BibleWorks 7 oferece a gramática de Joüon-Muraoka

Publicado por The BibleWorks Blog:

BibleWorks 7 New Module: Joüon-Muraoka Biblical Hebrew Grammar

Veja no site do BibleWorks. Um trecho da apresentação da gramática:
Now available in the newly-revised one-volume edition published in 2006, the Joüon-Muraoka Grammar of Biblical Hebrew provides important orthography, phonetic, morphology, and syntax information for intermediate and advanced Hebrew students. Included are numerous indices, paradigms, a bibliography, and a history of Biblical Hebrew and Hebrew grammar. The BibleWorks edition includes hyperlinks and popups for Scripture passages and extensive hyperlinks between sections.

Sobre a gramática de hebraico do Joüon-Muraoka, leia mais aqui, em português.

The Lost Tomb of Jesus: resenha do DVD

Em DVD Talk, uma ácida resenha de O Sepulcro Esquecido de Jesus, que saiu em DVD.

The Lost Tomb of Jesus

Review by Holly E. Ordway | posted April 24, 2007

The movie

I’ve reviewed some bad documentaries in my time. In 900-odd reviews to date, some of the stuff I’ve popped into the DVD player has turned out to be real dreck. I’ve seen many “controversial” programs and many more that took mildly speculative stuff and puffed it up with a hefty dose of sensationalism. I’ve seen topics that I really liked butchered by poor argument and ineffective presentation. So it really means something when I say that The Lost Tomb of Jesus is, by far, the worst documentary that I’ve ever forced myself to sit through.

My main approach in this review is to look at the way the filmmakers handle their material (since to my mind that’s the main job of a documentary: to present an informed and balanced look at its material). That can seem like the review is arguing with the material itself… but my objective in raising counter-arguments is frankly to point out how the film avoids them and how it uses argument badly to make its points. I teach in my critical-thinking classes that the best way to deal with an opposing point of view is not to ignore it, but to address it head-on. That’s the perspective I took here. (As I take in all my documentary reviews: for instance, as a reviewer I had a lot of problems with The Corporation even though, as a viewer, I completely agreed with the points it was making.)I wouldn’t be making nearly any of the criticisms that I’m making, if the film had actually made an honest argument for its point rather than avoiding key objections and using rhetorical sleight-of-hand.

OK, so why do I call it the worst?

Not in the choice of topic: let’s get that straight to begin with. People have enjoyed spinning far-out stories about Christianity for about two thousand years. We’ve seen a post-Da Vinci Code surge of breathless conspiracy theories, some of which have made for interesting documentary filmmaking (Digging for the Truth handled the topic solidly, with only a mild sprinkling of sensationalism, for instance.) I don’t believe that there’s any topic that should be “off limits”: no matter what, everything is going to offend someone, and even a relatively blown-out-of-proportion piece can have the beneficial effect of stimulating viewer interest in a worthwhile subject (in this case, the historical origins of Christianity).

So no, The Lost Tomb of Jesus doesn’t offend me in the slightest by its premise. But I have to admit, the film did offend me, deeply – as a rational, thinking person. You see, I’m an honest intellectual and a great believer in knowing the truth. I think that it’s a good thing to really think through what you believe (one way or the other) and base your conclusions on real evidence and solid reasoning. That’s where The Lost Tomb of Jesus hits a nerve for me.

I have never, and I mean never, seen a documentary that so deliberately and consistently uses circular reasoning, ad hominem attacks, unfounded assertions, straw-man arguments, and general poor reasoning. One of the subjects that I teach in college is critical thinking, and The Lost Tomb of Jesus offers a blow-by-blow exposition of logic and reason being twisted until it screams for mercy. (Presumably the screams were dubbed over in the final edit.)

