Seminary update: Feb 4th, 2018

Looking Back:

Last week I accomplished most of my goals:  I sent an inquiry to my second reader about chapter 2, read through Jeremiah chap. 43 in Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic, as well as completed all revisions on chapter 3 and resubmitted it to the first reader.  I didn’t get any feedback on chapter 4 since my first reader ended up getting sick for a couple of days.

Thesis status:

Ch 1- approved

Ch 2- waiting for feedback from second reader

Ch 3- waiting for feedback from first reader

Ch 4- waiting for feedback from first reader


Two and a half weeks to complete everything and submit to the Registrar’s office by Feb 22nd.

Looking ahead:

I can’t actually tinker with my thesis chapters much while waiting for feedback.  This is the first time all chapters have been out of my hands and I am waiting for everything.  I can probably keep busy with introductory pages and “back matter”, however (not sure why they call it “back matter”, but I don’t have any better ideas).  Title page, table of contents, bibliography, that sort of thing.

Goals for this week:

  • Assemble front and back matter
  • Read Jeremiah 44 in Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic
  • If I receive feedback, work on recommended revisions as quickly as possible and resubmit, since time is short

Seminary update: 28 Jan 2018

Looking Back:

I can see the light at the end of the tunnel!

Last week I finished a draft of chapter 4 of my thesis (25 pages, including a conclusion to the entire thesis).  I read through it for revisions, had my wife take a look at it, made some final adjustments, and sent it in!  Hooray!  My first reader has acknowledged receiving it, and will probably get back to me in a week or so.

I also managed to make progress on the revisions of chapter 3.  There are now 32 sections flagged (down from 50ish) that need adjustments.

Research-wise, I’ve also finished going through Jeremiah 42 in Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic.

Also during the week, I received an email from the seminary letting me know that they have completed the “program audit”.  Assuming I finish the thesis and portfolio, I am approved to be on the grad list.  The details in the email didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know, but at least now I know that they know what I know.

Thesis status report:

Chapter 1- approved by both readers

Chapter 2- waiting for final approval from second reader

Chapter 3- working on revisions from first reader

Chapter 4- waiting for feedback from first reader

Looking Ahead:

Next due date is February 22nd, in three and a half weeks.  On Feb 22nd, I need to submit completed drafts of the thesis to both readers and the Seminary registrar.  That means all revisions complete, and all extra stuff like bibliography, title page, etc., figured out by then.

Goals for this week:

  • Complete all revisions on chapter 3 and resubmit to first reader
  • Contact second reader and ask for an update on chapter 2
  • (if chapter 4 returned before end of the week)- complete revisions on chapter 4
  • Continue reading Jeremiah in ancient languages: Jer 43 in Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic.   (Almost done!  Just chaps. 43-45 left!)

Seminary Update: Jan 21st, 2018

This week I was encouraged by Zechariah 4:6-7

Then he answered and said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel saying, ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts.  ‘What are you, O great mountain?  Before Zerubbabel you will become a plain; and he will bring forth the top stone with shouts of “Grace, grace to it!”‘”  

At the beginning of the week I was feeling overwhelmed, not sure if I could pull off meeting all the deadlines for the thesis.  But the mountain will become a plain.  By God’s grace, He will see me through.

Looking back

I estimate I worked 15 hours or so on the thesis this past week.  This included 20 or 30 minutes most mornings before breakfast, most of Tuesday evening (8pm-10pm), and all day Friday (9am-5pm).

Last week I accomplished my research goals, going through Jeremiah 41 in Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic, as well as finished going through the relevant chapters of Mark Roncace’s Jeremiah, Zedekiah and the Fall of Jerusalem.  As I researched, I tinkered with chapter 4, then on Tuesday night I was suddenly inspired about a better way to organize my material in chapter 4 (before that, I felt like I had a bunch of disjointed paragraphs).  Over the next few days, I was able to put things in a more coherent order, put in introductions, summaries and transitions, and write a few more pages.  Chapter 4 is now sitting at about 22 pages (up from 14 at the beginning of the week), which is fairly close to the original estimate of 25 pages.  The main thing left is to finish writing the “Conclusion to Everything” at the end of the thesis.

I didn’t get a chance to work on chapter 3 revisions, but am encouraged by the progress on chapter 4.  I feel like I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, now.

