Near Eastern Judaica

The Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations of the University of Chicago offers three main alternatives in the study of ancient Syria-Palestine: Northwest Semitic Philology/ History of Palestine and Syria, and Archaeology of Palestine and Syria.* In addition it offers degree programs in both ancient and medieval Near Eastern Judaica. Courses of study emphasizing any of these areas are integrated with the other areas and with the other offerings of the department/ leading to proficiency in a given area of specialization as well as to a general knowledge of ancient or medieval Near Eastern civilization. One or more of the languages of the area are often important components in a program in Comparative Semitics, based on the various offerings of the department as a whole; or in the joint program with the Department of Linguistics, in which the student satisfies the basic requirements of both departments, specializing in one of the major languages or groups of languages taught in the department.

Northwest Semitic Philology consists primarily of the linguistic and philological study of Hebrew, Phoenician-Punic, Ugaritic, Aramaic, including Syriac studies. The secondary fields are: a Semitic language of another family. History and Archaeology (of the Near East in general, and of Syria-Palestine in particular).

Archaeology of Palestine and Syria is devoted primarily to the study of non-literary evidence. The secondary areas of preparation are: the archaeology of a second main area ( Egypt, Anatolia, or Mesopotamia), the principal language (Hebrew), and the literary materials for historical reconstruction.

History of Palestine and Syria covers the political, social, economic, and religious aspects of Syro-Palestinian history in the pre-Christian era, taking into consideration all categories of evidence for historical reconstruction. The main areas of supporting preparation are: the principal languages of the area (Hebrew, Arabic, and Akkadian), the archaeological record, and the history of at least one other main area ( Egypt, Anatolia, or Mesopotamia).

Ancient and Medieval Near Eastern Judaica covers various aspects of Jewish history and culture in the Near East (through the Medieval period). The main branches of the field as studied in this department are Hebrew and Judeo-Arabic philology and Jewish history. The areas of secondary study are: the languages necessary for historical research (Aramaic, and e.g., Arabic, Greek, or Latin), and the history and culture of ancient Palestine.

Comparative Semitics is devoted primarily to the mastery of the languages of the Near East, with a less important history-archaeology component than in Northwest Semitic Philology; as one of the programs here described, the principal languages would be Hebrew and Aramaic. For details, see the brochure devoted to this program.

In the Joint Program with Linguistics, the two primary areas of study are linguistic theory and the mastery of one of the languages or groups of languages of the Near East; again, as one of the programs described here, the principal languages would be Hebrew and Aramaic. For details, see the brochure devoted to this program.

 

* Syria-Palestine may also be studied from other perspectives (e.g., Anatolian, North-Mesopotamian, Aegean). Such a program should be worked out in conjunction with specialists in other fields of this or other departments.

Generalities

A. The Ph.D. Program. The program outlined here presupposes that the student has a B.A. with a major in a field other than that of the ancient Near Eastern languages. Students whose previous work has partially prepared them for the examinations listed below may either accelerate their examination schedule or widen their preparation by taking courses in fields other than Northwest Semitic Philology.

Preparation . Because this program does not presuppose a specific preparation in Near Eastern studies, the prospective applicant should enroll in an undergraduate program which will provide her/him with the tools necessary for graduate study. Primary among these is a reading knowledge of German, French (and Italian for some specializations, especially Phoenician-Punic), Greek, and Latin. A knowledge of the science of linguistics is also essential. Because ancient Near Eastern texts deal with every aspect of life, it is strongly urged that each student be able, by the end of his/her program, to apply an interdisciplinary area of expertise to philological study (e.g. linguistics, text criticism, epigraphy, historiography, anthropology, sociology, history of science, history of medicine, botany, agronomy, etc.). For the programs in archaeology and history, a good general background in the social sciences is recommended (most useful are anthropology, geography, sociology, and economics). A B.A. in one of these ancillary disciplines, along with preparation in the required languages, will permit the student to devote more of the graduate course work to philological subjects.

Coursework. The coursework should be finished in four years. The minimum course load is 27, but for the student with a B.A. and a major in another field, 36 courses will usually be necessary, i.e., three courses over 12 quarters, or four academic years (c.f. Departmental Regulations Nos. 6-7). In such a 36-course program the following diversity is desirable, and admission to candidacy for the Ph.D. in Northwest Semitic Philology will presuppose it or its equivalent, worked out with the advisor. Listed below are only the basic courses of a program; for general departmental requirements, the student must consult the departmental rules. All students in the ancient programs must take NEHC 30001, 30002, 30003.

