Here is another very helpful bibliographic post compiled by Chuck Bumgardner. This is all the dissertations we are aware of that have been successfully defended since 2010 or are expected to be completed and defended in the next year. If you know of one we missed please let us know. This site is all the more useful as people point out other works in progress. If you are working on the Pastorals we’d love to hear from you and to post here an abstract of your dissertation once it is defended. You can contact us at pastoralepistles at gmail dot com.
Bourland Huizenga, Annette. “Philosophers of the Household: Moral Education for Women in the Pastoral and Pythagorean Letters.” Ph.D. diss., University of Chicago, 2010. Supervisor: Margaret M. Mitchell. Published as Moral Education for Women in the Pastoral and Pythagorean Letters: Philosophers of the Household. Supplements to Novum Testamentum 147. Leiden: Brill, 2013.
“Who is a virtuous woman? How could she develop such goodness? This dissertation examines the ancient moral-philosophical curriculum for women by comparing two pseudepigraphic epistolary corpora: the letters attributed to Pythagorean women and the New Testament Pastoral Letters. The investigation is organized around four elements necessary for this educational program: textual resources, teachers and learners, instructional strategies, and subject matter. I provide a text history of each collection and suggest how the letters function as teaching resources. My conclusions are: (1) that the authors identify older women in particular as the appropriate teachers for younger women; (2) that the argumentation of the letters relies heavily on antithetical reasoning and examples; and (3) that the various elements of the topos of ‘the good woman’ limit a woman’s demonstration of her virtue to her domestic relationships and activities. The pseudonymous author of the Pastorals has taken up nearly all of the ‘pagan’ aspects of this curriculum, but has supplemented these with theological justifications drawn from the Pauline literature and traditions. His prescriptive ideal seeks to train women as ‘Christian philosophers of the household.’” (http://gradworks.umi.com/33/97/3397254.html)
Brown, Peter Dunstan. “The Use of Ransom Language in 1 Timothy 2:1-7 and Titus 2:11-14.” Ph.D. diss., The Catholic University of America, 2014. Supervisor: John Paul Heil.
“Although there have been a number of studies on the theology of the Pastoral Epistles of 1 Timothy and Titus, none have looked closely at how Paul in those letters makes use of the term “ransom.” This term and its verbal cognates appear in several places in the New Testament but most notably in Mark 10:45–where Jesus interprets his own death in redemptive terms. This study employs audience-oriented exegesis to examine Paul’s appeal to the ransom theme and its rhetorical and theological effect on the implied epistolary audiences of 1 Timothy and Titus. Chapter One provides a brief review of the relevant literature on the Pastoral Epistles and explains my decision to follow a number of recent critical commentaries who have ascribed these letters, with some qualifications, to Paul. Chapter Two provides a thorough examination of the themes of redemption and ransom as they appear in the LXX and related literature. Chapter Three provides an audience-oriented exegesis of 1 Timothy 2:1-7 and an exploration of the ransom logion there. It argues how and why Paul bases the main theme of the passage–the potential salvation of “all human beings”–on the tradition that Jesus is “ransom.” It also argues that Isaiah 43 provides the most likely background for the ransom language in 1 Timothy 2:1-7. Chapter Four provides an audience-oriented exegesis of Titus 2:11-14 and a deeper examination of the verb “ransom” that appears in 2:14. It contends that ransom theology–despite being only mentioned explicitly once in 2:14–is nonetheless a hitherto unappreciated motif in the entire short letter. It also contends that “ransom” 1) serves to ground the moral demands Paul places on the Cretan community and 2) is also connected integrally to the grace which enables the satisfaction of those demands. Ransom, when heard in light of the LXX, also is the basis of the Cretan community’s self-understanding. Chapter Five concludes the dissertation by comparing the two passages and examining their relationship to the use of ransom themes in the undisputed Pauline corpus. The dissertation explores two important pericopes in the Pastoral Epistles from a unique angle, concluding that the ransom language sheds new light on their meaning as well as our understanding of the letters as a whole. The dissertation also fills a gap in providing a focused comparison between how Paul uses the theme of ransom in the Pastoral Epistles and how he uses it in his other letters. In both the undisputed letters and the PE, ransom and redemption for Paul are both strongly connected to themes of universal salvation and presented as a mark of Christian identity.” (http://aladinrc.wrlc.org/handle/1961/16624)
Duweiz, Marc Raoul Fernand. “Sōtèr, sōzō: sotériologie et théologie du ministère dans la 1ère lettre à Timothée.” Université de Strasbourg, 2010. Supervisor: Claude Coulot.
