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My Advice to Students — Gignilliat Says, "Seminary Is Like Boot Camp, Not Christian Summer Camp"

Categories My Advice to Students

9780310325321Question time for those who are currently in a seminary program: Did you ever imagine it would be like this? With all of the languages, obscure doctrines, nuanced hermeneutical schemes, and papers and tests? I know I didn't when I entered my seminary experience nearly seven years ago.

But if not, what did you think it would be like? Perhaps more like summer camp and less like the boot camp that it is?

That's how Mark Gignilliat describes the experience, professor of Old Testament studies at Beeson Divinity School and author of A Brief History of Old Testament Criticism.

Given the nature and rigor of graduate biblical studies, he advises students to enter the experience with wide-eyed recognition: "Students need to go in wide eyes open, recognizing that this is going to be a difficult task. There will be material and topics and issues that will be complicated and will have never been exposed to before, and be prepared for that."

In our video today, Gignilliat shares two key ways students can prepare for this boot camp educational experience. First, while we tend to bifurcate our spiritual life and academic life, it's important to wed the two from the beginning. Second, we grow as exegetes by becoming a full-orbed person, which includes prayer, reading literature, and thinking beyond the myopic world of theological studies.

I remember my boot camp experience like it was yesterday. Whether you're eagerly expecting such an experience this fall or currently in one, Gignilliat's advice will help you keep pushing forward through your program when feel you can barely stand one more push-up.

-Jeremy Bouma, Th.M. (@bouma)


"My Advice to Students" is a weekly video series designed to advise and guide students who are studying for a future of ministry in the Church, whether in the academy or in congregations. In these specially curated videos, leading scholars of biblical studies share their seasoned wisdom to help you navigate this important season of preparation.

(Can't see the video? Watch it, here)

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