More reasons not to do a PhD

The Big Lie about the “Life of the Mind” (Chronicle of Higher Education)

…The ranks of new Ph.D.’s and adjuncts these days are mainly composed of people from below the upper-middle class: people who believe from infancy that more education equals more opportunity. They see the professions as a path to security and status…

…The myth of the academic meritocracy powerfully affects students from families that believe in education, that may or may not have attained a few undergraduate degrees, but do not have a lot of experience with how access to the professions is controlled. Their daughter goes to graduate school, earns a doctorate in comparative literature from an Ivy League university, everyone is proud of her, and then they are shocked when she struggles for years to earn more than the minimumwage. (Meanwhile, her brother—who was never very good at school—makes a decent living fixing HVAC systems with a six-month certificate from a for-profit school near the Interstate.)…

William Pannapacker (“Thomas Benton”), associate professor of English at Hope College, in Holland, Mich.

The Big Lie about the “Life of the Mind” (Chronicle of Higher Education).

See also: “Graduate School in the Humanities: Just Don’t Go,” and the follow-up essay. HT: Storied Theology

BTW, I came very close to pursuing my own HVAC certificate the year after I graduated with my Masters of Divinity.

How to write a good dissertation – the Atlantic (humor)

This is the same interview linked to in the post below—repackaged for those of you looking for a little dissertation writing help (and not caring much about story-telling). Jack Hitt (as if you know or care) in an Atlantic interview:

I have spent a long time looking for short cuts to the answer to this very question. But I haven’t found any. So, begin by over-reporting and over-researching everything. . . Begin the process of re-reading all of your research. Bail out of re-reading all of your research by convincing yourself that what you really need is a long walk to think about “structure.” Walk toward your shoes and look at them. Blow off the walk altogether. Descend into a shame spiral. Now, catch up on your HBO tivo’d backlog. After several hours, take another ride on the shame spiral. Lumber over to the desk. . . Write down the big ideas that form the superstructure of the piece. Realize you are a pompous git for thinking that ideas have anything to do with it and go back to that list of details. Set it aside. Read some blogs. . . Fiddle with writing a few more paragraphs. Microwave your cold cup of coffee for the third time. Go over your notes again. Yell irrationally at your spouse/child/dog/a bare wall. Now, kick the wall. Limp. Review. . . Paste a large sheet of paper to a wall and, standing up with a fresh cup of coffee in your hand, outline the piece in really big letters. Realize that you’ve misunderstood the point of the entire story all this time. Scream . . . Read the latest draft-like substance and think that, with a little work, maybe this won’t be too embarrassing. Feel mildly excited that there could actually be something here worth reading eventually. . .

[I could have done without the last line of his description, but some of what he says could put a smile on your face. We are not alone.]

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Farewell Tyndale House

Today we leave Cambridge for home. Most of us said good-bye to everyone at Tyndale House yesterday; a couple of us are still trying to eke out a few more hours in the library. Needles to say, we are all eager to see our families again. The paradox of this trip is that it has been far too long to be away from our families but way too short to finish what wanted to get done here. Some of us were only warming up.

I’ll try to post some reflections on our experiences here in the next few days. In the meantime, I will say this: Now I know why Tyndale House gets mentioned in the acknowledgement of so many dissertations. The Tyndale House staff was not only professional, but they went out of their way to show us the love of Christ. They have been generous to us at so many different ways – not the least of which is with their time and expertise. Tea breaks with the community here has been engaging, and . . . (more later; I’ve got to quick look at a couple more books and pack.)

Left to right: Nathan Joshua (Kenya, Pastoral epistles, patronage, leadership), yours truly, Daniel Hankore (Ethiopia, translation, Gen. 34), Andy Alo (Congo, translation, metaphor), Nelson Makanda (Kenya, Paul, patronage, and the Galatians), Karita Mbagara (Kenya; Acts, the Holy Spirit, liminality, ethnicity), Peter Yuh (Cameroon, translation, Nehemia, honor and shame), Ramadan Chan (Sudan, translation; justice, Amos), Richard Mutura (Kenya; Paul, Galatians; exemplar), Phoebe Muthami (Kenya; Ephesians). See also NEGST PhD students at Tyndale.

NEGST students on BBC Network Africa this morning: updated

This morning my NEGST colleagues Andy Alo (Congo), Daniel Hankore (Ethiopia), Nelson Makanda (Kenya), Peter Yuh (Cameroon), and Ramadan Chan (Southern Sudan) were interviewed on BBC radio – Network Africa. They talked about ethnicity, a subject we have worked on for over a year. 

