Phase 8: The Tough First Year as a Post-Doc

This phase covers the first year after my degree completion. Yesterday marks the one-year anniversary of my PhD completion date. This year has been marked by the rising threat of Covid-19 and race to develop vaccines and get them out to the public. This year has also been heartbreaking seeing the treatment received by African Americans, followed by protests, and followed by reactions to the protests. This year has seen a lot of people completely polarized over social, political, and medical issues and unable to have conversations about the issues. Sometimes the three appear intertwined in places that are unexpected. This leaves a lot of confused people out there hurting. In the midst of all this suffering, confusion and pain, I needed to get on the job market. I needed to obtain a job that provided enough income to offset the added cost of the student loans that would be due roughly six months after graduation. This phase for me personally was a highly stressful one trying to cope with all of the above concerns along with the added stress of a depressed job market mainly caused by Covid-19. I did not realize the full extent of this pressure on my field until SBL put out the annual jobs report this March, roughly eleven months into my first year post-doc. This reports showed an overall decrease in jobs at 17.9% less than the year prior, but this number is a bit misleading relative to me. This number is a raw number and reflects many jobs I wouldn’t be eligible for. Something that this number does not show is that many of the new positions this year were in new areas to make up for the fact that these were offered in too small a number in previous years. A lot of the new positions related to various aspects of the effect of the pandemic, thus not my field. From my perspective, which focuses on New Testament, Greek Grammar, and places where Linguistics might intersect either or both, there were less than half the number of positions that the previous year. This was true for both post-doctoral research positions and teaching positions.

That being said, I began my job search. The first thing I did was warm some older applications. That is, I updated my information from “PhD Candidate” to “Doctor,” from “ABD” to “completed,” for a number of applications I had already sent in materials for that still were considered open. I only heard back from one of them, and it was an unlikely one anyway, but they let me know that they went with someone else. After that, it was a very long time before any jobs were advertised. This was in the midst of the lock-down in Europe, and the beginning of the one in the USA. Right as I had gotten home from the UK, I was asked to stay home by one of my employers due the Covid situation, until I was stronger. I was still very weak and was constantly getting sick with a number of fresh Covid symptoms (not fever though) every 4-6 days that would last anywhere from 1 day to 3 days. Many days I had a delirious sensation and could not think straight for a few days, coupled with vertigo. By June, I was able to be out and about a little bit and went back to work outside the house. I needed money and this was money. I still had to call off a number of times due to fresh symptoms which would go away in a day or two. I had been tutoring online a bit before Covid became a global situation, but I did not get any students interested on that platform most of this year. I did some contract jobs online as the work was available and as I could focus on it. In July, my youngest contracted Covid, so we all had to isolate several weeks. I re-experienced some really powerful symptoms of the virus, without any fever. He is a young man, but was very ill. His symptoms reminded me of my time in England with the sickness. He did not have as much fever as I had, but some of his symptoms were worse. His skin shed after he became well, and he had lost 25 pounds or just a bit more. His face was sunken in. After this, I applied to a Covid vaccine study for Pfizer, and was accepted in their study.

In August thru September, the annual Stone-Campbell Journal Conference was attempting to be held again after being cancelled earlier in March. As we prepared to launch the conference in Knoxville at Johnson University, it became apparent that we needed to go virtual. Johnson was prepared for this alternative, and the Conference went well. My role in the conference was a bit different, since normally I am there in person managing the displays and book-selling stations. This time I managed the gathering of logos and links, and each exhibitor had a page on the conference website instead. I got to attend a lot more the conference itself this year, and participated in more of the groups than I usually do. This was the first fellowship with fellow academics since my defense. I was also my first fairly robust social gathering where nobody had to worry about masks, distance, or contact during the fellowship. I was contacted by Nazarene Theological College to teach New Testament Greek online via Zoom. I began teaching online in late September. This was just one course, but it was a start. Later in October I was invited to give a seminar at the Ehrhardt Seminar in Manchester, also a virtual event. I presented some material that was a development from my Thesis that I had been thinking about since the defense. This was well-received by the attendees, and the social event afterwards was also something I needed. I met some people there that I would see again later this Fall at SBL. I had an online graduation celebration via Zoom mid-October.

