Tag Archives: School

Notre Dame and Comprehensive Exams

Another year of coursework has gone by for me and assuming I haven’t failed any classes this semester, this will be  my final semester of coursework at Notre Dame. When I came to Notre Dame as an M.A. student in the Early Christian Studies  program, my work had been mostly philological and literary. Having had several years here, I’ve had the opportunity to do more Theological work. I’m glad to have both sides.

This past year I took some interesting courses:

Eschatology with Cyril O’Regan
12th Century Cistercians with Ann Astell
Christology of Thomas Aquinas with Joseph Wawrykow

Byzantine Philosophy with Stephen Gersh
Theology of John Henry Newman with Cyril O’Regan
Origen with John Cavadini

Now that I’m out of coursework and into the third year, I can focus on my comprehensive exams. While some schools, like the University of Chicago, have set reading lists, we do things a little differently at ND.

Instead of having reading lists on which we are examined, we come up with 10 question topics. How this plays out depends upon one’s sub-field (Systematics, Liturgical Studies, etc). In mine (History of Christianity), the questions break down as follows:

4 Questions in Major Historical Period (Patristics for me)

3 Questions in Minor Historical Period (Medieval)

3 Questions in Minor Area (Systematic Theology)

(Once I have my topics approved by my advisor, I’ll post those too)

Our topics are due in September, but I’m hoping to have mine turned in by late July so I can get a head start. I’m excited to fill in some gaps in my knowledge and strengthen some of the interests I’ve developed over the years. The third year is often seen by ND students as one of the best years in the Ph.D program because your primary responsibility is to read all the time. I think this is what I envisioned graduate studies would be anyway – long hours spent in a coffee shop, pouring over books and soaking up knowledge like an academic sponge. Your time in coursework is somewhat like that, but the pressure of papers and producing academic work can suck the fun out of reading pretty quickly.


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Latin vs. Mandarin

Thanks to Darrell Pursiful who thanks the author at Rogue Classicism (an excellent blog!) for pointing out this great article on why it’s a good thing to learn Latin.

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Discount books

For both today and tomorrow, University of Notre Dame Press is selling its overstock books in Hesburgh library for around 65% off. After my Latin class today (which meets in our awesome Medieval Institute in the library) I found three books that I think I’m going to enjoy:

Reading and Wisdom: The De Doctrina Christiana of Augustine in the Middle Ages (ed. Edward English)

Augustine and the Bible (ed. and trans. Pamela Bright)

Reading in Christian Communities: Essays on Interpretation in the Early Church (ed. Charles Bobertz & David Brakke)

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What is Tertullian saying?

In my Latin course this morning, there was some discussion over what Tertullian means here in the Apologeticum (XXXIX.2):

Coimus in coetum et congregationem facimus, ut ad Deum quasi manu facta precationibus ambiamus. Haec vis Deo grata est.

Which I took to mean, “We unite in assembly and we surround God with our prayers just as a band of soldiers (manu facta). This violence is pleasing to God.” In other words – the only ‘violence’ done by the Christians is surrounding God with prayers. Am I completely off-base or is this how you would read it?

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This is too beautiful not to share

This semester I’m taking a course on Greek Hymnody and for tomorrow we’re translating a few ἀπολυτίκια (Hymns sung all throughout the feast day). This is the one sung on Feb. 2nd, the presentation of Christ in the Temple.

Χαῖρε χεκαριτωμένη Θεοτόκε Παρθένε
ἐχ σοῦ γὰρ ἀνέτειλεν ὁ Ἥλιος τῆς διχαιοσύνης
Χριστὸς ὁ Θεὸς ἡμῶν, φωτίζων τοὺς ἐν σχότει.
Εὐφραίνου καὶ σὺ Πρεσβύτα δίχαιε
δεξάμενος ἐν ἀγχάλαις τὸν ἐλευθερωτὴν τῶν ψυχῶν ἡμῶν
χαριζόμενος ἡμῖν καὶ τὴν Ἀνάστασιν.

Hail Full of Grace, Virgin Mother of God!
From you the Sun of righteousness arose
Christ our God, lighting those in the darkness.
Be glad, righteous presbyter,
Holding in your arms the Liberator of our souls,
the One who grants the resurrection to us.

N.B.: Mary is not here being called a presbyter. The Greek Πρεσβύτα (Presbyter) is masculine. The latter half of the hymn is talking to Simeon (cf. Luke 2.21-35). **Edited with the help of Esteban’s comments!**


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Christianity and Classics

Currently I’m in the midst of getting all of my applications together for grad school next year. I’ve gone back and forth on a particular issue and so I wanted to ask the Biblioblogger community their thoughts.