“The role played by the soteriologic statements in the 1st letter to Timothy was often neglected for the benefit of the parenetic statements. Carefully arranged, expressed in a solemn way and supported by arguments of authority, these soteriologic statements are strictly connected to the topic of ministry which goes through the whole letter. The study highlights that their arrangement contributes to structure the letter, the desire of the author being to advance the divine will of a universal salvation, as well as the specific role which plays the ministry in this soteriologic perspective. Based on the example of Paul, the ministry appears as a ‘sign’ of the inexhaustible mercy towards the sinners of God qualified as ‘Savior.’ It is a free gift, made for some, but for the good of all; the qualities necessary for the exercise of the ministry appear as ‘signs’ of the call of God and the ‘grace’ which accompanies it. The orders made for Timothy not to neglect this gift, to announce the Gospel, ‘to prescribe’ and ‘teach,’ bring to light the role of the Christian Minister which is to lead to the salvation ‘those who will listen to him.’ This link between salvation and ministry has implications which go beyond just the person of Timothy: in spite of the literary artifices, the author is speaking, not from a hypothetical return of the apostle, but from the end time. The salvation work has to continue ‘until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ’ through Christian ministers, paradigm of which is Timothy.” (from http://www.theses.fr/2010STRA1001)
Hoag, Gary G. “The Teachings on Riches in 1 Timothy in Light of Ephesiaca by Xenophon of Ephesus.” Ph.D. diss., University of Bristol, 2013. Supervisor: Stephen Finamore. Published as Wealth in Ancient Ephesus and the First Letter to Timothy: Fresh Insights from Ephesiaca by Xenophon of Ephesus. BBR Supplement Series. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, forthcoming.
“Scholars are divided on reading the teachings on riches in 1 Tim. Evidence that has been largely overlooked in NT scholarship, Ephesiaca by Xenophon of Ephesus, suggests that the topic be revisited. Ephesiaca is a story about a rich Ephesian couple. This text brings to life what is known from ancient sources about the social setting and cultural rules of the rich in Ephesus and adds details to enhance our knowledge of life and society. Recent scholarship has dated Ephesiaca to the mid-first century CE. If the Acts narrative is reliable, this locates the story in broadly the same timeframe as the ministry of Paul in Ephesus. Interestingly, the story contains some of the same general themes and rare terms found in the teachings on riches in 1 Tim. My argument does not focus on locating specific dates for 1 Tim or Ephesiaca, but rather, my aim is to analyze these two texts alongside each other and extant ancient sources. My dissertation begins by introducing Ephesiaca and the socio-rhetorical methodology used to explore it alongside other evidence and 1 Tim. The methodology has five parts: social and cultural texture, inner texture, intertexture, ideological texture, and sacred texture. The first texture is helpful for locating a Sitz im Leben of the rich in Ephesus, the social and cultural context that preceded the texts of 1 Tim and Ephesiaca. The four remaining textures are employed to scrutinize five passages: 1 Tim 2:9-10; 3:1-13; 6:1-2a; 6:2b-10; and 6:17-19. The findings of this study reveal a fresh perspective on these texts. The teachings on riches in 1 Tim appear to call followers of Jesus to handle riches in a counter-cultural manner that is consistent with the trajectory of other NT teachings when read in light of ancient sources and Ephesiaca by Xenophon of Ephesus.” (dissertation abstract)
Hoklotubbe, T. Christopher. “The Rhetoric of Pietas: The Pastoral Epistles and Claims to Piety in the Roman Empire.” Th.D. diss., Harvard Divinity School, 2015 projected. Supervisor: Karen King.
