Friday, June 18, 2010

Michael Barber, Ph.D.

At about the age of 13, I knew what I wanted to do with my life. After listening to a couple of lectures given by Dr. Scott Hahn on cassette tape I told my father that I wanted to get my Ph.D. in Theology and become a professor. I have been on that track ever since. This weekend, about 17 years later, I finally arrived at a goal I have been working towards for a very, very long time. This weekend I participated in the "Ph.D. hooding ceremony" and walked in the commencement ceremony at Fuller Theological Seminary, having received my doctoral degree.

My dissertation, "The Historical Jesus and Cultic Restoration Eschatology: The New Temple, the New Priesthood and the New Cult", was written under Colin Brown. The thesis was over 800 pages with a bibliography about 80 pages long (11 point font, single spaced). It was a huge project and it consumed my life for the past several years.

Here I must thank all those who made it possible for me to earn my degree.

The Academics and People at Fuller

Certainly at the top of the list of people to thank are Colin Brown and Seyoon Kim. Colin Brown faced enormous personal hardships and setbacks while I worked on the thesis. Here I cannot relate them all. Among the difficulties he faced were the tragic loss of his beloved wife, Olive, and a serious injury which left him hospitalized for some time. Most dissertation supervisors would probably drop a Ph.D. student like me and their 800 page monograph, but Dr. Brown saw through the project to the end. His insights and scholarship vastly improved the work and I feel enormously blessed--both academically and personally--to have worked under him.

In addition, I need to thank Seyoon Kim, the second reader. Because of Dr. Brown's illnesses, injury and difficulties, the dissertation process was complicated. Dr. Kim was enormously patient and understanding. He also made some important suggestions which strengthened my arguments.

I should also add a word of thanks to the Fuller staff, particularly the staff at the library and the Center for Advanced Theological Studies. Fuller is a great place. I enjoyed my time there immensely.

Three Important Friends

I also owe a huge debt of gratitude to my good friend Brant Pitre. Suffice it to say, my work has been incalculably enriched by our friendship. Aside from being a close friend, Brant is a true scholar and I have learned immensely from him.

In addition, I need to thank Scott Hahn. I have learned more from him than any other person in my life, both about what it means to do biblical theology and about what it means to live it.

Another key person I have to thank is Curtis Mitch. While readers here know Scott and Brant they probably do not know Curtis. Curtis Mitch is the co-author of the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible and his knowledge of primary and secondary sources is staggering. Among the Catholic academics in my circle, Curtis is legendary. He is an amazing sounding board and my dissertation was greatly enhanced by our numerous conversations. I am so grateful for the time and thought he generously devoted to the questions I brought to him.


I also need to thank my family. My parents, Patrick and Theresa, were incredibly supportive throughout my long journey towards a Ph.D. Their support--spiritual, financial, emotional, etc.--has been staggering. I will never be able to pay them back for all they have done for me.

I also need to thank my sisters (Noree', Tracee, Julia, Marita), my brother (Georgie), my cousins and my wife's parents who have all helped my wife and I enormously during the writing process. They assisted us in numerous ways, but especially by helping with the kids at key moments. My aunts Rita and Kathy also made long trips to San Diego to pitch in when we needed extra assistance, and also lifted up many, many prayers. I should also mention in this regard my aunt Marty, whose prayer support I greatly appreciated.

I particular I should single out Fr. Peter Irving, my uncle, who was tremendously helpful throughout the process. Conversations with him about the project always sharpened my arguments and, again, his prayers were especially appreciated.

JP Catholic

In addition, I really need to acknowledge the good people at JP Catholic, the exciting new school where I teach. It truly is the most amazing place anyone could ever hope to work at--I love the people there, students, staff, faculty, etc.

In particular, the president of the university, Derry Connolly, has been incredibly patient with this hire, allowing me tremendous latitude while writing the thesis. This project took much longer than I anticipated it would. Yet Dr. Connolly encouraged me all along the way, recognizing the need to pursue academic excellence. In addition, the university provost, Dominic Iocco, was incredibly kind in scheduling classes in a way that would help me have the most desirable writing schedule possible during the week.

The flexibility and understanding shown to me by everyone at JP Catholic has been absolutely incredible. If I told you all the things the people at the school have done for me and my family--professionally and personally--you probably would think I was exaggerating.

Suffice it to say, the university's support was incredible. I owe everyone there a huge debt of gratitude. To everyone there--Derry Connolly, Lidy Connolly, Dominic Iocco, Martin Harold, Tom Dunn, Brian Mooney, Alan Lane, Jerry Jackson, Kevin Meziere, Jeremy Durant, Fr. Andy, Fr. Richard, Justin Wilga, Chris Lane, Joan Connolly, and all the other faculty, staff and board members--thanks so much for all the prayers, support, kindness and patience.

My Wife

But above all, I have to thank my wife, Kim. Kim and I met at Fuller in my first year there--actually, in our first week of class. It is kind of funny: two Catholics had to go to a Protestant seminary and take a course in Biblical Hebrew together in order to meet one another.

Since I started the Ph.D. program there she has been with me every step of the way. She meticulously read through my papers and, ultimately, my thesis. She even was proofreading in a hospital bed (against my urgings!), the day after our second child was born!

Kim's help has been invaluable. Of course, most scholars thank their wives for their support. But Kim gave more than just moral and spiritual support. She could actually track my arguments and discuss the dissertation. She has Hebrew and Greek, an M.A. in the Theology, and an excellent grasp of biblical scholarship. She caught the misspellings of the names of scholars and their books. I don't know too many Ph.D.'s who get that kind of help from their wives!

