Re: What NT scholars need to know (addenda to Krentz)

From: Greg Carey (
Date: Thu Jun 27 1996 - 18:12:11 EDT

To Edgar's delightful post Edward Hobbs added:

>>It was assumed, in my student years at Chicago, that the Ph.D. program for
N.T. students would take a minimum of four years, AFTER a 3-year theological
degree, and NOT COUNTING learning the languages, and NOT COUNTING the
dissertation year(s). So Edgar is exactly right--three years won't do it in
any really high-calibre Ph.D. program.<<

This comment concerns me. First, Edward's right. Three years isn't nearly
enough. But second, it seems to go against the spirit of Edgar's post. As I
understood him, Edgar was saying that twenty or thirty years wouldn't be
enough, either, and I agree.

My third reservation worries me most. Four years before the dissertation, not
counting languages, and with a 3-year theological degree (which, when Edward
did it, would have included far more in language and exegesis than current
degrees)--well, assuming we got started right out of college, we'd all be 32
years old before we could leave school! (And Edward didn't include
contemporary literary and critical theory.) Given current career prospects,
that seems a lot to ask. Who pays for all this? What about our families?

I might add that no other humanities field requires as much for the PhD as we
do already. To the requirements in Classics, we're adding material in Judaism,
early Christianity, and the ANE. Yikes!

None of the above is intended as whining. I love to learn! But what strikes
me, as one PhD candidate in one top-flight NT program, is that what I know
isn't nearly the same as what other people know. I recently had a talk with a
prominent HB scholar who did his work at Harvard. He said I should know more
languages. (I have Hebrew, classical and Koine Greek, German, French, and run-
to-the-dictionary Latin.) When I asked him how often his teaching and research
employed his Akkadian and Ugaritic, he said, "Not yet." Then I asked how much
my background in literary and rhetorical theory would help, and he admitted
that it would be extremely valuable.

No way am I a better scholar than my friend! I'm merely saying that only a
handful of scholars--including the faculties at Chicago, Vandy, and other
places--are truly competent in the array of methods that are out there.

Sorry for the long post. Thanks, Edward!

Greg Carey
Department of Religious Studies
Rhodes College
Memphis, TN 38112 USA

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