate Study

Not a Path for the Faint of Heart

Should I go on for further study? This is a question that crosses the mind of many seminary students.Some feel a sense of calling to teach.Others are attracted to the higher academic atmosphere of lively debate, resource hunting in the library, and the challenge of pushing your intellect to the limit.Of course there is also a lot of rejection, loneliness, and frustration involved in post-graduate work as well.If you are thinking about further study it could be a joyous and wonderful adventure that will lead to a sharpening of your reasoning skills, a deeper understanding of theology or biblical studies, and possibly the door to a fruitful career in academia.Or, it could be a disaster that hardens your heart, shakes your theological foundations, and/or leaves a bitter taste in your mouth for both academics and ministry.

Many students beginning seminary approach the issue this way: I will work hard and try to get into a doctorate, and if I cannot, I will fall back on ministry.Practically this sounds well and good, but theologically it does not orient itself towards a better understanding of calling.It is acceptable to be unsure of your calling, but ministry should not be perceived as a lower calling for those who can’t cut it in higher education.What can you do?Start praying early in your education and ask God to begin directing your heart towards pursuing what he has called you to.Some students give up on pursuing a doctorate because they did not get into a program the first time they applied.They take this as a sign that God does not want them to pursue a doctorate.If the Apostle Paul gave up the first time he was beaten, perhaps you would not even be in seminary![1]Other students may be very successful (academically) in seminary and see this as a sign to pursue a doctorate.But, the general purpose of seminary is to train pastors and missionaries, not academicians.Once again, we cannot treat pastoral ministry as a consolation prize.If you are called into pastoral ministry, your GPA should not suggest that you should “shoot for something higher” as if your potential would be lost in the church.Begin now to search your heart, evaluate your gifts and pray for God’s will to be made more manifest.You do not need an answer now, but your decision-making should be more than merely practical.

Sizing up the Challenge

How hard is it to get into a doctoral program?As I was preparing my applications, I asked mentors to tell me whether they thought I could “get in.”A good friend responded, “I am not worried that you will not get into a program.The question is whether you will get into the program you want!” What he meant by this was that there are different “tiers” of programs.First tier (FT) programs are the hardest to get into.Third or fourth tier programs are quite easy.How high do you plan to aim and why?Of course it seems logical to aim for getting into a FT program, but there are several factors to consider.

1. Theological Orientation

2. Job Market Potential

3. Time

4. Money

5. Location

6. Difficulty

None of the programs in the US that I consider to be FT are seminaries.Are you willing to study somewhere that does not have respect for the inerrancy of Scripture?Some students are fine with this and others may not be.But the most widely recognized programs tend to be the most theologically diverse in faculty and student body.Second, FT schools seem to have the most flexibility in the very thin job market for teaching.But if you have a strong connection with a school already and feel that finding a job (say in a college or seminary of your denomination) won’t be a challenge, then you may not want to aim for a FT school.Third, almost all FT programs in the US are 5-8 years full-time (or mostly full-time).Lower-tier programs may be shorter.Do you have 5-8 years?Another factor is finances: many students focus on FT programs (in the US) because they are almost always funded, with tuition waived and a small yearly stipend between $10,000-$20,000 dollars.Lower-tiered programs are often not funded at all and tuition rates are exceedingly high.But if you have funding (from family or savings), it relieves the pressure a great deal and opens up more opportunities.Location is another issue: can you relocate to Massachusetts (Harvard), or Georgia (Emory)?Do you need to stay in your current job?Are you looking for a program that you can do from a distance (as some UK programs allow)?A final significant aspect is difficulty: can you handle the academic rigor of a FT program (like John Hopkins or Yale)?To make things more clear, let me lay out what I consider to be FT and some lower ones as well.



United Kingdom

First Tier[2] – (NT)

Yale, Princeton, Notre Dame, Emory, Duke, University of Chicago, Marquette University, Catholic University of America, Drew University, Southern Methodist University

McMaster, University of Toronto

Cambridge, Oxford, Durham, Sheffield, Aberdeen, St. Andrews, Edinburgh

Second Tier –(NT)

Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, Graduate Theological Union, Claremont Graduate School

Evangelical Schools

Baylor, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Fuller Seminary, Wheaton Graduate School, Dallas Seminary Theological Seminary

University of Gloucestershire, University of Glasgow, University of Manchester, University of Nottingham, University of Exeter

How do you decide where to go?Early on in seminary it is not necessary to decide absolutely, but aiming for a particular category is helpful for several reasons (including how much pressure you put on yourself).The FT US schools are (in my opinion) the most difficult to get into.If you are preparing to apply to FT US programs, you need to know the odds, challenges, and limitations.However, they also offer the best potential for future employment in the US.FT UK programs are also tempting because they offer the prestige of the United Kingdom education and focus on the research project (dissertation) rather than coursework.To help clarify the pros and cons of the different groups, let me survey each type.

First-Tier US Schools (FT US): Almost all of these schools are top-notch institutions in a variety of fields and are recognized world-wide for academic excellence.Many of them have historical connections to a denomination or theological foundation, though for some it is little more than a vestige.These schools are considered FT for several reasons: recognition, distinguished faculty, high level of faculty publishing, high standards for accepting students, level of funding, and high percentage of placement for students seeking academic employment in the US.FT US programs are marked by the following (in general):

5-7 year programs (2 years of coursework and examinations; 3-5 years of dissertation research and defense).

Access to large library holdings; rare books

Tuition-waiver and funding (on various levels depending on the institution)

Coursework in 1 major area and 1-2 minor areas

Dissertation topic is largely influenced by the current interests of the faculty


1. Funding: Most of these schools offer a tuition waiver, subsidized housing, discounted health insurance, and a living stipend (often exceeding $10,000 per annum).

2.Potential for Employment: Degrees from these schools offer the widest possible range of educational possibilities from evangelical seminaries to catholic colleges to secular universities.

3. Library Holdings: Though in seminary this issue is of little concern, when it is time to write a dissertation, do you really want to wait weeks to receive a book through inter-library loan that you can only have for a short period of time?

4. Cross-Discipline Training: At FT US schools, you have the advantage of being able to glean insight and take courses from notable professors of philosophy, classics, semitics, history, anthropology, archaeology, linguistics and sociology.Contrast this with most seminary doctoral programs that can only offer courses in a limited number of fields.

5. Prestige: Let’s be honest: Who would not jump at a chance to walk the halls of Princeton or gain access to Duke sporting events!


1. Program Length: Many students, especially those who have an MDIV and THM, do not wish to take more coursework or spend 5-7 years on a doctorate.Also, many students loose steam after the 3rd or 4th year and take a non-academic job before completing their dissertation.Some remain part-time doctoral students and take several years to finish their dissertation while working.Contrast this with UK programs that average 3 years.

2. Funding: Though many programs offer funding throughout the entire process, some only do so for the coursework portion.Make sure you know the extent and length of funding when you consider these programs.

3. Theological Orientation: Many of these schools have faculty members that consider evangelicals ignorant, naïve, fundamentalist, close-minded, and sometimes hopeless.It can be an uphill battle fighting for a place at the table with more “open-minded” students.Also, your supervisor may be coming to the Scriptures from an entirely different perspective and this can potentiallymake the relationship uncomfortable.

4. Dissertation Topic: Some FT US schools come close to choosing your dissertation topic for you, based on the faculties’ current scholarly interests.You may want to study Paul’s doctrine of sanctification, but they want you to write on 2 Enoch.This does not happen at all of these schools, but it might be helpful to look at or inquire about dissertation subjects recently published/defended at the schools you are looking at.

5. Academic Rigor: Many of these schools, for better or for worse, have high standards for competency in a wide variety of areas.For New Testament study, it would not be unusual to have to take language exams in Koine Greek, Classical Greek, Hebrew, Syriac (or Aramaic), Latin, modern French and modern German.You would need to be competent in 2-3 of these at the time of application (usually Koine Greek, Hebrew and German).Additionally, many of these programs require you to maintain an A- average or a particular GPA.Can you live with this pressure?Can your family?

6. Nature of Coursework: Several of these programs have limited options for coursework and often look little like seminary.You may expect to take courses in biblical exegesis and courses in history and archaeology.But, perhaps they want you to take courses in “Feminist Biblical Interpretation” or “Classical Syriac Historiography.”These courses could be very useful, but just be sure and know what the shape of the curriculum looks like.

First-Tier Canadian Programs:

I know considerably less about these schools than both US and UK, but I do know that they are highly respected in the religious academic world.Their standards for acceptance into the program are a bit lower than FT US and they do not require the GRE.However, on the down side, they often do not offer much funding to Americans and the length of the programs are similar to FT US.

First-Tier UK Programs:

For New Testament studies, this has been the route of many seminary students for a wide variety of reasons.The general nature of these programs is as follows:

36 month doctoral programs

Dissertation study only (i.e. no formal coursework required)

The application for admission deals largely with the quality of the applicant’s dissertation proposal


1. Prestige: FT UK programs have a history of academic excellence that rivals the American IVY leagues.

2. International Study: Sustaining academic work in a different country is a good way to broaden your understanding of the world and have an opportunity to travel in Europe and interact with a truly international student body.

3.Flexibility: Since the UK system does not require any coursework, students are free to study on their own schedule, travel frequently, and they have opportunities to participate in exchange study programs.

4. References: UK programs are driven by dissertation research and built on a solid relationship between the supervisor and the student.Therefore students often become very close to their supervisor and bond in a way that does not often happen in US programs.Frequently the supervisor-student relationship in the UK is deeper, while the same relationship in the US may just be longer.

5. Topic: In the UK system, the student already has a topic in mind when beginning the program and aims at pursuing that topic as a dissertation subject.This offers the student the maximum amount of motivation at the dissertation stage that often cannot be attained in FT US programs where the topic may be a compromise between the student and supervisor.


