Hebrew Bible/Old Testament


The Hebrew Bible/Old Testament track 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.

Convener: Marc Zvi Brettler

Major Field Requirements

  • Course Work
    • 16 courses prior to Preliminary Exams
    • Efforts will be made to assure that a student has no more than 2 major papers in a single semester
    • Students are advised to take at least 1 course in each of the three parts of the Tanakh
  • Languages
    • Modern:
      • Students are expected to pass competency exams in German plus one of the following: French, Spanish, Italian, modern Hebrew
    • Ancient:
      • Biblical Hebrew, LXX Greek, Aramaic, and such other languages as are appropriate to the student's special interests. The Biblical Hebrew requirement (download link below) will be met by written examination that measures competence in reading printed texts along with critical apparatuses. LXX and Aramaic competence will normally be met by course work.


  • Responsible Conduct of Research Training
  • Preliminary Examinations
    • 6-hour general test that will examine competence for teaching Tanakh and for speaking knowledgeably about the field as a whole
    • 3-hour examination on topics—current issues in biblical studies
    • 3-hour examination on dissertation area
    • 3-hour examination on minor area
    • Oral defense
  • Dissertation

Inside Minor Requirements

  • Language
    • 1 year of Hebrew
  • 1-2 courses, depending on if the student takes additional Hebrew

Hebrew Bible/Old Testament

Diana Abernethy: "Profiles in Deception: Lying and Falsehood in 1 Samuel." 2018. Advisor: Stephen Chapman

Daniel Stulac: "History and Hope: The Agrarian Wisdom of Isaiah 28 - 35." 2016. Advisor: Ellen Davis

Mari Joerstad: "The Life of the World: The Vitality and Personhood of Non-Animal Nature in the Hebrew Bible." 2016. Advisor: Ellen Davis

Joshua Vis: “The Purification Offering of Leviticus and the Sacrificial Offering of Jesus.” 2013. Advisor: Ellen Davis

Stephen M. Wilson: "The Male Coming-of-Age Theme in the Hebrew Bible."  2013. Advisor: Carol Meyers