Seminary Update: Graduation Portfolio

This past week was my due date for my graduation portfolio.  The due date is different for everyone, since you have to schedule a portfolio interview, and the portfolio needs to be submitted two weeks before the interview.  My interview is scheduled for March 28th, so the portfolio was due on March 14th (last Wednesday).

I took some time early in the week to expand on my portfolio essay to fit the portfolio guidelines.  The seminary has specific learning objectives for each degree, and I was supposed to organize my portfolio essay around the learning objectives, and argue that I had met the objectives, including whatever I wanted as annexes to prove it (plus specific things, like the MABLE exam).  The only thing I was missing was feedback on the MABLE exam.  I sent an email to my teachers to declare it was ready except for the exam.  The seminary office encouraged me to submit the portfolio with what I had, and add the exam later when it was available.  So on Tuesday night I submitted everything I had.  So far, still no feedback on the exam.

I then sent an email to my thesis committee to request details on the upcoming thesis defense.  So far, my second reader responded to say that most of my questions are the decision of the chairman.  The chairman was leading a tour group in Israel until late last week.  He hasn’t responded, yet, but I imagine he’ll get back to me as he gets caught up.

This week:

Thesis defense on Thursday morning.

How to prepare for a thesis defense?  I’m still waiting for details from the chairman, but in the meantime, I plan to:

  • reread my entire thesis to get it in my short-term memory again
  • Prepare an expanded outline (I plan to take my table of contents and fill in the sub points that didn’t make it on the table)
  • My wife suggests I prepare an annotated bibliography and remind myself what the various sources say and whether or not I agree with them
  • I’ll probably have to make some sort of summary presentation
  • work out logistics (make sure a room in the seminary has been booked, etc.)
  • Brainstorm possible questions people may ask, and think through some possible answers

Seminary Update- The Comprehensive Exam

Another week has gone by, and another hurdle has been leaped.  I studied for the MABLE comprehensive exam last week as per my plan.  I found my Hebrew was relatively fresh, since I’ve been dealing with Hebrew often enough with the Old Testament concordance I’ve been working on, and also my thesis topic was in the Old Testament, too, so I’ve been using plenty of Hebrew lately.  Some of my Greek parsing was off, so I took a bit of extra time to go over the various tenses and paradigms before the exam.

The exam was on Friday morning.  Since I’m off campus, I had them email the exam to my pastor, as a “proctor”.  I went to his house, wrote the exam (3 hours), and he scanned it and sent it back to the school.

I had a choice between two OT passages and between two NT passages.  I had to translate the passage, parse everything, and write a short essay to talk about semantics, genre, theology, text critical issues, themes, etc.  In the Old Testament, one passage was a narrative, and the other poetic.  Similarly, in the New Testament, one passage was a narrative, and the other from an epistle.  I knew the narratives would be easier to parse and translate, but the poetry and epistles would be easier to write an essay for, since I could describe Hebrew parallelism or diagram Greek sentences.  Decisions, decisions.  I read all four options in their original languages to get a sense for them.  I ended up choosing the narrative options for both testaments.  I found the translations easy, but I feel my essays were sparse.  With only 3 hours to write the exam, I had to watch my time carefully.  I was allowed to use lexicons and concordances, which was helpful for the rare words.  It took an hour to translate and parse the Hebrew passage.  Another hour to translate and parse the Greek passage.  That left 1 hour to write two essays.  I spent about 25-30 minutes on each, with a few minutes at the end to glance over my work.  There’s more I could have said in the essays, but I just didn’t have time.  Apparently it will be marked as either pass or fail.  If I’m graduating with a Master of Arts in Biblical Languages and Exegesis, I had to demonstrate I had an acceptable competency in the Biblical languages, and could exegete the passages.

Hopefully I’ll get feedback soon, since the exam is supposed to be part of my graduation portfolio, which is due this next week.

Goals for this next week:

  • Finish expanding portfolio essay
  • Upload/submit portfolio by Wednesday, March 14th.
  • Ask my thesis chairman what I need to do to prepare for the thesis defense.  He’s leading a tour group in Israel right now, so I can’t ask until he’s back on Thursday or Friday.


