Baker Academic

Monday, September 24, 2012

Interview with Helen Bond (Part IV)

This concludes the Jesus Blog interview with Helen Bond:

Parts I, II and III of my interview with Helen Bond are here, here, and here. I would like to thank Helen again for taking the time to share her time and thoughts with us. Do please check out her new book (great classroom text) and the Centre for the Study of Christian Origins website.

ACLD: I'd like to ask you a question that I am asked often. If a student wants to pursue a PhD and is specifically interested in Jesus research, where would you send them? Having completed your PhD at Durham and having taught at Edinburgh, you have experienced two of the best. Outside of those two institutions, what would you say would be the top two or three universities for Jesus research?

HKB: Well obviously I'd have to say Edinburgh! We have an excellent and large body of staff who cover a wide range of specialisms, the largest single site theological library in the UK, and (just as importantly in my view) a strong sense of community. Our postgrad students usually finish on time, too, and have a good track record of getting academic jobs afterwards. But I know you said 'outside Edinburgh' . . .

A PhD in the UK is obviously rather different to one from the US, mainly because we go straight into the thesis (there's no coursework). This perhaps makes your supervisor all the more important, as that's the person who you'll have most contact with. So I went to Durham because I wanted to work with Jimmy Dunn, and then later to Tuebingen for a year because I wanted to work with Martin Hengel. They were both great universities in general, but it was the supervisor which was the main pull for me in both cases.

Its a bit hard to say where I'd advise people to go nowadays - many of the 'big names' in Jesus scholarship are retired. Apart from Edinburgh (!), I might suggest that people in the UK look at Tom Wright at St Andrews or James Crossley at Sheffield (they’re very different scholars!). In the US, I'd go for Dale Allison or Mark Goodacre. My sense, though, is that the days of the big Jesus book are over, at least for now (who has time to read them all?!) - and in any case that's not what's needed for a PhD. I'd advise people interested in historical Jesus studies to do their PhD in something a little wider - second Temple Judaism, Galilean archaeology, some aspect of the social or political make up of Judaea in the first century etc. There are plenty of contested issues still in Jesus scholarship, and choosing something related to one of these would be a good way in. A thorough knowledge of one of those areas will also prove more useful in assessing various portraits of Jesus than simply diving into the literature and trying to decide between competing views. And if we're widening out the lists of topics, then we'd want to include a much wider group of universities and supervisors - over here, Durham, King's London, Oxford and Cambridge would all be good places to look at.

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