This November, I attended ETS annual meeting, and SBL annual meeting, both the national-level ones. These were scheduled to be in-person originally, but had now moved onto a virtual platform. Just like I had seen with SCJ Conference in September, the publishers and other exhibitors had links in the conference website. Normally there is a job fair at SBL, but this program was cancelled prior to the event. I was disappointed as my biggest need was employment. I decided to concentrate my efforts with the publishers as they might have some work needing done. Around this time Peter Lang agreed to publish my Thesis as a book. This was one of my goals to become more employable. A number of jobs also got posted near this time, so I applied to everything that made sense. My referees were busy writing letters for me. I applied to post-doctoral researcher positions that made sense based on the type of research I had done and to New Testament teaching positions. I heard back from very few of these. The few I did hear back from politely let me know that they went with someone else. One smaller place told me they had over 800 applications for the one position they had posted, saying they had never seen this many apply before. I am sure they were overwhelmed, but this was the story everywhere I heard back from. Two places let me know that my materials were top-notch, but they had gone with someone who had already published more than I had. At least now I was informed. I really needed to get a few pieces published. I updated my online profiles in anything that gave me an online presence. (I generally do this around SBL time). Soon after, someone contacted me via LinkedIn and asked me teach Hebrew. I interviewed and was accepted at Israel Institute of Biblical Studies. I began teacher training which took all of December. They wanted to have all of their professors and lecturers using the Zoom platform in the same manner.

Over the Christmas and New-Year holiday period, I worked as much as I could on some contract work and my one outside job. I also worked over some pieces that could be published in theory. I began teaching Hebrew in January. This was just one class, but I was told to expect more. I got one article submitted in February and received the notification that it was being peer-reviewed. I got some editing done on my defended Thesis to get it ready for publication. My oldest son became sick with Covid in January, but was not very ill with it. We all isolated the full time. My old symptoms reemerged in force while he had it. By February IIBS gave me two more classes to teach for Hebrew. Later they added several new ones to start in March and May. In March they also asked if I would teach Greek also. I said yes, so after some teacher training, they added 3 Greek classes to my responsibility list. Now it seems I am fully employed, but this is not the case. These classes are a blessing! I am “adjuncting” in all of these roles. I am still listed on LinkedIn as “open to work.” I am looking for a full-time position somewhere that involves New Testament, Greek Language and hopefully Linguistics. I found out that I had received placebo in the Covid study, so got the vaccine for real in March as they unblinded the study. As March drew to a close, another sad social issue raises its head, “hate crimes against Asians.” In addition to that, new strains of Covid-19 are being studied. Some of them are more spreadable than the first ones, and others can reinfect a person who previously had it. Along with this are some strains that mutated the protein spike, which is what most of the vaccines are designed to recognize. Little is known yet if these with protein spike mutations will spread like the others have as it is too soon to tell. In addition to this the numbers of sick people globally have spiked again though the last month of Winter and into Spring. I am trying to stay optimistic about job opportunities, but I think this coming year will test all of that. At any rate, I am concentrating on getting more published and teaching as much as I can as Adjunct. Up to now, as the courses I am currently teaching finish, I will have taught first-term Greek four times, second-term Greek three times, first-term Hebrew nine times, and second-term Hebrew three times. That should enhance my Curriculum Vitae nicely.

Phase 7

As I made plans to travel to Manchester to defend my PhD Thesis, I was looking at airline tickets and discovered that if I flew to Milan, Italy and then to Manchester, UK, my fare would be about a fifth of the price than to go directly.  Of course this meant taking very different airlines.  Since it was so much cheaper to fly this way, my wife decided to accompany me for the first leg and we would spend some time together in Italy.  We made travel arrangements and some lodging for the both of us in Italy.  We hoped to see several sites before I had to defend. 