To begin with, The Lost Tomb of Jesus uses a quick sleight-of-hand to establish the premise. What if, we are asked, the family of Jesus took his body from the tomb to re-bury somewhere else? That’s swiftly taken as a given, and then we’re off to find the tomb. But hold on: the film never takes the time to establish that it’s a worthwhile theory. Why would the family even want to re-bury Jesus in a different tomb, given that the wealthy Joseph of Arimathea had already donated a tomb (which he wouldn’t have needed to do if the family of Jesus had a tomb ready for use, incidentally), and Jesus’ body had already been taken there and wrapped, with expensive spices and all? The documentary also assumes that Jesus’ family participated in this burial and later re-burial of Jesus’ bones in an ossuary (bone box). But if they’d done that, then all of them would have known, conclusively, that Jesus had not been bodily resurrected as the Gospels state. How, then, can we explain that James, one of Jesus’ brothers, who had been a skeptic during Jesus’ life, became after Jesus’ death one of the most powerful proponents of the resurrected Jesus? If he’d really seen Jesus’ body being re-buried (and later, his bones packed in an ossuary) that would have reinforced his skepticism, not caused a complete turn-around. Does The Lost Tomb of Jesus deal with these issues? It doesn’t even acknowledge them, which for me was a first strike against its intellectual honesty.

I could forgive this beginning, if that was the extent of the logic-twisting, but it’s not: the arguments throughout The Lost Tomb of Jesus are so consistently circular as to cause dizziness. Try this one on for size: Scholars have concluded, based on the evidence, that a particular tomb and ossuary belonged to Caiaphas, a key figure in Jesus’ trial. Therefore, it is possible to find tombs of major figures, and tombs are uncovered all the time in Jerusalem. Therefore, it would be no surprise to find the tomb of Jesus. Therefore… the tomb that is being discussed is likely to be the tomb of Jesus. In this argument, it’s assumed that Jesus’ tomb exists (and therefore it’s just a matter of time to find it) and that assumption is used as part of the very argument about the existence of the tomb. The Caiaphas tomb is actually completely irrelevant to the question, but it’s drawn in as “evidence” for what is really still just an unsubstantiated claim.

I lost count of the number of times that untested assumptions are used as evidence for further assertions. For instance, it’s an assumption, not a fact, that there even was a family tomb for Jesus’ family. And yes, it’s possible. (Though in my view, unlikely; Jesus came from a working-class family, and it was the wealthy who had rock tombs – remember how Joseph of Arimathea had to donate his tomb? That would have been to save Jesus’ body from being buried in a common grave with other paupers.) But even if we grant this assumption, and then further grant the assumption that the tomb the filmmakers are focusing on is that family tomb, that’s still not evidence that Jesus was ever there. Jesus was the one raised from the dead, not the whole family!

Then there’s the (mis)use of New Testament evidence. The New Testament is actually a rich source of evidence that in fact The Lost Tomb of Jesus uses to advance its argument. That’s perfectly fine – except that as soon as the New Testament material would point in a different direction than the filmmakers’ argument, they switch tactics. The lack of details about Mary Magdalen in the New Testament is used as an argument that she was really the most important disciple: theoretically the writers of the New Testament were suppressing the mention of important women to serve their patriarchal ideology. (Never mind that women actually play key roles in the Gospels, cutting against the cultural biases of the day.)

One of the ossuaries in the so-called Jesus tomb is listed as being that of “Judas son of Jesus.” That would seem to be evidence that we’re looking at a different Jesus, right? After all, every piece of information we have about Jesus indicates that he was unmarried and did not father a child. But wait! The Lost Tomb of Jesus can make even this contrary fact work into its theory: see, this son of Jesus was kept so secret that we have no record of him! Therefore, the absence of information about this son is evidence that the son really existed… and therefore the presence of “Judas son of Jesus” in the tomb is supporting evidence for it really being Jesus of Nazareth’s tomb! Is your head spinning yet? Uh, guys – either the New Testament is a reliable document, or it’s not. I’m fine with the filmmakers taking either approach, but they can’t have it both ways, the better to suit whatever direction they want to take their argument in.