Seminary update: March 5th, 2018

Last week I did most of my graduation portfolio.  I retooled a doctrinal statement I had made when I was graduating college, brainstormed a three year professional development plan, got a letter from my pastor, and secured a proctor for my MABLE exam (which is this Friday!).  I wrote the portfolio essay, but it is only 4 pages right now.  The guidelines suggest 6-8 pages.  Looks like I’m too concise.  I’ll have to expand on parts of it.   The graduation portfolio is due next week, on March 14th, and this week’s MABLE exam is part of the portfolio.

Goals for this week:

  • Practice parsing and translating some Hebrew.  I plan to practice on Judges 18:1-13, since that is where I am this week in the concordance project I’ve been working on (a continuation of the Experiential Integration from a couple summers ago).  Study as necessary, based on how I do.
  • Practice parsing and translating some Greek.  I plan to practice on Acts 18:24-19:7.  I was studying Acts a couple years ago in Advanced Greek Exegesis, and this just picks up where I left off.  Study as necessary.
  • Write MABLE exam on Friday
  • (If I have time): Expand portfolio essay

It still feels weird to be done the thesis.  I look back and am amazed that such a project was actually completed.


Thesis Complete!

I did it!  All feedback in, all revisions attended to, all chapters compiled into one document…  thesis submitted to registrar!  Whew!

The Zotero software I’ve been using made the Bibliography a simple matter.  Once all the chapters were on the same document, I made a new page at the end, typed the heading “BIBLIOGRAPHY”, then used the Zotero command to insert a Bibliography, and BOOM!  it was there.  I had to fix a formatting issue (double space between entries, since Zotero made it single spaced), but that was it.  The bibliography took two minutes.  Why didn’t this program exist when I was in college?

It feels a little surreal for the thesis to be done.  I’ve been working on it for so long, what does life look like without that project on my to-do list?

Now I turn my attention to my graduation portfolio, due March 14th.  On Friday, I emailed my program coordinator to nail down a date for the MABLE comprehensive exam.  One of the learning outcomes of my program, the Master of Arts in Biblical Languages and Exegesis, is to demonstrate skill in sight reading Biblical Hebrew and Greek.  The exam will basically be an Old Testament Hebrew passage, and a New Testament passage in Greek.  I’ll have to translate both, parse all verbs, and write a sort-of introductory commentary on the passage.  We settled on March 9th for the exam day.

This week:

The graduation portfolio is structured around an essay where I discuss how Seminary has helped me in my calling.  It needs to include several appendices, such as papers I’ve written, but some things will need to be developed from scratch.  March 14th is my due date, so that gives me two and a half weeks.

  • Draft an outline of the portfolio essay
  • Write an updated doctrinal statement
  • Contact pastor to get a letter of recommendation
  • Develop either a ministry resume, or a 3 year professional development plan
  • Prepare for MABLE exam (practice parsing)

Seminary Update: Feb 19, 2018

“You’re in the final lap, now”.  That is what my professor told me this week as an encouragement.

I cobbled together the thesis preliminary pages- table of contents, abstract, etc.  I thought the abstract would be hard, trying to summarize 120 pages into 400 words, but it actually wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be.  I didn’t do the bibliography, yet, but figured it would be easier once everything was put together in one document, then I could use the Zotero “create bibliography” command.

By last Thursday, everything had been revised and had passed the first reader’s inspection, so I sent chapters 3 and 4 of my thesis to my second reader.

Just last night my second reader sent back chapter 3 with his comments.  It looks like only minor edits, so I should be able to take care of everything in one sitting.  Chapter 4 will probably show up sometime today or tomorrow.

Last week I finished reading Jeremiah 45 in Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic.  That was the final chapter I had not read yet, so I can now say I’ve read all of Jeremiah in all three of those languages!

Goals for the week:

  • Complete all revisions
  • Compile chapters into one document
  • Create Bibliography
  • Final edit
  • Submit completed thesis to Registrar and all readers by Thursday, Feb 22nd.