For much of our marriage I had to spend many, many hours working at my office and at libraries. Many weeks I had to go into the office every day of the week. Typically, on days I was not teaching, I was at work by 7am, came home for dinner at 6pm and returned to work until late into the night / early in the morning. Making time for Kim and my sons was a priority, but certainly we made a lot of sacrifices--and my wife in particular made a lot of sacrifices. In the years I was writing the thesis I never took more than four days off at a time (I did that once), with the exception of our honeymoon in 2007. During that time we welcomed two little ones into the world.

Yet throughout all of the difficulties Kim was always supportive and even enthusiastic about my writing. She made it all possible. We truly share this Ph.D.

I love you, Kim. You're amazing. You're my best friend. I'd be totally lost without you.

Glory be. . .

Finally: Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit! I thank all those who prayed for me, especially, Mary, Matthew, Stephen, Thomas, Leo, Luke, Paul, Jerome, Mark, Anthony, and John.

"O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his steadfast love endures for ever!
2 Let Israel say,
“His steadfast love endures for ever.”
3 Let the house of Aaron say,
“His steadfast love endures for ever.”
4 Let those who fear the Lord say,
“His steadfast love endures for ever.”
5 Out of my distress I called on the Lord;
the Lord answered me and set me free. . .
8 It is better to take refuge in the Lord
than to put confidence in man. . .
19 Open to me the gates of righteousness,
that I may enter through them
and give thanks to the Lord.
20 This is the gate of the Lord;
the righteous shall enter through it.
21 I thank thee that thou hast answered me
and hast become my salvation.
22 The stone which the builders rejected
has become the head of the corner.
23 This is the Lord’s doing;
it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 This is the day which the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
25 Save us, we beseech thee, O Lord!
O Lord, we beseech thee, give us success!
26 Blessed be he who enters in the name of the Lord!
We bless you from the house of the Lord.
27 The Lord is God,
and he has given us light.
Bind the festal procession with branches,
up to the horns of the altar!
28 Thou art my God, and I will give thanks to thee;
thou art my God, I will extol thee.
29 O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures for ever!
--Psalm 118


Chris Tilling said...

Many congratulations hooded Dr Barber! I look forward to reading your work, and I am in no doubt that it will make an important contribution. In my mind I have the likes of Fletcher-Louis on the one hand , and restoration eschatology on the other - I know that does sound silly as I type that. It sounds, from the title, as if you are bringing them together into a happy marriage.

Anyway, huge congrats, and warm blessings to you from London, England.

Emil said...

God bless! Wonderful to read!

Daniel O. McClellan said...

Congratulations Dr. Barber! I just finished my master's degree yesterday. I'm looking forward to being where you are in a few years.

Michael F. Bird said...

Michael, that is wonderful news. Congratulations to you and your wife for all of the hard work. Well done. I hope we can get together at SBL!

Marie said...

Congratulations, Michael. I'm very happy for you.

Jim said...

well done buddy! at CBA i'll let you pick out a book of your choice and buy it for you. (not one from brill though...)


very proud of you!

Adam Couturier said...

Congrats, Dr.Barber. What a wonderful accomplishment!

Eric Sammons said...

Congratulations, Dr. Barber!

Father Schnippel said...


Anonymous said...

Could you say a bit about Fuller Theological Seminary? Why did you choose it? I'm a bit surprised that you didn't get your doctorate at a Catholic institution. What were the factors in your decision?

Jeremy said...

Congrats, Dr. Barber! I can't imagine how great it must feel. Hoping to join the ranks soon as well, but indeed there are always complications.

T said...

Congratulations, Dr. Barber! It is well deserved! You are in my prayers! Praise God for you and your family.

Angelo said...


Anonymous said...

Congrats Michael!!!!!

Mike K said...

Congrats on the PhD, and thanks for writing such a quality blog.

Thadeus said...

Congratulations Mrs. Barber! You must be a very strong woman. I would like to commend you for sacrificing time with your husband (and all the other sacrifices you made) in order that he may enrich the faithful by helping us grow closer to Christ.

Thank you very much!

Oh, and also congratulations to Dr. Barber. :)

Matthew Bellisario said...

Congratulations! How do we get a hold of your dissertation?

Michael Barber said...

Wow! Thanks for all the kind comments.

Chris--Thanks for your comments. I can't wait to hear what you think of this. I truly value your feedback and count myself blessed to have such a fine scholar friend across the pond.

Daniel and Jeremy--You'll get there. Just trust in the Lord to sustain you.

Jim--Thanks for the offer. I always look forward to seeing you at conferences and now I'm especially excited! : )
You da man!

Anonymous (if that's your real name)--Fuller has some real heavy hitters: John Goldingay, Joel Green, Colin Brown, Seyoon Kim, Marianne May Thompson. I was accepted to a number of Catholic programs but I always wanted to go to Fuller. In fact, in some ways, I think the Theology programs at Fuller are more "Catholic" than the programs offered at many Catholic schools.

Moonshadow said...


Lee Gilbert said...

Congratulations, Dr. Barber. It's a wonderful achievement.

Have you got a publisher lined up for your thesis?

Anonymous said...

Congrats Michael Barber Ph.d.!

Josh McManaway said...

Congrats! I look forward to seeing you at SBL again and hearing about this tome of yours.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations Michael! You are lucky and privileged indeed to have Kim as your wife; may you continue to demonstrate what a a truly mutually self-sacrificial married life can be.

Looking forward to your next book!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Doctor!

Matthew D. Montonini said...


Great job!