Blog — 18th November 2019
John Darby PhD Research
Embarking on PhD research at NTC is for me both the beginning of a new adventure and the culmination of a long journey in order to reach this point.
PhD research is something I had dreamed of doing for a long time, but that seemed impossible because of life circumstances and a sense of duty in other directions.
Choosing a research topic was a daunting decision—I had interests in so many areas of biblical scholarship, I couldn’t imagine limiting myself to one book or portion of scripture for three to six years! During my MA study at NTC, focusing on Greek and Hebrew texts, there were two areas in particular that opened up new worlds of interest to me: textual criticism and the literature of Second Temple Judaism, in particular the Dead Sea Scrolls. It seemed that many of my most pressing questions converged on the role of the fascinating and somewhat mysterious figures of the scribes. Whilst there were more familiar and perhaps “safer” areas I could have chosen as research topics, I decided to follow the path of greatest interest and go on a genuine journey of discovery by looking at scribal practices in the Dead Sea Scrolls.
I have come to value higher education more than ever before as a means of loving and serving Christ, his church, and the wider society in which we live…
I discovered that the PhD journey begins long before your official start date. Aside from the MA and previous education, developing a proposal is a process that takes a lot more time, thought, research and soul-searching than a lot of students expect! However, once the start date comes along, you’re thankful for the hours spent trying to refine a question and work out your contribution to scholarship (before you have even begun!), because although this may all change, it forces you to focus your thoughts and prepare to make the most of your time when the clock starts ticking.
Being at NTC means being part of a rich and supportive research community, which is both local and international. The partnership with the University of Manchester is invaluable, enabling us to benefit from a wealth of resources and expertise. In the field of Biblical Studies, I have benefited from this particularly through contact with the weekly Ehrhardt Seminar. I soon discovered that being a research student is far from a “lonely endeavour”—there are constant opportunities for interaction and discussion with NTC staff and students, and through research seminars and conferences—however much we PhD students might prize our hours of solitude!
I have quickly learnt that producing a thesis is very much a communal task: welcoming criticism, guidance and suggestions from others, as well as hearing and responding to projects in a variety of fields is vital to personal formation as well as the development of your own research. I have come to value higher education more than ever before as a means of loving and serving Christ, his church, and the wider society in which we live, and I am deeply grateful for the Christian and scholarly community at NTC and the University of Manchester as an environment in which to work out this sense of calling.