On June 27th, I received an email from the Seminary Academic Services department. They informed me that my diploma was in the mail. I guess that means the library has accepted my thesis without any further revisions! Perhaps a bound copy of the thesis will show up in the mail some day.
On July 4th, the diploma arrived in the mail. I framed it and hung it on my wall. Now I can “oohh and aaahh” over it from time to time.
The cover letter that came with the diploma reminded me that as a graduate, I can now audit one class from the seminary for free every year. I might take advantage of that eventually.
Got a call back from the library today. Almost done! I had one more touch up to do throughout the thesis manuscript: not capitalizing the divine pronoun.
I was taught growing up to capitalize pronouns that refer to God: His, Him, He, etc. The NASB and NKJV Bibles also do this. Apparently this is out of vogue in academic circles unless you are directly quoting Bible versions that do it. I used the NASB throughout my thesis, so if I capitalized pronouns in my Bible quotations, it was okay, but whenever I capitalized Him or His or He outside of a quotation, I had to change it to small letters: him, his, he.
The librarian explained that this capitalizing of divine pronouns is a relatively recent phenomenon, as the Old King James Version didn’t do it. I never really paid attention to it, before. How about a quick search through the versions?
Capitalizing divine pronouns: NASB, NKJV
Not capitalizing divine pronouns: KJV, NLT, ESV, NIV, Darby, NRSV, etc.
Hmm. Guess I learned something today. Still felt weird to implement, however. Sometimes I just reworded the sentence to take out the pronoun completely.
Anyway, I spent 10 or 20 minutes making those changes and then resubmitted to the library today.
So, after an hour and a half last night, and a few hours of work today, I have finished touching up my thesis manuscript based on the feedback from the library.
It felt like it went fairly quickly. The worst part was last night, trying to wrestle my table of contents under control. We were supposed to use “leader lines” in the table of contents (I didn’t even know the term until last night), and the only way I could figure out how to put them in was to use Word’s table of contents tool, which led to a host of other issues with my chapter headings that needed to be fixed. Thankfully, after that it was smooth sailing.
Most changes were fairly routine, since I was consistent in the errors I was making. I learned that the standard in Canadian academic circles is to use the oxford comma (I hadn’t). Whenever I had a list like “famine, pestilence, and sword,” I wasn’t putting the comma between the second last word and the conjunction (“pestilence, and”), so those all had to be fixed.
As well, Canadian spellings of words are (understandably) the standard in Canada. My word processor had kept correcting words like “flavour” and “neighbour” (even now on a blog post, the online spell checker is underlining those words and saying they are spelled wrong), so I went through and re-Canadianized my spelling, and told my Word program to just add them to the dictionary.
I had emailed a clarification question to the librarian on Thursday night, and she called me on Friday morning. I appreciated her speedy replies and thorough editing. She said she always felt bad editing a thesis, since she had to bear the news that the writers “weren’t quite done,” just when they thought it was over.
So, my thesis has been resubmitted. We’ll see if it passes inspection this time.
Having a copy of Turabian at home has been helpful today.
On Tuesday this past week I got a call from the Seminary library. My thesis has finally been proofread. I was starting to forget I was expecting it. I’ve been thinking about it less and less.
There are a few errors that need to be fixed.
-Apparently the new standard is to put only one space after a period. I’ve been in the habit of putting two spaces since I was a teenager.
-Apparently the footnote numbering restarts in new chapters.
-Throughout the thesis, I abbreviated chapter as chap. At first I hadn’t done that, and then found a format guide saying I was supposed to, so I had gone through and changed them all, and now I apparently need to change them all back.
-And a pile of little things. Skimming through it, there’s at least two or three things circled on every single page. Mostly punctuation and format issues.
I’ll have to make time to take care of this, since they won’t actually send me my diploma until it has been resubmitted. As the librarian said, “at least the writing is done”. That is true. It’ll be tedious, but it is all minor editing. I have a bunch of other projects I’m trying to wrap up right now, but maybe I can get to my thesis edits late next week? I don’t want to put it off too long, though, or it’ll get easier to just keep putting it off.