“My dissertation investigates what kinds of rhetorical work the appropriation of the Hellenistic virtue of eusebeia (Latin: pietas) accomplished for the Epistles to Timothy and Titus and what was at stake in such claims. The concentrated presence of this virtue within the Pastoral Epistles and relative absence from the Pauline corpus has generated scholarly interest. While many biblical commentators have been anxious to demonstrate the “Christian” dimension to eusebeia, my study re-entrenches this esteemed virtue within a marketplace of cultural producers contending with one another to monopolize the symbolic capital or power popularly ascribed to eusebeia. I contend that the Pastoral Epistles’ own rhetorical deployment of piety is made intelligible when contextualized amongst the diverse appeals to piety evidenced within Roman imperial propaganda, civic benefaction/patronage, and moral philosophy. By attending to how piety is constructed and used to legitimate authority, honor, and claims to knowledge of the divine we can arrive at a fresh understanding of the socio-political aims and effects of the Pastoral Epistles’ own use of piety. I argue that the Pastoral Epistles’ claims to piety function to both legitimate its portrait of the Pauline tradition over against competing teachers as well as construct an ideal ekklesia (Christian assembly) capable of assuaging Roman suspicions concerning what many perceived to be a barbaric and superstitious Eastern cult.” (from abstract)
Klinker-De Klerck, Myriam. “Herderlijke regel of inburgeringscursus? Een bijdrage aan het onderzoek naar de ethische richtlijnen in 1 Timoteüs & Titus.” Ph.D. diss., Theologische Universiteit van de Gereformeerde Kerken, 2013. Supervisor: P. H. R. van Houwelingen. Published as Herderlijke regel of inburgeringscursus? Een bijdrage aan het onderzoek naar de ethische richtlijnen in 1 Timoteüs en Titus. Zoetermeer: Boekencentrum, 2013.
In her dissertation, Klinker-De Klerk addresses the common assumption that the PE witness to a christliche Bürgerlichkeit, a “bourgeois Christianity” that encourages an accommodation to prevailing social conventions as Christians hunker down for a stay in this present world which is longer than first expected. Reading the PE as authentically Pauline, she examines the ethical instructions in 1 Timothy and Titus, focusing on the area of male-female relationships. First, she works “internally,” examining the regulations of 1Tim/Titus against prevailing social conventions. Along the way, she gives particular attention to the stated motives behind the regulations. Second, she works “externally,” comparing the regulations in question with those in an undisputed Pauline letter, 1 Corinthians. All in all, she finds there are significant points of contact between the ethical instructions in view in 1Tim/Titus and 1Cor, while the varying audiences and orientation of the writings adequately account for the differences. Klinker-De Klerck is rather narrowly focused in her treatment, so rightly notes that her results do not in themselves invalidate the christliche Bürgerlichkeit hypothesis. All the same, her findings do not support it. (drawn from the dissertation summary given in Journal for the Study of Paul and His Letters 3.2 : 263-67)
Krumbiegel, Friedemann. “Erziehung in den Pastoralbriefen : Ein Konzept zur Konsolidierung der Gemeinden.” Ph.D. diss., Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg, 2011. Published as Erziehung in den Pastoralbriefen : Ein Konzept zur Konsolidierung der Gemeinden. Arbeiten zur Bibel und ihrer Geschichte 44. Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 2013.
“The Pastoral Epistles with their development of an own concept of education are an important contribution to the consolidation of the Christian church. For this reason they compensate for the loss of continuity, identity and integration, which threatens the parish in growing distance to Paul. The letters are characterized by strong semantic domains, central to which is the idea of paideia (education). This demonstrates a comprehensive view of education, which affects the structure of the text with reference to social communication. From this three relevant levels of educational phenomena: domestic, parish and divine education. An outlook onto the theologians of the second century illustrates the development of the Christian paideia into a clear and often used model.” (http://www.eva-leipzig.de/product_info.php?info=p3352_Erziehung-in-den-Pastoralbriefen.html)
Kurcina, John Elgin. “Responding to Heresy: New Testament Patterns of Response to False Teaching—Galatians, 1 Timothy, 1 John.” M. Litt. diss., University of Bristol, 2011.
