Personal Study Schedule: Academic Languages, Early Christian Literature, and Study Habits

images-1A friend of mine gave the recent sentiment how NT scholars know a whole lot about NT Literature and their knowledge of Greek is limited to Matt–Rev, let alone having broader knowledge of early Christianity. As a NT and Early Christian scholar, I have to be mindful of tons of literature and methodologies that extend beyond a mere reading of Matt–Rev.

Last year at SBL (San Diego, 2014), a chord was struck within me—it was imperative that I garnered deeper knowledge of Early Christianity and broadened my awareness of Greek literature. During December of 2014, this pending change burgeoned into broader action.

After talking with close friends, academic mentors, and other scholars in the field, I attempted to compile a quasi-“best practices” to undergird my Early Christian discipline and language acquisition. Some of what follows is a result of these conversations as well as what I, personally, wanted to implement.

Study Schedule

My study schedule is ritualistic and mundane. In other words, it is consistent, monotonous, and structured. I must be committed to other research, writing projects, and normal academic life. But my commitment to this schedule precedes all other projects. Consequently, I do not begin writing projects until this is accomplished.

In order to grow and develop as an early Christian scholar, I have prioritized my time in the following ways. I use my phone as a timer. During the allotted time, I work through as much material as I am able. Once my time has ended, I immediately move to the next item. During this time, my Internet is off—prohibiting any email, social media, and phone calls—and I keep breaks to a minimum.

Everyday I am reading primary literature. Every other day I am reading primary original texts and grammars respective of particular research languages.

Everyday — 20–25 Minutes Each:

  • English Primary Ancient Source
  • Greek New Testament
  • Greek Literature

Odd Calendar Days — 20 Minutes Each:

  • Hebrew Language
  • Modern Language (German, eventually French)

Even Calendar Days — 20 Minutes Each:

  • Latin
  • Ancient Language (Coptic, eventually Syriac)

images-2Primary Source Literature

In the past year, I have stumbled into a set pattern. Initially, my schedule looked different but soon realized that it needed slight modifications.

Thus, over the past year, generally observing the previous schedule, I have worked through the following material. I hope this will encourage others to do likewise and make primary source material intake a part of weekly research.

English Primary Ancient Source Material

Apocrypha — The New Oxford Annotated Apocrypha, 4th ed.

Dead Sea Scrolls — Geza Vermes, ed. The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English. Penguin Classics

Old Testament Pseudepigrapha — vol. 1 Apocalyptic Literature and Testaments, ed. James Charlesworth

  • 1 Enoch
  • 2 Baruch
  • 2 Enoch
  • 3 Baruch
  • 3 Enoch
  • Apocalypse of Abraham
  • Apocalypse of Adam
  • Apocalypse of Daniel
  • Apocalypse of Elijah
  • Apocalypse of Sedrach
  • Apocalypse of Zephaniah
  • Apocryphal of Ezekiel
  • The Fourth Book of Ezra
  • Questions of Ezra
  • Revelation of Ezra
  • Sibylline Oracles
  • Testament of Adam
  • Testament of Job
  • Testament of Moses
  • Testament of Solomon
  • Testament of the Three Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob)
  • Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs
  • Treatise of Shem
  • Vision of Ezra

Old Testament Pseudepigrapha — vol. 1 More Noncanonical Scriptures, ed. Richard Bauckham, James R. Davila, Alexander Panayotov

  • Adam Octipartite/Septipartite
  • The Apocryphon of Eber
  • The Apocryphon of Ezekiel
  • The Apocryphon of Seth
  • Aramaic Levi
  • The Aramaic Song of the Lamb
  • The Balaam Text from Tell Deir ‘Alla
  • The Book of Noah
  • The Book of the Covenant
  • The Cave of Treasures
  • A Danielic Pseudepigraphon
  • The Dispute over Abraham
  • The Eight Book of Moses
  • Eldad and Modad
  • Exorcist Psalms of David and Solomon
  • Fifth Ezra
  • The Heartless Rich Man and the Precious Stone
  • Hebrew Visions of hell and Paradise
  • The Hydromancy of Solomon
  • The Inquiry of Abraham
  • Jeremiah’s Prophecy to Pashhur
  • The Latin Vision of Ezra
  • The Life of Adam and Eve
  • Midrib Vayissua’a
  • The Nine and a Half Tribes
  • Pale Historica
  • Questions of the Queen of Sheba and Answers by King Solomon
  • Quotations from Lost Books in the Hebrew Bible
  • The Relics of Zechariah and the Boy Buried at His Feet
  • See Zerubbabel
  • The Selenodromion of David and Solomon
  • The Seventh Vision of Daniel
  • Sixth Ezra
  • Songs of David
  • The Story of Melchizedek with the Melchizedek Legend
  • The Syriac History of Joseph
  • The Testament of Job
  • The Tiburtino Sibyl
  • The Treatise of the Vessels

New Testament Apocrypha — vol. 2 Writings Related to the Apostles; Apocalypses and Related Subjects, ed. Wilhelm Schneemelcher