Status Report of Thesis:

Chapter 1: Approved

Chapter 2: Approved by First Reader.  Revisions from Second Reader complete.  Waiting for final approval from Second Reader

Chapter 3: Has been through first reading by First Reader.  Back in my possession for revisions.

Chapter 4: initial draft due to First Reader in four days (this Thursday!).

Looking Ahead

Four days left to submit Chapter 4 and the Conclusion.  My goals for the week are:

  • Finish writing Conclusion
  • Revise and Edit Chapter 4
  • Submit drafts of Chapter 4 and conclusion
  • Research: Read Jeremiah 42 in Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic
  • Would be nice: Work on major revisions from Chapter 3




Seminary Update: January 14th, 2018

Timeline: Chapter 4 of the thesis is due on January 25th, in just under 2 weeks.

Looking Back:

-Chapter 3 revisions: I worked on the major revision of distinguishing between themes and motifs.  The list of revisions has gone down from 62 to 59.  To give myself a better idea of how I’m doing, I did a quick inventory of revisions with an eye to type.  I figure there are two more “major” revisions to do (which will require significant time to manage, and affect large portions of the thesis, including chapter 4), 10 “medium” revisions which will require thought and effort to fix, but won’t affect much beyond the subsection in which they appear, and the rest are “minor” revisions that will only clarify sentences/thoughts here and there.

-Chapter 4: Once I had taken care of the major revision of themes and motifs in ch. 3, I was able to write a bit more on chapter 4 in light of that.  Chapter 4 has grown from 8 pages to 14 pages.  This falls short of my goal of having 25ish pages complete by the end of this past week, but there were other things going on in life, too (like major snow storms that required significant shoveling efforts, plus the rest of my commitments restarting after the holidays)

-Research: I checked the Lundbom and Allen commentaries on Jer 39 as I wanted, and was able to add a bit to chapter 4 based on their comments.  I also realized that there was another major research source that many scholars are quoting that I never actually finished going through, Jeremiah, Zedekiah and the Fall of Jerusalem by Mark Roncace.  I had started it long ago (the ebook is available from the school library), but since it focused on Jer 37ff, I put it off until later.  I then forgot to come back to it when I was working on Jer 37-38.  Lastly, I went through Jeremiah 40 in Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic.

Goals for the week

Completing chapter 4 is becoming more and more urgent, but writing more relies on doing major revisions in chapter 3.

  • Complete last two major revisions on chapter 3
  • Work through chapters 2 and 3 of Roncace’s book
  • Finish draft of chapter 4 and conclusion
  • Read Jeremiah 41 in Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic

Seminary Update: January 7th, 2018

This week marks the end of holidays and back to the regular routine.

Looking Back

Last week was a quiet week at home, and most of my responsibilities were paused in holiday mode.  My wife encouraged me to take advantage of the time to get some more thesis work done.

I estimate I worked about 20+ hours on my thesis last week.  During that time I read through Jeremiah 39 in Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic, and finished going through that last doctoral dissertation I had.  As well, my first reader sent back feedback on all of chapter 3, so I went through his comments, fixing quick little things immediately and making notes on other revisions I needed to make.  Some revisions were minor, such as quoting more Hebrew in some sections, or clarifying a sentence.  Some were more major, which will require significant reworking of entire sub sections (like I confused themes and motifs).  After going through everything, it felt like there were too many things to fix, that it felt overwhelming. The revisions themselves were all things I agree with- they needed to be revised.  I have a good adviser in that regard.

A trick I’ve learned is that “once you can measure it, you can set goals”.  I went through and counted, discovering I had flagged 101 places that still needed revisions.  Now I had a number to work with.  By the end of the week, I had whittled that down to 62 revisions, including having taken care of one of the major ones.  Since I’ve counted, I can see my progress, otherwise it’d probably feel like I was getting nowhere.

The other accomplishment of the week was working on chapter 4.  I started with 2 pages of notes, and by the end of the week I had 8 pages, as well as having done some commentary research.  It is difficult to do much more with chapter 4, since some of the major revisions in chapter 3 will influence how chapter 4 pans out.

Goals for the week:

  • Complete major revision regarding themes/motifs in chapter 3
  • Check Lundbom and Allen commentaries on Jeremiah 39
  • Read Jeremiah 40 in Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic
  • Complete a draft of chapter 4 (goal is 25 pages).