“This study is an attempt at understanding how and why the New Testament responds to false teaching as it does. It will be limited in scope to a survey of Galatians, 1 Timothy, and 1 John as samples of the New Testament response to false teaching. Each canonical document will be examined on its own to discover each particular author’s strategies for and aims in responding to false teaching. The findings from the sample documents will be integrated and New Testament patterns of response to false teaching will be proposed. In the end, it will be shown that, in responding to false teaching, the New Testament asserts authority over opponents, identifies opponents’ teaching as heretical, emphasizes the serious threat posed by heresy, promotes Christian orthodoxy, encourages the church to choose fidelity and encourages the church to remove false teachers. These findings should form the beginning of a more complete study of the New Testament response to false teaching, and as canonical documents of the Christian church, this study should inform the church in its response to heresy.” (http://ethos.bl.uk/OrderDetails.do?uin=uk.bl.ethos.573745)
LaFosse, Mona Tokarek. “Age Matters: Age, Aging and Intergenerational Relationships in Early Christian Communities, with a Focus on 1 Timothy 5.” Ph.D. diss., University of Toronto, 2011. Supervisor: John S. Kloppenborg.
“Exploring age structure in Mediterranean cultures illuminates the social dynamics of intergenerational relationships that became more visible in late first and early second century early Christian texts, and especially in 1 Timothy 5. This was a time of crisis when those with a living memory of the foundations of the movement were almost gone, and the community was scrutinized by outsiders. Since we have relatively few clues related to aging and age structure in the extant texts, a model of generational stability and social change based on ethnographic data helps us to imagine culturally sensitive possibilities that we can then test out as we reread the texts in their Roman cultural context. In his fictive story of Paul and Timothy, the author of the heterographical (pseudepigraphical) letter of 1 Timothy establishes an ideal intergenerational relationship between “Paul” as an older man and “Timothy” as his adult “child.” When the fictive Paul directs Timothy to speak kindly to older people (5:1-2), he introduces a section on age-related issues. Behaviour that was causing concern for public reputation included adult children shirking filial duty (5:4, 8), young widows gadding about in public (5:11-15), and younger men accusing their elders (5:19). These behaviours threatened the reputation and honour of the community and may have been encouraged by the opposing faction. The author’s solution was to reject the opposing teachings and enforce behaviour that reflected proper age structure: adult children should fulfill their filial responsibilities and care for widowed mothers and grandmothers (5:4); young widows should be guided and supported by middle-aged women who were responsible for them in the age hierarchy among women (5:16); middle-aged women should imitate the exemplary behaviour of the enlisted widows who were over 60 years old; and young men were to be rebuked in front of everyone for their disrespect toward elders (5:20). In the face of social change, the author advocates for behaviour reflective of the traditional age structure of Roman society.” (https://tspace.library.utoronto.ca/handle/1807/35732)
Luttenberger, Joram. “Prophetenmantel oder Bücherfutteral? Die persönlichen Notizen in den Pastoralbriefen im Licht antiker Epistolographie und literarischer Pseudepigraphie.” Ph.D. diss., Universität Leipzig, 2011. Published as Prophetenmantel oder Bücherfutteral? Die persönlichen Notizen in den Pastoralbriefen im Licht antiker Epistolographie und literarischer Pseudepigraphie. Arbeiten zur Bibel und ihrer Geschichte 40. Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 2012.
“In modern research, the Pastoral Epistles still receive much attention but are also still highly disputed. Focusing on the personal notes in the letters, there have been many attempts to explain the pseudonymity of the Pastorals with regard to genre and intention. In his book, Joram Luttenberger analyzes the literary and epistolographical characteristics of the Pastoral Epistles in light of ancient epistolary theories as well as the documentary papyri in order to re-evaluate the literary character of the letters. The focus on the documentary papyri is particularly interesting, because these corpora have not yet received the attention they deserve. The papyri shed much interesting light on the Pastoral Epistles and allow a new approach to their interpretation.” (http://www.eva-leipzig.de/product_info.php?info=p3276_Prophetenmantel-oder-Buecherfutteral-.html)
Newton, Phillip A. “Local Church Development: Its Effects and Importance on Church Planting and Revitalization.” Ph.D. diss., Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2013. Advisor: John S. Hammett.