Once the thesis is done, I can turn my attention to the graduation portfolio and MABLE comprehensive exam.

  • On Friday, email program coordinator to work out timings/logistics for the exam.

Seminary update: 11 Feb 2018

Looking Back:

Whew!  At the beginning of last week, I my first reader sent back his feedback for chapter 4, followed shortly by chapter 3.  I worked steadily, even taking all day Friday to work on it, and resubmitted by late afternoon on Friday.  I also took some time to start putting together the preliminary pages.  Somewhere in there I read through Jeremiah 44 in Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic.

Thesis status:

Preliminary pages and backmatter: in progress

Ch 1- approved

Ch 2- Approved by first reader.  In hands of second reader for second time

Ch 3- In hands of first reader for third time

Ch 4- In hands of first reader for second time


Just a week and a half (11 days) to complete everything and submit to the Registrar’s office by Feb 22nd.

Looking ahead:

I’m basically on call for revisions, now.  When I get feedback, I need to revise and resubmit as soon as possible to get everything done in time.

  • Complete preliminary pages and bibliography (including an abstract summary of the thesis
  • Read Jeremiah 45 in Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic- this is the final chapter I haven’t read in the ancient languages.  After this, I’ll have gone through the entire book of Jeremiah in all three languages.
  • Revise and resubmit chapters as needed.

“The Last Olympian” (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #5) by Rick Riordan

“We have to defend Olympus,” I insisted.

This weekend I read book 5 of Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan: “The Last Olympian”.  Published in 2009 by Hyperion Books, 381 pages.


The Percy Jackson and the Olympians series draws the reader into a fantastical world where Greek mythology is real, and continues into present day.  Mere mortals can’t see or understand such things, of course, due to The Mist.

As with the rest of the series, the story is told in the first-person from the perspective of Percy Jackson, demi-god son of Poseidon.  It is now a year later from book 4: Percy is 15 years old, almost 16, and it is summer time again.

Things are grim.  Typhon has been released, and the Olympian gods have gone to battle the monster, leaving Olympus defenseless.  Kronos’ army is advancing, leaving Percy and the other demi-god campers to defend Olympus themselves (which is above the Empire State Building in New York).  This thrilling climax to the series is an all-out war in the streets of Manhattan against incredible odds.

Greek gods with “stage time” include Hestia, Demeter, Hades, Poseidon, Hermes, Morpheus, and brief appearances by many others.  Percy’s friends rally together as well: Annabeth, Grover the satyr, Tyson the Cyclops, Nico, Thalia, Rachel the mortal, and many others from the series come together for this final showdown against Kronos- the Lord of Time.

Comments and Impressions

Hestia, a minor Greek god, is the Last Olympian on Olympus not out fighting monsters.  She is goddess of the hearth.  Someone has to keep the home fires burning.  The hope she represents was one of the driving themes of the book.  When things seemed insurmountable, hope is what kept everyone going.  That there was something worth fighting for.  That there was something to go back to when the fighting was done.  That it was possible to succeed.

This was a war book.  Spies, betrayal, comradeship, courage, valor, carnage.  Commando missions, battles, diplomatic envoys, retreats, reinforcements, monsters, death.  Percy Jackson finds himself in a leadership role, rallying the campers to defend the fate of Western civilization.  The burden of leadership is heavy, and his decisions and level of hope affects all those who follow him.

Overall it was a satisfying end to the series.  But I’m sure glad it’s not real.  The idea of creatures such as Typhon and Kronos were terrifying.  I’m sure glad the real God is not limited like the Olympians were portrayed.

Apparently Rick Riordan’s next series is the Kane Chronicles, which delve into Egyptian mythology. I’ll probably want to read those eventually.

Other Rick Riordan posts:

Percy Jackson and the Olympians

#1. The Lightning Thief

#2. The Sea of Monsters

#3. The Titan’s Curse

#4. The Battle of the Labyrinth 

Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard

#1. The Sword of Summer

#2. The Hammer of Thor