Monday, February 9, 2015

Notes on Modern Scribal Training II

In a previous post, I looked at the requirements to get a doctoral degree in Hebrew Bible from a good school. A number of people thought I was looking down at those programs. Not at all. They are good programs. They may not require everything but they require some good things. To see this, lets take a look a what it takes to get a doctoral degree in biblical studies from other schools.

Concordia Seminary

Concordia Seminary is a fine Lutheran school with a distinguished list of alumni including Martin E. Marty, Frederick W. Danker, Jaroslav Pelikan and Richard John Neuhaus. According to their catalog to get a degree in Hebrew Bible requires the following coursework:
A total of 36 quarter hours of classroom work for credit at the 800 level, generally, two courses per quarter for two years.
They must demonstrate command of Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic, German and one other language. And they must take the following courses:
EO804 Advanced Hebrew Readings
EN804 Advanced Greek Readings
EO80X Old Testament Issues
EN80X New Testament Issues
E8XX Advanced Biblical Theology
Two Major Figures Courses (6 credits)
One Old Testament and one New Testament course (6 credits) 
Neither history nor archaeology is required for the Ph.D.


The Claremont School of Theology offers a degree in Hebrew Bible.
Students in the Hebrew Bible track must pass research language exams in French and German as well as an examination in Biblical Hebrew and demonstrate competence in Aramaic. Students are also required to study at least one additional Semitic language. Normally, the additional language will be Akkadian, although Ugaritic, Syriac, Arabic, and other relevant languages may be substituted with the permission of the student’s program advisor.
 Students are specifically required to take courses in the following:
T HB4033: Aramaic 4 units
Minimum 16 credit hours in Hebrew Bible 16 units
Free Electives 8 units
Hebrew Bible Track Additional Requirements – 20 units
Additional Hebrew Bible Electives 16 units
One additional Semitic language, such as Akkadian, Ugaritic, Syriac, or Arabic 4 unit
But that is not all:
In addition, students may take up to two courses (8 credits) in religious traditions outside of Judaism.
So neither history or archaeology is required here either.

Illif School of Theology

The Iliff School of Theology is a Methodist university that offers doctorates in biblical studies. The course requirements are:
Theories and Methods in the Study of Religion
Lived Religion Colloquium
Conceptual Approaches to Religion Colloquium
Text, Image, and Artifact Colloquium
Pedagogy and the Teaching of Religion
Dissertation Proposal Seminar
Additionally students must pass an exam in a modern language (and modern language classes do not count toward graduation requirements):
Typically French, German, or Spanish, this language allows the student to read scholarship in the field of religious studies.
 And just in case you thought they forgot it:
Students focusing in biblical studies must acquire additional languages such as Hebrew, Greek, and/or Aramaic, as primary content in their field.
The artifact colloquium may or may not cover archaeology. History is not required and it looks as though only one ancient language is required and there is no indication how much.

Dallas Theological Seminary

The Dallas Theological Seminary is one of the top evangelical universities in the country. PhD students in Hebrew Bible are required to pass a proficiency exam in Hebrew grammar and then take the following two courses:
OT103 Introduction to Hebrew Exegesis 3 hours
OT104 Principles of Hebrew Exegesis 3 hours
 Then they are allowed to proceed to stage two of the process:
For Biblical Studies majors, 9 hours of course work are required in divisional courses. In addition to this core curriculum, each student must take 12 hours in a concentration, either Old Testament Studies, New Testament Studies, or Bible Exposition and complete a 3-hour dissertation in their major field. Each student also has 11 hours of electives.
This includes numerous courses including mainly exegesis but also could include things like Akkadian, Ugaritic, or Northwest Semitic Inscriptions. What is on the books may not be offered all the time but this semester they are offering Hebrew grammar classes, two different courses on exegesis and an introduction to Ugaritic.

And, by the way:
Doctoral students are required to demonstrate ability to read scholarly French and German.
So neither history nor archaeology is even offered and languages other than Hebrew, German and French are not required.


As can be seen, a doctorate in Hebrew Bible from some programs does not necessarily mean that one will have much more than a rudimentary grasp of Hebrew. It is possible in some programs not to have studied any other Semitic language. Some programs require only one modern foreign language though most seem to require two. Some programs not only do not require history or archaeology, they do not even offer them. A doctoral degree in Hebrew Bible may be very rigorous or extremely lax. You never know when you encounter someone with a doctorate in Hebrew Bible how much they might actually know or not know. At the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) meetings I have seriously met professors of Hebrew Bible who teach Hebrew at universities but who had never read more than a dozen chapters of the Bible in Hebrew. At SBL meetings one meets individuals who run the entire gamut from the prodigiously learned and frightfully competent to the abysmally ignorant and dreadfully incompetent and everything in between. I have avoided pointing fingers at any specific individual even though I have used specific examples of real programs. One cannot assume much of someone who has a doctoral degree in biblical studies. That may not be how it should be, but that is how it actually is.