Timeline: The first draft of Chapter 4 is due by January 25th, in just under 3 weeks.


Reading Goals for 2018

The last few years I have set reading goals, and I plan to do so again.

My reading goals have been based on two principles: balanced and strategic.

Balanced in that by setting goals, I don’t neglect some areas that I might have otherwise.  Strategic in that I set goals to read certain kinds of books in such a way that is customized to who I am, what I do, and what I enjoy.  (As opposed to a random list of unrelated categories).

Generic random lists have their value, of course.  This winter my children are doing a reading challenge put on by the local library that has categories like “a book with snow on the cover” or “a book with a first name in the title”.  This challenge is encouraging my kids to read, and read lots.  The challenge might even be a breakthrough for one of them in that he seems to be reading because he wants to now, not because he has to.

But why blog about it?  Why take the time to write book reviews? Isn’t this a blog about my journey through Seminary?  I have several reasons:

  1. The extra effort I take at the end of a book to write a blog post helps me to synthesize the information or story and see what it adds to my understanding.  I don’t fully know what I think about the book until I’ve written the book review. I think I get more out of my books by taking this extra step.
  2. A critical skill in seminary is the ability to take notes and summarize and synthesize information.  I wasn’t as good at that as I thought I was, so blogging about books gives me extra practice for summarizing research sources.
  3. I have an Amazon affiliates account, which means if anyone actually clicks on a picture of a book I post, then buys the book, I get a commission.  I was hoping to make a dollar or two to help pay for seminary, so it is in my financial interest to post about books.  (So far I’ve made a grand total of $0.)
  4. I’ve read far too many things while doing research that seemed like the writer was saying strange things just to get published.  As if they had lost touch with reality.  My father-in-law calls this “too much belly-button gazing”.  I didn’t want to get so engrossed in seminary work that I’m not able to think or read about anything else. Reading other stuff keeps me sane.  Like coming up for air.

So in the past I then spit out a bunch of categories with the goal to read one book from each category.  The weakness I’ve found is that this doesn’t allow me to read series very well without feeling like I’m breaking my own rules (suddenly it takes three years to read a trilogy, even if I have all three books on the shelf waiting).  Perhaps I’ll just tell myself “at least one” from each category, which means it is okay if I read the next book in a series, even if a category is already covered.

Another weakness is that now finishing a book has become a major event in my life that needs to be blogged about.  This hasn’t always been true for most of my life.

The other weakness is that I need to admit that my life is not in balance right now.  The beginning of 2018 is the final semester of seminary, and I need to finish my thesis and jump through all the hoops for graduation.  So no matter what sort of reading goals I set right now, the thesis needs to take priority for the first few months of the year.  I wonder if I should set some goals for January-April, then other goals for May-December, after graduation.

This also makes me question the blog itself.  Once the journey through seminary is complete, does that mean this blog “Seminary Journey” is complete?  If so, do I even bother blogging about my reading goals this year when Seminary will end in April, or do I start a new book review blog, or stop blogging altogether when graduation comes?  Will the posts of a graduate be as relevant as a current student for readers considering seminary studies and wondering what it is like?  Unless I become a seminary professor, right now I find it hard to picture myself blogging about seminary once I’ve finished seminary.  I also know it is easier for me to start commitments than to end them.  Perhaps I need to plan to stop this blog after graduation.

For now, I will set goals for January to April, but most of it will be to bring a sense of closure to the blog itself, in case I decide to pull the plug after graduation: (If I start a new blog, I’ll be sure to mention it here)

Reading Goals for January to April 2018:

  • Something in Hebrew: Finish reading the Masoretic Text of the prophet Jeremiah
  • Something in Greek: Finish reading the prophet Jeremiah in the Septuagint
  • Something in Aramaic: Finish reading the Aramaic Targum of Jeremiah
  • A book of Exegesis: Finish reading the Tyndale Commentary on Jeremiah
  • A book on Communication: I plan to read On Writing Well by William Zinsser while editing my thesis
  • Book 5 of the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series
  • Books 11 and 12 of the Christy Miller series

Most of these categories are the categories I didn’t get to in 2017.  As if 2017 ended too early, and I am extending the deadline for four more months.  This is what it feels like with the thesis: I’m not done yet, need a few more months.  I’ll revisit my reading goals in the spring.


