Comprehensive Ph.D. Exams: The Third (and FINAL!) Day

Today, I finished my last of three days of comprehensive Ph.D. exams. See my two posts immediately below for information (and the questions I got) on the first two sessions.

Today was New Testament for me. I had 11 potential questions I could have received. Here is what I ended up getting.

Question 1 (choose one)
Choose one representative NT interpreter from the “pre-modern,” “modern,” and “post-modern” approaches. Situate each interpreter in his/her social, historical, and institutional context, describing his/her approach to biblical interpretation. Compare the methods and goals of interpretation of each interpreter, noting strengths and weaknesses of each approach. Do this using the same biblical material for each interpreter. Develop and defend your own hermeneutical position.


In modern Protestantism, fundamentalist, liberal, neo-orthodox, and narrative theologians have had distinctive approaches to the use of the NT in constructive Christian ethics. Take either the issue of “women” or that of “homosexuality” and show how each of the four groups might argue from biblical data to a constructive Christian ethical stance

Question 2 (choose one)
Study of the Fourth Gospel and the Three Johannine epistles has focused of late on teh development of the Johannine community with scholars like J. Louis Martyn and Raymond E. Brown on the one side and scholars like Georg Strecker and Udo Schnelle on the other. Describe the two sides’ positions and indicate the ramifications of adhering to one or the other position (e.g., history of religions focus and purpose of the writings)


What is the key to Paul’s theology? Evaluate the answers of F.C. Baur, A. Schweitzer, James S. Stewart, R. Bultmann, E.P. Sanders, Ben Witherington III, and James D.G. Dunn. Does the renewed study of ancient epistolary literature and of ancient rhetoric have any impact on how Paul’s theology is understood today? What does?

Question 3 (choose one)
Explain the significance of the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and in A.D. 135 for the various forms of Middle Judaism. (In your answer be sure to include at least the Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots, Essenes, Apocalypticists, and the Christian Messianists).


Assuming that at least one of the general epistles involves pseudonymous authorship, set such a practice in its cultural context in Mediterranean antiquity and indicate and evaluate the historical and theological issues involved in such a practice.

I answered the first question listed in each set. In total I wrote about 21 pages today, so that brings my grand total for the entire set of exams to about 67-70 pages in 3 days (15 hours). Not too shabby! I should hopefully be hearing back results within a week!

I can say now, in hindsight, that this was to be sure a quite stressful process, but at the same time, a very rewarding one. Not only do I have a very fine overview of the field, but I have also filled in many of the gaps I felt I had before. All that said, however, I have no desire to do these again!!!

All the best!

7 thoughts on “Comprehensive Ph.D. Exams: The Third (and FINAL!) Day

  1. John Anderson says:

    Many thanks, Brandon! It was a good time! Does this qualify me to get interviewed on biblioblogs yet? ha!

    Do you have comps or anything of the sort looming?

  2. Brandon says:

    Ha! Trust me, it qualifies you for much more than a dinky interview on our site, but I promise we will do one in the near future.

    I haven’t taken comps myself yet. I’ll be starting the PhD program in fall and so I still have two years of coursework to tackle first.

    Congrats again!

  3. Bryan says:

    Good stuff, John. You should post outlines of your answers so that we can see what you guys consider the most important Pentateuch scholarship of the last 25 years, etc. I would be interested, at least.

    Congratulations! As they say, the depth of your broad knowledge can only decline from here. 🙂

    Do you have an oral defense?

  4. John Anderson says:


    No oral defense associated with these exams. I will, however, have an oral defense at the end of the dissertation process.

    I will hopefully find out (positive) news by the end of this week/early next week regarding the results of these exams. Then the only thing standing between me and my doctoral hood is the completed dissertation and defense. I look forward to it.

    Regarding Pentateuchal scholarship, these are the scholars I discussed in my answer. If you want further elaboration, I can give it (assuming the information hasn’t fallen out of my head yet!!):
    Wellhausen, Gunkel, von Rad, Noth as background
    Rolf Rendtorff
    Norman Whybray
    Erhard Blum
    Joseph Blenkinsopp
    David Carr
    John Van Seters
    Dozeman/Schmid (eds), A Farewell to the YHWHist?David Clines
    Thomas Mann
    Campbell and O’Brien

    The final three listed are synchronic/final form readings of the Pentateuch.

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