“The thesis of this dissertation asserts that the life-on-life relationship of mentors with protégés centered in local communities of Christ-followers, best shapes those who will give themselves to the kingdom work of church planting and revitalization. The dissertation will investigate biblical, historical, and contemporary pastoral training models, with particular emphasis on how these models have a foundation in the local church in order to prepare the rising generation of ministers to plant and revitalize churches. Consideration will be given to both theological and methodological issues that arise in local church pastoral training, with the aim to provide an adaptable structure for other churches to develop pastoral training ministries. . . . [The first chapter looks] at Paul’s mentoring practices with Timothy and Titus found in the Pastoral Epistles. The father-son relationship that he had with both protégés, as well as the guided, ecclesial instruction, offers insights on how contemporary pastoral mentors might train their mentees for pastoral work.” (http://gradworks.umi.com/35/71/3571523.html)
Sheldon, Martin Eugene. “The Apostle Paul’s Theology of Good Works, with Special Emphasis on 1 Timothy 6:17-19.” Ph.D. diss., Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2012. Supervisor: Andreas J. Köstenberger.
“While Jesus Christ is certainly the central figure of the Scriptures in general and of Christianity in particular, the apostle Paul is undoubtedly the central figure in the promulgation of Christianity. Paul’s theology simply cannot be ignored by anyone who wishes to understand Christianity, and the implications of “being” a Christian in this world. Paul’s epistles are among the earliest New Testament documents, predating the Synoptic Gospels by at least one to two decades and John’s Gospel by three to four decades. His missionary endeavors and writing ministry spanned a period of approximately thirty-three years. In addition to the antiquity of the Pauline epistles, the sheer percentage of the apostle’s writings in comparison to the other NT authors accentuate his significance. In light of the apostle’s Paul’s overall significance for Christianity, his theology of good works is the subject of this inquiry. . . . First Timothy 6:17-19 serves as a case study that exemplifies the relationship of the apostle Paul’s theology of good works within the historical, literary, and theological contexts of Second Temple Judaism. Particular attention is given to 1 Tim 6:17-19 in chapter four through an exegetical analysis that considers its historical, literary, and theological contexts. The primary focus of chapter four is the meaning and significance of Paul’s imperative in 1 Tim 6:17-19 as it relates to the concept of doing good works as a means of laying a firm foundation in the coming age. . . . This inquiry comes together in chapter six with a synthesis and overall conclusion. When one views Paul’s theology of good works in relation Second Temple Literature, definite similarities as well as distinct differences surface. The literature that has been examined in this inquiry demonstrates the importance of good works for God’s people, who are expected to live distinctly good lives in this world. This was the case for pious Jews whether they were in captivity, scattered among the nations, or secluded in the desert. Paul, along with the other NT authors, expressed great concern that Christians, as God’s specially called people, live distinctly good lives in this world. The apostolic mandate for Christians is to live godly lives within this world so that their good works would illuminate and glorify God. According to the apostle Paul in particular, good works are the essential outcome of faith in Christ (Eph 2:8-10). It is imperative that Christians perform good works, which are particularly expressed through works of righteousness and generosity and a lifestyle of loving obedience to God.” (from dissertation abstract)
Swinson, L. Timothy. “ΓΡΑΦΗ in the Letters to Timothy.” Ph.D. diss., Trinity International University, 2010. Supervisor: Robert W. Yarbrough. Published as What Is Scripture? Paul’s Use of Graphe in the Letters to Timothy (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2014).
“With regard to Paul’s letters to Timothy, analysis of the literary scheme of each document suggests that γραφή, as it is employed in each letter, should be understood as a term that includes as part of its referent at least some of the apostolic writings that now appear in the NT. Specifically, this dissertation argues first that a form of the Gospel of Luke stands as the source of the second referent of γραφή in 1 Tim 5:18. In this passage, the second of two quotations appears to offer a citation of Luke 10:7 as Scripture, though many dispute such an assessment. Second, this study argues that γραφή in 2 Tim 3:16 includes as its referent the apostolic writings extant in Paul’s day, specifically Luke’s gospel and some of Paul’s own writings. While some scholars argue for the position proposed in this study, the currently prevailing opinion maintains that, whoever the writer of these letters may be, he would refer only to OT writings as “Scripture.” Among other implications, the findings of these parallel lines of analysis indicate that Paul ascribes to his own writings and to those of his coworkers an authoritative standing equal to that attributed to the sacred writings (γραφή) found in the OT. The question regarding the referents of these occurrences of γραφή, together with the possibility raised by some interpreters that they designate writings of both the Old and New Testaments as “Scripture,” knit these two texts together, and render this study especially pertinent to the wider issues of the biblical canon and biblical authority.
