Hebrew Bible

Course of Study Description

The Hebrew Bible (HB) Course of Study seeks to introduce students to a wide range of methods for the study of the Hebrew Bible and a broad context wherein to study its language and literature. The methods include not only classical historical-critical approaches but also more recently developed social-scientific, literary, and iconographic methods. The context includes the ancient Near Eastern context and its cultures as well as the history of scholarship and the reception history of the Hebrew Bible.  Students are also encouraged to develop interdisciplinary expertise in any of a number of related fields that will enhance their study of the Hebrew Bible and related literatures.

So, in addition to its primary focus on the Hebrew Bible itself, the course of study supports in-depth study of several cognate areas of study:

  • the history of ancient Israelite religion and culture within the larger ancient Near Eastern environment;
  • the development of early Judaism in the Second Temple period;
  • the history of interpretation of the Bible in the Jewish and Christian traditions; and
  • the theological significance of the Hebrew Bible for Jewish, Christian, and secular contexts.

Students also can pursue dual preparation in Hebrew Bible and Jewish hermeneutics.


Plan of Study

General Requirements

Students are required to take 12 seminars (including language courses and directed readings) during the first two years of residency. The seminar in Critical Methods in Exegesis of the Hebrew Bible is required. Upon matriculation, students are expected to be proficient in both biblical Hebrew and Greek. An examination in Hebrew must be passed before the beginning of the second year of study. Students also are required to demonstrate proficiency in Aramaic and at least one other Semitic language through examination or course work during the first two years of residency.

Language Study

Classical Biblical and Postbiblical Hebrew. Exegetical courses in Biblical Hebrew are offered each semester, with courses in Postbiblical Hebrew and Hebrew language and linguistics offered on a rotating basis.

Aramaic. Aramaic language instruction is offered on a rotating basis, with courses focusing either on Biblical or Targumic Aramaic.

Other Semitic and non-Semitic Languages. In addition to Aramaic, students are required to take at least one and preferably two other Semitic languages, usually Ugaritic and Akkadian. Additional Semitic languages are also available, either through course work or as independent studies, e.g., Syriac, Ethiopic, and Northwest Semitic inscriptions (including Phoenician and the Transjordanian dialects). Middle Egyptian is available upon request.

Modern Languages. Students must demonstrate proficiency in one modern research language before the beginning of the first year of course work, and in a second before the beginning of the second year. Unless special circumstances warrant, it is expected that these languages will include German, French, or modern Hebrew.

Preliminary Examinations

All students must qualify for candidacy by taking four preliminary examinations.

Core Examinations

All students must take two core examinations, which are administered and evaluated by the department as a whole:

  1. Critical Issues in the Books and Traditions of the Hebrew Bible
  2. Selected Topic in the Study of the Hebrew Bible

The Critical Issues examination assesses knowledge concerning the major corpora of biblical scholarship. The current bibliography for this examination can be found here.

Exam 2 is selected from a finite pool of topics approved by the faculty. New exams and bibliographies can be developed with faculty oversight and approval. A few sample bibliographies of exam 2 can be found here. In the main, the second core examination allows further specialization in areas of interest. Past exam 2 topics include biblical theology, textual criticism and composition criticism, Jewish hermeneutics, ancient Near Eastern iconography, and Mesopotamian religion and culture.

Special Area Examinations

In addition to the two core examinations, students take two special area examinations, one inside the Hebrew Bible proper and the other outside it. Together these two special area examinations allow students to focus on areas of particular interest and research with an eye toward the thesis topic. Bibliography, questions, and examination format are worked out between the student and her or his examiner(s). The inside examination concerns the Hebrew Bible and is typically related to a student's emerging dissertation interests. The outside examination concerns a content area outside of the disciplinary area of Hebrew Bible proper. The examiner may be a faculty member from Hebrew (if, for example, the outside examination is in some field of ancient Near Eastern studies or Early Judaism), but in most cases the examiner will be someone from outside the Hebrew Bible course of study.

