A Biblical Studies degree and a pizza

My best man finished his undergraduate studies last year. His course of study spanned ten years and three institutions. He worked hard, and his wife is very proud of him (and relieved). After a B.A. in Mathematics, he’s now beginning an M.A. in Philosophy. I always used to tease him about his chosen course of study with this joke: “What’s the difference between a degree in philosophy and a pizza?” “I don’t know–what?” “A pizza can feed a family of four!”

Of course, my teasing Diggs about studying philosophy is the equivalent of the raven calling up the pot and saying, “Hey, Pot! The Kettle called–it wants its color back.” Six years ago, I passed up a full engineering scholarship in order to study ancient texts for a living. Now, I’m working for big pharma, just at the start of a doctoral program in OT, and it could be years before I “make a living” in this field. I’m not ungrateful–just impatient at times.

Would I do it differently? No–maybe some individual choices would be different, but my chosen course would be the same. John Hobbins over at Ancient Hebrew Poetry has written an insightful post about the value of a degree in Biblical Studies:

A degree in biblical studies – or a text-based degree in religious studies – is not much more than a piece of paper if it does not develop your ability to collate and analyze data in cross-disciplinary fashion – at a minimum, linguistic and literary analysis; hermeneutics; political theory; philosophy of religion; comparative law, theology, and eschatology; the history of the text’s reception within Judaism and Christianity and the wider culture….

What good is a degree in biblical studies if you earned it at an institution that did not teach you to work collaboratively? If it did not teach you to “cultivate humanity” by coming to an understanding of societies, cultures and civilizations different from one’s own?

If you can’t make sense out of ancient Israel and the movements to which the writings of the New Testament and the Talmud and Midrashim are a witness, what chance is there that you will make sense out of the hopes and fears of your next-door neighbor in the global village?

At PBU, I certainly took some courses that were designed to churn out cookie-cutter dispensationalists who could teach Sunday school from the Scofield Bible. But more of my courses taught me to examine the texts critically and carefully, and to look at all of life with a discerning eye in accordance with Scripture. Thankfully, the school is moving in the latter direction.

I have been given the opportunity to teach a week-long course at PBU’s Wisconsin campus (WWC). In late October, I will be working through Numbers and Deuteronomy with 30 freshmen up in the mountains. I’m very eager to jump right in and engage the texts in study. But more importantly, I’m trying to remember myself–circa 2003, my first semester of college, my first time living away from home. What was I thinking and feeling? Where was I spiritually? Emotionally? Intellectually? How do I reach the minds and hearts of these young men and women?

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About Benj

I’m a native North Jerseyan, living and learning in Eastern Europe…an Old Testament professor and former liturgist…husband to Corrie…father to Daniel and Elizabeth…eldest sibling to three, brother-in-law to Josh and Hannah…uncle to Marshall.
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2 Responses to A Biblical Studies degree and a pizza

  1. Rebekah Devine says:

    I, too, am very grateful for my biblical studies degree from PBU. I learned how to think well and to become more fully human. I am excited that you will get to teach at WWC.

    You wouldn’t have been a happy engineer, even if you’d been debtless.

    • thinkhardthinkwell says:

      1. Very true.

      2. Even truer. Regarding the debt, I’ve been very blessed–we were able to knock all my undergrad debt off before we got married. Just in time for grad school! 🙂

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