We were in London yesterday to visit the British Museum. Afterwards, these five stopped by the BBC studios to visit a friend of Peter’s when they were called into the studios for an interview.

We heard it on-line this morning, but the interview was replaced in the later editions (Network Africa is repeated hourly for several hours) by something on human rights. It was fun to know that their voices were being broadcast all over Africa.

A weekend away (NEGST PhD in England)

For those friends and family who are following our time at Tyndale House, we got a much needed break this weekend when a special couple invited all ten of us out to their large country home near Worcester. It was great time to be together in a beautiful and relaxed setting, to enjoy some sunshine, and to do things like take a walk in the woods. We spent a lot of time talking about challenges facing the church in Africa and the multi-faceted ways leadership can begin to address these challenges. We capped the weekend off with a panel discussion at Woodgreen Church in Worcester on some of these subjects.

Today (Tuesday), we are taking another break from the Tyndale House library to explore the ancient artifacts at the British Museum.

Here are a few photos from our weekend together.


Continue reading

BNTC Arrival

This morning, Phoebe, Nelson, Nathan, Karita, Andy, Richard, and I crammed into a Vauxhall Zafira and made the four hour trip to Durham (The OT translation guys Ramadan, Peter, and Daniel stayed at Tyndale House). The Zafira has two two seats that fold out of the trunk, which means we can all fit, but there’s very little room for luggage. We’ll be holding any books we buy on our laps for the trip home. It was my first time driving in the UK, and we forgot left the map at home, but we managed to make here it in one piece. The hardest part was finding the college after we got to Durham.

In the opening reception speeches, they gave a special welcome to “six or seven” students from Nairobi. It was a really nice touch for us. (That seventh one is a problem; how do you categorize him?  A few people have assumed that I am faculty there. Why in the world would an American study in Nairobi? ;-).

There are a lot of American here. Nijay Gupta tells me that almost all the New Testament students in the UK are Americans.

It’s a lot of fun and pretty intimidating to be a first-timer here. As Nelson put it on the drive up, “we can now put faces with all those names we have only seen on the covers of books.” It was also great to our old professors Ronnie and Margaret Sim who came down from Scotland.

At dinner, I got to meet and sit with Michael Bird (profile), Nijay Gupta, and Jonathan Moo. It can only go downhill from here. I’ll say this much, Bird ought to start his own comedy show.

John Barclay gave his evening presentation ‘Two Versions of Grace: Romans 9-11 and the Wisdom of Solomon’ to a packed audience – at least least ten people had to sit on the floor.  That the questioning finally had to be cut off should tell you something of the quality of it. He stirred a lot of interest.

James Davila notes that Firefox hasn’t been working here; neither does the new Chrome which I have taken a liking to. So I’m back to old IE. 

I’d better get some sleep. (I’m only still up because I’m thinking of Christi’s six hour flight delay with the kids. They were scheduled to arrive at 9pm. They are now saying that it will arrive in in the next few minutes – 3 am.  :-(.

[Check out some interesting articles in the “Links of the Day” on the right.]

Daily routine at Tyndale House

[For friends and family] There’s not a whole lot to say here: Get up, get dressed, eat breakfast, get on the bike, and ride down to the library (10 mins); Peter has been walking (45 mins). Sit at the desk, read, and write. All ten of us are in the “hexagon” part of the library – see the bottom right hand corner of this library map (pictures for each section in the upper left hand corner.)

Being here has given some of us Continue reading

NEGST PhD students

In a recent comment, Eddie asks for a list of names. Here is a list with – program, country, topic, and family (and my nickname for some them.)

Andy and Ramadan

Andy and Ramadan at work - Tyndale House

Ramadan Chan, Southern Sudan, translation. translating the concepts of justice and righteousness from the prophets – esp. Isaiah and Amos. Ramadan and Mary have four college-aged children, and many more dependents. Ramadan is our “respected patriarch” and a real Dinka giant and wise chief.

Andy Alo, translation, Congo, “Translating the metaphor of light into Lugbarati.” Andy and his wife Yvette have four boys and one girl (three kids of their own and two orphaned nephews) ages 8-12. Andy is “the philosopher.”

Karita and Daniel

Daniel Hankore: Ethiopia, translation, translating vows and Genesis 34. Daniel and Dero have four children. Erome just started college in Nebraska. (If any of you have warm clothes to send her way, she’d be grateful). The youngest, Tumo was born four days after Liam two years ago – and helped kick off the first round of PhD babies; with the second round we have seven PhD babies so far. Daniel is our “evangelical shepherd” – keeping us in line and making sure we stay evangelically orthodox.