1. Funding: UK programs thrive on American money, so US students are rarely able to obtain funding for the UK institution.You are, more or less, on your own unless you have strong denominational connections with funding.A small group of students can receive funding that can cover up to 70% of the tuition fees, but it is quite rare.A typical UK institution charges about ₤10,000 (about $18,000) per year for tuition.

2. Work Limitation: The UK does not permit US citizens to work (for pay) more than 20 hrs a week outside their studies; many institutions limit working to no more than 6-10 hrs per week.This should be a factor in considering programs.

3. Research Topic: If, at the time you want to apply to doctoral programs, you do not have any feasible ideas for research topics, it will make your UK applications nearly impossible since they base their decision largely on your topic.It is helpful to know that often the topic is modified when the research begins and in some cases students are led to completely abandon their original topic.But, having a solid research topic at the time of application is crucial.

4. Coursework: To some, the idea of more coursework is depressing.To others, however, it might be necessary.Students who go from a 2-year masters right into dissertation study sometimes feel overwhelmed and unprepared.Some students may want to be in a more formal course-based US program that more gently introduces them to research and to the university through classes and regular assignments.For such students, the open independent UK model could be downright scary.

Second-Tier US Evangelical Schools: (STES)

Many seminary students are tempted to study at US STES because they have found their own seminary experience to be enjoyable and basically want another seminary experience, but with an expectation it will be a bit harder and a bit longer.However, there are a variety of factors to consider:

Program length for most seminaries is about 4-5 years

Program structure is similar to US FT: 2 years of coursework and 2-4 years of dissertation study

Funding is very limited, but some students can obtain full-scholarships and there are opportunities for teaching assistant and research assistant stipends


1. Potential for Acceptance: Evangelical seminaries do not have the bias against evangelicals that US FT schools do.If you have a good GPA and good references, it is much easier to acquire a spot in a seminary doctoral program.

2. Faith-Based Learning: Much of the coursework will permit you to express your personal theological views that will be appreciated by the professor.It can be encouraging to know that the instructor is pastorally-minded or believes in the inspiration of Scripture.

3. World-Class Faculty: Some of the most renowned exegetes and theologians teach at seminaries.STES offer excellence in teaching and research and (mostly) approach the Scriptures from a hermeneutic of trust.Many of these scholars have published double or triple the amount of research than faculty members of the FT US.

4. Teaching and Research: STES can offer assistantships for teaching Greek or entry-level exegesis courses.Contrast that with a FT US, where undergraduate courses are often limited and you may have to teach a course on world religions or outside of your personal interest.


1. Employment Potential: Students that graduate with a doctorate from a seminary are generally less marketable than from a FT US School.If you already have a job lined up, this may be moot.Even if you wish to teach in a Bible college or seminary, the trend seems to be that seminary degrees (for PHD) are viewed as less prestigious.

2. Funding: As mentioned before, seminaries generally have little funding to offer doctoral students, so this factor is one of the most critical for students when considering programs.

3. Educational Diversity: Many academics general consider it advantageous to study with people who are diverse culturally and theologically.There is this mentality of “there is much to learn in a diversified environment and we should not seek to just learn with and from people we ‘agree with’.”I think it can be very useful to study with people who disagree with our views and this allows us to widen our own perspective (even if we don’t ever agree).At the doctoral level this seems very important.Many students choose to get a solid foundation at an evangelical seminary, and then feel secure enough to “survive” in a more diversified doctoral program.If you went to a Christian Bible college, an evangelical seminary (MDIV or MA), and another seminary for doctoral studies, this appears very one-dimensional and demonstrates a resistance to learn about other perspectives.

4. Program Length: The STES programs are 4-5 years and offer the same time challenges as FT US.Some students prefer the UK program merely for the shorter length of study.

Philosophical Considerations

Part of the decision-making may be philosophical – what you think is at stake on a more broad level – by choosing one kind of program over another.Someone may prefer a more diversified FT US program because she wants to show that evangelicals deserve to participate in the highest levels of academic discussion.She wants to prove that evangelicals are as hermeneutically capable as anyone else.We can “play ball.”We can infiltrate schools (like Yale) that once had reputations of conservatism and reclaim or sanctify them.This perspective says, “We cannot abandon these top-tier schools because we have every right to be a participant in the discussions that take place and we can help shape their future faculty, students, and mission.”

A different perspective may fear that these IVY leagues are going nowhere fast.We can bolster faith-based institutions (like seminaries) by creating doctoral programs that rival the IVY leagues.Too many evangelical students go into these secular schools and “lose their faith.”We need places of learning that maintain high intellectual standards, but continue to affirm the reliability of Scripture and the centrality of Christ.

Preparing for Doctoral Studies

Whatever level at which you wish to study, the critical areas of achievement are more or less the same:

1. Grade Point Average

2. Backgrounds Coursework

3. Languages

4. References

5. Area of Specialty

6. Diversification

7. Research/Publishing

8. Teaching Experience

9. Standardized Examinations (i.e. GRE)

Grade Point Average: Whether we like it or not, American educational institutions evaluate students according to GPA.Unfortunately it is hard to know exactly what effect this has on post-graduate applications.Here, though, are some guidelines.

First-Tier US programs (e.g. Yale, Princeton, Emory): These schools put a lot of stock in GPA and it would be difficult to be competitive when applying unless you have a GPA of 3.9 or better in your most recent degree.

First-Tier UK/Canada: These schools tend to place less of an emphasis on the “American” GPA system, but they know that students who have a near perfect GPA are probably good students, though students who score a bit lower are not necessarily unfit.The standards, nevertheless, remain high though there does not seem to be a magic number.A professor of NT at Cambridge, though, thinks that a GPA better than 3.8 is critical.

Second-Tier Evangelical Seminaries: These seminaries vary quite a bit in GPA expectations, but Fuller, for instance expects a GPA higher than 3.5.This is more of a minimum standard, though, than an average.On average it is probably closer to a 3.7.

Conclusion: Regarding GPA, see how you are progressing in your first few semesters.If you simply cannot maintain a high GPA (3.8), then you should prepare yourself for aiming for a Second-Tier program.There is no shame in that.A doctorate from any of the schools listed above is a real treasure and you can have a long and fulfilling teaching career having studied at any number of places.It is wise, though, to be realistic.

Advice: You may be tempted to take easy courses to buffer your GPA, but these kinds of courses won’t prepare you, in the end, for doctoral work.The really tough, challenging courses will be most useful.What good is getting into a program if you can’t keep up with the demands of it?

Backgrounds Coursework: With regard to preparation for doctoral work in New and Old Testament, the regular MDIV curriculum is probably not going to be enough.You will need to supplement your regular core coursework with “backgrounds” courses.For some (and maybe even most), that may add a year or two of study in another MA or a THM.The two most profitable kinds of background courses for New Testament are in (1) Judaism of the Second Temple Period, and (2) the Greco-Roman Backgrounds of the New Testament World.Both of these areas are guaranteed to be of significance no matter what area of NT you are going to pursue.[3]More specifically, you should acquaint yourselves with:


1.The general history of the Jewish people in the 2nd Temple Period

2.The literature of the time (Dead Sea Scrolls, Philo, Josephus, OT Pseudepigrapha, OT Apocrypha and perhaps some Rabbinic literature [which is from a bit later time])

3.The culture and social-dynamics of that period (honor/shame, worldviews, perspectives on gender, nationality, social stratification, etc…)

4.The hermeneutical principles/methods employed in their literature (midrash, pesher, allegorization, etc…)

Greco-Roman World:[5]

1.The very general history of the classical world, hellenization, and the rise of the Roman Empire.

2.A very broad understanding of the literature of the Greeks and Romans with particular attention to bios/vitae (biographies), epics and novels, and letter-writing.

3.A broad understanding of the religions of the Greco-Roman world including the Imperial Cult/Emperor Worship and mystery religions.

4.A general introduction to Greco-Roman oration, rhetoric and persuasion in speech and writing

5.An introduction to Greek and Roman ethics and philosophy.

6.A survey of the geography of the Roman Empire including a major interaction with the most influential cities of Asia Minor, Macedonia and Italia.

How? Since most seminaries don’t offer such courses there are two routes: (1) Ask a qualified professor to do an independent study with you[6], or (2) Take a backgrounds course at another institution.[7]Either route has its advantages and disadvantages.Of course taking a course at Harvard or Boston University has merit in and of itself, let alone if the professor feels capable of writing a recommendation for you.But, if this is not possible, independent study can prove that you are self-motivated and can accomplish a course with little outside help – something that you will have to master in a doctoral program.

Why?Someone may say, why is this coursework so important?On a very practical level, this kind of background study has led many students to their research topics.Perhaps you find an interesting connection between a phrase in Revelation and the Second Apocalypse of Baruch.Or maybe you notice that something in John’s Gospel hints at a criticism of the mystery religions.You would not be able to pick up on what are sometimes very subtle allusions unless you have significant exposure to these contexts.Word studies, for instance, can be enhanced by mining the use of the word of interest in the literature of the time.

Languages.A large part of doctoral research is interaction with the biblical texts in their original languages.In seminary you study Greek and/or Hebrew, but at the doctoral level the bar is much higher, both in depth and in breadth.For NT studies, Koine Greek is a given, but how much?Below I will outline the major languages that are useful and why.Then I will show how they affect doctoral applications.

Koine Greek: All NT programs will expect you to know Greek and be able to translate and parse well.You should also be able to recognize vocabulary down to about 20 word occurrences in the NT.Beyond a first year of introductory Greek, it is advisable that you study language-centered hermeneutics and at least two language-centered exegetical courses in different genres of the NT.Most students, beyond that, should take an advanced course in Greek syntax that usually also involves a set of NT readings that vary in difficulty.For the MDIV, at least 7 of your 30 courses should involve Greek.Preferably you should try to add a reading course where you independently study a NT book or set of passages and sit for an exam of translation and parsing.After introductory and intermediate grammar is introduced, the best place to go from there is reading, reading, reading!

