I am pleased to report that two good friends of mine have just successfully defended their dissertation and thesis at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, one for a Ph.D. in Biblical Theology and the other for a Master of Theology.
1. First of all, congratulations to (soon-to-be) Dr. Alex Stewart for successfully defending his dissertation entitled “Soteriology as Motivation in the Apocalypse of John.” His advisor was Dr. David Alan Black, his secondary reader was Dr. Andreas J. Köstenberger, and his outside reader was Dr. Grant Osborne (author of the Baker Exegetical commentary on Revelation) from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
What follows is a snippet of his abstract, posted with his permission:
“Recent research into the Apocalypse of John has made it clear that John did not primarily write the Apocalypse in order to provide a detailed time-table of events that would unfold thousands of years in the future. Instead, John wrote to affect and move his hearers at the end of the first century—to motivate them to reject idolatrous compromise with the surrounding cultural and political institutions and overcome through repentance, worship, witness, perseverance, and obedience.
How does the Apocalypse accomplish this motivation and persuade its hearers to adopt a course of action (overcoming) that would put their present lives, income, and security in jeopardy? . . . To be sure, classical rhetorical theory may be heuristically helpful, but if that is its main contribution, why exclude the heuristic contributions of modern theories of argumentation analysis? This dissertation seeks to remedy this gap in the study of John’s motivational argumentation by methodologically employing Stephen Toulmin’s model of argumentation analysis to study John’s explicit and implicit argumentation (chapter four). Toulmin’s model has revolutionized the modern study of argumentation analysis and has found wide utilization in a variety of disciplines.
In addition to the general conclusion that John primarily employs soteriology as motivation, this dissertation makes several other contributions to the study of the Apocalypse. First, it further strengthens the thesis that the Apocalypse of John is a thoroughly rhetorical text; i.e., it was not written primarily to convey theology or information about the future, but to motivate its hearers to concrete actions in the present. Second, it highlights the centrality of logos, or logical argumentation, in John’s argumentation. Despite the arguments of many previous scholars, logical argumentation is a central, not peripheral, element of John’s rhetorical strategy; albeit a logos dependent upon a shared meta-narrative and worldview. Third, it demonstrates the general applicability of Toulmin’s model of argumentation analysis to biblical texts, even such complicated texts as John’s Apocalypse. Although Toulmin’s model is relatively simple, it can be usefully applied to ancient texts to clarify, simplify, and synthesize the argumentation. Fourth, it confirms that the Apocalypse displays a genuinely inaugurated eschatology and soteriology with both presently possessed and future, non-possessed elements.”
Alex has been a good friend of mine in the doctoral program, and he has the privilege of teaching overseas in Europe beginning this summer and continuing for the foreseeable future. Best wishes, Alex!
2. Secondly, congratulations to Michael Stover for successfully defending his Th.M. thesis entitled “The Dating of First Clement.” Michael Stover has put a lot of research into this issue (his thesis was 200+ pages, slightly long for a master’s thesis!) and examines in-depth the evidence for the earlier, middle, and later dates for 1 Clement, ultimately arguing for the middle date. Michael’s thesis has significance for both patristic and New Testament studies, since Clement cites much of the New Testament and thus may be used as a terminus ad quem for the dating of certain NT books.
Michael’s academic advisor was also Dr. David Alan Black. His secondary readers were L. Scott Kellum and Ed Gravely.
Michael has been a good friend of mine here in North Carolina and I wish him the best for his future. Good job, Michael!
Although I am totally biased in this regard, I view Southeastern as one of the best places for New Testament studies, not least because of the work of Drs. Black and Köstenberger. They promote a high standard of scholarly excellence, and many of their students go on to make contributions to scholarship (Alex, for example, has already been published in both Tyndale Bulletin and Trinity Journal). For students considering doctoral work in New Testament, we have, among others, Dr. Black who has made major contributions in Greek studies (as well as having written one of the best beginner Greek textbooks, in my humble but biased opinion), Dr. Köstenberger, who has written one of the top commentaries on John (the Baker Exegetical; also in my humble but biased opinion), Dr. Maurice Robinson, textual critic and editor of the Byzantine/Majority text (2005) of the NT, Dr. Benjamin Merkle, who has made contributions in the studies of the Pastoral Epistles and New Testament theology, and Dr. L. Scott Kellum, who has written a monograph on the Gospel of John. This is, of course, a small fraction of our scholars at Southeastern!
I am planning to finish my own dissertation within a year and hope that I can live up to their standards, and the standard set by Alex and Michael’s work. Congratulations, gentlemen!