Karita Mbagara: Kenya, biblical studies, the Holy Spirit and liminality in Luke-Acts (maybe some ethnicity too). Karita and Jacinta have three children; the oldest just graduated from university and is working in the marketing department at KPMG. (Karita is “the respected statesman” – a true leader in every way. He has worked for FOCUS (InterVarsity equivalent) and still does a lot of pastoring).

Nathan, Peter, and Daniel

Nathan Joshua: Kenya, biblical studies, patronage and leadership in the pastoral epistles. Nathan and his wife have one girl and two boys; his daughter is in college. Nathan is “the pastor.” In addition to being a professor, he has been a pastor in the Africa Inland Church for many, many years.

Peter Yuh: Cameroon, translation, translating concepts of Honor and Shame from Ezra-Nehemiah into Kom. Peter and Joy have four children. The oldest is in junior high, the youngest is two. Peter is “Mr. Honor” for obvious reasons.

Phoebe Muthami: Kenya, biblical studies, community identity formation and the “then-now” contrast in Ephesians. Phoebe and Dickson have three biological children along with the many other children they have raised. Their oldest David was married last Saturday in a wonderful, unique, standing-room only wedding. Phoebe is our “mother.” Phoebe and Dickson also pastor a church plant in one of Nairobi’s poorer slums. (See for example this heart-rending story from the period of post-election violence.)



Richard Mutura: Kenya, biblical studies, Paul as exemplar in Galatians. Richard and Helen have a nearly one-year old daughter (just a couple more days), Becky. Richard is our “fearless leader”; he was our designated leader for the first few years. Eventually he asked for a break, so now we rotate the “representative of the month”, but Richard still takes up the reigns when we need him. I can’t begin to tell you all he did to make sure we got our tickets and other things we needed. Look for Richard in the Kenyan Parliament five years from now. Richard is the kind of guy who will go the extra mile for you – a midnight rescue. To read about his jail experience from his more youthful days, see here.

Nelson and Andrew

Nelson and Andrew

Nelson Makanda: Kenya, biblical studies, patron-client relationships in Galatians. Nelson and Carol’s one-year old son Andrew turned ONE YEAR OLD yesterday. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ANDREW!! They also are raising Tracy, their five-year-old niece. Nelson is our “politician”; look for him in the Kenyan parliament after the next elections too. Someone asked Nelson today why they would go into politics in addition to teaching. Nelson’s response: “We need leaders who will transform Africa for Christ.”

Not with us are:


Jackie Othoro, Kenya, biblical studies, Esther and social drama. Jackie will be going to Wheaton, Ill. to do her outside library research. Jackie is a wonderful and active pastor, and we all miss her cheerful personality on this trip.

Samy Tioye, Burkina Faso, translation, already did his library work in Jerusalem at Hebrew University. He’s our “rabbi!”; where else could he go? Samy is working on translating the concept of eating blood from Leviticus into Lobiri. Samy and Fortuna (one of Christi’s very closest friends) have four children – Eliel, Menahem, Myria, and Ayelette. For one of Samy’s recent adventures, read locked up in a Kenyan jail.

I guess this blog makes me the “Chronicler.”

I’ve slaved in the trenches with these friends for over three years now, and I can say that they are the most incredible group of people I have ever worked with. A couple of years ago, we spent five weeks living together and trudging around Israel. We all got tired, and a few of us got sick, but never once did I see any conflict. On a daily basis, I get to see their commitment to God and their sacrifice to other people. I can’t tell you how much of a privilege it is to be able to share in their lives and call them my closest friends.

First day at Tyndale House

It felt a little like the first day of school today. The scholars and staff at Tyndale House were extremely welcoming and helpful. I took a ton of photos – almost 100. [Apologies for the detail; for the next little while, focus of posts will be towards friends and family who would like to follow this trip. Click on them to see them full size.]

Here was our day:

9 – walk about 40 minutes (7 of us) following Karita – who was our fearless leader with the map

10 – orientation with the wonderful Tyndale House Staff

11 – tea, coffee, and cake with everyone who is here (double gong means cake)

12:30 – Lunch at the Cambridge University Center cafeteria – a huge “Asante Sana” to Dr. Mrs. Sim. She also showed us quickly around the old city, so we got our first look at the famous “punting” on the river (pushing boats along with long poles.)