Greek (Other): You might consider gaining exposure to other kinds of Greek to broaden your understanding of the Greek language and its developments and influences.The most useful courses for such an endeavor are classes in Classical Greek (e.g. reading portions of Herodotus or Plato), Septuagintal Greek (e.g. reading from LXX Pentateuch), Greek of the apostolic fathers (e.g. Didache, 1 Clement) or Patristic Greek.I would recommend Septuagintal and/or apostolic fathers as the most useful immediately following NT Greek.Once again, doing an independent study course should be a possibility, or try requesting that a course be taught.If not, a surrounding university may offer a “rapid reading” course.

Hebrew: For NT interpretation, it should take little convincing to prove that the Old Testament is a necessary background and context.Beyond a basic first year of grammar, exegetical study of a book or group of books in Hebrew is very helpful.Also, an intermediate course in Hebrew grammar and a set of readings can really enhance your understanding of the Old Testament language and literature.Some students have wisely chosen to do a reading course where they study 15 chapters of the Old Testament in Hebrew, and also the same 15 chapters in the LXX.This is one of the best exercises a seminarian can do to understand the world of the Bible.

Aramaic: Though the biblical passages that include Aramaic are few, the language is useful for the study of the Gospels and as an avenue to strengthen your Hebrew.Additionally, due to the relationship between Aramaic and Syriac, it can allow you to interact with the Peshitta – an exercise that is useful for textual criticism and an understanding of interpretation in the early church.

Modern German: Beside English, German is the most critical modern language for secondary research in the last 200 years.A year of German language study is sufficient to demonstrate basic competency for doctoral programs.Of course the purpose is to be able to interact with German literature, so the earlier you begin the better.Most universities offer German language courses and some seminaries, but you need to learn German for reading knowledge, not for travel, business or entertainment.Therefore, most college German courses would be of little use if you only need to read scholarly literature, and can only take two semesters.Look for university or seminary courses on German that are geared towards learning German only for reading (and not for listening or sentence formation).Generally, if you can translate a scholarly piece of work at the rate of one page every 15-20 minutes, that is a good start.There are several good textbooks aimed at this kind of learning which will be listed in the appendix.

Modern French: Literature written in French is significant, though often less than German (depending on the subject area).This language represents literature from France, Canada and sometimes Africa.It is always helpful, though not as necessary as German, to have an introductory course in French.

Latin: This ancient language can be of great use for many reasons.At the most utilitarian level, many scholarly terms and abbreviations are in Latin!In addition, Classical Latin offers access to Roman literature that can inform our reading of the NT.Ecclesiastical Latin can aid you in reading early church liturgies, epistles, early commentaries and other texts of significance.Latin can also be very handy for purposes of textual criticism – regarding especially the Old Latin mss and the Vulgate.Also, since Latin is so structurally similar to Greek, it may enhance your understanding and facility with the NT language.

Summary of Language Preparation

FT US: The top American programs in NT take languages very seriously and you can make your application competitive by showing that you have competency in several of them.At the least you need to prove high proficiency in Greek, moderate proficiency in Hebrew, and some reading ability in German or French.If you want to stand out, consider adding Aramaic and Latin.

FT UK: In the UK languages are also important, but you will not need to sit for language exams in the same way that American schools require.The standards are still roughly the same as FT US.

STES: You should have high facility in Greek and moderate Hebrew.Do your best to acquire a bit of German or French.


References.It should come as no surprise that doctoral applications require the recommendation of respected, responsible, qualified professors.Typically an application will require between 2-4 recommendations from professors that you have known for at least a year (but preferably 2 or more).References provide a personal touch to your application and can enhance or even compensate for the more objective portions of your portfolio.Therefore, it is important to choose your recommenders carefully.You want to maintain a good balance between picking someone that adores you and will say the “right things” and someone who is well-known but cannot speak knowledgably about your coursework and research capabilities.Here are a few principles to help guide how you shape and build relationships.

1. Aim for acquiring references from at least 1 “senior scholar” and 2 “junior scholars.”

A “senior scholar” (SS) is a professor who has published, spoken, and taught widely enough to receive some kind of broad recognition.In order to really be able to obtain a good recommendation from this person, you will need to (1) take at least 2 courses from him/her (and preferably more), and (2) do exceedingly well to catch his or her attention.Once again a balance needs to be maintained: you want to participate enough in class and engage with the professor, but not to the extent that it becomes arrogant, boastful or smothering.Visit her office hours, but not too frequently.Relax and be casual with him at social functions, but don’t call him by his first name unless he encourages you to do so.Most “senior scholars” are sick of yes-men and kiss-ups.Let your research impress them, not your self-aggrandizement.If you work hard and show godly confidence, they will take note.

I consider “junior scholars” to be any professors who show potential for being a “senior scholar,” but probably haven’t yet been read widely due to youth or a limited amount of publishing.These professors often will have engaged in your coursework more and should be able to write in some amount of detail about your capabilities.

2. Demonstrate diversity in your referees.

Your application will appear a bit bland if all 3 of your references are New Testament professors from the same institution.A better scenario is having perhaps 2 from your most recent institution and 1 from your undergraduate institute (provided that the field is related).Even better: the two recommendations from your most recent institution are from professors of different fields.This demonstrates that you are appreciated for your acumen in not only NT, but also OT, or theology or early church, etc…

3. Get a sense for the professors’ thoughts about you and your potential before committing him/her to writing a reference.

Most schools enforce the policy that students are not permitted to view the recommendations that are submitted for application.Your referees are responsible for providing a serious assessment of your potential: what if they don’t write a flattering recommendation!!!This is a fear that many students have that may never be resolved.The only safe route is to sit down with a potential referee and ask him or her to “give it to you straight.”Dr. Smith, please tell me what your honest thoughts are about whether I would make a good candidate for a doctoral program.And, please, be blunt.Now, just because they may say a few negative things does not mean that they would make a poor choice for a referee.But, if they say a lot of negative things (and very few positive things), you may want to reconsider this person as an option.[8]

4.oPrepare materials to aid your referee.

Though a referee may generally think highly of you and want to write a recommendation, she/he often appreciates (or sometimes requires) more information to “highlight” in your recommendation.Here is a list of materials that you should have on file and make available to each referee:

a. Transcripts (undergraduate and graduate): You can often order these for free from the institution, but do so several weeks or months in advance.There is a limit to the number of transcripts you can request at once (often between 5-10), so you may have to make several requests over a period of several weeks.You may want to circle or mark courses that are relevant to your area of interest and any other courses worthy of attention.

b. résumé[9]: Limit it to 3 pages maximum.See appendix C for items to include.

c. Writing Sample: Since most doctoral programs will require that you submit a

7-12 page piece of original research, you may want to include a copy in your packet for referees.

d. Additional Information: In an informal writing style, you may want to inform the referee about any information that it might be helpful for him/her to know.This might include non-academic achievements (winner of a 5-k race), hardships (family member died last semester resulting in some low grades), hobbies, church involvement (Sunday school leader), etc…Another topic to include would be your interaction with different cultures and any significant international travel experiences (with serious attention to visits of more than a couple of weeks; preferably a summer or more). As will be discussed later, the more diverse your experiences are, the better!Admissions committees love to see that you respect and understand a wide variety of perspectives culturally.

e. Research Proposal: Because doctoral work is largely research based, you can help the referee to comment about your particular knowledge and facility in a particular area if they are acquainted with your proposal.If you are planning on applying to programs that do not require research proposals (often US), you could provide a short summary (1/2 single-spaced page) of your specific interests in a field (social-scientific interpretation in Hebrews, Roman Imperial theology and Christology in conflict at Philippi, Challenge-Riposte in the Gospel of Mark, the theme of wandering in 1 Peter, etc…).

Diversification. As mentioned above, you want to appear as diverse in your experiences as possible.A student that went to a Christian high school, then to a Baptist college (and studied Bible), then to a Baptist seminary for an MDIV, then stayed at the same seminary for a THM does not appear very diverse (even though she may be extremely brilliant and a great student).Compare that with a student that went to a state college and studied some form of humanities (classics, literature, history, or anthropology), and then went to an evangelical seminary for an MA in NT, then went to a different seminary for another MA.You may be thinking: uh-oh – its too late!But, you can still demonstrate diversity right where you are, and there are some advantages to staying in the same place for two degrees (like solidifying relationships with faculty members or acquiring opportunities to teach or do research by virtue of seniority).The best way to prove diversity (in coursework) is to either (1) take a few courses at a different institution through a consortium, or (2) study for a summer or semester at a different school and transfer the credit.It is not absolutely necessary to do this, but it can be very attractive on your transcript – especially if the institution you are visiting is prestigious.Some students may worry that they will receive too much theological criticism at another institution, but this fear should be overcome by two things: (1) unless you plan on going to an evangelical seminary for your doctoral studies, get used to it (!), (2) it is often easy to find classes that minimize the potential for theological backlash.For instance, taking a course on the inspiration of scripture at a liberal institute would probably be much more discouraging than taking a course on the history of the 2nd Temple period of Judaism.Often history, archaeology and language courses make for the least amount of resistance.Take a rapid reading course in NT Greek.Or take a history course from Alexander the Great to Constantine.Find a course on Ancient Greek religions, or classical Roman biographies.Learn classical Latin or take a course in textual criticism.

Area of Specialty. Admissions committees are looking for broad knowledge in biblical students and relevant “backgrounds,” but they also expect you to prove that you have advanced learning in some specific area of study in your field.For doctoral studies, it needs to be more specific than “New Testament,” and even more specific than “Gospels” or “Paul.”I suggest three things to develop as you work through your masters:

1.Focus on one biblical book (or possibly two).It could be Colossians and Ephesians.Or just Romans.Or the Johannine epistles.Take an exegesis course in that book (if at all possible) and find some way to relate other courses to that book (like an independent study course, or focus on that book for your master’s thesis).

