Saturday, March 28, 2009

So, I've sold out

Since about 2007 my particular interests have shifted away from doing work strictly in New Testament and have moved more towards New Testament and Early Christianity (both its history and theology). I've even considered changing the name of the blog or starting an entirely different blog all together, though I don't think that's necessary. I'm still deeply interested in New Testament scholarship and I think that interest is pertinent to my interests in the early Church. However, I think that studying Early Christian History (or Patristics or whatever title is given to it) allows me to have my cake and eat it too. It allows me to explore my interests in philosophy, history, textual criticism, New Testament, etc. It's a field in which I think I could do well and one in which I would feel entirely comfortable.

This fall I will be applying to graduate programs that reflect my more current interests. I'm most interested in Duke's Early Christian History program for a variety of reasons. I'd love to study Coptic with Zlatko Plese at UNC, do textual criticism with Ehrman, learn Syriac with Lukas Van Rompay, learn about Origen with Liz Clark, learn about Gregory of Nyssa with Smith, and - certainly not a minor reason - I would love to study with Duke's outstanding NT faculty. An interest I have never been able to shake is the Synoptic problem and though I realize Mark Goodacre is a multi-faceted scholar, to study that with him would be amazing.

Other places I'm looking at are, of course, Notre Dame (Brian Daley's work is very interesting and they have amazing funding), Yale (but, for some reason, I think I have no chance there...ever), UVA (Though Wilken is retiring, the work that Kovacs and Gamble are doing is very interesting), and a few others.

I'm going to be applying to both Ph.D programs and Masters programs. If you read this blog, you know there's no reason I should go straight into a Ph.D program, but perhaps I can hoodwink an admissions committee into thinking I'm smart enough. So, for the next few months, on top of little ideas I have, I'm going to be blogging about preparation for applications and such. If any of you have wisdom to bestow, let me have it.


Anonymous said...

good luck--duke take 1 in about 250 applicants. rather depressing if you ask me. wouldn't we all love to be studying there?

Josh McManaway said...

I realize my chances are slim, but I'm still going to apply. If it doesn't work out, I suppose I can always become a Geologist or something.

John Anderson said...

I received my master's from Duke in 2004. They are no doubt a very strong faculty.

Perhaps another thing you will want to look into is whether you want to apply for their MA program through the religion department, or an MDiv or MTS (which is what I did) through the divinity school? Both will allow you the same class opportunities; it is just a matter of what fits your interests better.

And in a fun note, I indeed learned Syriac from Luk Van Rompay (as well as Aramaic). What a delightful, hilarious man --- and one who will push you hard and not accept poor or inadequate answers.

If you have questions, please let me know. You can also check out my blog (, leave a comment, and I will get back to you.

All the best!

Josh McManaway said...

Hey John -

My intention is to apply to the MDiv as well because I heard it is well funded. Was this the reason you chose the MDiv/MTS route?

John Anderson said...

The MTS route is not well funded at all. MDiv's make more than MTS'ers, by far.

I will admit, I was underwhelmed with the financial helps provided by Duke for master's work (Ph.D. is of course another thing). But at the same time, it is DUKE. In hindsight I partly wish I had done the MA . . . but either way, what I did got me to where I am now, and I am experiencing much success in the Ph.D. program at Baylor (see my blog and profile).

Let me know if you have questions.

John Anderson said...

Oh, and of course, don't tell anyone at Duke I was underwhelmed with them financially!! Shhhhh . . .

Hypatia said...

It's probably different in the UK where I'm from, but I did a BA in Classics with one module in NT Textual Criticism with J.K.Elliott as my tutor - I was actually the only person taking that course, so I got excellent one-to-one tuition. I was so inspired by this that I did my research MA (no taught component) under him in that discipline. It was inspiring, and more importantly, gave me a small taste of what doing a PhD would be like; planning a thesis, lone research, deadlines, writing up and submitting, and a viva voce (defence of the thesis) at the end of the year: most valuable. It gave me the confidence to embark on doctoral studies in an area that I was confident I enjoyed. If you're thinking of dipping your toes into a new area of research, a master's by research is a great way to find out whether it's really for you.

Josh McManaway said...

