Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Final version of my doctoral thesis

This blog has been sleeping for quite some time now (eight months, to be precise). As I wrote in my last post, I needed to prioritize in order to get my thesis in on time. I did in fact get it done by August, just in time to become a full-time stay-at-home dad. In the meantime I've done all the editing and I finally handed in the final product on October 21st. The viva voce is set for December 20th, which will hopefully mean that I'll get a doctorate for Christmas! My two external examiners are Walter Moberly and Neil B. MacDonald, i.e. an Old Testament guy and a systematic theologian. It is the interface between these two disciplines that excites me most so I'm really looking forward to the conversation we'll have!

Here is the abstract I handed in with the final form:
ABSTRACT
This thesis seeks to contribute to the theory and practice of theological interpretation by explicating the inner coherence of B.S. Childs’ “canonical approach” and by exemplifying that approach in an interpretation of Psalm 24.
Part 1 concerns the theory. In this section I argue that Childs’ approach rests upon a particular understanding of the nature of the Biblical text. In short, it has a twofold function, that of witnessing to the reality of God and that of shaping the community of faith in light of that reality. The God to whom it witnesses is himself involved in this witnessing activity in that he both evokes and infuses the tradition with his Spirit so that he may be known. The hermeneutical implication is that interpretation must attempt to grasp the reality “behind” the text while respecting the particular form in which that reality has been rendered. The result is a multi-level approach to interpretation involving a continuous dialectic between the witness (verbum) and its content (res). The affirmation of the nature of Scripture as an ongoing vehicle of revelation also implies the significance of the history of faithful Christian interpretation.
Part 2 seeks to exemplify this approach by showing how such a multi-level interpretation of Psalm 24 is both possible and fruitful for our understanding of the reality to which it witnesses. I achieve this by moving through several stages. After reviewing contemporary methodology, I first provide a poetic analysis of the Psalm and conclude that it witnesses to the economy of God in a bid to call Israel to realize its true identity. I then provide a hypothesis of how the final form of the psalm is a result of a tradition historical process with its roots in the pre-exilic temple liturgy. This historical perspective not only clarifies the poetic shape of the psalm, it provides a bridge to discussing the question of the nature of the reality experienced within Israel’s cult. I conclude that there is a parallel between the structure of this reality and the shape of Ps 24. I then both confirm and attempt to deepen our understanding of this reality by following canonical pointers internal to the psalm to three other bodies of text: Samuel, the Psalter, and Isaiah. Key to this broader context is the agency of the David found in Ps 24’s superscription. I conclude my analysis by suggesting how a better grasp of the divine economy in the light of Christ may help us better understand the inner unity of Ps 24 itself.
As always, I'd be delighted to hear any feedback and criticisms.

19 comments:

John Hobbins said...

Congratulations, Phil, for having reached this stage.

Your attempt at reading Psalm 24 in light of the entire canon is salutary. So is your attempt at a theologically responsible reading - responsible, that is, to a broad tradition of Christian thought.

The proof, of course, is in the pudding. I look forward to hearing more.

James Pate said...

Congratulations, Phil!

Bob MacDonald said...

Well done - I hope to hear more also. I like the abstract.

Phil Sumpter said...

Thanks for the encouragement everyone.

John, you will be pretty high on my list of "shout outs" when it comes to thanking people for their support. The proof, as you say, is all in the pudding, which is why 50% of my thesis is exegesis. If I decide to get back to blogging it'll be leaked out in my posts.

tim bulkeley said...

Congratulations :)

anthony loke said...

great. finally thesis the light of the day. have a wonderful viva. yours on 20th dec. mine was last year on 16th dec. it should be a wonderful christmas present!

Phil Sumpter said...

Thanks Anthony, I do think the timing is great. I hope my results will be as positive as yours.

Bacho said...

Congratulations, Phil. I am excited to hear that my doctoral supervisor Dr. Walter Moberly is one of your external examiners. He is a very careful reader. Brilliant mind. Gentle spirit. I wish I could listen in on the conversation...

Phil Sumpter said...

Bacho,

Thank you for dropping by and sharing that with me. I've just finished reading his book The Bible, Faith, and Theology, which I feel stands very much in the same vein as what I'm trying to achieve. I open my thesis by drawing on an article of his that became (or was ...) part of a chapter of that book.

anthony loke said...

when your thesis is done, send us a pdf copy. we'll place it in our seminary library as part of our thesis collection!

Phil Sumpter said...

That's very kind of you Anthony. I've just sent you my current version, though no doubt my examiners will expect me to make a few changes here and there. I'll send you the final version after the exam.

Anonymous said...

Phil, do you know that Carey Baptist College in New Zealand is looking for an OT lecturer. Check out ther website if you are looking for a job!

MokumAlef said...

Hi - Phil! Congratulations and welcome soon to the Doctor Realm. You know Psalm 24 has a special place in my heart and that I really need to revise that old paper of mine ...

Phil Sumpter said...

Anonymous, thank you so much for that tip! I'll check it out right away.

MokumAlef, I've got less than a month to go. I hope our dialogues may continue!

Terry L Eves said...

Congratulations also! What an accomplishment. I look forward to hearing how the defense went and when we will be able to read it.

Terry L Eves
eves@erskine.edu

Phil Sumpter said...

Prof. Eves, thank you for your interest! The viva went very well. I've responded to you by e-mail.

Caio Peres said...

Hello Phil, I was just researching more info on the relation between canoncial approach and historical criticism applied to the prophetic books, so I found your blog. I am studying the topic and preparing myself to write a paper on that (it will be on a master level). I would like to ask you if you would mind to send me some specific bibliography and maybe, if you don´t mind, Child´s paper (retrospective reading of Old testament prophets) and the first part of your doctoral thesis. If yes, would you send me to caiovintage@hotmail.com? Thank you a lot and I hope all goes well with yout doctorate.

Phil Sumpter said...

Caio Peres,

I'll contact you by e-mail shortly. Just for now, a good bibliography can be found here: http://www.danieldriver.com/bsc/books/, with a helpful overview here: http://www.danieldriver.com/bsc/bio/. Drivers book on Childs is well worth reading, though perhaps not so relevant to your essay on the prophets. I find Childs' Isaiah commentary very helpful for understanding his approach in general. I'll send you some of his articles shortly.

Alice Chasteen said...

I think your time management plan was good as you completed your thesis writing as you planned it to be done. Well, I think everyone who are undergoing thesis writing should consider planning their time management to maximize time in order to finish all the work on time.