2.Choose one or two exegetical tools to sharpen in your masters.Some more popular ones include: textual criticism, social-scientific criticism, rhetorical criticism, discourse analysis, and narrative criticism.The purpose behind some of these methods is to approach the biblical text from a new angle.The NT has been studied verse-by-verse for centuries.Trying to do a word study for a dissertation is highly unlikely.Utilizing one of these exegetical strategies can help you see with new eyes.As you begin to explore and read up on where a particular discipline is going, you will start to see things that others may have not seen before.Good new research ideas are born out of such investigations.

3.Gain competence in either the Greco-Roman world or Jewish backgrounds while having at least a cursory introduction to the other.Right now, Greco-Roman background study is spreading like wild-fire, but having competence in Jewish thought and culture is equally useful.

Choosing electives.The basic MDIV curriculum does not permit many electives, so for these students especially, choice of electives is critical.To really gain facility in one area of specialty, you will need to make every course count.If you have, let’s say, 6 electives to work with, it may be challenging to go as deep as you will need.The electives for an MDIV may look like this:

(1) Greco-Roman and Jewish backgrounds course, (2) Intermediate Greek, (3) Aramaic, (4) advanced hermeneutics course, (5) Course in NT theology, (6) Independent research course focusing on a particular epistle (where you write 2 major papers of 15-20 pages each).

The above 6 courses barely go deep.Only classes 4 and 6 are really focused.Ideally you will have 8-10 electives to work with.Let’s look at a 10-elective situation:

(1) Greco-Roman background course, (2) Jewish background course, (3) Intermediate Greek, (4) Intermediate Hebrew, (5) Aramaic, (6) advanced hermeneutic course, (7) course in NT theology (8) Additional advanced course in a NT letter with research papers, (9) Additional advanced course in letter or topic of NT, (10) advanced reading course in Greek.

This scenario provides much more depth.You must constantly be thinking: what can I contribute that is unique?What separates me from other students?Another ancient language?Advanced knowledge of a particular ancient text (Dead Sea Scrolls, Josephus, Nag Hammadi, Lives of the Twelve Caesars, etc…)?Plan your “advanced” courses in advance so you have a couple under your belt before you have to apply for the doctorate.

Research & Publishing.Since doctoral work is all about research, it is obviously of great benefit to get some practice.Of course you will be engaging in research for courses, and the fruit of your labors will probably be evident in one of your writing samples, but there is merit to doing extra-curricular research with the intent to publish (usually an article).

How can I, a lowly masters student, get an article published?Did you know that many journals have a “blind peer review” policy for submissions?This means that the person that reviews your article will not know that you are “just a masters student.”Now, that does not mean that it is easy to publish an article.But, it does mean that your status as a student does not directly limit your chances.If you can compose a good contribution to scholarship, it can be published.It is as simple as that.[10]

Book Reviews.Writing a journal article can be a daunting task for any student who has not done a great deal of research-based writing.A good way to break into the scholarly world of publishing is to write a book review for a periodical.Almost all journals have a book review section in the back of each issue composed of short articles that summarize and critique recently published texts.For most journals, you can find the name of a book review editor on the publication’s website.Email the editor and ask him if you could send him your CV and if you might be considered for reviewing a book in your field.Some of the major publications have senior scholars do the reviews, but many of the other journals might be open to you if you can demonstrate competency in a particular field (Gospel of Luke, or women in the NT, or apocalyptic literature, etc…).

Another route is to become a member of the Society of Bible Literature.In this society, you have access to the booklist available for reviews in their periodical Review of Biblical literature.As a member, you can browse through this “received books” list (which has titles that are sent to them from publishers, but have not yet been assigned to a reviewer), and volunteer to review a book.They will require you to provide a 50 word summary of why you are qualified for reviewing the title.From personal experience I can tell you that you will be rejected more often than accepted.In fact, you may be rejected for the first 50-100 books you volunteer to review.But every once in a while they allow a masters student to do a review for a book that is non-technical.Well, it’s a start![11]

Research Assistant: A third way to get involved in research is to work with a professor as an assistant.If your institution has research positions to apply for, make every effort to get involved.If not, you may have to just approach a professor you appreciate and ask if you can aid her in research.If she is writing a book, perhaps she won’t mind having you hunt down bibliographical resources, or do some of the research itself.Get involved in whatever way you can.This will allow you to build a relationship with a scholar, aid in a major research project, and learn more about what it takes to publish.

Local Paper Presentation:A less direct way of “going public” would be to present a paper at a regional academic conference.For instance, at the regional meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature, members can submit creative research papers to present.Often it is a small crowd, so stage fright and heckling possibilities are limited.Also, there is time for feedback so you can get a glimpse of life in a doctoral seminar where you are presenting and sometimes defending.There is no guarantee that if you submit a paper it will be accepted for the meeting, but these are the perfect occasions for presenting a masters thesis in a condensed form, or expanding on a shorter paper for a research course.

Practice Writing[12]: If all else fails, just continue to write short articles or essays for practice.Maybe start a blog where you chronicle some of your thoughts (unless you are worried about someone stealing them!).Perhaps you can “co-write” something with a professor for a journal so you can get some help publishing.

Conclusion:Particularly for the UK programs, demonstrating experience and competence in research is invaluable.It proves that you are good at independent work, you are creative, and you can make a meaningful contribution to the academic world.

Teaching Experience.Teaching is, of course, the ultimate goal of many students who wish to pursue a doctorate.However, very few students have the opportunity to teach prior to beginning a post-graduate program.Seminaries, in particular, rarely have teaching fellowships available to masters students.But, if your institution does have teaching assistants for biblical studies or for Greek or Hebrew, it is a very worthwhile opportunity.Aside from the assumption that it looks good on a CV, it allows you to sample the atmosphere of the lecturer/instructor and see if it is a good fit.It also provides a context for creativity, a place to learn pedagogical skills, and an atmosphere where you must learn to be clear, direct and organized.

Other possibilities to pursue are teaching as an adjunct instructor at a community college nearby or even look for part-time work teaching Bible in a high school.Any bit that helps you learn teaching skills and enables you to do more study and research for instruction is constructive.As distance-learning programs grow more and more at graduate institutions, investigate if such programs need assistants of any sort.Be bold and creative.What do you have to lose?!

Graduate Record Examination.American doctoral programs for New Testament require the GRE, but international programs normally do not.[13]If you plan on applying only to international schools, then this area will be unnecessary.

The GRE is a standardized national examination that tests your supposedly suitability for graduate and post-graduate work.The exam focuses on mathematics and humanities in the multiple choice sections, and also includes a required essay-writing portion.Therefore, your preparation should involve the following areas: math, verbal and essay.

Math.Most biblical studies students shudder at the thought of having to sustain an examination in this area, but since this exam is taken by students in a wide variety of fields, the level of knowledge is relatively basic (algebra, geometry, etc…).The good news is that you will not have to (re)learn calculus.But, the GRE math section is difficult because the problems and their solution choices are meant to trick you.Therefore, just knowing the formulas and basic techniques will not insure success.There are many “tips” to succeeding on the math portion of the GRE that are described in preparation books (Kaplan, Princeton Review, Barron’s, etc…) and courses as well.However, it may be useful for you to know that doctoral admissions committees for biblical studies are not as concerned with your math skills as your facility on the verbal and essay portions.Aiming for 80th percentile or better is acceptable.

Verbal.The verbal portion of the GRE is the most relevant to your doctoral application and is seen by many schools as an indicator of your reading and analytical abilities.This section consists of verbal analogies, determination of synonyms and antonyms, and answering questions from a given reading passage.Most GRE experts advise that the single most effective way to increase your verbal score is to learn the most frequently occurring vocabulary words that appear on the GRE.Let’s say that you were able to compare the vocabulary words on 500 different GRE tests (that contain 50 vocabulary words that it would be helpful to know).Of those 500, maybe 3 words appear on every single exam.After that, maybe 10 other words appear on most of the exams.Next, maybe 75 words appear on a large number of the exams.And, after that, maybe another 100 words appear with some frequency.It would be useful to know and learn which words are probably going to appear on the exam.Good preparation books have groups of vocabulary lists ranging from an almost guaranteed top 5-12, to a popular 100-500.The more you learn, the better.Every person is different, though.Some will ace the antonym section and bomb the “read the passage and answer the questions” part.Others will excel at the latter.Taking some sample exams early on will aid in your preparation.

Essay.This section recently went from optional to mandatory because scholars felt that this portion, more than any other, was the most helpful in determining the potential that a student had for doctoral work.For humanities this is certainly true.The essays section consists of two parts: an “issue” essay, and an “analysis” essay.For the former, you are given a maxim and you must either argue for it or against it.So, you are given “the ends justify the means.”You have 45 minutes to establish a position and defend it with as much logical evidence as possible.Second, you are given a brief argument on some topic.You have 30 minutes to analyze that argument and point out its omissions, flaws, and logical inconsistencies.

Computer Examination: The GRE is typically administered as a computer program.This special kind of program does not permit you to leave any question blank and go on to the next.You cannot skip questions or advance because the computer will choose the next question you receive based on whether you got the previous question correct.Each question is assigned a point value based on difficulty.If you answer incorrectly for a given question, the computer will then assign you an easier question with a lower point value.However, that means that if you start to lose questions early on in the exam, you are bumped very low and it becomes harder to recover lost ground from a “points” perspective.Because the computer is attempting to zero in on your “perfect score,” it makes the biggest point leaps early on as it tries to determine where you fit on the point scale.As the exam goes on, it is simply refining where you stand.That means that out of a total of 800 points, the first few questions may bump you up or down 100-200 points, whereas the last few questions may only bump you up or down 10-30 points.As you can see, it is crucial that you spend a significant amount of time and effort scoring high on the first 10-12 questions (out of 30).If you ace the first 25 questions, you could just randomly select answers for the last 5 and still score in the 90% percentile.If you get the first 5 questions wrong, but the next 25 correct, you may only score an 85% because the computer gave you easy questions so early on.