For most of the rest of the afternoon, some people started their research; many of us worked trying to get our computers on-line with the network here. (Dr. Instone-Brewer and Troy, a computer software programmer helping with some special projects here, gave up their entire afternoons for us.)

Bonus of the day: At the 4pm tea break. We met Daniel Wallace and found out that he was upstairs piecing together NT manuscripts and photographing them – very impressive. For details, see The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts.

Quote of the day [after being wowed by all the incredible accomplishments of some of the wonderful people here]: “I bet they didn’t grow up getting pulled out of school all the time to watch the cattle or chase off the Maasai raiders. Some of us have come a long way and are happy to be here.” – (to remain nameless. 😉

Safe arrival and warm reception in Cambridge

This is for the folks at home following the lives of their loved ones. (Apologies for those of you with slow internet connections – the pictures. We finally have a decent connection. Wow, I click, and it immediately responds.)

The flight was uneventful with great views of the Arabian desert as we flew across Saudi Arabia right next to the Iraq border. Istanbul, Venice, the Dolomites, Interlaken, Zurich, and the Alps were beautiful.

Here, Ethan Sanders greets us in Kiswahili as we get off the bus. Ethan is a PhD student here studying East African history, and has done a lot to help us feel welcome here. Asante Sana, Ethan!!

Margaret Sim had a sumptuous dinner prepared for us at Williams’ house. [A huge thank you goes to them for opening their home to seven of us.] Margaret Sim has been a mother to many of us as well as former Greek Teacher and head of the biblical studies department at NEGST. She and her husband Ronnie Sim, who directed the PhD program through a critical period, recently moved back to their native Scotland. Margaret Sim made a special trip down here then extended her original travel plans to be here for us. She did a lot of work today to very generously make sure we were coming into a “home.”  We will never really be able to thank you for all you’ve done for us; we feel more cared for than you can possibly imagine.

Jeremy and Jan Peckham also have done so much for us in terms of arranging housing and other details for our arrival.

Tomorrow we get introduced to Tyndale House so we can begin work.

the devil is in the details . . . and a PhD is hell

Sitting down to write a dissertation is bringing out all the worst in me. If confession is good for the soul, then you should know that I am a first-class procrastinator. This blog is exhibit #1. I love what I get to do; it’s an incredible privilege to have focused time for study. BUT . . .  I am afraid; I think I know what a good dissertation will look like, and I’m afraid I won’t be able to cut it . . . at least not very quickly. My brain is already on tape delay, and I know it will take immeasurable hours of sheer grunt work to bring me up to speed on even some basics. Discipline! Get going! “Write you must!” [Yoda voice.] In an effort to give myself a kick in the seat of the pants (or procrasitate some more), I’ve been looking into a few study hacks and motivational tactics. I thought you might enjoy some quotes from this guy – Things I learnt during, and about, my PhD [You may want to read his disclaimer first.] Happy laughs. (HT: Jose)

. . . . This post represents the advice I wish I could have given to myself when I was thinking about applying for a PhD. The short version of this advice is: Don’t.

The devil is in the details – and a PhD is Hell

I came to my PhD with a fairly clear idea about what I wanted to investigate. In fact, I’d been thinking about it and working on it for the previous 2 years. However, many people start their PhD with a vague interest in an area and spend the first 12 months figuring out what novel aspect they want to pursue. Initially, it can feel as if finding out what you are going to research is the main hurdle. Alas, that is not the case. The main problem is that once you’ve narrowed your research area down, you need to keep focusing. And again. And again. In the end you’re left looking at boring equations, graphs and theories that are the complete opposite of the interesting and practical idea you started with. In many ways this is like starting a business: everyone can have a grand business idea, some people can tease out a feasible business plan, but the successful businesses are run by the people with the big vision and the attention to the smallest details.

Know your audience

It is important to understand, from the outset of the PhD, who your target audience is: it’s you. I remember hearing that, on average, 1.6 people will read your PhD thesis. I’m pretty sure that includes yourself, your spouse, your supervisor, your second supervisor and your examiner (yeah, that’s technically 5 people. If someone says they’ve read your thesis, they’re probably lying – they read page 9). You have to accept, that no one in the world will want to wade through this document. Ever. You might start your PhD with the intention of making a discovery crucial to the future of the world and winning the Nobel prize before you’ve even graduated. You will be very disappointed. No one in the world will care about your work. Repeat after me: No one cares. . .

[I have a great supervisor, so most of that part of it is irrelevant. If you are having problems connecting with your supervisor, check out the latest PhD comics and scroll back bit.]