B. The B.A. Program. Students who take courses in this department as a major for the B.A. may be of two sorts: those with a program to terminate at the B.A. level, and those with a program preliminary to graduate studies. Those of the first sort will work out their programs with college advisors. It has been stated above (Ph.D. preparation) that those who plan to take graduate studies in this department may prefer to major in another area of the University and take their electives in this department. For students who do wish an undergraduate major in Northwest Semitic Philology as preparation for graduate study the recommended sequence is:

1. Three to six ancient language courses, depending on field of specialization.
2. Three to six courses in archaeology and/or history, depending on field of specialization.
3. Guided electives in field of specialization.
4. Guided electives in an inter-disciplinary field of specialization.

 

Ancient and Medieval Near Eastern Judaica

The very wide field of Near Eastern Judaica as taught in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations includes both ancient and medieval branches.

I. Among the ancient branches/ students may major in either Tannaitic and post-Tannaitic Hebrew language and literature/ or else in Qumran and Bar-Kokhba manuscript studies. For either field, substantial knowledge of the other is required. Within the Tannaitic area, considerably more emphasis is laid on the student's knowledge of Midrashic and Talmudic rabbinic materials, while students of Qumran and Bar Kokhba texts are encouraged to acquire proficiency in Biblical and ancient Jewish historical studies. Students majoring in these areas are expected to acquire facility in the reading ad decipherment of ancient Hebrew manuscripts appropriate to their special fields of study. For the ancient branches, master of ancient Hebrew is required, plus reading knowledge of Tannaitic and early medieval Hebrew. In addition, the student is expected to have a reading knowledge of Aramaic (including Syriac), and of the classical languages as ma be appropriate to his/her field of study.

II. Among the medieval branches, the subjects mainly pursued within the Department are medieval Jewish Biblical exegesis and Hebrew literature, history of the Jews of the Near East, and Judaeo-Arabic studies. The reading and interpretation of manuscripts is emphasized within each of these subjects. For all of these branches of study, master of Hebrew, including also a reading knowledge of ancient and modern Hebrew, is required as of the time of acceptance to doctoral candidacy. In addition, students of Arabic language study or its equivalent, and such other language training as may be appropriate to their particular studies. (Students interested in medieval European Judaica are referred to the programs offered in the Committee on the History of Culture.)

Outline of courses (or equivalent study) for the ancient areas:

  1. A combination of 18 courses in Hebrew language, texts, and manuscript study of the several periods as stated above, s.v. I.
  2. At least 5 courses in Aramaic (including Syriac).
  3. Six courses in aspects of ancient and early medieval history, with choice depending on the particular interests of the individual student. This must include NEHC 30001, 30002, 30003.
  4. Six courses in elective subjects (especially suggested are the classical languages, linguistics, and cultural history).

Outline of courses (or equivalent study) for the medieval areas:

  1. A combination of 18 courses in Hebrew language, texts, and manuscript study of the several periods as stated above, s.v. II.
  2. Six courses in Arabic.
  3. Such number of courses in Aramaic as will result in reading knowledge of those strata of the language with which the particular student may be concerned.
  4. Three courses in aspects of medieval Jewish history.
  5. One course in Byzantine History.
  6. Two courses in Islamic history.
  7. Such other courses as may be required for the scholarly preparation of the individual student within his particular field of inquiry.

 

Ph.D. Comprehensive Examinations.

A. Ancient NE Judaica Field

  1. Hebrew Language and Grammar
  2. Aramaic Language and Grammar
  3. Tannaitic Hebrew Texts: Translation, vocalization, philological analysis
  4. Intertestamental, Roman and Byzantine Jewish History
  5. Reading and Interpretation of Manuscripts
  6. Bibliography and Methods of Investigation

(A reading knowledge of Greek and/or Latin will be presumed [in addition to departmental modern language requirement] by the time of the examinations/the precise nature of the requirement to depend on the specifics of the student's field of interest}

B. Medieval NE Judaica Field

  1. Hebrew Language and Grammar
  2. Aramaic Language and Grammar
  3. Tannaitic Hebrew Texts: Translation, vocalization/ philological analysis
  4. Medieval Jewish Texts: including commentaries on the Bible and other areas of Medieval Jewish Literature: translation and philological analysis
  5. Byzantine and Medieval Jewish History
  6. Reading and interpretation of manuscripts; bibliography and Methods of Investigation

{A reading knowledge of Greek and/or Latin will be presumed [in addition to departmental modern language requirement] by the time of the examinations, the precise nature of the requirement to depend on the specifics of the student's field of interest}