The principal focus of this program lies on the culture of biblical Israel (ca. 1200-150 BCE) within its ancient Near Eastern context. The methods of study are many and diverse. They include the rigorous study of Biblical Hebrew and its historical development within the Semitic family; the recovery of the historical development of the religion of Israel; the literary methods by which the artistry of the prose and poetry of the literature can be analyzed and appreciated; the theological dimensions of the literary corpus, within their original contexts and their recontexualizations in Judaism and Christianity, especially Judaism in the late Second Temple and rabbinic periods (ca. 200 BCE-500 CE) and Christianity in its first several centuries, and within modern religious discourse; and the hermeneutical questions that the interpretation of this ancient corpus in these various frames of reference necessarily raises.
The field of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament requires students to pursue a number of languages to attain the requisite proficiency of a scholar in the field. These include biblical Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and German. Students often study others, such as Akkadian, Ugaritic, Egyptian, Modern Hebrew, and French, as well.
There are two pre-general doctoral examinations, one in Biblical Hebrew and one in the content of the Hebrew Bible. These are usually taken at the end of the first or beginning of the second year in the program.
The field requires four general examinations:
- The language and textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament.
- Issue in Biblical Scholarship, which concentrates on literary, historical, theological, and hermeneutical issues.
- An area of concentration, of which the most common are (a) the religion of ancient Israel and the comparative study of religion, (b) pre-exilic history, (c) post-exilic Second Temple history, (d) late Second Temple, early rabbinic, and early Christian interpretation of the Hebrew Bible, and (d) theology of the Hebrew Bible. Students work out their area of concentration with the faculty.
- A special topic, to be worked out in consultation with the relevant faculty.
In addition, there are several faculty members from cognate fields who offer invaluable assistance to the program.
Recent and current dissertation topics include:
- An Intellectual and Spiritual Biography of Rabbi Avraham Yitzhaq Ha-Cohen Kook from 1865 to 1904
- The Story of David’s Rise as Political Apology: A Reconsideration
- A Study of the Neo-Assyrian Intelligence Services and Their Significance for 2 Kings 18-19
- The Name of the Ritual: Investigating Ancient Mesopotamian “Hand-lifting” Rituals with Implications for the Interpretation of Genre in the Psalms
- Out of the Whirlwind: Creation Theology in the Book of Job
- Anti-cultic Theology in Biblical Interpretation: A Study of Isaiah 66:1-4 and Its Reception
- The Gendered Language of Warfare in the Israelite/Assyrian Encounter
- Harnessing the Prophetic Voice: Studies in Prophetic Expansion in the Second Temple Period