If my interests are in Christianity in the Late Antique, why shouldn’t I apply to Classics programs? Why isn’t Christianity studied as another religion among many in the Roman empire?


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Martyrdom of Polycarp as Encouragment for Self-Denial

2.3 For even when they were so torn by whips that the internal structure of their flesh was visible as far as the inner veins and arteries, they endured so patiently that even the bystanders had pity and wept. But they themselves reached such a level of bravery that not one of them uttered a cry or a groan, thus showing to us all that the very hour when they were being tortured the martyrs of Christ were absent from the flesh, or rather that the Lord was standing by and conversing with them. And turning their thoughts to the grace of Christ they despised the tortures of this world, purchasing at the cost of one hour an exemption from eternal punishment. And the fire of their inhuman torturers felt cold to them, for they set before their eyes the escape from that eternal fire which is never extinguished, while with the eyes of their heart they gazed upon the good things that are reserved for those who endure patiently, things that neither ear has heard nor eye has seen, nor has it entered into the human heart, but that were shown to them by the Lord, for they were no longer humans, but already angels. (Trans. Michael Holmes in his Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations)

In my bi-weekly Ancient Greek Reading Group we have begun to read the Martyrdom of Polycarp after finishing Book IX of the Odyssey.  Having recently read J. Warren Smith’s article Martyrdom: Self-Denial or Self-Exaltation? Motives for Self-Sacrifice From Homer to Polycarp: A Theological Reflection(Modern Theology 22, April 2006), I’m reading this text with fresh eyes. The section of text there is incredibly gory – ” μεχρι των εσω φλεβων και αρτηριων την της σαρκος οικονομιαν θεωρεισθαι” – and for good purpose. The author of this text is trying to get people to stop throwing themselves to the Romans as cowardly Quintus had done (who ultimately rejected Christ at the last hour) and to suffer martyrdom, if it be necessary, “according to the Gospel”, that is, as Jesus Christ and Polycarp both did – by allowing the Romans to come and get you.

I also learned a couple new Greek words in this section. The first is εξαγοραζομενος – which  means “paying off” or “purchashing”, but you “buy” X in the genitive with “Y” in the accusative. Very interesting.

The other word is one I already knew, but with a different meaning. In 2.4 we see κηρυκας not as “heralds”, but rather “Trumpet shells.” These shells were placed under those being tortured to make things less comfortable.

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GRE Test Prep Help

I’ve found this site helpful in preparing me for the dreaded GRE: http://www.number2.com (I’m supposing that number 2 refers to the pencils and not something else).

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My University’s Library Actually Listened to Me

Months ago I submitted a request on the library’s website to purchase a copy of James Crossley‘s  Why Christianity Happened: A Sociohistorical Account of Christian Origins (26-50CE) and they did! I feel so empowered.

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Chronicle of Higher Education and Budgetary Crises

There is a fascinating article in today’s Chronicle regarding various universities’ decisions to cut faculty in order to stay on budget. The reality of university budgets is that they are predominately spent on salaries, so when cuts need to be made they naturally have to dip into those positions.

Like most universities, ECU is facing a financial crisis as well. A few months ago I attended a meeting in downtown Greenville held by professors in various humanities departments. Four professors gave papers on why the humanities are vital in the university. Dr. Peter Green gave an opening address which was really an apologia for the humanities (and, unfortunately, one of the strongest arguments put forth all night). When I showed up to the meeting I figured it would be a nice time to hang out with some professors and chat a bit, but I quickly realized this was more than chatting – these people weren’t simply fighting for some esoteric idea, they were fighting for their jobs. The dean of the college was in attendance and it was basically him who needed to be convinced of the humanities’ importance. Dean White is, by training, a Botanist – so he’s not exactly the “choir” to whom humanities professors want to preach.

I am involved in two programs at ECU (Classics and Religion), neither of which graduate large amounts of people. An example: my girlfriend recently graduated with her B.S. in Biology – her graduation ceremony was held in the auditorium and they gave out somewhere along the lines of 150 undergraduate degrees. When I went to the Classics graduation (which is combined with the Foreign Languages and Literatures) to receive an award,  it was held in a classroom. Every language major coupled with the Classics majors added up to be a whopping 14 people. I believe 1 of those 14 was a Classical Civilizations major. This is a scary time for professors at universities where “vertical cuts” are considered an option.

The article also mentions a university that is cutting its Philosophy program in its entirety. This is unimaginable to me. How can a university exist without a Philosophy program? Socrates is undoubtedly rolling over in his grave.


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