You got to study with Elliot? I'm jealous. I met him at a conference and he was absolutely one of the nicest scholars I've ever met.

If I were independently wealthy, I would come over to the UK to do graduate work. However, from what I know, funds are generally pretty limited for Americans coming to the UK.

Thanks for the comment!

Anonymous said...

You've probably already seen this, but here are the admission statistics for the PhD program in Religion at Duke:

I don't want to be a spoilsport, but unless you are some kind of wunderkind (which you might be), I don't think you have much of a chance of getting into the PhD program. The PhD process is so selective that it doesn't really leave much room for students coming straight from an undergrad program. When I was applying to grad schools this year I talked to people at Duke and they told me that they only let in about 1 person per area of study. That means that if you apply to study early Christianity, you will be competing for 1 spot. Likewise for NT.

It would probably be best to talk with someone at Duke and ask if you would be competitive for the PhD program. Ask them to be honest with you and you will probably get a better idea of what program(s) you should apply to.

One thing that's nice about Duke is that you can apply to master's programs in both the University and the Div School, so you can better your chances of going there.

Good luck with everything, whatever you decide to do.

Josh McManaway said...

Hey Anonymous,

Thanks for the info. I am aware of Duke's stats. I've been speaking with Duke professors for a few years, trying to understand what exactly it is they'd like to see from someone coming straight out of undergraduate.

I realize the chances are amazingly slim but I still think I might apply to the doctoral program.

Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

I definitely think you should apply to Duke's PhD program. From what I can tell by following your blog, you seem to be on par with other masters students. Also, if you've been speaking with professors at Duke you already have an advantage and know what it is they are looking for.
Best of luck.

Mike said...

Hey Josh,

This is the 'Anonymous' that posted the link before. I just wanted to add that I have just recently discovered your blog, so I can't really speak to your level of preparedness for PhD vs. master's.

One thing that you might ask the professors about is if you can apply for the PhD program but still have your application considered for the master's program if you are not accepted. This is what I did and I ended up being admitted to the master's program (although I have decided not to go).

Also, I agree with the poster above me: knowing professors is definitely a plus.

Best of luck with everything.

John Anderson said...

The year I graduated from Duke with my master's I also, obviously, applied to their Ph.D. program in OT. I later found out they didn't accept anyone in OT that year. Depressing.

Best of luck, though. If you want to apply to the Ph.D. program at Duke, go for it . . . but if you want to have a realistic (and not appear presumptuous?) chance of getting in--and I don't say that with any rude intentions--I would go for MDiv or MTS. The MTS degree admits on average 15-20 students a year, whereas the MDiv takes about 100-150 per year.

Also, be aware that Duke has a relatively new Th.D. program that may fit your shifted interests better. I would recommend looking into it.

Anonymous said...

I sincerely hope this does not come across as racially divisive, but simply honest, that your being a white male certainly doesn't help your chances to being admitted to these programs. I recently applied to the M.T.S. program at a major university and was turned down. Of course, I can't and don't want to take the easy route and blame it all on my ethnicity, but after talking with my NT professor (who has a stellar record) about admissions to programs, he had such experiences and agreed that it is much much harder for the white male population to be admitted to these top programs. As unfortunate as it is, I still think you should apply, but just be aware. Your enthusiasm and skill with your field is probably unmatched for the most part, and it would be great to see those being the criteria for admission instead of anything else.

steph said...

How come most of the graduates of MA and PhD programmes are white males then? :-)

If I was choosing a university I'd choose one of three in the UK (I'm from NZ) and preferably Durham but as I chose my supervisor and not his department, I'll stick with the university I've got. I'm not enamoured with Duke.

Josh McManaway said...

Steph - As far as I've been told, there's just not much money for Americans wanting to do work in the UK. I'm not enamored with Duke either - I just recognize that they have people doing the kind of work I want to do and they seem to do a good job of training people to be scholars.

John Anderson said...

I was always told in my undergrad that if you wanted to do anything in Bible you went to one of three places:


Now that I am wiser (ahem) and in a Ph.D. program, I think these are probably helpful starting places, but yes, you want to go somewhere that fits what you want to do, not somewhere that has a name or reputation.