Let’s not overlook the factual or interpretive faux pas, of which we have several. First, according to the documentary, the Church fathers in the second century did a lot of “suppressing” of other Christian texts, presumably as part of a conspiracy to wipe out the truth. Suppression? No – canonization. For quite a while after the founding of Christianity, there were a number of gospels and letters in circulation among the new Christian community. Eventually the leaders of the Church met and, over time, decided which ones should form part of the New Testament. Some made the cut, and some didn’t. That’s selection, not suppression. What’s in a word? Quite a lot, really. It means that we shouldn’t look at the non-canonical material as being somehow better or more authoritative than what made it into the New Testament, but the opposite. The early Church leaders weren’t dummies: they knew that the best texts were the ones that were the eye-witness ones or ones that were based on eye-witness testimony…. so we get Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, and a selection of key letters from people who knew and worked with Jesus. What we don’t get is something like the Acts of Philip, which is a third- or fourth-century work, and therefore hundreds of years removed from the material it was talking about. It’s less reliable, not more… but it’s on the Acts of Philip that The Lost Tomb of Jesus draws when it tries to work Mary Magdalen into the Jesus tomb story.

Then we get into the morass of early Christian symbolism. The film acknowledges that crosses weren’t used as a Christian symbol until about the fourth century (true)… but then goes on to argue that maybe people were using cross symbols before then, and therefore the presence of a cross-like mark on one of the ossuaries indicates that it belonged to Jesus. That’s not so much of a stretch as it is a vast and completely unwarranted leap. The Lost Tomb of Jesus tries to justify this claim by saying that there’s no evidence for early Christianity, its practices or symbolism, until after it’s legalized by Constantine… which is just flat-out wrong. The catacombs in Rome, for instance, supply plenty of evidence of early Christian symbolism (which includes imagery of fish, anchors, ships, sheep, peacocks, among other things – but not the cross), not to mention the symbols that appear in the New Testament itself. What is that cross mark? A mason’s mark.

A big deal is also made of the tomb’s location, halfway between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, which are claimed to be the two most important cities to Jesus’ family: a perfect spot for the family tomb, right? There are lots of problems with that. First, when you locate a family tomb, you typically put it in the important town, not halfway between it and some other place. Next, Bethlehem is pretty low on the list of important locations. Jesus was born there, but only because Joseph and Mary were on the road to register at the census. He actually grew up in Nazareth. Last, the list of “important locations” related to Jesus is so long that pretty much any spot in Israel is bound to be halfway between two of them. In other words, this tomb’s location doesn’t prove anything… except that it’s actually not where we’d expect it to be (Nazareth).

But hold on – doesn’t The Lost Tomb of Jesus give other, opposing scholars a chance to rebut the film’s theories? Yes, and… definitely no. After spinning out the what-ifs, could-haves, and it’s-possibles to make a particular claim, the film does cut briefly to a few scholars stating that they don’t agree. And that’s it. We don’t get to hear their arguments; we don’t get to hear their evidence. They’re whisked in to give the pretense of balance and swiftly whisked off again. The only critical expert who’s given more than a 10-second sound bite is the curator of the Israel Museum, who tries valiantly to curtail the flights of fancy of the filmmakers. But the main discussion between the curator and Simcha Jacobovici displays the opposite of fair and balanced treatment. The curator’s explanations are cut off, and Simcha Jacobovici takes a hostile, belligerent tone towards him, almost as if he’s trying to provoke him. (The curator remains calm but is visibly frustrated, very understandably.) The show of disrespect for anyone with a different interpretation of the material is consistent throughout the program, in fact. It’s stated outright that anyone who doesn’t buy into the film’s premises is biased by being reluctant to even consider the subject; it’s implied that there’s a conspiracy of scholars to validate other New Testament finds, but not to investigate anything related to Jesus. (Anyone who thinks that has never encountered the publish-or-perish mentality of academia. Finding Jesus’ genuine tomb would guarantee tenure for some underpaid professor of archaeology or theology somewhere!)

Finally, I also found the whole “search for the tomb” to be both disingenuous and appalling. Disingenuous, because re-discovering the original tomb at Talpiot really has very little to contribute to the topic. The tomb had been mapped; the ossuaries had been removed and cataloged, and were on view; there’s no real reason given as to why it’s useful at all to find it again. Kind of cool, sure – but not essential. Then there’s the search for the second tomb… which becomes “evidence” in an interesting way: this second tomb is connected to Jesus, because it’s located next to another tomb that is potentially the tomb of Jesus. Hypothesis taken as fact, once again. What this part of the program actually does is serve as an Indiana-Jones-style adventure, one that gathers its own momentum: if we get caught up in the excitement, we’re quite likely to forget that finding and entering the tomb doesn’t prove the filmmakers’ proposition.

