If anyone has ever wanted to ask me questions concerning the “Things I Wish I Knew about Doing a Ph.D.” now is your chance.  I will be on a four person panel at SBL this year fielding questions.  I am not entirely sure what to expect but it should be informative.  I hope to bring a somewhat unique perspective as one who is in a history department without a package. 

One topic I will certainly discuss, given the opportunity, is being fully aware of one’s funding opportunities.  I was told not to expect any funding at UCLA and was offered 8,000 per year by another university.  8,000 vs. 0 is a big difference!  What I did not realize is that while UCLA was not able to promise me a package, most Ph.D. students at UCLA receive TAships during their second year which pay about 15,000.  Additionally, in one’s fourth and fifth years many students are given the opportunity to design and teach their own course.  Thus, in the end it was not 8,000 vs. 0 but closer to 8,000 vs. 18,000.  My advice: make sure you thoroughly investigate funding options before making any decisions. 

Things I Wish I Knew about Doing a Ph.D.
9:00 AM to 10:30 AM
Room:Room TBD – Hotel TBD

Theme: Hosted by the SBL Student Advisory Group

Ryan Carhart, Claremont Graduate University, Presiding
Alicia Myers, Baylor University, Panelist
Ingrid Lilly, Emory University, Panelist
Kevin Scull, University of California-Los Angeles, Panelist


Next year I have been given the opportunity to design and teach a course in the Winter and Spring quarters at UCLA.  Last year I was given the same opportunity and designed a course titled: Paul, the New Testament, and Ancient Letter Writing.  While the course was extremely enjoyable and the students learned a lot, I have decided to design two new courses this year.  One of the courses will be called The Historical Context of the Earliest Christian Texts.  In this course I plan to have the students examine questions such as what is the purpose of the text, what can we determine about the author, the community to which it was written, and many other important aspects of each text. 

I am seeking input on which texts I should use.  The problem is that the course meets only once per week and will have 9 meetings for which a text can be assigned.  Thus with said limitations, here are my initial thoughts.

1. Paul – 1 Thessalonians, Galatians

2. Paul – Romans

3. Mark, Matthew

4. John

5. Acts

6. Didache

7. Ignatius (not sure which letter yet)

8. Revelation

9.  Undecided – perhaps The Gopsel of Thomas and another shorter text

Which texts would you include?  The target audience is intelligent, hard working, undergraduate students who will have drastically different levels of previous experience with these texts, many of them will have never opened a Bible.  I look forward toyour input.

Papyrology is an interest of mine and thus theories that are either based on or bolstered by evidence from a single manuscript are quite interesting to me.  In preparing for my course on Paul and Ancient Letter Writing this week I came across one such theory I had not noticed before.

This week we are working with 1 Cor 14:33b-35 and William Walker’s work on interpolations.  In doing so I ran across Phillip Payne’s work in which he asserts that the bar-umlaut in the Codex Vaticanus indicates that the passage is a textual variant.  Thus, providing some manuscript evidence that the passage in an interpolation.  In my own examination of the manuscript I can indeed confirm that there is a bar-umlaut at the start of 14:33b.  However, I have not done any in depth work on this manuscript overall.  I was thus quite excited when I saw this post on the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog stating that Edward D. Gravely has finished his dissertation on  “The Text Critical Sigla in Codex Vaticanus.”  Perhaps I will be fortunate to have him read this post and shed some light on this topic.

A second fascinating manuscript oddity is found in p46.  After Romans 15 there is a benediction and a colon before the start of Romans 16 (here is a website with some further details and a plate).  This has been taken by some such as T.W. Manson as evidence that the colon indicates everything after it was missing in some manuscripts.  Furthermore, Manson concludes that there were indeed copies of Romans without the greetings contained in Romans 16 and that Paul’s letter was sent to other communities as a last will and testament. 

