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Judaism and Christianity in Antiquity

Faculty: Elizabeth Shanks Alexander, Jessica Andruss, Greg Schmidt Goering, Martien Halvorson-Taylor, Karl Shuve, Janet Spittler

The program in Judaism and Christianity in Antiquity provides the opportunity for the advanced study of Judaism from the early Second Temple period through the period of the Talmud, and of Christianity from its origins through the early medieval period. The program combines the fields traditionally distinguished as “Hebrew Bible,” “Second Temple Judaism,” “New Testament,” “Early Christianity,” “Rabbinic Judaism” and “Patristics/Late Antique Christianity.”

The rationale for the breadth of the program lies in the close historical relationship between Christianity and Judaism in the ancient Mediterranean and beyond, their use of a common set of texts, and their tendency to develop and express theological ideas through continual reinterpretation and composition. The program allows students to study both canonical and non-canonical works not only in their historical settings, but also as they have been received and interpreted within Jewish and Christian communities.

The program provides a broad range of resources through which students can engage ancient Judaism and Christianity. The program trains students in:

  • the languages in which ancient Jewish and Christian texts were composed and received,
  • close reading of texts,
  • the reconstruction of the social and intellectual settings to which the texts belong,
  • the history of interpretation of texts,
  • points of historical contact between Judaism, Christianity and other religions of the Mediterranean.

The breadth of the program is qualified by the requirement that students will elect a major and minor area of concentration from the four subject areas, which will be reflected in their coursework and competence exams:

  1. Hebrew Bible and Second Temple Judaism
  2. New Testament and Early Christianity
  3. Rabbinic Judaism
  4. Late Antique Christianity

Since both Christianity and Judaism belonged to, shaped, and were shaped by a larger common environment, the program also entails careful attention to Graeco-Roman society and culture. 

These choices reflect only areas of concentration, and serious coursework is required in the other fields. It is expected that students will take at least one course (ideally two or more) in each of the four areas of concentration. 

Students are expected to demonstrate competency in two ancient languages (typically by examination). Students choose from the following: Classical and Koine Greek; Biblical and Rabbinic Hebrew; Latin; Biblical, Targumic and Babylonian Aramaic; and Syriac. Language competency is ideally demonstrated during the first two years in the program (prior to embarking on the comprehensive examinations in the third year).  

Students are expected to take four comprehensive examinations: one in each of the four areas of concentration. Students take an eight-hour exam in their major area of concentration, a six-hour exam in their minor area of concentration, and four-hour exams in the remaining two areas.