Scores.What kind of score are you looking for?Most schools do not give a particular score they are looking for because they do not want to limit their applications based on any one area.But, some examples may be useful.Notre Dame is one of the top schools for doctoral study in New Testament the guidelines on their website include a GRE score of at least 1200 combined (out of 1600) on the verbal and math section and at least a 4.5 for the 6-point essay section (graded in increments of .5)Let’s say that you scored a 600 on the verbal and a 600 on the math (for a total of 1200).This score would be about an 85th percentile for verbal and maybe a 75th percentile for math.That is actually not very good for most school’s standards.It would appear that this is just a lower limit for applying to Notre Dame, but they are probably looking for a score of 700+ on the verbal and a 5.5 or 6.0 on the essay section.Keep in mind that they can only accept 1 out of every 20 applicants.Therefore, when it comes down to it, a 600 on the verbal is probably not sufficient for FT US schools.[14]For Second-Tier Evangelical Schools (STES), the GRE score still needs to be competitive, but it is not as critical of a factor.Fuller Theological Seminary, for instance, states that, for application to the Doctor of Philosophy, “Preference is given to those whose verbal scores are in excess of 600.[15]Once again, this is a minimum score for consideration.

Resources.Many students feel completely unprepared to sit for the GRE during seminary, especially because of the math section.But, there are many good books and resources available for purchase or free on the internet that can be of aid.I will quickly mention a couple.

Kaplan.The Kaplan company is reputable for assisting in the area of standardized tests.Their books are clear, thorough and they don’t presume much previous interaction with the GRE or tests of the like.They are the best basic introduction to the GRE I have found.They also offer specialized books such as a “verbal workout” book that specializes on the verbal section of the test (which you should be most concerned with).

Princeton Review.Also well-known for offering books and courses for national exams, PR takes a bit of a different approach.Whereas Kaplan gets you on the major highway of test-taking and covers the expected information, PR is more of a cynical and perhaps even jaded pro that wants to show you all of the shortcuts.PR does not always offer the introductory information you need (which Kaplan does), but they do give really useful tips for test-taking and a back-roads approach.For instance, they discuss a research study that showed a correlation (but not a causal relationship) between the length of essays in the writing section and the essay scores – the longer essays tended to get the higher points.That does not mean that scorers are consciously rating longer essays higher, but these tidbits of information are still good to know.So, PR and Kaplan reach the same market, but I would try to interact with materials from both.

What to buy?The great thing about Barnes & Noble and Borders is that you can just waltz right in, sit down with a Kaplan or PR book, and take a sample exam in the café (using your own paper and not opening their CD-ROM)!These prep-books have sample exams in their appendix that simulate real test questions (maybe 10 years old).So, you can learn a lot from just going to Borders.But, if you want something to take home I suggest 3 books:

(1) Kaplan GRE (general) Prep (for the most recent year)

(2) Kaplan Verbal Workout (which gives useful vocabulary lists and many sample exercises)

(3) Princeton Review GRE (general) Prep: Cracking the GRE (for the most recent year)

When to prepare?Certainly you understand that preparing too late can really hurt your chances of success, but preparing too early may not be worth your time.That is to say, you don’t need to worry about the GRE if you don’t plan on taking it for another year or two – there is something to say about the value of working under pressure!I recommend allowing for 3-5 months of preparation.

5 Month Plan:

Month 1: But a textbook and get a feel for what the test is all about.Then take an “assessment sample example” to see where you are (in order to know where you can realistically go). If you score 400 out of 800 on verbal, that is not very good.But, you can definitely work your way up to 600 or better.If you are at 580, you can relax a bit more.You don’t have to stress yourself out.Getting an early reading on your unprepared capabilities is critical for your preparation.

Month 2: Read through the Prep book and get a firm grasp of each section of the exam.Also, begin scanning the vocabulary lists and get a basic understanding of how strong your vocabulary is.If you are an international student, this will be a major challenge.Begin to memorize the top 100 words.Also, (re)familiarize yourself with the math skills and formulas that you will need to have memorized for the exam.

Month 3-4: Concentrate on vocabulary and verbal relationships as outlined in the book.

Month 5: Go to Barnes & Noble/Borders and grab as many GRE prep books as you can find.Most if not all of them will have sample exams.With your own paper – take as many sample exams as you can.The best preparation is experience.

The Gamble.

When you have actually finished taking the exam (officially), you will be asked if you would like to purge your score (before you have seen it!).Maybe you just didn’t feel good about the whole thing.Maybe you knew that it was horrible.The GRE coordinators want to give you the opportunity to erase your scores officially.What do you do?Both times I took the GRE I was tempted to do this, but I thought about one thing: I paid $100 for this exam!Maybe it is worth the $100 to erase a very pathetic score, but you really just don’t know – and you never will if you choose to purge.It is entirely up to you, so just know that that is always an option.Also, you can take the exam more than once, but application committees for doctoral programs sometimes average your scores or at least pay attention to scores that vary too much – did you get lucky?Also, it is highly likely that your score will increase on the second time, but not always – as I can confirm.Try to be as fully prepared as you can the first time around!


Making the Application

How to get information.A university website is the most convenient place to acquire information for a doctoral program.Look under the categories for “Admissions” and/or “Prospective/Future Students.”

When to Start the Process.The earlier the better!Working backwards, FTUS schools often require that application materials be sent in by January of the year of desired entry.So, if you wish to begin studying September of 2006, you should have all of your application materials ready to send in by December of 2005.

FTUS: These applications usually consist of the following items:

1.Application form (6-8 pages)

2.Passport-size Photo (that you must acquire)

3.Transcripts (from all college/seminary education)

4.Curriculum Vitae (a.k.a. resume)

5.Recommendations (usually 3-4)

6.Writing Sample(s) (1-2 samples of 7-10 pages)

7.GRE score report (sent from the Educational Testing Services)

FTUK schools have a much simpler (but less organized) application process.They would generally require the following:

1.Short Application form (3-4 pages)

2.Transcripts (from all college/seminary education)

3.Curriculum Vitae

4.Recommendations (2-3)

5.Writing Sample (1-2; length is specified by school; otherwise no longer than 15 pages)

6.Proof of funding[16]

A Note on Writing Samples.Almost all doctoral applicants will be required to submit a sample or two with their materials.Sometimes (and perhaps more often than not) the application will specify that the sample be within a certain page length (so as to not bog down application reviewers with long [and boring] papers).Now, certainly you will have written many papers in seminary – which do you choose?Of course you will want to select your finest work that is representative of your knowledge of the field of interest.But, there are other ways to also maximize this portion of your application packet.

First, you want to be sure that the paper you choose is free from grammar, spelling and stylistic mistakes.Perhaps you received a high mark on the paper, even an A+, but that does not mean that your paper was free from mistakes – perhaps your professor was generous to overlook mistakes!Even if you feel that the paper(s) you want to submit are free from typographical errors and grammatical mistakes, have someone proofread it anyway – you only get one shot per year to do this.Some professors (who review doctoral applications) have been known to simply stop reading a writing sample after the first couple of pages because of spelling and stylistic (e.g. inconsistency in footnotes and bibliography) errors.

Visiting.Is it necessary to actually visit the places you want to study?This may seem like an obvious step, but if the school is quite far away, it may be difficult to manage a visit for financial or scheduling reasons.Taking a trip to visit universities in the UK, for instance, can be expensive.Some US schools will invite the short list applicants to a weekend at the institution for interviewing (at their cost!).

Firstly, it is good sense to know as much as you can about the place you will spend several years and it goes without saying that your doctoral experience will define your future career in many ways.Therefore, if you are able to visit, you should.UK schools rarely require the student to appear in person.Nevertheless, I have been told on several occasions by students at different universities in the US and the UK that visiting the campus and meeting professors in person made a major difference in their acceptance.

When it is time for a committee to decide who to accept, they often gather the dozens and dozens of candidates and other than a few that are exceptional it is difficult to select one student over another.I spoke once to a professor at Notre Dame who said that when the admission committee got together they often said does anyone know more about this applicant?The visit to the campus can help you decide and the committee.

Rolling Application Evaluation vs. Fixed Deadline.US schools follow a nationally-enforced fixed deadline for applications (end of January/beginning of February) with the ability to announce acceptance at the end of March or beginning of April.The UK permits students to submit applications as early September of the year before enrollment and can hear back within a few months.In my opinion, if you are going to apply to a UK school, the earlier you apply the better.Few students apply before January of the year they wish to enter that if you apply in October or November of the year before, you will be evaluated before the bulk of the prospective applicants – they have no one to compare you to yet![17]

How can I get a scholarship for a UK program? If you are very interested in going to the UK, you may want to learn more about their scholarships (especially for overseas students).The UK offers, as a primary example, the ORSAS – Overseas Research Students Awards Scheme.In most cases, the ORSAS pays the difference in tuition between the international fees and the home/EU fees.In most cases this translates into about 70% off of tuition.The award is granted based on academic ability and research potential.Often you don’t have to worry about filling in a different form to apply for the ORSAS than the general application for the PhD.However, many institutions have deadlines if you still want to be considered for the ORSAS.[18]Many institutions also offer doctoral fellowship awards that waive tuition and sometime also include a stipend of £10-15,000.These awards are quite rare.

If you are very interested in studying in the UK, the rule of thumb is that you should be prepared to pay your own way.The chance of an award is not worth counting on.In any case, you will need to prove to institutions you are applying to that you are able to bear the financial burden yourself one way or another.

Appendix A: Doctoral Programs



Professors of Note

Additional Information

Yale Graduate School (unaffiliated)

Known for Greco-Roman backgrounds, apocalyptic literature, literary analysis, and biblical theology.

Wayne Meeks (emeritus), Abraham Malherbe (emeritus), Leander Keck (emeritus), Harold Attridge (Greco-Roman Backgrounds), , Dale Martin (Greco-Roman), Adella Yarbro Collins (Apocalyptic Lit), Judith Gundry-Volf (women and NT)

Yale has a high regard for biblical languages and one of the most competitive NT programs in the world.A good place to study Greco-Roman backgrounds for NT.