As we were on the final hop from Portugal to Italy, we realized something new was happening.  We got sprayed along with all the passengers.  And then when we landed, people in white suits were taking temperatures and aiming weird lights at us.  I could hear some people talking about a viral outbreak.  We saw the news while we were getting our luggage, that indeed an outbreak of Covid-19 had emerged in 12 towns of the Italian province we were in.  We went on to our hotel near the airport, but outside Milan itself to see what to do next.  We had brought with us the allowable size of hand sanitizer and had a few face masks and bleach wipes.  We asked at the hotel, but became certain that our travel plans inside Italy would be vastly different.  On the internet, we could see closures of most of what we wished to see, and some town closures for where we had lodging.  We asked to extend our hotel for the duration of our stay, and changed plans to go see local scenery in more remote towns.  We also could not get revised departure dates, so we were stuck.

We picked up some gloves as well, but could not find more hand sanitizer.  We stayed away from people and explored away from the city.  We did get to see Lake Como, several churches, and a monastery.  All were beautiful.  Then my wife boarded her plane to go home while I boarded mine to go to defend in Manchester.  As soon as I landed I obtained my lodging, and got groceries for roughly a week.  I visited NTC campus to let others know I had arrived, but was soon chased into self-isolation since I had just arrived from Italy.  It was a good call, as by the evening I did not feel so well.  I had enough food and I needed to prepare for my defense so I stayed in my room.  After a three days of low-grade fevers and a sense of general feeling of being drained, I started having high fevers and realized I would soon run out of medications.  I had plenty of water.  Several friends dropped off more medications and food.  I had nearly 10 days of uncontrollable fevers, along with many symptoms that were consistent with others had reported with having Covid-19.  I could not get a test, though, as those were in short supply, and at that time were only being used upon entry to a hospital.  On the night of the tenth day of high fevers, I was in a fight for my life.  My heart was racing at 150, my pulse was also stronger than normal.  I could see my veins and arteries bulging.  This went on for a few hours, and I called for medical help.  Then my lungs started to work less and less, along with a feeling of  numbness in various parts of the body.  I could not get an ambulance to arrive.  I started passing out and coming to as morning drew near.  Finally the Covid squad arrived in full suits and gave me air and something to slow down everything that had been racing away.  My fevers also broke around that time.  They stayed with me about 8 hours, until my breathing and heart rate were stabilizing and headed back to normal. This was a Friday morning (Friday the 13th).  I was happy to be alive!  They told me I must remain in isolation for 7 more days.

My practice defense (mock viva) had been planned for the following Monday, and my supervisor offered to postpone this, since I had been so ill.  I was still delirious on the morning of the mock viva and was barely coherent mentally.  I was still in isolation so the meeting was over Zoom.  I knew my material in my dissertation well enough though, and did okay in my mock viva.  I prepared a bit more over the next two days.  My real viva was planned for Wednesday, March 18.  The dean offered to postpone it, but I was keen to have it happen as my mind was getting clearer late into Tuesday.  I did my best to prepare for questions designed to throw me off and rehearsed my responses to questions in my thesis.

The actual defense was also to be over Zoom.  On the morning of the defense, I discovered one of my examiners had also been ill, and had felt a recovery while reading my thesis.  Both of them were thrilled to have read my thesis.  The questions ranged from elements in my thesis to related items outside my thesis that could be impacted by the discoveries within my thesis.  I believe it went twice as long as expected, with lots of follow-on questions after each question.  At the end they put me into a break-out room, and had a discussion.  Then they pulled me back in and told me I had passed.  I was given a grade of A2, which meant I would have a few corrections to make in the thesis.  These would need to be approved by the internal examiner before my degree would be final, but my defense was complete. 

When Friday arrived, I went outside for the first time.  I went in the park outside my window.  I was happy to be alive.  I was out for a 15 minute walk and that was all my lungs could handle.  I found out that borders were about to close and the President had mentioned that all Americans needed to get home.  Also most airlines were shut down, including the ones I needed to get home.  A friend got me on a Sunday flight from London to Atlanta, on one of the few still running.  My dean got me on a train to London for Saturday along with a hotel for Saturday night.  I made both the train and plane, and got home on 22 March.