Thornton, Dillon. “Hostility in the House of God: An ‘Interested’ Investigation of the Opponents in 1 and 2 Timothy.” Ph.D. diss., University of Otago, 2015. Supervisor: Paul Trebilco.
“In this thesis, I concentrate on 1 and 2 Timothy, the two letters purportedly dispatched to Ephesus. I assemble the relevant pericopae of the letters and offer an exegetical analysis of them, with the intention of providing, first, a composite sketch of the ideology of the opposing group and, second, an in-depth account of the way the faithful Pauline community was to engage these opponents. . . . My findings may be summarized as follows. I conclude that the opponents came from within the Christian community in Ephesus and that their teaching is best described as an erroneous eschatological position that derived from the complexity of Paul’s views. Each doctrinal and ethical issue raised in the explicit and implicit units of the letters can be explained as a distortion of Pauline doctrine. Additionally, I contend that the opponents had an active “didactic/evangelist ministry” in Ephesus, for which they received remuneration. They likely set out to recruit as large a following, and as large an income, as possible, but found a particularly fruitful field among the women in Ephesus. As I formulate my view of the opponents, I critique a number of the extant theories, including “Gnostic,” Jewish, and Proto-Montanist identifications. I also conclude that the author engages with the false teachers in significant ways throughout the letters. I draw attention to a number of literary and theological maneuvers that are intended to counteract the opponents’ influence and/or to bolster the faithful community’s confidence as they struggle against the opponents. These include the way the author turns features of the opponents against them, his use of the faithful saying formula, the way he relates the Triune God and the principal adversary, Satan, to the opponents, and the way the author portrays the gospel as an unstoppable force in his own ministry. Though the author pictures the opponents as enemies of God, he also highlights the fact that the opponents are not beyond the reach of God’s grace; thus, Timothy is called to minister the saving word to them. In the explicit and implicit units, the author instructs Timothy to occupy himself with five specific activities: reflection on his commissioning and on the apostolic gospel, rejection of the opponents’ claims, proclamation of the healthy teaching, demonstration of the gospel in actions that are pleasing to God, and correction of the false teachers themselves. The wider faithful community is at least implicitly included in the activities of rejection, demonstration, and correction.” (from dissertation abstract)
van Nes, Jermo. “Pauline Language and the Pastoral Epistles: A Study of Linguistic Variation in the Corpus Paulinum.” Ph.D. diss., Evangelische Theologische Faculteit (Leuven), 2016 projected. Supervisor: Armin Baum.
What causes linguistic variation in a text corpus? For over two centuries, most Pauline scholars have answered that such variation is primarily due to socio-historical factors like secretaries, editors, or pseudepigraphers. This study, however, maintains that, given its nature, linguistic variation is best explained from a socio-linguistic perspective, using the Pastoral Epistles (PE) as a test-case. Their language is generally said to differ from Paul’s undisputed letters most, especially in terms of vocabulary and syntax, which makes them particularly vulnerable to suspicion of being authored by someone other than the apostle.
In the first part, this so-called linguistic problem of the PE will be explained in more detail. Chapter 1 traces its origins, discussing some of the key-figures in the emerging debate over the PE’s peculiar language. Distinguishing between lexical, syntactic, and stylistic peculiarities, chapter 2 for each of these categories shows to what extent the PE differ from the other New Testament epistles attributed to Paul. Chapter 3 considers all scholarly solutions given to the linguistic problem of the PE, including pseudonymous, orthonymous, and semi-pseudonymous theories of authorship.
The second part, however, reconsiders the traditional values ascribed to the peculiar language of the PE. Chapter 4 questions the historically oriented approach of many previous studies on linguistic variation in the Pauline letter corpus, suggesting to study it from a strictly linguistic perspective. Accordingly, chapters 5 and 6 offer linguistic rather than historical interpretations of the peculiar vocabulary and syntax of the PE by comparing them to interpretations offered by classicists and modern linguists on similar peculiarities in Indo-Germanic text corpora.
Overall, it is argued that the linguistic argument as used by scholars to support any particular theory of authorship lacks exclusive explanatory power because all current solutions seem to be compatible with the linguistic evidence. (from dissertation abstract)