Duke Graduate School (United Methodist Church)

Jewish backgrounds, intertextuality, Gospels study, Galatians

Richard Hays (OT in Paul), Douglas Campbell (Pauline theology), Mark Goodacre (historical Jesus), Joel Marcus (Gospels)

An excellent place to study Jewish backgrounds in the NT.Hays is one of the premier exegetes of our time.

Princeton Theological Seminary (Presbyterian)

Cultural world of NT, Gnostic Gospels, Mark, 2nd Temple Literature, Pauline studies, Luke-Acts, Old Testament texts in the New Testament

John Gager (social backgrounds), Elaine Pagels (Gnostic Gospels), C. Clifton Black (Mark), James Charlesworth (early Jewish lit), Beverly Gaventa (Luke-Acts, Paul), J. Ross Wagner (Old in New)

Gaventa and Wagner are outstanding scholars.

Emory University (United Methodist Church)

Romans, Historical Jesus, Pastoral Epistles, Luke-Acts, James, Pauline theology, Old in New

Luke Timothy Johnson (Luke-Acts, Paul), Gail O’Day (Old in New), Steven Kraftchick (Pauline theology), Walter Wilson (Greco-Roman world)

Emory is top-notch but maintains some level of respect for the accuracy of Scripture and interest in its edification for the church.Emory does not seem to be biased against evangelicals.

Catholic University of America

Pauline studies, text criticism, Gospels, NT Theology,

Raymond Collins (Paul), Joseph Fitzmyer (Paul), Francis Gignac (text criticism), Frank Matera (Gospels, NT theology), Francis Moloney (Gospels)

You do not need to be catholic to study at CUA for the PhD. These five scholars are widely read by evangelicals and other scholars.

University of Notre Dame (Catholic)

Historical Jesus, Greco-Roman backgrounds, Jewish roots of NT and early Christianity, Social-scientific interpretation,

John Meier (historical Jesus), David Aune (Greco-Roman backgrounds), Paul Bradshaw (Jewish roots of NT), Jerome Neyrey (social sciences and NT)

Notre Dame has an outstanding faculty and pays close attention to sound exegesis.Several of their scholars are “conservative” regarding authorship and infallibility.

Institution (International)


Additional Information

University of Cambridge

Markus Bockmuehl (NT theology and ethics, Philippians, Simon Peter, the historical Jesus)[19]

Bockmuehl is a member of Tyndale fellowship which means that he is generally conservative in his views and sympathetic to American evangelicals.

William Horbury (2nd Temple Judaism; Christian Origins)

A well-respected “backgrounds” scholar

Andrew Chester (messianism and eschatology; social theory)

University of Oxford

Ian Boxall (book of Revelation)

Larry Kreitzer (Pauline studies; eschatology and Christology)

John Muddiman (Mark, Luke, Ephesians, hermeneutics)

A notable scholar in exegesis.

Christopher Rowland (apocalyptic texts)

Excellent in 2nd temple Judaism

Christopher Tuckett (Luke-Acts, Q, Christology)

Peter Walker (Jesus, Jerusalem, biblical theology)

Member of Wycliffe Hall – the evangelical college of Oxford.

David Wenham (Jesus and Paul)

Also a member of Wycliffe Hall (close to retirement)

University of Durham

John Barclay (Galatians, NT ethics, hermeneutics, Josephus, 2nd Temple Judaism)

Chair of divinity and successor to James D G Dunn.

Stephen Barton (Family in the NT, social-scientific interpretation, ethics)[20]

Loren Stuckenbruck (2nd temple literature)

A friendly person and a specialist in DSS, 1 Enoch and angelology.

N T Wright

Bishop of Durham (not technically a member of the faculty)

University of Aberdeen

Francis Watson (hermeneutics, Pauline theology)

Andrew Clarke (Paul and leadership; Luke-Acts)

Member of Tyndale Fellowship

Simon Gathercole (Romans, 2nd Temple Judaism)[21]

Member of Tyndale Fellowship and quite reputable at such ayoung age.

Peter J. Williams (Peshitta, textual criticism)

University of St. Andrews

Richard Bauckham (2 Peter/Jude, Revelation, 2nd Temple Judaism, Gospels)

A tenured scholar with many publications.

Bruce Longenecker (Galatians, narrative-criticism in Paul, Greco-Roman backgrounds)

A versatile scholar with great potential.

Additional UK Scholars of Note

Barry Matlock (Sheffield; Pauline studies)

Andrew Lincoln (U of Gloucestershire; Ephesians, Gospel of John)

Max Turner (London School of Theology)

Larry Hurtado (U of Edinburgh)

Judith Lieu (King’s College London; Johannine Lit)

David Horrell (U of Exeter, NT ethics)

Canadian Schools and Scholars of Note

Terence Donaldson (Univ of Toronto; Pauline studies)

Stephen Westerholm (McMaster University; Pauline studies)

Appendix B: ancient and modern language acquisition






Koine (Beginner)

Basics of Biblical Greek (Mounce)

Introduction to morphology, grammar and syntax of Greek.

Koine (reference)

Complete Vocabulary Guide to the Greek New Testament (Trenchard)

A listing of every word that occurs in the NT, arranged in several useful ways to facilitate memorization.

Koine (NT Bible)

A Reader’s Greek NT (Zondervan)

A Greek New Testament that provides vocabulary in footnotes for words occurring less than 30 times.It does not have a critical apparatus (for textual criticism) and is a reverse translation of the NIV text so it should supplement NA27, not replace it.

Koine (NT Bible)

Novum Testamentum Graeca (NA27)

Standard Greek NT from the German Bible Society.

Intermediate Koine Greek

Greek Grammar: Beyond the Basics (Wallace)

An exegetically centered approach to learning more about syntax and grammar.A must-have reference.

Intermediate Koine Greek

The Basics of NT Syntax (Wallace)

An abridgement of Greek Grammar: Beyond the Basics (Wallace)

A Graded Reader of Biblical Greek (Mounce)

A series of NT Greek passages that increase in difficulty.Mounce provides useful comments and grammatical tips and insights.

Biblical Greek Lexicon (and useful for apostolic fathers)

Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian

Writings, 3rd ed. Chicago: University, 2000. (Bauer)

The most-used Greek lexicon focusing on the biblical period and texts.

Septuagint Greek grammar

Grammar of Septuagint Greek (Conybeare & Stock)

A LXX grammar book with a large portion of annotated readings to work through at the end of the book.

Classical Greek grammar

From Alpha to Omega 3rd ed (Groton) OR Athenaze (Balme & Lawall)

Both of these texts are popular and have their strengths and weaknesses.Both have additional workbook.

Classical Greek readers

A Greek Anthology (JATC) OR Selections from Herodotus (Barbour)

The Anthology can be exciting because it includes selections from many ancient authors, but it is very difficult.Herodotus would be much easier, but perhaps less adventurous.







Basics of Biblical Hebrew (Pratico)

Pratico offers the best mixture of inductive and deductive study, but the grammar can be difficult to study independently.Nevertheless, it is the best grammar on the market.


A Modern Grammar for Classical Hebrew

A more inductive approach that includes exercises in main text (as opposed to separate workbook) and answer key.This text is a bit easier to use independently.

Reference grammar

A Biblical Hebrew Reference Grammar (Naude et al.)

Though not intuitive in organization, this grammar is helpful for review and advanced grammatical explanations.

Intermediate grammar

An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax (Waltke)

The best text to use for intermediate study, though it is quite long.

Intermediate grammar

A Guide to Biblical Hebrew Syntax (Arnold & Choi)

A compact grammar along the same lines as Waltke.Highly recommended.

Hebrew Bible

Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (German Bible Society)

The standard text of the Hebrew Bible for study

Intermediate Reader

The First Hebrew Reader (Goldstein) OR Reading in Biblical Hebrew (Ben Zvi et al.) OR Graded Reader of Biblical Hebrew (Pratico, 2006)

A selection of readings from the OT with annotations and vocabulary/grammar tips.Practico’s, when released, is sure to be the more useful.

Hebrew lexicon

A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the OT (Holladay)

Brief, but extremely handy.

Hebrew Vocabulary

The Vocabulary Guide to Bible Hebrew (Pratico)

A helpful resource for studying and memorizing more vocabulary.







Aramaic Grammar

A Short Grammar of Biblical Aramaic (Johns) with optional answer key.

A concise grammar that focuses on the biblical texts in Aramaic.Highly recommended.

Aramaic Grammar

An Introduction to Aramaic (Greenspahn)

Though it is widely used, it is known to be overpriced and full of typographical errors.

Aramaic Grammar

A Grammar of Biblical Aramaic (Rosenthal)

Also expensive, but a standard text used widely.

Syriac Grammar

Introduction to Syriac (Thackston)

An excellent grammar with a large portion of practice readings.An answer key, though, is not available.

Syriac Grammar

Robinson’s Paradigms and Exercises in Syriac Grammar (J. F. Coakley)

A very popular updated edition is available and widely used.






Classical Latin Grammar

Wheelock’s Latin (6th ed)

A popular text that is well organized.Great for independent study.Highly recommended.

Classical Reader

Wheelock’s Latin Reader (LaFleur)

A selection of readings that vary in difficulty.

Ecclesiastical Latin

A Primer of Ecclesiastical Latin (Collins)

The best and only major grammar of Ecclesiastical latin.

Latin Dictionary

Dictionary of Ecclesiastical Latin (Stelten)

A must-have resource for reading the early church Latin literature.

Latin Bible

Novum Testamentum Latine (American Bible Society)

The Latin New Testament (Vulgate).






Modern German grammar for reading knowledge

German Quickly (Wilson)

The best German reading grammar aimed at helping students read scholarly literature.Wilson is a graduate of U of Chicago Divinity School. Highly recommended.

Modern German grammar for reading knowledge

German for Reading Knowledge (Jannach)

Another useful grammar that is similar to Wilson.The readings, though, are less interesting.

