Hebrew Bible/Old Testament

Stephen Chapman, convener

The Ph.D. program in Hebrew Bible is intended to prepare the student to do research in this field, to teach in an academic setting, and to engage in other professional work for which strong competence in biblical studies would be important. Areas of strength in the Duke program include Pentateuch, prophecy, wisdom literature, Hebrew narrative, biblical archaeology, gender in ancient Israel, text criticism and Septuagint, the apocalyptic literature, Qumran, and history of interpretation. Although diverse in its interests, the faculty has broad expertise in literary, social science, text-critical, and theological methodologies.

For their dissertation projects, students are encouraged to pursue their studies in non-traditional as well as traditional ways and to utilize established as well as newer approaches to understanding the Hebrew Bible and the culture of ancient Israel.

Prospective students must have a strong background in Hebrew, with at least two years of course work being desirable. In addition, applicants to the program are expected to have completed an introductory course in Hebrew Bible/Old Testament as well as several subsequent thematic, methodological, and/or exegetical courses in Hebrew scripture. It is strongly recommended that incoming students will have done some work in Greek and in German.

Core Faculty

Religion - Carol Meyers, Eric Meyers, Laura Lieber, Mel Peters

Divinity - Stephen Chapman, Ellen Davis, Anathea Portier-Young


Requirements for a Major

  1. Languages
    1. Modern - Students are expected to pass competency exams in German plus one of the following: French, Spanish, Italian, modern Hebrew. (N.B. It is the responsibility of the student to achieve and demonstrate writing competency in English commensurate with the standards of scholarly work.)

    2. Ancient - Biblical Hebrew, LXX Greek, Aramaic, and such other languages as are appropriate to the student's special interests. The Biblical Hebrew requirement will be met by a written examination that measures competence in reading printed texts along with critical apparatuses. LXX and Aramaic competence will normally be met by course work.

  2. Minor (one)

    An external minor, required unless the student has completed intensive work in another field prior to matriculation, consists of two courses in a department or program other than Religion. Examples of such outside work are: anthropology, classical studies, literature, sociology, women's studies. Usually the instructor for one of the outside courses will administer the prelim exam in the external minor and will serve as the outside reader for the dissertation committee.

  3. An internal minor in another field in the Graduate Program in Religion (GPR), required for students not doing an external minor. Students who do an internal minor must fulfill the requirements specified for minors by that field.

  4. Courses

    Students will complete sixteen courses before prelims. Every effort will be made to assure that a student has no more than two major papers in a single semester. Because the prelims will cover each of the three parts of the Tanakh, students are advised to take at least one course in each part.

  5. Prelims

    Preliminary exams, normally taken in the third year, will consist of 4 written exams and an oral defense. For the first three written exams, the student will prepare reading lists, drawn from the Bibliographical Reference List provided to all incoming students and supplemented by relevant materials depending on the students' interests. See Guidelines for Arranging Preliminary Exams.

    1. General exam in the major. A take-home exam (20-25 pages) due 48 hours after the questions are received, it will examine competence for teaching Tanakh and for speaking knowledgeably about the field as a whole.
    2. Current issues in biblical studies (3 hours)
    3. Dissertation area (3 hours)
    4. Minor (3 hours)
    5. Oral defense

  6. Dissertation:

    After prelims a formal proposal will be submitted to the dissertation committee (DC), which will meet with the student one or more times to discuss the proposal with the student and agree that the proposal is satisfactory. Once completed, the candidate will defend the dissertation orally before the DC. See Dissertation Procedures for Writing and Definding the Doctoral Dissertation.

Requirements for a Minor

The minor in Hebrew Bible is meant to help students working in other areas of the GPR in two ways. First, it will provide doctoral level work to help prepare students for teaching in the area of Hebrew Bible. Second, it will be beneficial to students whose doctoral project involves some aspect of the Hebrew Bible.

  • Language: One year of Hebrew, preferably before matriculation.
  • Courses: One or two, depending on whether the student takes additional Hebrew.
  • Also see the Jewish Studies website for more information.