Last weekend my family attended the “Commencement” ceremonies at my Seminary. Even though I had spent most of my studies off campus (and therefore knew very few people), I was encouraged by my father-in-law to attend the ceremony anyways. I sent out invitations to several people ahead of time, and was happy to be joined by my father and younger brother for the ceremony. Additionally, we got to visit with an aunt and uncle and cousin who lived nearby during our trip.
After lunch on the day of the ceremonies, I wandered into the academic building wearing my shirt and tie, and found the room where they were handing out graduation gowns and caps. I got to keep the cap with red tassle (red for theology). The gown and “hood” were available for sale. I had declined purchasing them, but asked if I could order them later if I changed my mind, and they said I could.
My next stop was to get a grad photo. The professional photographers had come earlier in the year, so it was too late to order a package of photos, but the IT people snapped a couple of pictures so they could have something to put on their wall murals. He wrote down my email address, so maybe he’ll send me a copy one day?)
After hanging out for a short time, there was then an information session for the seminary folk. We found out where we were supposed to stand and sit in the ceremony, and how to get from one place to another. Apparently the college students had had a full rehearsal the night before, but they figured master’s level students could figure it out without practice. We were organized on stage first by department, then by degree, and alphabetically by degree. There were 5 or 6 of us with red tassles, and I was the only one with my degree (Master of Arts- Biblical Languages and Exegesis).
I met my family in the foyer, and was able to tell them where I would come in and where I was supposed to sit, so they were able to choose a good place in the sanctuary to see everything.
I’m glad my family and other relatives could be part of this event. As I sat on stage looking out on a crowd of people, I realized that the crowd of people was the main reason for the event. They were all there to celebrate someone (or multiple people). I realized that if I had come alone, it would have seemed like a lonely and hollow achievement to walk across the stage. So I was very thankful my family and relatives were there for me.
The event itself was long. 132 college graduates and 24 Seminary graduates, along with speeches and a couple of musical interludes (I made sure I went to the bathroom first). I saw one of the professors had brought a water bottle on stage. I was hot and thirsty most of the time, as I imagine most of us were. But we couldn’t really carry anything, since we had to have our hands free to receive diplomas and shake hands. With the gown on, I didn’t even have access to my pockets. (Although I noticed one of the seminary grads carried his Bible on stage). There were programs on the chairs waiting for us, but I left it behind when it was my turn to “walk across the stage”, trusting my wife to have kept a copy for us. After receiving our hood and diploma, we were to get off the stage completely and line up along the walls. In hindsight, I suppose I could have planted a water bottle at my seat beforehand, and gone back for it after the ceremony.
I remembered back when I was in college, and being surprised at some of the people graduating from Seminary, because I had never seen them on campus. As unfamiliar-college-grad after unfamiliar-college-grad walked across the stage, I realized the tables had turned. I was now the unknown seminary guy that the college students wouldn’t recognize (I hadn’t been on campus for a year and a half, since I had been doing my thesis off campus!)
The master’s “hood” was draped over our heads by two (tall) faculty members. From the front it looked like a scarf, but on the back it was colorful and draped in a low loop. It sort of felt like being knighted. Next was a handshake with the president while holding a school folder. (My folder contained a letter reminding me they would send the diploma in the mail after the final submission of my thesis to the library)
The program said I had graduated Cum Laude (Latin for “with honors”). I had no idea I had earned that designation. I’m not even sure what the standard is to get that, or what it means for me in the future.
After the ceremony and photo opportunities, I went to return my hood and gown. Someone from the library was waiting for me so I could choose the cover and font color for my thesis binding. She let me know she was short staffed and wouldn’t be able to do the final proofreading until early May or so. Once I get her feedback, I am to revise my thesis one last time and submit for binding and archiving. (And then get my diploma in the mail, along with a bound copy of my thesis!)
There was a Seminary grad banquet that night, but I declined to attend, instead organizing a private event with my relatives at a restaurant. I think this was a good option for me.
I’m glad we attended the ceremonies, and have happy memories to look back upon. It helped give a sense of accomplishment and closure to the work I’ve been doing for the past few years.
March 28th was my portfolio interview. This one was via Skype (I am an off campus student). On the other side of the internet were two professors: my program coordinator and another faculty member of my choosing. I had requested one of my Greek teachers, and he was willing to participate. This ended up meaning I was being interviewed by two New Testament scholars, when I had been doing my thesis work in the Old Testament. When we logged on, they seemed happy to talk to me, and were enjoying the opportunity to have the interview.