Modern German grammar for reading knowledge

German for Reading (Sandberg)

This author is known for reading-knowledge acquisition is several languages.But, the book is a bit old and does not stress vocabulary learning in a useful way.

A Modern Reader

Modern Theological German: A Reader and Dictionary

A selection of theological readings from Luther to Bonhoeffer to Rainer Reisner.This is a must have.

German Dictionry

HarperCollins German Dictionary

Affordable and portable.All you need.

German Bible

Gute Nachricht Bibel (American Bible Society)

A good German Bible in a smooth translation.






Modern French grammar for reading knowledge

French for Reading (Sandberg)

The best French reading grammar aimed at helping students read scholarly literature.The readings are strange and a bit random, but the grammar itself is perfect.Highly recommended.

Modern French grammar for reading knowledge

Reading French in the Arts and Sciences (Stack)

Another useful grammar book with plenty of practice readings.

French Dictionary

Cassell’s French Dictionary

A useful dictionary that is well organized. Some are concerned that it may be outdated.

A Modern Reader

Modern Theological German: A Reader and Dictionary

A selection of theological readings from Luther to Bonhoeffer to Rainer Reisner.This is a must have.

German Dictionry

La Bible: Ancien Et Nouveau Testament (American Bible Society)

French Bible in a smooth translation.

Appendix C: What to Include on a résumé




Include the degree, years, institution and location, GPA, honors (if applicable) and major/concentration.For an MDIV it is reasonable to list a concentration if you took several courses in one area (e.g. Pauline literature, or Greek, or Biblical Languages); list college and graduate work, but not anything before college.



List any awards or honorsthat related directly or even indirectly to your field (e.g. an award in “classics” in college is very noteworthy).For any awards that include a financial endowment or prize, make some note of that, but do not specify the amount unless it is something like full tuition or more.


List all ancient and modern language knowledge of relevance.They can be organized in a variety of ways, but two elements are important: (1) coursework: you can list the language and then give the number of years studied, semesters studied, or credit hours studied.I recommend the last option; (2) proficiency: give an honest assessment of the level of ability using the terms high proficiency, moderate proficiency, or basic proficiency.At the very basic level, you should be able to pass a language test with the aid of a dictionary or lexicon.At the very least you probably should have high proficiency in Greek and at least moderate proficiency in Hebrew.

Research Experience

Provide any information regarding extra-curricular research opportunities.This can be most often demonstrated by working as a research assistant for a professor.

Teaching Experience

Though few students are able to gain much teaching experience before doctoral work, you could include any reasonable amount of tutoring or possibly teaching Sunday school if the content is related to biblical studies and the necessary preparation is substantial.


Once again, it is rare to have published an article, let alone a book, before beginning doctoral work, but a common form of “getting out there” is through book reviews.Review the above section on research/publishing.




Good doctoral admissions committees want to know that you are a leader and a thinker.If you don’t have a research and teaching background, you can still prove your potential in part through demonstrated terms of leadership.This can range from being a member of the university student government, to ecclesiastical leadership.

Society Membership

It is worthwhile to consider joining 1 or 2 scholarly societies while in seminary.There are many benefits including discounts and access to conferences and resources.In addition, it shows that you really are engaged in the field.I would recommend joining the Society of Biblical Literature, and then perhaps also the Evangelical Theological Society or the Institute for Biblical Research.

Ministry Experience

Ministry experience shows (1) a commitment to engage in many levels on what you are studying, (2) a link (usually) to an interpretive tradition, and (3) a capacity for leadership.However, be judicious in how much you list (e.g. “middle school volunteer” is not as helpful as “teaching pastor”).

Appendix D: outstanding Journals (*= highly recommended)

Journal Title




Bibliotheca Sacra*

Dallas Theological Seminary

Roy Zuck (DTS)

Quarterly; evangelical

Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society


Andreas Kostenberger (Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary)

Quarterly; evangelical

Westminster Theological Journal

Westminster Theological Seminary

Vern Poythress (WTS)

Twice per annum; evangelical

Journal For the Study of the New Testament*

None (primarily British scholars)

David Horrell (Univ of Exeter)

5 x per annum

Journal of Biblical Literature*


Gail R. O’Day (Emory)

Quarterly; one of the most prestigious and widely read journals for NT

Catholic Biblical Quarterly*

Catholic founded and run

Richard Dillon (Fordham University)

Quarterly; not just for Catholic writers or readers – wide circulation.


Catholic founded

Horacio Simian-Yofre


Novum Testamentum


H.J. de Jonge and H.W. Hollander (University of Leiden)

Quarterly; internationally read

New Testament Studies*

Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas

Judith Lieu (King’s College London)


Biblical Theology Bulletin


David Bossman (Seton Hall University)

Quarterly journal; currently very interested in social-scientific interpretation

Scottish Journal of Theology


Iain Torrance (Princeton Theological Seminary)


Appendix E: Designing an Independent Course in Jewish Backgrounds (2nd Temple or Early Judaism)

If you wish to learn more about early Judaism, but a course in not offered at your institution, you may want to approach a professor and ask him or her to consider supervising an independent research course.Different institutions have different standards, but many require a substantial amount of reading along with a major research paper, exam, and/or summary.

Reading: The following table contains possible textbooks for such a course:

Text Type



Primary/Introductory Textbook

An Introduction to Early Judaism (James VanderKam, 235 pages, 2000)

A short, but surprisingly thorough presentation of the history and background of early Judaism.

Early Judaism: The Exile to the Time of Jesus (Frederick Murphy, 488 pgs, 2002)

A simpler introduction that does not presume previous knowledge of early Judaism.

Exploring Jewish Literature of the Second Temple Period (Larry Helyer, 528 pgs, 2002)

A recognized introduction to the literature of early Judaism.

From the Maccabees to the Mishnah (Shayne Cohen, 1988)

A survey of the life and history of Jews in the 2nd Temple period.Not written from a Christian perspective.

OT Apocrypha[23]: Introduction

Introducting the Apocrypha (David deSilva, 429 pgs, 2004)

A thorough introduction from an evangelical.

Invitation to the Apocrypha (Daniel Harrington, 222 pages, 1999)

A brief introduction from a catholic scholar.

OT Apocrypha: Primary English texts

The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha

Dead Sea Scrolls Introduction

The Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls (VanderKam, 480 pgs, 2004)

The Dead Sea Scrolls Today (VanderKam, 208 pgs, 1994)

Dead Sea Scrolls: Primary English Texts

The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English (translator: Geza Vermes, 2004)

A simple translation from one scholar.The pages and print are small, but this is the most affordable version.

The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation (Wise et al, 528 pages, 1999)

A refined translation from a team of scholars that includes commentary.Highly recommended.

OT Pseudepigrapha: Background and Introduction

The OT Pseudepigrapha and the NT (J. Charlesworth, 145 pages, 1998)

Explores the influence on the NT and gives some helpful background.

OT Pseudepigrapha: Primary English Texts

The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: 2 Vols (ed. J. Charlesworth, 1056 pages, 1985)

A must-have resource and required reading!

Josephus: Background

Josephus and the NT (Steve Mason, 256 pages, 2003)

Josephus: Primary English Texts

The Works of Josephus (Whiston, 800 pages, 1980)

Philo: Primary English Texts

The Works of Philo (Yonge, 944 pages, 1993)

Compilation of Primary Texts

The New Testament Background (C. K. Barrett, pages 135-349, 1995)

A compilation of portions of primary sources for the Greco-Roman world as well as early Judaism.Unique elements include rabbinic literature and Targum translations.

Appendix F: Designing an Independent Course in the Greco-Roman World of the New Testament.

Particularly in more recently scholarship, there is a growing interest in how the culture, history, politics, philosophy and rhetoric influenced or shaped the New Testament.This does not mean that the NT was born out of Greek mysticism or Roman oratory.It may mean that allusions appear in Paul’s letters to imperial ideology or stoic philosophy whereby he is critiquing the Spirit of the times.Or, perhaps, Peter should be seen in contrast to the household codes made popular by Aristotle.The shape and format of the Gospels may be studied to understand how biographies were written by comparing them with the Lives of the Twelve Caesars.It is not currently an interest of liberal theologians and biblical scholars to mine the Greco-Roman world.It is simply recognized as filling in the whole context and background that helps situate the texts and authors of the New Testament.A good independent course should aim at reviewing the general history, culture, and religions of the Greco-Roman world.In addition, some portion of literature (in English) should be read to better grasp the genres and writing styles of the time.

Text Type



Introductory textbook

The Greco-Roman World of the NT Era (Jeffers, 352 pages, 1999)

A simple introduction from an evangelical.

Backgrounds of Early Christianity (Ferguson, 648 pages, 2003)

Includes both Jewish and Greco-Roman elements; thorough and informative, but more like a dictionary than a textbook.

Twelve Greeks and Romans that Changed the World (Carl Richard, 272, 2003)

Well-written and informative guide to some of the major shapers of the history of the Greek and Roman world.The Apostle Paul and Augustine are included!Highly Recommended.

Introduction to Greek Religions

Greek Religion (Burkert, 512 pages, 2004)

Culture and Sociology in the Greco-Roman World

Honor, Patronage, Kinship and Purity (deSilva, 336 pages, 2000)

Includes elements of Judaism as well, but very insightful for Greek culture and social structures.Highly recommended!

Primary Texts

The New Testament Background (C. K. Barrett, pages 135-349, 1995)

Readings From the First-Century World (Yarbrough and Elwell, 223 pages, 1998)

A bit light on Greco-Roman texts

Recommended Reading for Primary Literature

Homer’s Odyssey

Plato’s Republic

Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics and The Art of Rhetoric

Cicero’s De Oratore

Seneca’s Moral Essays

Plutarch’s Parallel Lives and Moralia

Euripides’ Bacchae

Aristophanes (Clouds, Frogs, Wasps, etc…)

Suetonius’ Lives of the Twelve Caesars

Epictetus’ A Manual for Living (a Stoic’s moral handbook)

Paul and the Greco-Roman World

Paul and the Greco-Roman World (J. Paul Sampley, ed.; 464 pages, 2001)

A Collection of essays that relate Paul to facets of Greco-Roman philosophy, culture or rhetoric.A bit technical, but insightful nonetheless.