It seems rather dubious to extrapolate theories from an oddity in one manuscript, but they are certainly interesting.  I must admit I would enjoy honing my papyrology skills under someone like Peter Head for a summer so I could have a bit more experience in this arena.  Unfortunately, UCLA’s papyrologist retired before I could take anymore courses with him but I will always think fondly of the courses I took in Greek Papyrology and Greek Paleography.

Well I think it’s appropriate to answer the question I am asked over 100 times at SBL every year.  It starts with someone looking at my ID badge. Then a look of shock appears on their face and they ask, “uhh, does UCLA even have an NT program?”  The answer is, why yes we do and a pretty good one if you ask me.  Now that world famous blogger Pat McCullough has joined the program this year I can only hope that UCLA becomes more well known for its program.  Since no one has heard of our program I will take the time today to tell you all about it. 

Like any program our NT program has its plusses and minuses.  First, we are in the History department which is among the top 10 in the nation.  This means when you take a class from any professor in the department you know they are world class.  We are given the option of tailoring our program to suit our interests and needs, while this is an amazing feature it can be overwhelming in one’s first quarter.  One can take classes in a wide variety of fields such as: Roman History, Greek History, Late Antiquity, Papyrology, Paleography, Hebrew, 2nd Temple Judaism, and many others.  Not only does UCLA have a remarkable History department but we are encouraged to take classes outside the department in Classics, NELC (Our excellent Near Eastern Languages department), and many other top ranked departments.  Do you want to learn a language well UCLA has it.  I’m not sure if Ugaritic or Akkadian will help your NT studies but if it will it is available. 

In addition to a wide variety of professors our students have a wide variety of interests such as: Anthropology, Magic, Manliness, Apocalytpicism, Paul of Tarsus, letter writing, and rhetoric.  Nothing is more interesting than talking to this group of students about a passage you find interesting, everyone has their own take on it.

One of the most rewarding aspects of my time at UCLA has been the ample teaching experience I’ve had.  During one’s first year at UCLA normally one will not receive a TAship and thus, in order to receive a tution fee remission one normally is a grader.  I graded for the 186 series which includes: Christian Origins and the Historical Jesus.  During one’s second year at UCLA often one is awarded a TAship.  Now this is both a plus and a minus.  On the plus side it is excellent teaching experience.  However, there are no NT courses offered that qualify for a TAship which leaves choices which can be somewhat unnverving (I always cringed ranking courses like African history 4th on my list, though admittedly the course would have provided me a lot of useful information).  I have been a TA for Western Civ: Pre-History – 800 CE, World History 400 BCE – 400 CE, Western Civ: 800-1600, and Introduction to World Religions.  Being a TA for such a wide range of courses can be construed as either a positive or a negative.  On the negative side, it is a lot of work to prepare a discussion section for a field in which you have limited knowledge.  However, on the plus side your breadth of knowledge is expanded substantially.  Finally, if you are one of the lucky few (as I am this year) you will be awarded the opprotunity to design and teach your own class.  This year I designed and am teaching my own course titled: Paul, the New Testament, and Letter Writing.  This has been a tremendous experience!

In order to provide you with an example of what a NT program can look like at UCLA, here is a list of some of the courses I have taken.  Bear in mind this list varies substantially for each student in our program.

Christian Origins, Historical Jesus, Paul of Tarsus, Spirtuality and Sexuality in the New Testament, Epictetus, Apostolic Fathers, Greek Papyrology, Greek Paleography, Roman History: Caesar to Constantine andthe Dead Sea Scrolls (with a focus on the liturgical documents).

Finally it should be noted that our program only has one scholar who focuses on the New Testament but he is excellent.  Dr. S. Scott Bartchy is well versed in a wide variety of topics and in addition to being a top notch scholar, he is an amazing mentor.  I have never encountered a professor who cares so much for his students and is so generous with his time.

Well that about wraps up my take on the New Testament program at UCLA.  So this year when you see me at SBL perhaps you will be one of the few people who does not ask me the standard question, “What, UCLA has a New Testament Program?!?!??”  Instead you can ask the second question, “So how far are you on your dissertation?”