That covers disingenuous: what about appalling? I was horrified by the cavalier attitude the filmmakers took to doing archaeology. There’s no indication that the team was composed of professional archaeologists, and they’re not associated with any university or research project; their approach is just to do whatever it takes to find what they want (including calling in a plumber, at one point, to knock through some blockages en route to looking into a tomb). In short, these guys are practically looters. I found the overall sense of disrespect for Jerusalem’s archaeological treasures to be distressing. Anything goes, as long as it makes great film footage, right?

I could go on – some of the logical twists are so absurd as to be even laughable. But there’s really not much point. The entire film is a conspiracy-theory engine, pulling up anything and everything as fuel. Any one of these logical faux pas could be forgivable by itself: after all, I expected a certain amount (that is, a lot) of sensationalism to begin with. But what we actually get is a consistent disregard for logical, evidence-based argument; it’s a slap in the face to any viewer who actually uses his or her brain.

It’s also far from unbiased, although it claims to be (and it certainly whips out the “biased” card to pre-emptively stop any rebuttal). One of the main participants claims that the film is taking a “strictly historical approach,” so its methods and conclusions must be valid. Except that it’s not: it’s assuming as settled the very question that lies at the heart of the topic. The film assumes that Jesus was not bodily resurrected, and therefore his body (and tomb) must be out there somewhere, waiting to be found. The possibility that there is no tomb because there is no body is discounted as something that people just believe, in the teeth of the evidence, as it were. This neatly sidesteps the fact that the fundamental claim of Christianity is a historical one: that Jesus died and was resurrected, and that the reason the disciples were willing to die on the basis of that claim was that they knew it to be true, based on what they’d seen with their own eyes. However, the film avoids considering that possibility as an explanation for the events surrounding Jesus’ death. Note that I’m not objecting to the filmmakers’ conclusions, but rather to their unwillingness to tackle the counter-argument. But even though I’d have liked to have the counter-arguments placed on the table for fair discussion, the film’s sidestepping of the issues doesn’t surprise or bother me. That, I expected.

What I find objectionable that the viewing public is being presented with something that feels so fundamentally cynical and manipulative. It’s not just a house of cards, it’s a mean-spirited one that devalues opposing points of view and insults the viewer by consistently twisting logic and evidence for its own purposes. I’ve seen plenty of speculative documentaries that I was perfectly OK with, but this is the first time that I felt that I wanted to wash my brain after watching a program.

Production-wise, how does The Lost Tomb of Jesus work? Pretty well, which is part of the reason the flaws in logic bug me as much as they do: they’re nicely packaged. The program is certainly engaging, with a fast pace and what I’d call a good storyline; the Indiana-Jones style search for the tomb has a definite energy to it. The reenactments are nicely done with good production values, sidestepping the cheese factor that’s always a danger: here, you could really imagine “you are there.” The section on statistics is explained reasonably well, with the use of a nifty visual to show how many people would have answered to names like Jesus and Mary.

In the end, it’s fun to watch if you’re OK with a “hey, it could be!” attitude and don’t really mind the problematic logic here. (I teach argument; it probably bugs me more than the average guy on the street.) Frankly, I wish the filmmakers had made a feature film instead of a documentary: their style is a whole lot more suited to fiction than documentary filmmaking. I liked the Da Vinci Code (OK, I haven’t seen the movie, but I liked the book) but it was presented not as fact (even though it was taken that way by some) but as loosely historically based fiction. The Lost Tomb of Jesus is, in the end, exactly that: a what-if fiction. An exciting what-if story? Sure. A factually sound, well-reasoned what-if story? Well, no. Shelve it under fiction, not documentary.


The DVD contains the “director’s cut”, which runs 105 minutes.


The Lost Tomb of Jesus is presented in a clear, clean widescreen image, at the 1.77:1 aspect ratio, anamorphically enhanced. Colors look natural, and it looks pleasing to the eye. There’s some pixellation, and some grain in the outdoor darker shots, but it’s fine overall.


