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A Ph.D. Couple Studies the Theology of Rest and Joy

Drawn to the expertise of faculty in the Wheaton College Graduate School, Euntaek “David” Ph.D. ’22 and Jennifer Shin Ph.D. ’23 have spent the past several years completing doctoral work in systematic theology and Old Testament biblical studies.

Words: Ashley Rydberg Bright ’10

Wheaton College IL Graduate School David and Jennifer Shin

For both David and Jennifer, their studies, writings, and teachings are a vehicle for bringing light and life to those around them.

Euntaek “David” Ph.D. ’22 and Jennifer Shin Ph.D. ’23 chose Wheaton College Graduate School together to pursue their simultaneous doctoral studies in theology, with different concentrations.

“I had a lot of seemingly incongruent interests as I was finishing my master’s degree at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary,” said David. “I was really drawn to biblical studies, theology, and philosophy—three disciplines that are not typically interconnected.”

While he was sorting through fields of study to narrow his focus for his future doctoral work, Jennifer was reading Dr. Daniel Treier’s theological exegesis of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. She recommended Proverbs & Ecclesiastes (Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible) to David, and he was immediately drawn to Dr. Treier’s work.

“Dr. Treier’s work is excellent,” said Jennifer. “While I was reading his exegesis of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, I knew David would find immense value in reading it as well. It was our first guidance toward pursuing our studies at Wheaton College.”

“It’s rare for a scholar to be immersed in both biblical studies and theology,” David added. “The work that Dr. Treier does in the intersection of biblical studies, theology, and philosophy is refreshing.”

As Jennifer was first to complete her master’s degree in biblical languages at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, she began to explore options for the next step in her journey as a scholar. The pair visited Wheaton College together and decided that they would both apply to study with different supervisors in 2018. Their visit confirmed that they would both find the high level of academic pursuit they were seeking, as well as a community to call home.

In the fall of 2019, David and Jennifer began their respective doctoral programs. David pursued a Ph.D. in systematic theology under the supervision of Gunther H. Knoedler Professor of Theology Dr. Daniel J. Treier, and Jennifer began completing a Ph.D. in Old Testament biblical studies under the supervision of Blanchard Professor of Old Testament Dr. Richard Schultz.

David’s dissertation—“A Theology of Rest”—addresses and responds to our constant state of restlessness and fatigue in our modern society. David explores the concept of rest and what it should look like, outlining a framework for rest within the domains of time, place, and activities, three categories that are essential to the human experience. He outlines restlessness as a ubiquitous experience that we encounter as part of our fallen, human state. He unpacks how the way in which restlessness manifests can be different for an American with a relatively stable life versus a ship assembler in Bangladesh. The state of restlessness, however, is the same.

David successfully defended his dissertation and graduated from the Ph.D. program in the spring of 2022. Beginning in the fall of 2022, he began teaching at Wheaton College as a postdoctoral visiting assistant professor of theology.

While David takes on teaching this fall, Jennifer will be completing her dissertation. The working title of her dissertation is “Eating and Enjoying in Ecclesiastes as Communal Covenant: An Intertextual and Thematic Study.”

Most people think of Ecclesiastes as pessimistic, hedonistic, or lacking a core idea. Jennifer’s interpretation of the book takes a different approach, aligning its passages with the Old Testament and drawing out the prominent theme of joy.

“The book of Ecclesiastes can be tricky to interpret, but I’ve found it to be full of joy and wisdom that can benefit our modern Christian life,” said Jennifer. “The theme of joy is very prominent, yet often overlooked, in Ecclesiastes.”

For both David and Jennifer, their studies, writings, and teachings are a vehicle for bringing light and life to those around them. Through faithful work in understanding the scriptures and understanding how different theologians and philosophers engage their respective topics, they endeavor to create work that is life-giving to all who encounter their writings and teachings.