I received notification late last week that I have been accepted as a doctoral student into Trinity College, Bristol, UK. I will begin this September. Trinity College is in affiliation with the University of Bristol, so if I complete my program my diploma will come from the university. Bristol is located in South West England. I won’t be relocating though since this program allows you to live elsewhere while visiting several weeks a year to earn residency.
Dr. Wenham received his Ph.D. from Manchester University and he has had a long career as a scholar and academic administrator. Currently, he is a part-time tutor. Wenham is a man who has a reputation for connecting the academy to the church. I appreciate this since I find the divide between the two to be quite concerning. Wenham’s scholarly expertise is the Gospels and Paul. Much of his academic career has been spent examining the connection between Paul and Jesus. (Recently I reviewed Wenham’s Did St. Paul Get Jesus Right? The Gospel of Paul, found here.)
Dr. Craig A. Evans is the Payzant Distinguished Professor of New Testament Studies at Acadia Divinity College. He received his Ph.D. from Claremont Graduate University. He is a recognized authority on the Dead Sea Scrolls, the New Testament, and Christian origins. Evans has been producing high level scholarship on these topics for many years now (see his CV!) and I think he is one of the best scholars in the world. I am humbled and excited to be students of these two fine men.
In the UK a student begins the dissertation process immediately. My proposed dissertation is “Jesus the Spirit-Baptizer: Messiah, the Spirit, and the Juxtaposition between Jesus and John the Baptist in the Context of the First Century”. I have been fascinated with early Jewish and Christian pneumatology for a while now, especially after reading John R. Levison’s Filled with the Spirit (who has become a friend and an important mentor is recent years). I realize that I think of the holy S/spirit through the lens of Christian doctrine (which isn’t necessarily bad, but it can be anachronistic) to the neglect of how spirit language would have been used in the first century, both during the time of Jesus and as the Jesus movement evolved.
Similarly, the figure of John the Baptist is not given adequate attention. This is not to say that there are not fabulous books on John. Recently I had been reading through Joan E. Taylor’s The Immerser: John the Baptist within Second Temple Judaism and Robert E. Webb’s John the Baptizer and Prophet, but there is far more to say about John in my opinion. John is one of the most important figures for the early Jesus movement and all four Gospels and the Book of Acts have something to say about his identity, which means he remains a problematic figure into the late first century, at least. Whenever these works juxtapose Jesus and John the appeal is to Jesus’ identity as the one who will baptized or has baptized with S/spirit. Why? Why does this make Jesus greater than John? Does this solidify Jesus’ identity as the Messiah while disqualifying John from that title? Would this point have been readily received by the earliest readers? My goal is to answer questions such as these and many more.
Now, I am aware of the debate between studying in the US or the UK (or elsewhere). I know there are good reasons for both, but let me say that the two most important factors for me were (1) with whom I would study and (2) what I would study. Trinity College allowed me to study with Wenham and Evans and my proposal was accepted. Aaron White who is a student in the program I am joining has written a nice piece explaining the other important advantages/disadvantages of the program and I think he does a fine job at summarizing the matter so I will point you toward it: Advantages/Disadvantages to Long Distance PhDs.
A parting plea: pray for me! I’m nervous to say the least. I know the job market post-graduation is ugly. I don’t know what the future holds in that regard. I do know I want to do this though and I have the support of those closest to me. That makes me excited.