The soundtrack is a Dolby 5.1 surround track. Some parts of it feel like it has decent surround, but for the most part it plays like a stereo track. That’s fine, since a documentary doesn’t really call for lots of surround action anyway. The participants’ voices are clear and easy to distinguish.


The main special feature is a set of interviews. We get four segments apiece from director Simcha Jacobovici and executive producer James Cameron, commenting on various aspects of the production and topic, and running about half an hour in total. In a section called “Experts” we get about half an hour’s worth of additional interview footage from two of the people interviewed for the film – notably, we do not hear from any of the experts who disagreed with the conclusions drawn by the documentary.

Minor special features include a trailer, a photo gallery, a two-minute “behind the scenes” segment, and a nine-minute piece called “The Lost Tomb of Jesus: Epilogue” that runs like a short overall featurette.

Final thoughts

I’ve noticed that many people who actually liked the documentary seem to think that those who criticize it must be Christians who are offended by a challenge to their beliefs. Sure, the “you don’t like it because you can’t handle the truth” card is an easy one to play, but it’s not helpful here. I actually think that the topic is one that could have been handled in an interesting, thought-provoking, and informative way… except that’s not what we get. I admit, I expected the film to be a bit overdramatized and sensationalistic (what else is new?), but I didn’t expect this blatant disrespect for logic, argument, honest discussion, and simple fact. The Lost Tomb of Jesus appears to be a cynical and manipulative attempt to cash in on the Da Vinci Code mania of inventing Christian conspiracy theories, without the least respect for the intelligence of its audience (non-Christian and Christian alike). It didn’t offend me because of my beliefs (which I haven’t mentioned here one way or the other); it offended me as a thinking person and a scholar who believes in using honest argument and real evidence. Skip it.


Revista Paléorient online

Descubro em Egyptology News a notícia de que a revista Paléorient, dedicada à pesquisa da pré-história e proto-história do Oriente Médio, está disponível online.

Transcrevo da apresentação de Paléorient:
Paléorient 45.1, 2019“The purpose of the journal is to facilitate exchanges between prehistorians, archaeologists, and palaeoanthropologists working between the Mediterranean and the Indus and between Central Asia and the Gulf, as well as among specialists in the various fields concerned with the evolution of humans in their natural environment. Twice a year Paléorient publishes several synthetic articles, notes, reviews in French or English, and a general bibliographical index of books and articles which have appeared in the two preceding years. Some issues are devoted to proceedings of colloquia ; others are thematic. All contributions are accompanied by abstracts and lists of key-words in French and English. Distributed in twenty-two countries, Paléorient is today recognized as the appropriate place for the presentation and discussion of the progress in research in all aspects of the pre- and proto-history of the Middle East. Founded by Jean Perrot and Bernard Vandermeersch in 1973 with the aid of the Wenner-Gren Foundation, Paléorient became in 1975 a publication of the CNRS [Centre national de la recherche scientifique]”.

La revue Paléorient vise à favoriser les échanges entre préhistoriens, archéologues, anthropologues travaillant du Levant à l’Indus, de l’Asie centrale au Golfe Persique, dans les domaines de la pré- et de la protohistoire orientale. Elle publie semestriellement en français et en anglais des articles de synthèse, des dossiers thématiques, notes et recensions ; une bibliographie indexée des publications sur ces territoires est disponible en ligne (site de Frantiq). Diffusée avec le soutien du CNRS dans plus de 22 pays.

O site explica ainda:
“Paléorient is controlled by a committee composed of fifteen members including ten scientists (at the moment representing paleontology, biological anthropology, prehistory, archaeology, zoo-archaeology, and geography). This committee receives the help of a larger scientific committee of thirty-six scholars representing thirteen nationalities and eight disciplines”.

PhD na Europa e nos USA

As características e diferenças dos programas de doutorado na Europa e nos Estados Unidos em dois posts.


PhD: UK or USA? by Mark Goodacre – Mark Goodacre’s NT Blog: April 24, 2007

Correspondent Zerihun Dula asks about the respective advantages and disadvantages of PhD programmes in the UK and the USA. I have some experience now of the USA via Duke University, and more experience of the UK via the University of Birmingham, and other universities where I have studied (Oxford) or examined (Glasgow, St Andrews, Aberdeen, Surrey, London), and this brief sketch is based on that limited experience.

