PhD in Classical and Near Eastern Religions and Cultures

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Application deadline: Friday, January 7, 2022

The PhD in Religions in Antiquity focuses on comparative, historical, and literary study of the religious texts and practices of the ancient Mediterranean and Near East. Students work across a range of cultures, time periods, and places, as shown in coursework and exams.

Students will build (1) theoretical sophistication in the study of ancient religion; (2) language competencies that will enable graduates to work with a wide range of primary sources; (3) deep understanding of the full range of cultural and historical dynamics inherent in ancient religions; and (4) interpretive skills that draw on a wealth of available literary, epigraphic, papyrological, visual, and material primary sources.

Students with adequate training who enter directly into the PhD program should be able to complete coursework and advance to candidacy in four years by:

  • taking at least six 3-credit graduate courses for years 1-2;
  • taking at least three 3-credit graduate courses and beginning to prepare for preliminary exams during the third year;
  • taking preliminary exams by the fall semester of the fourth year;
    • At this stage, students will focus on one of two areas: Area A (Ancient Near East and Hebrew Bible) or Area B (Greek and Roman Religions, Formative Judaism, and/or Early Christianity).
  • preparing and defending a dissertation proposal in the fourth year.
  • The rest of the fourth year and all of the fifth year is devoted to full-time work on the dissertation.

Course Requirements

  • A minimum of 33 graduate credits to fulfill the major. Includes graduate courses in theoretical approaches to the study of ancient religion and other graduate seminars taught by RelA faculty and tailored to student interests.
  • Supporting work or a minor of at least 12 graduate credits in a field related to the major. Given the interdisciplinary nature of this program, it is expected that at least 6 credits come from courses outside of the department.
  • 24 doctoral thesis credits (primarily used to prepare for preliminary exams).
  • For an example of an RelA student’s course of study, see below.

Other Program Requirements

  • Pass a proficiency exam in your primary ancient language (Classical Greek, Latin, or Hebrew) by the third semester in the program. The exam will be chosen from 200 pages of the language which you will develop with your advisor.
    • Please note: the Greek proficiency exam will not just be from New Testament, Jewish, or early Christian texts.
  • Demonstrate proficiency in a second modern language that is used in the discipline.
  • Pass Preliminary Written and Oral examinations, including defense of your dissertation proposal.
  • Conclusion of program: Dissertation defense

Program Prerequisites

  • A sufficient background in the academic study of religion.
  • Advanced level in at least one of the following ancient languages: Classical Greek, Latin, or Hebrew.
  • Reading knowledge of at least one modern language in the academic discipline.

Program Funding

  • The primary source of funding in our program typically comes in the form of university teaching assistantships that offer a salary and carry full tuition and nearly full health care benefits.
  • Summer fellowship funding is typically available during the duration of your program.
  • Additional departmental funding is commonly available to supplement the university teaching assistantships; college and university dissertation fellowships are also available on a competitive basis.

Contact Information

Example: Coursework from a recent RelA Ph.D. graduate student (Area B)

Coursework towards the major

  • CNRC 5072 The Birth of Christianity
  • CNRC 5204 The Dead Sea Scrolls
  • CNES 8513 Scripture and Interpretation
  • CNES 8530 Ancient Mediterranean Religion (The Emergence of Islam)
  • CNRC 8570 Readings in Religious Texts (Gospel of Mark)
  • CNRC 8570 Readings in Religious Texts (Paul and Theory)
  • COPT 5001 Elementary Coptic I
  • COPT 5002 Elementary Coptic II
  • HEBR 5200 Advanced Classical Hebrew (Book of Deuteronomy)
  • HEBR 5300 Second Temple Period (Haggai and Zechariah)
  • GRK 8100 Readings in Greek Prose (Prose of the Imperial Period)
  • RELS 8190 Comparative Seminar Religions in Antiquity (Ancient Mystery Cults)

Coursework outside the major

  • ANTH 8009 Pathways to Civilization
  • GER 5993 Directed Studies
  • GER 5734 Old Saxon
  • SCAN 5701 Old Norse Language and Literature