In this post in my series “God and Man at Yale Divinity,” I wrap up the semester by discussing finals at Yale.
Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes
Finals at Yale have finally finished. This week was the last of the semester and consisted entirely of taking exams. The semester is now over, and it’s hard to believe how quickly it passed.
Since this week was devoted entirely to finals, this post is shorter than my previous ones. Nonetheless, it was a great week. My first set of finals at Yale is now over, and I look forward to enjoying Christmas break.
After I have had a little time to decompress, I’ll write some broader reflections from my first semester at Yale. Here, however, I will simply leave you with a brief overview of my last week of the semester.
Finals at Yale
I had three exams for which to prepare: New Testament, Greek, and Early Christianity.
I had my New Testament final on Tuesday. It consisted of two essays, and I had two hours to complete it.
The greatest difficulty associated with these exams is not the preparation—I found it much easier to prepare for these finals than any of the finals I took in law school—but with the actual physical act of writing in a blue book for hours on end.
In law school, we had the option of writing out our exams in a software program. (I believe we used a program called ExamSoft.) I wish we had that option here. That would be easier on the test takers and test graders alike, I’m sure.
Unfortunately, we did not. God help whoever has to try to read my handwriting.
Nonetheless, I thought the New Testament exam went well, and I feel pretty good about it. After taking it, I had a day off before my next round of exams, giving me a little more study time.
On Thursday, I had my Intermediate Greek exam. This exam required me to translate a passage from outside of the New Testament.
It was scheduled to be a three-hour exam, but it ended up being only ninety minutes. (A pleasant surprise to receive upon arriving for class.) So, it wasn’t that bad.
Unlike the midterm, we were able to use a lexicon. I had to look up a lot of words, but the translation itself was not that hard. The passage was from an early Christian text. I think it may have been the Didache or 1 Clement or something like that. I don’t really remember.
Overall, I feel pretty good about this one too.
I finished at about 10:30, so I had a few hours to cram in some additional study time for my Early Christianity exam at 2:00.
The Early Christianity exam was a difficult one to take. It was three straight hours of writing in a blue book. There was a brief short answer section that I allotted about ten minutes to complete.
Then there were three essays to write, and I wrote the entire time. Several classmates finished much earlier than me, so perhaps I took too long. Nonetheless, I used every minute of the three hours writing. I filled up an entire blue book and part of a second one.
I am accustomed to long exams. The typical law school exam was three hours, and many were four. And, of course, the bar exam was two full days.
So, the length of the exam was not the source of the difficulty. It was the actual writing. The physical act of taking the exam was much more difficult than the actual exam itself.
I hope in the future, Yale allows for the taking of exams on a computer. Fortunately, however, I understand that many classes, particularly advanced classes, do not require any exams at all.
End of a Semester and Finals at Yale
Taking the exams was a relatively painful experience, but now I am finally finished. I have a month-long break that I intend to enjoy.
Some people still have exams on Monday, and others don’t have papers due until Tuesday or so. I, however, am finished, and I am happy to be done.
As I stated above, I intend to write a more comprehensive retrospection about what this semester has meant to me soon, but right now, I’m just exhausted and relieved.
Scripture and Spiritual Development
Fortunately, the week before finals, we were off. It was another reading week. While preparing for finals, however, I had the opportunity to think about the usefulness of this education for my personal spiritual development.
I used to think that knowledge of Scripture is all that really matters. I believed that the greater understanding I had of the Bible, the better I would be able to practice my faith. I thought the Christian life would flow naturally from this knowledge.
Over the years, however, I have found this not to be true. Such thinking demonstrates a marked failure in my life that is the source of much regret for me.
I compare the Christian life to carpentry, and knowledge of it to tools we acquire.
The unschooled believer may have only a hammer and nail. Through personal study, earning my bachelor’s degree in biblical studies, and now in attending a top-tier divinity school, however, I am acquiring additional tools.
I have spent years filling my spiritual garage with more and more sophisticated tools, and through them, I have the potential to do much good.
But I have spent my time acquiring these tools, not using them. The person possessing only the hammer who has spent his time building is a much better carpenter than me, who, though I have acquired so many tools, have built nothing.
I must do the one without neglecting the other, and I am glad that I have finally stumbled upon this truth, one which I wish I had discovered much earlier.
I suspect that there are more Ph.D.s in the fires of hell than unschooled believers who have passed through the gates of heaven.
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Yale is an incredible place. Now that finals at Yale are over and I have more time to reflect upon my time here, I am becoming even more aware of that reality.
I love it here, and I encourage anyone interested in pursuing further theological education to apply to YDS.
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