Each country has its own advantages, and I can see why individuals prefer one over the other. The major difference between the two countries is the presence of course work in the American system. Each Duke PhD student has at least two years’ course work under their belt before they embark on their dissertation. This contrasts radically with most British Universities, where there is no course work requirement. The typical British PhD student in Religion or Theology will spend most of their time as a PhD student on intensive work for their dissertation. I am convinced that the American system is superior here, especially with respect to preparing students for employment as academics. They have a much better grasp of a greater range of materials, and the necessity for the submission of papers to individual course tutors means that graduate students are often preparing research-quality work that is outside their ultimate dissertation topic. It is now common for the best PhD students in America to get pieces of course work accepted for publication in major journals. This provides a major leg-up in the hunt for jobs. By contrast, I had published nothing by the time I had finished my PhD thesis in 1994. I had still published nothing until I got that thesis published in 1996. And of course that broader range also helps with preparation for teaching — American PhD students are not getting launched into course preparation in subjects they have never studied.

One of the down sides, though, with the American system is that the two or so years of course work can seriously prolong the business of getting your PhD. Let’s say you leave school at 18, take a standard American four year degree, a two year Masters and then at least four years PhD, and you are at least 28 before you can even get started on your career. In the UK, your BA is three years, your Masters sometimes only one year (sometimes two, depending on the programme) and your PhD can be done in three years. If you left school at eighteen, you are now 25 or 26. Those couple of years you have on your American counterparts you could use to travel the world, or to get some experience doing something completely different, and so improve your career prospects that way.

One of the things that has happened in the UK over the last generation is realization of the importance of PhD students getting a bit more grounding in the subject outside of the area of the PhD dissertation, which is why most universities now insist, as far as possible, on students coming in at least with a Masters. This did not used to be the case. And incoming PhD students will rarely jump straight into the PhD programme but will instead begin on “probationary” status and only be upgraded when the department is persuaded that the candidate has the ability and application to complete successfully.

Another major difference between the USA and the UK, as I have experienced the different systems in the two countries, is the presence, in the US, of the “committee”. All the way through the American graduate student’s life, s/he has the guidance of a three or four person committee. This committee has to approve the dissertation proposal, provides differing degrees of advice throughout the process, and is the ultimate examining body. In the UK, your supervisor is the ultimate authority until you get to the submission of your thesis, at which point you will be examined by an internal examiner and an external examiner. The internal is recruited from within the university and the external will be someone recruited from outside specially to read your thesis.

Both systems have strengths here. The involvement of an external is a strength of the British system, ensuring quality control across the different universities and providing expert comment in a way that can be greatly to the candidate’s advantage, especially if s/he is looking to get a version of the dissertation published at some point in the future. It is perhaps worth adding, though, that American universities seem sometimes to recruit academics from outside the university to sit on dissertation committees, e.g. I am sitting on two committees at different universities in the US.

Having spoken in favour of the British external examiner system, I should add that I am very impressed so far with the committee structures here in the US. While it can mean that everything is all rather “in house”, it has the advantage of exposing the student’s ideas and writing to a greater number of a people at a much earlier stage. More pairs of eyes, more guidance, extra wisdom can greatly help the student to refine his or her project, and problems can get picked up earlier. The system feels rather more community based too; several faculty members in a given area have stakes in a given individual’s research, and among other things that can also help in the process of scholars providing strong and informed references for job applications.

The big question, though, is the one about finance. There is a major differences here between the two countries, not widely understood. Many American PhD programmes come with money attached, so if you apply to somewhere like Duke, you are applying not only to be accepted into the programme but also to receive a scholarship. And the scholarships can be generous, paying not only your fees (which are massive) but also a stipend. As far as I understand it, it is not universally the case that being accepted equates to getting a scholarship, but the two things are closely linked. By contrast, this sort of thing is rare in the UK, and one should think about the process of application for a place as quite different from the business of getting financial help with the place.