Paul and the Roman Imperial Order (Richard Horsley, ed.; 224 pages, 2004); Paul and Empires (Horsley, ed; 256 pages, 1997)

Collections of essays.

Letter-Writing in Antiquity

Letter Writing in Greco-Roman Antiquity (Stowers, 1986)

Appendix G: Becoming a better writer.

If I could only give you two pieces of advice about how to become a better writer, it would be this: first, read in your main field as much as you can with a critical eye – ask yourself while you are reading what is the purpose of this chapter, is it successful?  Why?  What sort of evidence is being used?  What methodology is being used?  What is missing?  Who, in the field, are his main critics or opponents – who is he really arguing against?  Who are her allies in the field – who would endorse her book or write a forward for it? If you want to do a PhD in NT, you probably like to read, but you should start early trying to read published theses – try the Mohr Siebeck WUNT series (Tubingen), or a series through Sheffield (JSOT) or Continuum.  Your writing style is shaped by the people you read.  Second, write on a regular basis.  What should you write?  Well, the best thing to do is to try and write some constructive essays towards either your eventual PhD topic, or perhaps anything you feel you could work up into a journal article.  Many students are intimidated and even a bit scared to write – what if it stinks? Well, the first draft is often nothing to show off, but the key is getting something on paper, and then stepping back and seeing how things could be shifted and modified.  A good way to write and read regularly is to do book reviews.  Find a journal that you enjoy reading and email to book review editor and ask them if they have something you could review that is in your field.  Start off with a very simple book, like maybe a textbook or something, and work your way up to more narrow-interest monographs.

The next thing I can offer here is some writing advice I received from a professor at Ashland Theological Seminary (Ashland, OH), Daniel Hawk.  His advice was for masters work, but it is useful in general.  I will rephrase some of the ideas to make them a bit more specific to higher level work.
1.  Always keep clearly in mind what you are trying to argue (your thesis statement) and only include information that develops this argument.  (It sounds easy, but few writers do this well).

2. Your thesis should be developed in an organized and coherent fashion. Paragraphs should follow in logical order, with transitional sentences to guide your reader.  To achieve coherence, you may find it helpful to make an outline of the paper before writing it. (One trick to aid you in learning how to do this to make a title for each paragraph of your essay, and then when you are done string the paragraph titles together and see how coherent they are.  If they flow together logically, you did something right!)

3. Each paragraph should develop a single idea, introduced by a topic sentence. (Most scholars don’t do this well, but it is still good communication to try).

4. Generally, paragraphs should comprise three or more sentences.  Fewer sentences rarely allow the opportunity to develop an idea.  However, paragraphs usually should not be longer than one page.  (Biblical scholars, I think, tend to err on the longer paragraphs, which can be overwhelming to read.  Try to be self-reflective about this.  What is your tendency?)

5. Your analysis and perspective should provide the primary focus and organization of the paper.  Do not let secondary sources draw most of your conclusions for you.  Use secondary sources to support and supplement your own research.

6. Support all assertions, conclusions, and assessments with relevant information.  Give examples. Your position is stronger if you support it from the text itself rather than for secondary sources alone.

7. Be sure to spell out the implications of your observatons.  Draw explicit conclusions.  Explain the significance 0f your findings.  Always ask yourself, “So what?”

8. Information of a general nature should be synthesized from a number of sources and presented in your own words.  Information unique to a particular source must be documented.

9. Use quotations sparingly – only when the information or perspective is so unique or is presented in a distinctive and particularly helpful fashion. (This comment was particularly helpful to me; I used to think quotations were impressive, but it is more impressive that you can summarize someone’s thoughts in your own words [and cite them].)

10. Make sure all quotations are explained or integrated into the paper so that your reader can appreciate their relevance.

11. Present most information from secondary sources in your own words.

12. Document both quotations and paraphrases from secondary sources…If more than one of your paragraphs refers to the same source, document each paragraph.

13. Use good scholarly sources, those which not only give conclusions but define the issues, offer relevant supporting material, and/or survey scholarship on the topic. Don’t neglect journal articles. (This is crucial; seminarians are used to just going to the commentaries, but at the PhD level commentaries often just say the same things as other ones; you need to interact with PhD theses and more specific monographs)

14. Avoid wordiness.  Strive for clarity.

15. Use active voice whenever possible.  Referring to yourself in the first person (as “I”) is permissible, as long as you do so sparingly and don’t put yourself in the foreground. (This is less of an issue these days, but not a bad overall practice)

16. Use complete sentences.

17. Don’t join dependent clauses with a comma: use a semicolon, as in this sentence.

18. When beginning a sentence, a modifier must refer to the subject of the sentence, as in this example.

19. The pronoun “they” is still considered a plural pronoun in most formal writing.  For inclusive language, use a plural noun with “they” or use a singular noun with “he or she.”

20. Proofread your paper carefully!  If you have difficulty doing this, find an editor.

21.  Good writing is rewriting.

[My additions below]

22.  Occassionally give a brief summary of where have been in your argument and where you are going.  Keep your reader on track with you.

23. Ask your academic mentor or favorite professor if he or she can suggest a few books and/or articles that are exemplary pieces of scholarly work from the standpoint of clarity, coherence and persuasion.  Good writing is hard to find – learn from those who have succeeded.

24. Buy the SBL Handbook of Style (Hendrickson Pub.) – it is an absolute must for stylistic consistency.

25.  Keep footnotes brief; some think it is impressive to write really long digressive footnotes.  It is not.

[1] Incidentally, it may be helpful for you to know that I was rejected by every school I applied to (5 in all) the first time around.

[2] See Appendix A for a listing and description of the top schools and noted professors (as of 2006).

[3] In a similar way, OT students will need to acquire facility in the backgrounds of the Ancient Near East.

[4] See Appendix E for a listing of texts suitable for an independent course in early Judaism.

[5] See Appendix F for a listing of texts suitable for an independent course in the Greco-Roman world of the New Testament.

[6] The best option is to do two separate courses (Judaism and then Greco-Roman world) to maximize your potential.But, if time and/or other constraints do not allow, it is better to do a combined course than nothing at all.

[7] For instance, a popular class among Gordon-Conwell students is Harvard’s History of Alexander the Great to Constantine.

[8] Don’t let one person who is overwhelmingly negative discourage you from pursuing further studies.Maybe they don’t like you.Maybe they were just having a really bad day.Try some other professors.You shouldn’t trust the first person that compliments you either.Only if several potential referees express serious reservations should you really rethink the direction you want to go in.

[9] Also called curriculum vitae (course of life) in academic circles, abbreviated C.V.

[10] For a list of good journals to consider for submitting an article, see appendix D.

[11] A Good book review is not as easy to write as it seems.Bad book reviews, for instance, are choppy, overly hostile without clear reasoning, nit-picky, and/or disorganized.Be sure to write clearly, fairly, and provide constructive criticism whenever possible.The length of a review differs from one publication to the next, so pay careful attention to the details in the contract, but you can browse a recent issue to get a sense for length.As for organization, many advise that you summarize the book for about 3/5 of the review, and critique it for the remaining 2/5.I always advise students to offer the strengths or profitable contributions of the book (1-3 items), and then a few elements that were problematic, missing information, substantially unclear, or just plain wrong.In addition, a large number of typographic or grammatical errors are also worthy of criticism. But, really think through the elements that will help a person decide whether it is useful for his or her interests/research.A good review does not answer the question: did you like or agree with the book and why or why not?Instead, it asks, What is the author’s intent in writing this work, how was it organized, what evidence or content did she/he provide, and did the book accomplish its intended goal?The best way to learn how to write a good book review is to read lots of them.Study how different people organize them (if at all!).Pay attention to how reviews begin; what kinds of transitions are used; what are some common “book review terms or phrases” (loquacious, cogent, specious, etc…).

[12] For tips on how to write effectively see appendix G.

[13] However, there is a growing trend in the UK of requiring the GRE for American students.University of Cambridge, for instance, has quite high standards for the GRE and it looks like University of Oxford may follow.After that, it may become more common of the prestigious UK schools.

[14] When I had first taken the GRE, I scored a 600 on the verbal.Before I submitted my application I called Princeton and asked if a score of 600 was acceptable.The admissions representative, though he could not officially remark, did affirm that my score would be sufficient for allowing the rest of my application to be reviewed.However, when I received a letter of rejection from Princeton, I called again to see if I could receive more information about the problems with my application.Once again, the representative told me that in general the students that were accepted got a 700 or above on the GRE.


[16] British schools are interested in insuring that Americans can afford to pay tuition fees and general living costs in England.Therefore they require a statement that proves your ability to fund your studies.This is often accomplished by a statement from your bank or endorsement letters from family members and friends who pledge to fund your costs.

[17] I applied to Durham University in late September of 2005 and received the news of my acceptance just after Thanksgiving.

[18] For more information see

[19] Bockmuehl has announced that he is leaving Cambridge to take up a similar post at St. Andrews (2007?).

[20] I am currently supervised by Barton.

[21] Gathercole has announced that he has taken a new post at Cambridge (2007?). Incidentally, Peter J. Williams, also of Aberdeen, is also moving to Cambridge, to take up the post as the new warden of the Tyndale House.

[22] What is the difference between Aramaic and Syriac?Syriac is a member of Aramaic language group.

[23] The apocryphal books related to the Old Testament are those which the Catholic church has considered deuteron-canonical and useful for faith, while the protestant church has largely ignored based on their dubious authorship and doctrine.Setting aside debates of inspiration or authority, many scholars have seen that these texts are insightful regarding beliefs and practices in early Judaism, and potentially influential for the NT authors.

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