“The Battle of the Labyrinth” (Percy Jackson & the Olympians #4) by Rick Riordan

“We made it a hundred feet before we were hopelessly lost.”


This week I read book 4 of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series: “The Battle of the Labyrinth.  Published in 2008 by Hyperion Books, 361 pages.


Like the rest of the series, the world of this book pretends Greek legends/gods are real.  The story is told in the first person from the perspective of Percy Jackson, a demi-god with a human mother and Poseidon as a father.

Book 4 takes place at the end of June when Percy is 14 years old, just finishing up grade 8 and the summer is just beginning.  This is a few months after Book 3 ended (during the winter solstice).  Like the other books in this series, the opening chapter has a scene where Percy gets attacked by a monster at school.  This school also has a mortal student named Rachel (who Percy met briefly in a previous book) who can see through “the mist” (can see supernatural stuff that ordinary mortals cannot).  Rachel helps Percy in the fight, and helps him get away.

Percy is joined by Annabeth and they make their way back to Camp Half-Blood.  Tyson the cyclops (Percy’s half brother) is back for the summer, and Percy’s satyr friend Grover is also there.  Chiron the Centaur is still leading the camp activities, but the god Dionysus (camp director) is absent on business.  Thalia is mentioned once or twice, but is not present in this book.  Nico di Angelo shows up again, and his story is continued throughout the plot.  Greek gods showcased in this story are Hera, Hephaestus and Janus.

The metanarrative of the series continues.  The demi-god Luke (son of Hermes) is working to bring back the Titan Kronos and assembling an army to overthrow the gods of Olympus.  When Percy gets to camp, he learns that one of Luke’s minions has been caught, behaving half insane and muttering about the Labyrinth.  They deduce that Luke is trying to find a way to navigate the Labyrinth so that he can get past magical borders and attack the camp.  During a training game in the woods, Percy and Annabeth stumble into a cave that ends up being an entrance into the Labyrinth.

The main quest of the book is for Annabeth to lead an expedition into the Labyrinth to find Daedalus, the maze’s designer, who is rumored to still be alive and living in his maze. They hope Daedalus will join sides with the forces of Olympus and not help the Titans.  Percy goes with her, as well as Tyson and Grover.  Grover also hopes to find the clues for the missing god Pan in the Labyrinth as well.

The Labyrinth leads to many places, and the quest takes them in and out of the maze to real places like Colorado or Mount St. Helens to mythical places like Geryon’s ranch and Calypso’s island.  The action is intensifying, and the book sets up well for a final showdown in book 5 to bring the story arc to a climax.

Comments and Impressions

I recommend reading the books in this series in order.  Book 4 makes the best sense only if read in context.

There is a hint of romantic feelings starting to develop between Annabeth and Percy.  By the second page of the book, Percy’s mom is teasing him about meeting Annabeth for a date, which he denies  “It’s not a date!  It’s just Annabeth, Mom.”  Their emotional development has some highs and lows in the book.


But remember, boy, that a kind act can sometimes be as powerful as a sword…  Sometimes small things can become very large indeed.

One of the themes interwoven in the book is that of personal action.  Despite huge events taking place, the decisions of each individual are important.  Many seemingly insignificant characters become crucial to the quest.

At one point, Percy encounters another son of Poseidon who has set up a gladiator-style arena of carnage in Poseidon’s honor.  Percy is disgusted by this, but Poseidon himself later tells him,  “Percy, lesser beings do many horrible things in the name of the gods.  That does not mean we gods approve.  The way our sons and daughters act in our names… well, it usually says more about them than it does about us.”  This made me reflect on Christianity, as there are many who give Christ a bad name.  A similar thing could be said of those “members of the faith” that I may be embarrassed about.  Unfortunately, not everyone thinks this way, and many would brand all Christians and God himself based on the actions of some misguided individuals.

Some Greek legends that may be of interest to research/read about before tackling this book: Daedalus and Icarus, Theseus and the Minotaur, the 12 tasks of Hercules, Calypso, and the monster Typhon.  The book is written in such a way that the reader does not need to be familiar with these legends per se, but it will add to the enjoyment of the book if you know about them.


Other Rick Riordan posts:

Percy Jackson and the Olympians

#1. The Lightning Thief

#2. The Sea of Monsters

#3. The Titan’s Curse

Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard

#1. The Sword of Summer

#2. The Hammer of Thor