For British PhD applicants, the process is in fact twofold. You apply to the university course and, if successful, you get your place. At the same time, you apply to the AHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Council) for funding. This is highly competitive, something like as competitive as getting a place to do a PhD at an elite American university. It used to be the case that anyone with a First would get funding, but that is no longer the case. (A “First” is a first class degree, received by only a fraction of students. Most students get a second class degree, either a “2:1”, second class upper division, or “2:2”, second class lower division; a minority get a third class degree). Now you need an exceptional First and exceptional references to get the AHRC funding. AHRC funding is only available to British citizens, so if one is applying from abroad, the big questions about funding remain, questions that are sharply focused given the current exchange rate, which is not at all favourable to American travellers.

I spent two years as Post-Graduate Admissions Tutor in the Theology and Religion Department at the University of Birmingham and during that time the most common question I received from international applicants was “what about money?” It was always pretty depressing because I was rarely able to give any good news about scholarships or financial aid for international students. The only good news is that the fees for a standard PhD programme in the UK are substantially less than their American equivalents, in spite of the fact that international fees will be double the home fees. Let me try to put some actual figures on this. When I was in Birmingham, international students paid roughly £8,500 a year in fees. Even at the current exchange rate, that is $17,000, much less than the $30,000 plus you will pay in top American universities. But if it is $17,000 a year you don’t have, that is not exactly good news, is it?

I should underline that this is just a sketch based on personal impressions of what I have seen so far of the two different countries, and no doubt others’ experiences and reflections will differ.


PhD: UK, USA or hybrid? by Chris Spinks – Katagrapho: April 24, 2007

Mark Goodacre has an excellent post comparing British and American PhD programs. Those contemplating PhDs should read it. Having completed my degree just about a year ago at an institution that is American with a strong British influence, I thought some reflections on the PhD program in Fuller’s School of Theology could add a third perspective to the comparison. [NB: I will be referring to some of Mark’s comments. My post will make better sense if you read his first.]

Fuller is a hybrid of the typical British and American systems. The first thing Mark notes about the two programs is the difference in course work. At Fuller we have course work but it is not as broad as what one might get another American program. Students enter with a declared major and minor. In the first stage, the student, in addition to meeting language requirements, takes five seminars, one of which is a methods seminar. This is typically a two-year stage. Three seminars per year is the maximum one can take. So, in this way the courses are fewer but more intensive and focused on the major (usually 3-4 of the 5 seminars) and minor (1-2 seminars) disciplines. The stage ends with four comprehensive examinations (3 in the major and 1 in the minor). Students with dissertation ideas already in mind can sometimes craft papers for the various seminars that will turn into dissertation chapters. This might keep them from publishing anything prior to publication of the thesis. Fuller has a pretty good record of publications by its graduates though. My dissertation should be out this year from T&T Clark.

The second stage requires the student to take 4 more seminars or directed readings. Most students take the latter. This stage is the dissertation research and writing stage. The first order of business is getting a dissertation proposal approved. Mark notes the presence of a “committee” in the American system and the primacy of the supervisor in the British system. Fuller is a combination. The adviser, in consultation with a secondary reader/adviser (kind of like the other internal examiner in the British system), approves the proposal. The adviser is also the one with whom the student will be working most closely. Sometimes the second reader does not enter the picture until examination of the dissertation. So in this way Fuller is very British: a primary adviser and an internal examiner. It is also British in that they recruit an external reader from outside the Fuller faculty to examine the dissertation.

Mark also notes the time and money differences. Fuller is more American time-wise and British money-wise. That is, it takes anywhere from 4 to 8 years to complete the degree like an American program. But, because it has very little money to give (it is a young institution without the endowments of the more prestigious schools), it can be costly like the British programs for Americans (and some Brits too!).

I’m not sure how the Fuller system positions it in the American landscape. Its graduates, by virtue of having a degree from an “evangelical” seminary, are up against long odds at any rate. Still, I was and am very impressed with the program at Fuller. I would put our graduates up against graduates of any other institution, American, British or otherwise. Many of them, myself included, have had to juggle a full workload in addition to the PhD work because of the lack of funds and the high cost of living in southern California. This is not an advert for Fuller graduates, however. I am more interested in the comparison of PhD programs. What do you think is the best structure for a PhD program? Why? I’d like to hear about other programs that are neither typically British or American. What are biblical/theological doctoral programs like in other countries?