About a week later, I received the list of corrections required.  It contained several typos, and a substantive rewrite of one example I had given.  Altogether it was much less than I anticipated.  I made all the corrections in about 90 minutes.  I still waited a couple days to send them back as I wanted to be sure I had fully addressed the concerns.  Plus, I like to review whatever I write with a fresh mind.  I submitted them, and the internal examiner approved them.  My degree was complete, and I later received certificate and transcript that dated my award of PhD as April 1, 2020 (April Fool’s Day)!

Phase 6 Update

Now that my whole dissertation has been through 20 drafts, each revised from feedback on the previous, I am ready to submit it for examination.  I submitted it to the electronic thesis submission system at the University of Manchester, and received my confirmation number and a pdf of the whole file plus a standard cover sheet all in 30 seconds or so.  This was very fast.  My supervisor was standing by should any problems occur, but none did.   My examiners have been chosen and they will be notified shortly of my submission.

I next sent it to a press who would run two copies for the examiners and send them to my college for distribution.  After going through their whole process three times before I could pay, I found out that they would not bind anything as big as my document (438 pages).  I contacted them to see what was wrong, but they could only handle smaller theses.  I had already paid, so I had to apply for a reimbursment.  I contacted another press, who happened to be a little cheaper, and they assured me that they could handle the length.  I made it through the three tries before payment (something is not quite right with the online ordering service), paid for the service, and got my confirmation.

Three days later, the package still had not arrived where it needed to go, so I had to contact the press and provide more detail on the address, so that it could arrive the next day.  It did arrive and was subsequently sent out to my examiners.  I recieved word a few weeks later that I would defend my dissertation on March 18, so I began to make travel and lodging arrangements.

Phase 5 Update

After compiling the corpus, it was time to pull out the relevent instances of the Perfect tense-form and analyze where they were found, and how they were used by authors of different periods.  The research concentrated on the letters of Plato, Paul the Apostle, and Basil of Caesarea to provide temporal landmarks for the Perfect tense study.  These were then compared with several interesting results.  First that Paul’s usage of the Perfect appears generally central in its diachronic shift from a state to a past tense.  This was as expected.  More interestingly, Paul uses Perfect tenses imbedded in supplemental clauses more often than do the other writers, and uses a wider range of active lexemes in that role than do others.  Another key observation is that all writers regardless of time period used the Perfect in both stative and eventive ways, discernable by the adverbs collocated with the verbs.

The writing of the dissertation begins in earnest now with the data collected.  Much of the Pauline data is used in chapter 4, and diachronic epistolary data is used in chapter 5.  The comparison and constrast of Paul with the other letter writers is also in chapter 5.  I submitted a first draft on each new chapter and compiled a first draft of the dissertation using the feedback I recieved on each chapter.  This first whole draft was the first time I composed an Introduction or conclusion.

Phase 4 Update

Now I began to collect Greek letters for the corpus.  My goal is to collect letters from before 500 BCE up through to 500 CE.  The purpose of this range is to have a large data set that is that diachronically balanced, in the hopes of situating the New Testament letters within the history of the Greek language.  Upon a short inspection, the New Testament letters also have the features of ethical treatise and legal argumentation as well.  So, treatises and arguments from the philosophers will also be considered important for the analysis corpus.  This way, New Testament letters can be compared with a broad range of Greek letters, argumentation pieces, and ethical treatises.

The next step is to decide what should go in and what should be left out.  It would not be necessary to have every letter, legal discourse, or ethical discourse, since that would make the corpus too large to manage all the issues.  More importantly, collecting all the available pieces would unbalance the corpus by weighting it too heavily for certain centuries.

In an effort to keep the corpus balanced diachronically, and to maintain manageability, only a sample the pieces are taken from each era.  The sample would include a size of text comparable to that in the eras of least available texts.  Also, only letters of a certain size were included as many minute letters with little more than a quick note are available.  It is deemed better to exclude these as they didn’t have many special constructions due to their brevity.