. . . Being a PhD student isn’t like being an undergraduate. There a very, very few lectures you have to attend and very few regular assignments. There are no grades either. There’s also no timetable. Essentially you can work (or more often, not) whenever you please. So, it’s not like having a proper job. Even if you work regular hours (say 9am-6pm), you’ll be reading papers, writing papers, running experiments and any number of other pointless things during your free time. I tried sticking to a regular working day and it didn’t work – or, rather, I didn’t. If you’re like me, when it gets down to the nitty-gritty, boring detailed work of the PhD, you need to remove as many distractions as you can because, at this stage, just about anything is going to be preferable to your PhD. . .

. . . On the downside, for every job that a PhD will help you get, there are a thousand which it will over-qualify you for. . . . . . consider the PhD for what it is: a qualification to conduct individual research. Producing something interesting, useful, wonderful and absolutely cool is not part of your PhD. . . . . . 3 years sounds like a long time but it isn’t. . .

The two most frequent PhD questions

There are really just two questions that you’ll be frequently required to answer: What’s it about? Enjoy this phase as it only lasts for about 6 months. Once someone has asked the question, and listened to the largely incomprehensible drivel that you’ll reply with, they’re highly unlikely to ever ask again. How’s it going? The true purpose of this question is revealed after about 2-2.5 years: what they really want to know is “When will you be finished?“. The subtext is that a PhD is something to finish, not something to do. . .

There’s much, much more; read the whole post.  Better yet, save it for later. I wouldn’t want to lead you into procrastination. Come to think of it, what are you doing here in the first place? . . . Check out some of the Links of the Day – on the right-hand side of this blog ;-). . . come one, it will only take a few minutes . . . there’s great stuff there . . . really helpful . . . you really need to be aware of some this great information . . . I mean, what are you trying to do? Bury your head in the sand? . . . 😉

PhDs in Africa & worldwide

From Today’s Standard Newspaper. PhD: Rare qualification in African Universities:

. . . quality issues in universities in sub-Saharan Africa are directly linked to insufficient lecturers with PhD qualifications. Internationally, universities with higher ratio of staff with PhDs in relation to the number of students are highly ranked and regarded as centres of excellence.

“But low pay in comparison to that offered by alternative professional occupations has forced African PhDs to migrate to developed countries and Gulf States,” says a World Bank report on the status of university education in sub-Saharan Africa. It is estimated that more than 30,000 Africans with PhDs live outside the continent. [Emphasis mine]

According to Unesco, the most sought after African intellectuals are those with PhD degrees in engineering, computer science, mathematics and medicine.

Brain drain
Ms Mamphela Ramphele, a former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Town, South Africa, says: “The brain drain has left universities in Africa struggling to recruit professors with advanced degrees. The lack of highly trained staff has led to declining quality of education virtually in all countries in sub-Saharan Africa.” Those who have not joined the exodus to greener pastures have debunked research and many hold multiple appointments.

See also: Peter Materu – Higher Education Quality Assurance in Sub-Saharan Africa: Status, Challenges, Opportunities, and Promising Practices – World Bank Working Paper No. 124 – 2007 (Pdf download – 104 pages, 400kb)

PHD Students worldwide:

Recent years have seen a steady growth in the number of doctorates awarded in almost every country.

The highest numbers for registered students in 2003/5
(Powell and Green p.235, 2007)

  1. US (837,000)
  2. China (165,000)
  3. UK (111,000)
  4. Japan (75,000)
  5. France (70,000)
  6. India (65,000)

The highest number for doctorates awarded of those listed:

  1. US (42,000),
  2. Germany (23,000)
  3. UK (15,000)
  4. India (13,000)

Source: Trends and Issues in Post Graduate Education: A Global Review. The UNESCO Forum on Higher Education, Research and Knowledge. (See Heather Eggin’s Keynote Paper for the DCU/UNESCO Forum Workshop Dublin, Ireland, 5-7 March 2008, p. 3/17). – Presentation PDF download

Citing: Powell, S.D. & Green, H. (2007) The Doctorate Worldwide Buckingham, Open University Press.

Advice for PhD-minded seminary students

When I went to seminary, I was surprised to find myself almost in a minority of students who actually seemed headed towards the pastorate. (My orientation has clearly changed a little bit since then ;-). This post by Sean Michael Lewis (Covenant Theological Seminary) rings a few bells – Ministerial Students, Calling, and PhD Studies. (Thanks: Justin Taylor.)

