Academic Genealogies

Academic Genealogies July 4, 2020

Some academics can trace their academic genealogy back quite far. For example, a while back Sy Garte mentioned the illustrious connections in his academic heritage. He also highlighted the website The Academic Family Tree, which alas has very little when it comes to theology and religion. When I initially tried to see if I could start with my Doktorvater (i.e. my PhD supervisor) and trace back to my Doktorgrossvater, my Doktorurgroßvater, and so on, I soon hit worse dead ends than in my genealogical research into my family tree of biological ancestors. At least that got me back quite a few generations before petering out. However, now that my Doktorvater Jimmy Dunn has died, I found myself moved to revisit this topic. I already had the blog post written, and have revisited it from time to time, but hadn’t made any progress and so kept putting it off. What is there to say, after all, about a failed investigation?

But there are now things to reflect on. For instance, I am of course a dead end anyway on this lineage, if one only counts supervisors of doctoral work. I teach at a predominantly undergraduate university and so do not supervise doctoral students. I won’t have Doktorkinder. And so it is perhaps also fitting in that respect that I found illustrious connections, but which are not ones that involve doctoral supervision. Jimmy Dunn studied with Charlie Moule, i.e. C. F. D. Moule, which means that his mentor was interested in Christology just as Jimmy came to be and just as I was, am, and probably always will be. Moule apparently studied (but not for a doctorate) with C. H. Dodd at some point (according to a recent blog post by Ken Schenck, who was my colleague at the University of Durham), and of course Dodd’s work on the Gospel of John is famous, and his assertions about the Mandaeans in that context are among the biggest problematic perspectives on that topic in earlier New Testament scholarship that I need to struggle against to make the case that critical use of Mandaean texts should have a place and be of interest to us.

Three academics of my generation at Durham put together a volume in honor of Jimmy some years ago, which I contributed to. Often these works celebrating the life of an academic are the best place to go to when trying to find out more about their early academic careers, including who they studied with. Below are two festschriften for Charlie Moule and Charles Dodd which include their curricula vitae and so allow you to trace their academic careers. Both Moule and Dodd spanned the church and the academy to a far greater extent than Dunn or I have.

If anyone is so inclined and finds this interesting, by all means take a look and see what you can figure out about Moule’s connection with Dodd, and which of Dodd’s teachers were major figures in New Testament study, even if they never served as his doctoral advisor. As with one’s biological ancestors, there is much more that is of interest to our family trees and our family stories than just the question of who gave birth to whom…or in this case, who helped whom give birth to their doctoral dissertation.


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