Phase 3 Update

After being exposed to two views regarding verbal aspect, I was exposed to several new fields of linguistics, where more was done in the areas of statistics and analyzing large data sets.  Corpus Linguistics was one of these fields.  Here, large corpora (bodies) of literature are compiled and then marked so that every item that a researcher wishes to search for gets a tag.  Search engines then search for tags and report the text that is associated with the tag.  A large part of the work is to manually verify the tags in order to ensure reliability of the search finding appropriate text.  Since the search engine can only find material through its tags, it is quite important to have accurate tags.

Next, it is important to search for an item in the corpora relevant to some other item.  These items can be grammatical, lexical, or structural.  One could tag almost anything and then have a search engine look for it.  My hope is to build a corpora of Greek Letters (Epistles) that is tagged for tense, mood, aspect, lexical items. and lexical morphemes.  Currently several software packages do most of these things, such as Logos, Bibleworks, and Perseus Digital Library, but none of them tag everything relevant to this purpose.  Search engines already exist that can perform the searches, but the corpora as such does not yet exist.  Besides the tags, the individual letters have not yet been collected into a large database.

The problem with all of their tag systems is that none of them tag aspect or specific morphemes for separate analysis.  One cannot set up any of their engines to locate where a perfective verb is collocated with a temporal adverb, because the verbs are no so marked.  While one could set up a search for a particular tense-form and a certain adverb, this forces the search to be divided by tense-form paradigms rather than by aspectual category, based on their respective morphemes.  Also certain adjectives and adverbs contain verbal aspect morphemes that also behave like those in verbs, but currently no way exists to search for specifically those items to compare them in analysis.  I am hoping that what I put together will be a step forward for future research in this area.

Phase 2 Update

I decided to read more into Linguistic literature after reading the works on Greek within Biblical Studies.  I included especially the discussion of Indo-European linguistics on verbs to see how analysts of other languages handled the Perfect tenses.

Some of these scholars were Osten Dahl, Eystein Dahl, and Mari Jean Broman Olsen for their cross-linguistic perspectives.  I also read Bernard Comrie, Arnim von Stechow, and Corien Bari, regarding time and aspect and the possible nature of their relationship.

These scholars understood more-or-less verbal aspect in its connection to time, where the previous set of scholars studied it in its separate uniqueness from temporal matters.  The first group explained verbal aspect as a subjective element separate from time, but the second group explained verbal aspect in its connection to time.  The kind of time they see connected to verbal aspect is not absolute time or deictic time, but a relationship between the event time and reference time.

The Perfective or PFV is illustrated as below:

<————–>  Reference Time

     |—-|         Event Time

and the Imperfective or IMPFV is illustrated next:

     <—->       Reference Time

|————–| Event Time

In the two cases, for perfective, the reference time is broader than the event time and for the imperfective the reference time is less broad than the event time.  In other words, the event time exceeds the reference time.

Tense has a different relationship to time than does verbal aspect.  It is the relationship between the Event Time and the Speech Time.  For example, if the Event Time precedes the Speech Time, than its tense is past.  If both overlap, then its tense is present.  If the Event Time occurs after the Speech Time, then its tense is Future.

These are two different kind of relationships, since verbal aspect is understood as one of overlap, and tense as one of directional distance between both of its relevant components.  Also, only one element is common to both relationships – that is Event Time.  Their difference allows tense and aspect to be different entities, yet both be related to time somehow.

Both the subjective portrayal idea about verbal aspect and the temporal relationship between Event Time and Reference Time seem to be true of verbal aspect, but it appears that one of these two are likely to be an entailment of the other.  Either the precise overlap of Event Time and Reference Time causes a particular subjective portrayal to occur, or the subjective portrayal causes the precise overlap to occur.  The overlap of Event Time and Reference Time does not necessarily create a portrayal and especially not a subjective one.

There appears to be no way to argue for a speaker who is exercising a subjective portrayal from the fact that the Event Time and Reference Time overlap in a specific way.  However it is possible to argue that a speaker who exercises a subjective portrayal of a situation creates the exact relationship between the Event Time and Reference Time by the fact the speaker chose to portray a situation in a particular way.