  • Acts of Andrew
  • Acts of John
  • Apocalypse of Paul
  • Apocalypse of Peter
  • Apocalypse of Thomas
  • Ascension of Isaiah
  • Books of Esra (5th and 6th)
  • Christian Sibyllines
  • Coptic Gnostic Apocalypse of Paul
  • Coptic Gnostic Apocalypse of Peter
  • The Correspondence between Seneca and Paul
  • The Epistle of the Laodiceans
  • The Kerygma Petri
  • The Pseudo-Titus Epistle

Apostolic Fathers

  • 1–2 Clement
  • Didache
  • Epistle of Barnabas
  • Epistle to Diognetus
  • Fragment of Papias
  • Fragment of Quadratus
  • Letters of Ignatius
  • Letter of Polycarp to the Philippians
  • Martyrdom of Polycarp
  • Shepherd of Hermas

1st–2nd Century

  • Aristides, Apology
  • Athenagoras, Embassy for the Christians, Resurrection of the Dead
  • Epistula Apostolorum
  • Gospel of Peter
  • Irenaeus, Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching
  • Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, 1 Apology, 2 Apology
  • Melito of Sardis, On Pascha
  • Odes of Solomon
  • Tatian, Address to the Greeks
  • Theophilus of Antioch, To Autolycus

3rd Century

  • Passion of Perpetua and Felicity
  • Origen, Homilies to Leviticus

4th Century

  • Athanasius, On the Incarnation, Letters to Serapion
  • Augustine (4th–5th Cent), Confessions
  • Didymus the Blind, On the Holy Spirit
  • Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiae

5th Century

  • Patrick of Ireland, Confessions

Original Languages

  • Greek New Testament — read twice
  • Greek Literature
    • Apostolic Fathers
  • Hebrew Language
    • Currently reading Genesis
  • Latin Language
    • Martyrdom of Perpetual (some)
    • Patrick of Ireland’s Confessio 
    • 1 John
    • Sermon on the Mount
    • John F. Collins, A Primer of Ecclesiastical Latin
  • Coptic
    • Bentley Layton, Coptic in 20 Lessons: Introduction Sahidic Coptic with Exercises and Vocabularies
    • Select readings from: Bart Ehrman and Zlatko Plese, The Apocryphal Gospels
  • German Language
    • Selected readings for Dissertation (Didache German Scholarship)
    • April Wilson, Reading German Quickly

*     *     *     *

Over the course of the next year, I plan to work through all of the NT Apocrypha and essential Graeco-Roman background texts like Suetonius, Tacitus, Thucydides, and Pliny the Younger. Once finished, I will begin working through Josephus and Philo. After these texts, I will most likely pick a single author and wade through their essential works: Origen.

Regarding the Greek language, I will always keep rereading the Greek New Testament—for my first love is still the New Testament. My larger vision is to read concurrently NT Greek texts and another Greek text (LXX, 2nd–4th Century Literature). This following year, I will begin working through Greek Apocrypha.

Regarding research languages, I will be making a slow transition from German to French. Coptic is moving slowly and will hope to move into Syriac by years end.

This past year has taught me many things beyond what this literature has exposed to me. First, consistency truly pays off. Never did I think that I could work through this much literature in such a short time. You are slowly chipping away at a beautiful sculpture of antiquity. Second, devoted time is of prime importance. Set your hand to the task and slowly pick something to work through respective of your discipline.

I hope this is encouraging for the ancient scholar. Find something that works with you—your schedule might not look like mine. Rather than devoting 2 hours a day, maybe devote 30 minutes a day and slowly expand your schedule: Greek New Testament and an English Primary text. But the premise is still the same, be committed to your discipline and grow in your in source acquisition.

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6 thoughts on “Personal Study Schedule: Academic Languages, Early Christian Literature, and Study Habits

  1. Reblogged this on Abbey House Sojourner and commented:
    Exceptional post. A great reminder of the discipline required to achieve mastery, of whatever your subject of study is. Some do this for exercise, some do it for the stock market. Consistency, determination, pain, self-control, and humility are all necessary elements to achieve anything worthwhile in this one short life.

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  3. Hey Shawn,

    Thanks for this post. I just started my M.Div at SBTS. I finished the GNT in January and have begun reading the AF. I am almost done with Didache. Can you give me some advice about the relative difficulties of the texts in the AF? I’ve heard that 1&2 Clement are difficult, but that is the extent of my knowledge.

    I would like to acquire the texts that you’ve mentioned to begin working through them. In Hebrew I’m reading through Deuteronomy; this summer, I hope to begin Aramaic. I’m still shoring up my Latin.

    Thanks for linking the texts you purchased to Amazon; I would also like to purchase them and work through them since I would like to do doctoral work in the NT and early Christianity.

    • Thanks for commenting! Too bad I missed you at SBTS, as I have since relocated elsewhere. I’m currently writing articles, dissertation, and a book on the Didache—so that is a good place to start!

      My best advice is: read. Giving attention to syntax will come with reading large amounts of material. 1 Clement is rather difficult. 2 Clement, however, you will find to be much easier. BDAG or Middle Liddle will work fine as lexicons.

      Best of luck and keep up the reading!

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  5. Very helpful post. I’ve been studying the original languages/early christianity intensively on my own, so appreciate the study habit advice. Thanks for sharing this.

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