Thursday, October 28, 2010

Are you sure you want to do a PhD?

Rob Cargill Posted this on his blog. Everyone who wants to do a PhD should watch it. They don't call it a terminal degree for nothing. If the program doesn't kill you the search for a job just might. I have many students who came to me and ask about doing a PhD in biblical studies. This video is obviously intended to warn people of doing a PhD in the humanities. We still need good people in the field, but you should know what the future holds.


16 comments:

  1. Great video. There is humor in truth. Humanities must be a tough field to get into, right Dr. Byron? This certainly couldn't be the way it is for say, Biblical Studies? :0)

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  2. I have thought for a number of years that Religion and Theology Departments should be rolled into History departments. There seems to be a lot of useless redundancy. Is anyone getting anything done. Ever search for a list of the ten most important discoveries in Christian history in the last year? the last 5, the last ten? Seems like lists like that don't exist. Seems like very little new has been discovered since the time of Strauss and Schwetizer.

    Of course all the folks that are in religion departments to promote religions would not move into history departments, but would simply go to the priesthood.

    Cheers! RichGriese@gmail.com

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  3. Richard,

    "Seems like very little new has been discovered since the time of Strauss and Schwetizer." ???? Are you kidding me? What about the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Gnositc material? Is anyone getting anything done??? I am not sure where you are looking but I will be in Atlanta next month for the Society of Biblical Literature and there will be evidence of a lot getting done.

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  4. In light of this video, any regrets?

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  5. Hahahahahaha. While sobering, this is funny. People need to not have an idealistic view that they're going to come out fresh from a PhD program into a tenure track position.

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  6. Hello Bible World,

    So what are the ten biggest discoveries with regard to Christian history in the last ten years. I started by saying I can't think of any in the last five or ten years, and then went all the way back to Strauss. In your exception to my comment, you mention something that happened in 1948 or so, that's 62 years ago, and it is only one. And not really much was DONE with regard to that. They simply got some stuff from some arabs that happen to come accross it.

    Names me the top ten advances with regard to our knowledge of Christian history that have happened in the last ten years? Even when I ask folks in the field this, none have really been able to mention any. One of all the ones I did ask said "advances in textual criticism". But that is not really an advance in Christian history, that is a tool that could be used to discover things. When I asked him what major discoveries were done with such a tool in the last ten years, he could not name one major thing.

    Can you give me a list of the ten biggest advances in the study of Christian history in the last ten years?

    Cheers! RichGriese.NET

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  7. Richard,

    Why 10 years? This seems like such an arbitrary time frame? This is humanities,not technology. And I am not sure how you can see that the Dead Sea
    Scrolls did not result in much. They enabled us to push back manuscripts for the Bible by 1,000 years. They gave us texts that we had never known and they helped us to better understand the world of Judaism much better.

    The discovery of Gnositc texts have helped us to understand the diversity of early Christianity, including the Gospel of Judas which was only came to light in the last ten years.

    I am not sure what else you are looking for. You are correct that our field is similar to history, but we don't treat advances the same way that you do technology. So I am unsure what you are driving at.

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  8. Off the top of my head, I will add to what Dr. Byron mentioned there are many Syriac documents sitting around waiting to be translated and studied (i.e., "discovered"). There is much work to be done in Eastern Christian tradition.

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  9. With reference to discoveries, it needs to be kept in mind that there can be a backlog of data in terms of manuscripts sitting in monasteries and the Vatican that no one has just gotten around to translating and analyzing yet. So there are certainly discoveries that can be made.

    With reference to the subject of the video itself, I think that potential Christian scholars need to always ask themselves why they are planning to go into academia. It is something that I have certainly had to ask of myself. If it is to become the next N.T. Wright, with all the concomitant fame that goes along with that, then one should probably reevaluate one's motivations. If one honestly feels a call to teach, then perhaps one should pursue that. Though it should also be kept in mind that one does not need a PhD to be a lifelong learner, nor does one only need to teach within the context of being a university professor.

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  10. Here is a song parody which I wrote and recorded which also addresses this point!

    http://www.drbill.net/music/main_music/Education%20Humor/Bill_Griffin_-_We_Are_The_Scholars.mp3

    Bill Griffin
    Professor of Hebrew Bible
    Evangel University
    griffinw@evangel.edu

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  11. Bill,

    This is great. I am Queen fan and this was funny!

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  12. Thanks! I have a lot of other theological/educational/etc. humor/parodies at www.drbill.net/music/index.htm

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  13. Hello John,

    It seems like you are avoiding answering the question, by asking questions about whey I am asking the question. But, ok, if you cannot come up with a list of ten things, I understand. As I said, I have asked this question of scholars, and none seems to be able to come up with a list.

    If you, or anyone reading this post, can or do think of a list feel free to email them to me. I am always looking for folks list of the what people think are the ten most important advances in our understanding of christian history since the time of Strauss and Schweitzer.

    Cheers! RichGriese@gmail.com

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  14. I guess I'm not sure why Rich is a part of the conversation. What would the implication be if there have not been significant advances in the past ten year? Would biblical studies lose legitimacy? I guess I fail to see Rich's point. Perhaps an analogy would help: There have not been significant advances in, say, military tactics or theories of war. Yet, we still train. There are still tactical schools, and studies in military theory. Does that fact that military history and tactics evolve in circular ways de-legitimize the study of tactics and theory itself?

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  16. love the video! i have that conversation from time to time with starry eyed students who just got their first A and suddenly start thinking about their research careers.

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