Special Requirements

A hallmark of the Hebrew Bible course of study, and of the GDR as a whole, is interdisciplinarity. All students are expected to develop interdisciplinary competencies. These may be developed in closely related fields (e.g., New Testament, Rabbinic Judaism) or they may be developed in different departments or courses of study in the GDR and/or the Laney Graduate School that support a student's research work (e.g., anthropology, philosophy, history, classics, linguistics, comparative literature, ethics, and theology). A minimum of two seminars or their equivalent must be taken outside the Hebrew Bible offerings and a minimum of one of the preliminary examinations must be outside of Hebrew Bible proper. Additionally, the course of study normally expects at least one outside reader on each doctoral committee.

Selected Courses 

RLR 720. Akkadian

RLR 721. Ugaritic

RLR 722. Advanced Hebrew

RLR 723. Aramaic

RLR 724. Syriac

RLR 773. Methodological seminars: Critical Methods in Exegesis of the Hebrew Bible.

RLR 774. Seminars in the History of Interpretation: Biblical Interpretation in Christian Tradition (with New Testament/Historical Studies), Classical Jewish Hermeneutics, Targumim.

RLR 771. Various seminars in selected topics—Hebrew Bible Theology: Old Testament Theology; Warfare in the Hebrew Bible; Accommodation, Resistance, Rebellion: Jews in the Persian and Hellenistic Empires; Israelite Religion in its Ancient Near Eastern Context; Dead Sea Scrolls; Northwest Semitic Inscriptions and Religions; Ancient Near Eastern Iconography and the Hebrew Bible.

Recent Dissertations and Placements:


Rachel Wrenn -
"My Heart Grew Hot within Me: Anger at YHWH in the Psalms" - Instructor of Biblical Studies at Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Capital University.


Caralie Focht -
"Genesis 37-50 as Proto Trauma-Novella"

Richard Purcell -
"Icons of Royal Power: Viewing the Rhetoric of the Royal Psalms in the Context of Ancient Near Eastern Royal Art" - Visiting Assistant Professor of Religion, Florida Southern


Justin Pannkuk,
“King of Kings: God, the Foreign Emperor, and Discourse on Sovereignty in the Hebrew Bible"

Mark Justin Walker, “The Power of Images: The Poetics of Violence in Lamentations 2 and Ancient Near Eastern Art” 


Aubrey Buster,
“An Education in Prayer: Historical Recital in Second Temple Judaism” 

Collin Cornell,
"Divine Agression in Royal Psalms and Inscriptions" - Visiting Professor of Old Testament, School of Theology at Sewanee, University of the South

Brett Maiden,
"Cognitively Optimal and Costly Aspects of Ancient israelite Relgion"

Jackie Wyse-Rhodes,
“Reading the Cosmos in Second Temple Jewish Literature: Nature as Model, Sign, Punishment, Witness, and Mystery” 


Brian Charles DiPalma
, "Masculinity in the Court Tales of Daniel: A Test Case for Gender Studies in the Hebrew Bible" - Emory ORDER (On Recent Discoveries of Emory Researchers)

Stephen Michael Germany, "Parallel Narratives in Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy and the Identification of Pre-Priestly Material in the Pentateuch"

Josey Bridges Snyder, "Looking Back at Lot's Wife: A Reception-Critical Character Study" - North Carolina Conference of the UMC, Center for Leadership Excellence and Duke Divinity Continuing Education for Clergy Course of Study Program


Kevin James Barbour, “Whither Biblical Theology? An Assessment of the Theological Hermeneutics of John J. Collins, Walter Brueggemann, and Michael Fishbane" - Duke University, Teaching Associate

Ryan Bonfiglio, "Reading Images, Seeing Texts: Towards a Visual Hermeneutics for Biblical Studies" - Columbia Seminary, Lecturer

Travis Bott, "Praise and Metonymy in the Psalms: A Cognitive-Semantic Study" - Nashotah House Espicopal Seminary

Timothy S. Clark, "Firstfruits and Tithe Offerings in the Construction and Narratives of the Hebrew Bible"- Cambridge School of Weston, Data and Development Services Administrator

John Frederick Quant, ”Rewriting Scripture Inside and Out:  A Typology of Rewriting in Variant Editions and Rewritten Scripture” - University of Northwestern and Headmaster, Veritas Academy

Anne Whitaker Stewart, "A Honeyed Cup: Poetry, Pedagogy, and Ethos in the Book of Proverbs" - Princeton Seminary, Associate Vice-President for Communication and Deputy to the President