Many come to seminary with a very romantic view of the ministry . . .


  1. Seminary is difficult – Greek, Hebrew, suffering wife and kids, and God’s work on their hearts.
  2. Ministry is difficult – field education, “grace-filled thorns” (2 Cor 12). I like to call it exposure to the “dark underbelly” of church ministry.
  3. There are hundreds of MDiv students. “You ain’t so special no more.”
  4. Seminary profs. start looking more suave than senior pastors used to look.

. . . you have to recognize that there are a glut of PhDs in the job market; that competition for jobs is ruthless; and that you are probably more likely to find a job at a college or university, which is why you should target your students as widely as possible (instead of OT or NT, go to a university for a PhD program in religious studies; instead of church history or historical theology, go to a university for a PhD program in history; etc.). In addition, I have to tell these people how unlikely it is for them to teach at a seminary that is serious about training pastors if they themselves do not have some pastoral experience (which, for some reason, always seems to surprise them).

. . . Do they really understand how unlikely it is for them to find a job–would they really be willing to go through the pain of PhD studies if they knew they didn’t have a job at the end? Do they really understand how insecure academic life is? Will they listen to me tell them how unsatisfying academic significance turns out to be? These students tend to leave my office discouraged; some still try to do PhD work, but very few complete their programs and/or find teaching posts.

There are a (very) few who want to do a PhD in order to equip them better for pastoral ministry. For these, I simply rejoice and try to encourage them not to allow the apparent blandishments of academic life to sway them from the God-given trajectory they are pursuing. . . PhD studies do provide are critical thinking skills–the ability to discern and divide issues, the larger and more sharply honed knowledge base, and the writing skills which should translate into preaching–all of which strengthen pastoral ministry, all of which strengthen the church of Jesus.

Read the full post:Ministerial Students, Calling, and PhD Studies. (And some of the comments

Cf:Interested in a NT PhD?

Bird’s advice to NT PhD students

You’ve all probably already seen this post by Michael Bird.

I beg all Ph.D candidates [that would be me] to consider the fact that

  1. the New Testament was written (as far as we know) in Greek, the lingua franca of the eastern Mediterranean,
  2. most of the New Testament was written outside of Palestine (James, Jude, and Matthew might be the exceptions),
  3. the interface with Hellenism and Roman society was arguably one of the driving forces behind the sociology and theology of Diaspora Judaism and early Christianity, and
  4. most of the early churches were located in the major Graeco-Roman cities and thus the life of the polis (culture, history, religion, literature, etc) was of paramount import to the New Testament authors and audiences.

Let me suggest a 12 step plan to get up to speed on Graeco-Roman sources . . . read them here.

What do you want to do with your PhD? (comic)

If you are doing a PhD, or married to someone doing a PhD, you should subscribe to this site: They send an e-mail every time they post a new comic, and the 30 seconds it takes to look are usually well worth the laugh (it’s free). Below is today’s comic. Apart from the goatee, this guy looks awfully familiar (hair and eye color at least). To be honest, some of his previous appearances hit closer to home.


As for me, I think I know what I want to do – at least the general context, who I want to serve, and the types of things I want to be doing. On the other hand, I know the downsides of the job market. In a previous job, I worked with several PhDs who were basically doing glorified administration. It struck me then that I was already doing administration, though at a lower lever, and that made me wonder whether the sacrifice of time and money was really worth it. Let’s face it. PhDs in biblical studies are a dime a dozen; PhDs in New Testament are especially common. A provost of a seminary once told me that for every NT position they advertise, they get well over a hundred applications. (OT was more like 30; many were pastors looking to come return to academia.) In my program here, six of us are doing NT; only one is doing OT. (The translation department on the other hand has four candidates doing OT translation; the other one is studying the metaphor of light in both the OT and NT.) As a result, it was a little tough knowing that by choosing NT, I was basically killing any real job prospects. I’m not that good.

As for me, my basic goal when I am done is to assist African scholars in research and writing and to support African Christian leaders in a variety of ways. True there are already great people here doing that, but the field is expanding rapidly and is a little less crowded. This also explains why I wanted to do my program here. Having done undergrad and masters in the US, there is a lot I needed to learn from the African context. (Otherwise, a library is a library; research is research, and I have great supervisors and good outside contacts. I can’t ask for a lot more.) Frankly, this is a close to “home” as anywhere for me, and these are my people.

There are a lot of different ways to slice the future pie for me. Funding it is another story. That’s always the rub isn’t it?