Latest pursuits

The past few weeks have been quite a blur in so many different ways, which might account for my lack of posting.  In light of the posting hiatus, I can offer no good excuses–just a heartfelt apology.  

To bring everyone up to speed on things: with respect to both Jenn and me, life here in England continues to go well.  We are beginning to get a handle on how to do laundry without the benefit of a dryer.  It’s really just become a matter of thinking two to three days ahead with what we need, and also keeping track of what we still have on reserve.  We are also getting used to walking everywhere and not being burdened with a car–and all that comes with owning one.  The only concerns we have to worry about with walking are: getting splashed by passing cars when it rains, the occasional poop from a wandering/stray dog, and “bomber” pigeons as we walk under bridges.  

On the more exciting front: Jenn has an interview for a receptionist position on the 17th with the major hospital here in Cheltenham.  (We have found it to be quite difficult to secure a job, but we are remaining hopeful).  The nature of this position is right up Jenn’s alley, which is always a good thing.  So, please remember her in your thoughts and prayers as she goes into this interview.  In more immediate news: Saturday (08-Nov), Jenn and I took a trip to Bath with a group of international students from the University.  I wanted to surprise her with it because I knew she had been once before (many years ago) and has not been back since.  So, when this opportunity arose, I knew we had to take it.  Even though we had to wake up at 5:30a, it was a great trip–long, but great!  We took plenty of pictures, and you can see them here if you like. (If the link doesn’t work, let me know and I’ll see what I can do).

We respect to me and my studies: lots of things have been progressing, and some things have been dragging.  I believe in my last (major) post I mentioned that I was going to meet with my supervisors about my research topic.  Well, I did meet with them and we did discuss the topic in some detail–especially its viability.  The conclusion of the meeting was that the topic needed to be reworked in light of recent publications from either other PhD students or other scholars working in the same field.  I admit that such an outcome was a fear I had going into the meeting, simply because my original topic was submitted almost two years ago; thus, I knew it would be a gamble for it still being a good possibility.  We chatted for a while more and concluded that I needed to come at the topic from a different angle.  My responsibility then was to pour over all of the texts in Paul’s (undisputed)[1] letters that deal specifically with my topic and see what emerges.  I was given four weeks to complete this task, which was quite generous.  

One week into the project, on the first run-through of the texts, I began to notice a theme that struck me as very curious.  I wrote down some initial thoughts and then read the texts again.  It showed up once more, only this time with slightly more intensity.  So, at the end of my second week, I e-mailed both supervisors with a rough draft of the new approach and they both came back with positive remarks.  I was given the additional task of jotting down notes on the specific texts I read, which highlighted this newly found theme, so that we could discuss it at an informal interim meeting.  For three days, I did just that.  At the end of those three days, I went in to talk with my supervisors–with notes in hand–and we discussed every single relevant passage.  However, it became immediately clear that I had come prepared in a way quite different than they had wanted/expected.  

My default mode of thinking is “big-picture” and trying to find how the all the pieces fit.  So, I was prepared to discuss how the pieces I had found connected with larger themes within the rest of the Bible.  I was quickly, and respectfully, told that such was not to be my concern at this point in my research.  My concern needs to be establishing a starting point and determining the significance of that starting point.  Thus, my preparation and discussion with the supervisors needed to be based on: “What is Paul saying in this specific text; why did he say it in that way; and what does he want to show by saying it?”  The rest of our meeting was a re-review of the texts I brought with me, but it was a re-review with me having to think in completely different terms–and doing this (admittedly) on-the-fly.  I struggled through the rest of the meeting with my explanations for three concerns noted above.  It was exhausting; but certainly worth it.

The end result of that meeting was that I needed to go back through those same texts and survey them exegetically–i.e., determine the function of Greek terms and phrases and how they operate within the whole of the argument.  I was specifically given the task of focusing on about nine major chunks of material–three of which were entire chapters from Paul’s writings.  The “part-B” of this task is to determine, after doing the exegetical work, what Paul is saying about my particular topic of interest.  The point here is to determine which texts speak either in favor of or against what I’m seeing.  This new task began just over a week ago and I am starting to make some decent head-way through a notoriously difficult text: Romans 8.  (I’m also working on 2 Corinthians 3 simply because I want to get the bigger, and more troublesome, texts out of the way first).  In this initial research, I have found things that do support what I am seeing, and I have certainly found some things that will require significant revision.  I’ll let you know what happens.

Just in case you’re wondering: yes, I am being intentionally cryptic about my new approach/topic simply because it is this stage of flux.  Once I have something more defined, and once the supervisors give their stamp of approval, I will spill my guts on what the topic is.  (Naturally, I will update the “MA, PhD, etc” page so that there isn’t any [more] confusion).  Until then, I will keep plugging away and keep pushing myself to go beyond what I’m used to–both mentally and academically–and try not to go insane in the process (haha).  I will say that having a wonderful and supporting wife, and having all of your thoughts and prayers makes this whole process both doable and rewarding.  I am thankful for all of you.  

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[1] For those unaware, scholarship has divided off the letters into three categories: 1) those undoubtedly from the apostle Paul; 2) those debatably from Paul–most likely from a close disciple of Paul; and 3) those that are definitely not from Paul–most likely from someone simply writing in his name.  The first lot generally includes: Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, 1 Thessalonians, Galatians, Philippians, and Philemon (these are the focus of my research).  The second lot generally includes: Ephesians, Colossians, and 2 Thessalonians.  And the final lot includes 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus.

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