Doctoral Program in Bible and Ancient Near East

Graduate Admissions 2022-23 (MA & PhD)
The Near Eastern and Judaic Studies department is not accepting applications in the field of Bible and the Ancient Near East for the academic year 2022-23.

The course-work and exams of the doctoral program in Bible and Ancient Near East (BANE) train students in the texts and cultures of ancient Israel, Mesopotamia, and Syria-Canaan.

The dissertation may focus on one of these areas or may be a comparative study. This broad training gives students the tools to do research in the original languages and texts of the major Near Eastern cultures and helps them to gain broad competence that may serve and fuel their research and teaching throughout their careers. Within these areas of study, the program emphasizes the study of religion, ritual and magic, historiography, myth and literature through the close reading of texts in their original languages.

Preparation for the PhD

A well-trained student entering the BANE doctoral program has studied Hebrew (biblical or modern) or another Near Eastern language for at least three years and knows one or two other relevant languages (Akkadian, various Northwest Semitic languages, Arabic, Greek, German or French). An undergraduate concentration in BANE is not required, though training in the humanities or social sciences (e.g., languages, literature, philosophy, history, sociology or anthropology) is helpful. Students must be prepared to examine the Bible and Near Eastern texts from an historical-critical point of view.

Students with less training are nonetheless encouraged to apply to the program. All applicants are encouraged to consult the faculty of the BANE program prior to their application to seek answers to questions, especially if there are questions about qualifications. Students lacking the proper training may want to apply for the MA program.

Course Work

Students in the BANE doctoral program take courses for the first three years. Typically a student will take four courses each semester (the minimum full-time load is seven courses per year). In a typical semester, a student will take a course in Hebrew Bible, Akkadian and Northwest Semitics, with a fourth text or content course. (The latter includes courses such as Ancient Near Eastern Religion and Mythology, Women in the Bible, Near Eastern Law, Dead Sea Scrolls, etc.) The fourth course may be chosen in accordance with a student's ultimate specialty. Students interested in grammar or semitics are encouraged to study Arabic; those who want to do textual criticism should study Greek. Each student is to consult with all BANE faculty members about course selection at the beginning of each semester.

Residence Requirement and Program of Study

Three years of full-time residence are required at the normal rate of at least seven term courses each academic year. Students who enter with graduate credit from other recognized institutions may apply for transfer credit. By rule of the Graduate School, a maximum of one year of credit (seven term courses) may be accepted toward the residence requirement on the recommendation of the departmental adviser in consultation with the student's adviser.

By March 1 of the second year, a student will submit a research paper of at least twenty pages analyzing primary and secondary sources to two NEJS professors for approval. The readers are to be selected by the Graduate Advising Head in consultation with the Chair of the Department. This may be a paper written originally for a NEJS course or one based on such a paper. This paper must be approved for continuation in the graduate program.


Students should also discuss with their advisers the desirability of taking courses at member institutions of the Boston Consortium.

Teaching Requirement

As part of the graduate training program in NEJS, all PhD students are required to fulfill five semester-length teaching fellow or research assignments during the first four years of their programs, serving as apprentices to faculty mentors who provide feedback to their mentees.


Students are assigned advisers from the Near Eastern and Judaic Studies department in the program to which they were admitted. Students must meet with their adviser(s) regularly and before enrolling in courses, to ensure appropriate course coherency. The programs for each graduate area may be found in the departmental office and are posted on the NEJS departmental website.

Funding and Annual Evaluation

Scholarships and fellowships are generally renewable for four additional years, based on a favorable annual evaluation by each student's professors by May of each academic year. These evaluations will be shared with the students and will be part of the official file, along with grades.

Language Requirements

Students take exams demonstrating their ability to read German, French and modern Hebrew scholarship on the Bible and Ancient Near East. These are administered by the BANE faculty. Each exam is three hours long. Students, using a hard copy of a dictionary, translate a portion of and answer questions on a text in the research language. Students are normally expected to take one of these language exams in each of the first three years. The language exams must be completed before the dissertation proposal can be approved. Any courses taken in these languages do not count among the courses taken for the BANE doctoral program.

Comprehensive Exams

All candidates for the PhD are required to pass several comprehensive examinations. Read the current BANE comprehensive exam policy.

Dissertation Proposal

After completing all language requirements and comprehensive exams, students, in consultation with the members of the BANE program, write a dissertation proposal, following the guidelines provided by the department. The proposal is then defended in a formal one-hour meeting with the BANE faculty, to help the student polish and prepare it for presentation at the full NEJS faculty meeting.

Proposals should be up to six pages in length, plus bibliography. They should contain a clear articulation of the topic with rationale, a summary of current research in its area, its intended contribution to scholarship, methodology, sources, structure and table of contents, preliminary bibliography, and any other relevant material.

Dissertation and Defense

The dissertation, ordinarily between 250 and 400 pages in length, must demonstrate the candidate's thorough mastery of the field and competence in pursuing independent research; it must also constitute an original contribution to knowledge. It may be a synthetic study covering various ancient Near Eastern cultures, or it may focus on a particular culture. Two copies of the dissertation are to be deposited in the office of the program chair no later than March 1 of the year in which the candidate expects to earn the degree. The student must successfully defend the dissertation at a final oral examination

Structure and Length of Program

The BANE doctoral program typically requires a minimum of six years to complete: three years of coursework, one year of preparing for and taking comprehensive exams, and two years for writing the dissertation. The program may take longer to complete as students balance employment, family, and additional educational opportunities and responsibilities.