The interview was structured around the graduation portfolio and the six learning objectives. They asked for some clarifications on my doctrinal statement (which ended up being a matter of not expressing myself clearly, rather than being a heretic- whew!). We chatted briefly about the learning objectives of being a mature disciple of Christ, and how it is difficult to answer that question (in my portfolio, I simply referred to a letter from my pastor and left it at that).
Graduates of a MABLE (Master of Arts in Biblical Languages and Exegesis) need to be able to sight read and translate Hebrew and Greek. They saw from my MABLE exam that I seemed to be stronger in Hebrew (which is understandable, since my thesis was Old Testament based, so I’ve been working with Hebrew more in the past couple of years). For an extra test in the interview, they asked me to turn to a passage in my Greek New Testament and give a sight translation of a few verses (Mark 1:1-3). I did so, and then they asked “If you were to do a serious exegesis of this passage, what lines of inquiry would you pursue?” They gave me a couple of minutes to gather my thoughts, and I came up with an acceptable answer.
The final MABLE objective is to articulate major themes in the testaments. They asked me to describe how the Abrahamic covenant plays out in both testaments. This seemed random to me, and I was able to talk about the Old Testament easily, but had trouble remembering specific references in the New Testament- for example, I mentioned Hebrews, but not Galatians. However they said I was using the language of Galatians as I spoke in general terms, so they were satisfied I was at least familiar with the ideas. I felt this was the hardest part of the interview.
They logged off for a few minutes to discuss matters privately, then called me back. They spoke in glowing terms, giving me 7s, 8s, and 9s on the evaluation form they had. They recommended that I keep using theological and exegetical commentaries as I study the Scriptures (something I would do anyway?)
They then gave me an opportunity to give feedback on my seminary experience. I mentioned a couple of things, such as perhaps offering courses on things like charity law (something I’ve had to deal with a fair bit since graduating college), French (if they are trying to equip the church in Canada, this is a big deal in my mind!), and perhaps altering how they teach Greek and Hebrew. I knew the Seminary has already been thinking about that (teaching Greek and Hebrew as living languages instead of just a grammatical-translation method), but I added my voice to that growing movement. My Greek professor revealed he was actually planning on attempting it for the first time this fall.
On March 22nd, 2018 was my thesis defense.
In preparation, I reread Jeremiah 32-38, as well as reread the entire thesis itself, to get everything in my short term memory. I made an expanded outline of the thesis to remind myself of the big picture of the study, and made an annotated bibliography. My wife came up with several practice questions, and I worked through the answers.
I got some more details from my thesis committee. My chairman preferred a semi-private defense, since we were going to be doing it over the internet, so it wouldn’t be conducive to a room full of people. He said he didn’t mind an observer or two. My other reader booked a room and arranged all the technology for us. I prepared a 15-20 min presentation.
I invited one of my fellow MABLE students to come watch, and the defense took place as scheduled. We used Google Hangouts to communicate with each other via live video feed. During my presentation, I had a small white board that I used to explain and draw diagrams as needed. After my summary presentation, they started asking questions. Most of the questions were about methodology, not content, and felt like a continuation of conversations we’d already been having while editing the thesis. They had a relaxed attitude, as if we were just having a theological chat, like I would have had in a dorm room in Bible college. Of the 11 questions my wife had brainstormed, 4 of them showed up in some form during the defense itself.
Afterwards, my chairman gave his feedback. He said the thesis was well done, and they wanted three little touch-ups to the thesis before submitting it. One was to go through and make sure I’m being clear on my use of certain terms (narrative, literary, prose), another was to add a paragraph about how literary criticism intersects with narrative criticism, and the third comment was that my summary presentation was stated better than how I had worded it in the thesis, so he wanted me to add another paragraph and include a diagram I had etched on my whiteboard.
Since then, I’ve gone through and made these changes and resubmitted. Now they are supposedly going to sign off on it, and then I have to submit to the library for final proofreading. Right after the defense I got an email from the seminary office reminding me that graduation documents would not be sent out if I did not submit the thesis to the library.