What program are you in at Wheaton?
I'm working on a PhD in Biblical Theology with a concentration in Old Testament.
How long is your program?
It's a 3-year, full-time program. Many students take 4 or 5 years to complete it.
What classes are you taking?
I still have to pinch myself some days to see if this is real. I get to study with some of the world's best Evangelical scholars! This fall I am taking:
Intro to Doctoral Research - with Daniel Block
Biblical Theology - with Kevin Vanhoozer
Isaiah - with Richard Schultz
Guided Research (background reading for my dissertation) - with Daniel Block
What sort of work are you doing for Dr. Block?
I'm working as a TA for his Exegesis of Deuteronomy class. I get to sit in on the class and learn from him, grade students' translations and diagrams of the passages we're studying, and keep records. He has also had me edit some of his writing. So far I've edited his ETS and SBL papers for next month and the bibliography for a commentary on Ezekiel by Jacob Milgrom, who died before he could complete his manuscript. Dr. Block took over the project at the request of his family. All together I work for him about 10 hours/week, in exchange for a stipend funded by a generous donor to the college.
Do you have a dissertation topic yet?
Yes! At Wheaton a dissertation proposal is part of the application to the program. I've been chewing on my topic for about 20 months already. I'll be exploring the interpretation of the second command of the Decalogue (otherwise known as the 'Ten Commandments'): "You shall not take the name of the LORD, your God, in vain." A more literal translation is "You shall not bear the name of Yahweh, your God, falsely." I'll be discovering whether the command should be interpreted more broadly than it typically has. Most people in the history of interpretation have understood it as a command not to swear, misuse, or mispronounce God's personal name. However, there is a possibility that this command connects with the wider biblical theme of 'bearing the name of the LORD,' that is, representing him well. If that is the case, the command would be warning God's people not to claim allegiance to him while living in a way that is inconsistent with his character. I am very eager to dive into this project because it is such a crucial one for believers to grasp.
What are you working on these days?
I'm more than halfway done with the 6,000 pages I need to read this semester (it's ok, you can gasp here), and I've turned my attention to the 3 papers that need to be written.
(1) A paper I'll be presenting in San Francisco later this month at the Evangelical Theological Society meetings: "Psalm 24:4 and the Decalogue: A Mutually Illuminating Relationship?" Psalm 24:4 has a very similar statement to the second command of the Decalogue. The Psalmist describes the righteous person who may approach Yahweh (in Yahweh's own words) as one "who does not bear my soul falsely." I'm exploring whether this is the same figure of speech as the one used in the Decalogue, and if so, what the implications are for our understanding of both passages.
(2) A paper on the use of the word segullah ("treasured possession") in Deuteronomy. This is an extension of my MA thesis on the 'Peter's Use of the Old Testament in 1 Peter 2:9-10.' Dr. Block and I are hoping that I can use this paper as an additional chapter for my MA thesis and then have it published.
(3) A paper on the interpretation of Isa 63:19. This is a key text for the biblical theme that I mentioned above on 'bearing the name of the LORD.' If you compare the NIV and the NAS on this passage, you'll see that the translators understood it in completely different ways. I'm going to dig into this issue and decide how I think it should be translated.
Are you overwhelmed?
Yes, some days more than others. The first month of the semester was really rough. I dealt with stress and anxiety continually, and felt like someone was squeezing the life out of me. After prayer and some really helpful conversations with colleagues, family, and friends, I'm happy to say that things have really turned around. Most days I'm filled with joy that I get to do what I love. Writing these papers by the deadline is going to require a class B miracle, though, so I do appreciate your prayers for divine guidance and anointing for the task!