Good News!

Screenshot 2015-11-30 at 6.31.27 AMI have received news that I have unanimously passed the Greek qualifying exam in my PhD program! This exam was the last of 11 qualifying exams that I have had to take in my graduate studies (5 in my MA program, and 6 in my PhD program). The Greek exam is, by far, the most difficult (the second most difficult is the Latin qualifying exam, but I consider Latin to be a much easier language than Ancient Greek, and that’s saying something!).

There has been a long journey to get to this point. I began studying Greek six years ago (the year before I entered my Classics MA program at the University of Arizona). During my time there I not only studied Greek every semester, but even took an independent study in Greek prose composition in which I completed all of North and Hillard’s Greek Prose Composition. In addition to this work, I also helped teach summer courses in intensive beginning Greek using Hansen and Quinn’s Greek, an Intensive Course.

Since entering my PhD program at the University of California, Irvine, I have continued to take courses studying Greek almost every quarter. Even then, it took me another three and a half years of studying before I was able to pass this exam. During the last six months, in particular, I have been neither taking nor teaching any courses in order to focus on studying Greek.

A major reason why this exam is so difficult is because our reading list includes both prose and poetry. It is one thing to read Lysias and Herodotus (to make no mention of Thucydides and Demosthenes!), but quite another to read Homer, Sophocles, and Aeschylus. The advantage of studying Classics, though, is that it gives you top notch language skills. All of these authors are considerably more difficult than virtually all of the books of the New Testament, so if you can read them, you will have no problem with Paul and the Gospels.

Because of my language study, I have had considerably less time (and energy!) to write and blog this year than I would have liked. My absence has been noticed by some readers, and it has been frustrating to have to take time away from writing. I still have other graduate projects to work on, but I hope to have time to write more in the near future. If I am away, though, it is because of intense graduate work like this. Either way, there will be time.

I am thinking about taking an extra seventh year in my PhD program, since things have moved a little slower than I originally planned, but an extra year may balance everything out.

In other news, I am also contemplating getting a second PhD in Philosophy, once I finish in Classics. I know, it’s crazy, and a long way down the road, but it is something that I have been thinking about. I have already taken a number of graduate seminars in epistemology, and I would like to do more work in metaphysics and ethics. Another degree in Philosophy would also go a long way in doing counter-apologetics work, so it’s something to think about for the future.

-Matthew Ferguson

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16 Responses to Good News!

  1. ratamacue0 says:


    What would you do with the philosophy degree? Might you use it in your career?

    • Yes, I think so. I am actually thinking of trying to work in a philosophy department, rather than a history department, when I finish. I think that philosophy would give me more flexibility in my research, and I could still do work on history. Plus, I think having experience in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, as well as ancient history, would be attractive to a lot of philosophy departments, if you have a degree in philosophy, as well.

  2. Dave Empey says:

    PhD’s are like potato chips. It’s hard to get just one!

  3. Congratulation!

    I appreciate this statement: ” The advantage of studying Classics, though, is that it gives you top notch language skills. All of these authors are considerably more difficult than virtually all of the books of the New Testament, so if you can read them, you will have no problem with Paul and the Gospels.”

    This is why, as I apply to schools, I would much rather take Greek through the Classics Department.

  4. Great job!

    Just be careful about adding to the Federal government’s student debt portfolio. It currently exceeds one trillion dollars and it is growing.These loans cannot be defaulted.

    Once again, a great job.


    • You don’t have to tell me about the student loan debt! Right now my partner and I have about average debt for our age, and she has a job working in the archives of NASA-JPL. So, I’ll try not to add to the federal student debt portfolio too much 😉

  5. Reblogged this on Civitas Humana and commented:

    I have had less time to write on Civ than I would have liked this year, due to my language studies in Greek, so I thought that I would share this major milestone. I still have more graduate projects to work on, but I have much more material planned for Civ, when I get around to it. At least I am making progress towards my PhD!

  6. waldobiade says:

    Keep away from the “Philosophy of Religion”, it may drive you to be an atheist.
    Just kidding!
    On a serious note, see if you can unite your voice with those who want to get that “study” out of Universities curricula

  7. Steve says:

    Congrats man, that’s an awesome milestone in your journey.

  8. Pingback: Thursday Assorted Links | Marginal Counterrevolution

  9. dlh53 says:

    Congratulations Matthew! Be careful with philosophy though. I believe it was Wittgenstein who said philosophers were like “flies buzzing around in a bottle.”…:)

  10. Reader says:

    Congrats Mat! and keep going.

  11. Wim says:

    Congratulations on passing! I always enjoy reading your blog posts. 🙂

  12. A.Joshua says:

    Keep on keeping on, Congrats.

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