Whenever a speaker subjectively portrays a situation as whole/complete/entire, then the speaker uses a broad view of the of Reference Time in order to capture the whole Event.  This is what creates the relationship illustrated as perfective above.  Likewise, when a speaker portrays a situation as incomplete, then the speaker uses a narrow view of the Reference Time that is unable to capture the whole Event.  This creates the relationship illustrated as imperfective.

Therefore, the effects on time noticed by the second set of scholars are properly understood as entailments of the subjective portrayal discussed by the first set of scholars.  They are not and cannot be the same thing, although they share a one-to-one relationship between portrayal type and relationship type of Event Time to Reference Time.  The fact that the Event Time and Reference Time overlap in certain ways relevant to each aspect leads many to analyze verbal aspect in light of the relationship between Event Time and Reference Time, but in this case, they are precisely analyzing the effects of verbal aspect rather than verbal aspect itself.

Those who criticize subjective portrayal on the basis of the fact that the specific overlaps of Event Time and Reference Time occur, and that these relationships can explain verbal aspect better, simply have not analyzed that these temporal effects are likely derived from this subjective portrayal.

Personal Update

This late-Winter and Spring conference season has been an emotional roller-coaster.  This past November, I saw how my research was aligning itself into a pattern for me to write my dissertation.  I came up with several arguments for what I understand the verbal aspect to be for the Greek synthetic Perfect tense-form.

I needed to obtain some vetting for my arguments and feedback for the way I collated them into a comprehensive group from a variety of professionals.  I sent in several proposals to various biblical and linguistic conferences to obtain an opportunity to present my ideas to the kind of professionals I needed to hear from.  It was a busy time of reading proposal requirements, filling out the online forms, and twisting my abstracts and papers to fit the various requirements for each conference.  Some of the conferences would begin before I was done sending in proposals to the others.

Altogether, I sent eleven proposals for this academic year.  So far, two have come back with rejection letters, and two were accepted.  I presented an argument from morphology and a model of verbs to the two conferences who accepted, and received a variety of types of feedback.  The results were that my paper on verb models needs some more work, and the argument from morphology paper is publish-worthy.

All the while, I had a chapter to turn in connecting the dots for the above arguments.  This chapter was well-received and this gave me some encouragement while I was getting proposal rejections from the various conferences.  Now is the time to work on putting together the corpus, so that I can write my methodology chapter before I need to write my next presentations over the remaining arguments.

This is the year to start getting my ideas out there with the hope of feedback before my final write-up of the dissertation.  I also hope to get a couple of articles published from a couple of my presentations.  It is time to begin the job hunt as well, so I am starting the application process to see where that leads.

Introduction to my Research: Phase 1

I became interested in the verbal aspect theory as it relates to the Greek verb system.  I began my reading with Stanley Porter’s volume, Verbal Aspect in the Greek of the New Testament with Reference to Tense and Mood.  I read Buist Fanning’s volume, Verbal Aspect in New Testament Greek, very soon afterwards.  I could see where they approached the topic using different framework, and reached many similar conclusions.  The two works also contained some stark differences.  Chiefly, they differed regarding whether or not the Greek language contain markings for tense in the verb morphology, and they differed on the semantic nature and definition of the Perfect.  screen-shot-12-02-16-at-12-11-pmLater I read Kenneth McKay’s volume, A New Syntax of the Verb in New Testament Greek: An Aspectual Approach.  McKay emphasizes many of the same things as in the first two, yet makes a stronger emphasis on keeping a distinction between actions and states.  I soon read the JSNT Supplement volume edited by D. A. Carson, Biblical Greek Language and Linguistics: Open Questions in Current Research.  In this volume, several challenges were given by several scholars to both Porter and Fanning.  I read Constantine Campbell’s work a bit later, Verbal Aspect, the Indicative Mood, and Narrative.  Campbell lays out an idea for the Greek Perfect that is different from either Porter or Fanning.  Having read these works as a starting point, I realised that the debate over the Greek Perfect tense-form was largely unresolved.  I greatly appreciate the efforts of these scholars for engaging in this complex topic, and I am grateful that their works made this topic accessible to me.