Graduate Study

Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean (RAM)

PhD Program Description

Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean (RAM) incorporates our prior Ph.D. programs in Early Christianity and in Ancient Judaism, as well as the study of various other ancient Mediterranean religions, including those of ancient West Asia.  All applications to study one or more religions of the Ancient Mediterranean and ancient West Asia should be made to RAM.  Choosing both a major and a minor related area, students will examine ancient religions synchronically, understanding how they formed and functioned in their social, intellectual, and political contexts.


Most successful applicants to RAM come with an MA in a related field, although exceptionally promising BA students with significant undergraduate study in appropriate areas are also considered for admission.  Students are expected to have had some training in the academic study of religion.  Students intending to specialize in some aspect of Ancient Judaism must have a minimum two years of college level biblical Hebrew or its equivalent; a working knowledge of modern rabbinic Hebrew and introductory ancient Greek are also highly desirable.  Students intending to specialize in some aspect of early Christianity, or Greek, or Roman religion, should have college level training in Greek or Latin, and ideally both.  Preference will be given to RAM applicants who have appropriate prior study of Greek (and other appropriate languages) and a reading knowledge of French or German, as well as prior work in the history, literature and religions of the ancient Mediterranean.


During the first year the student, in consultation with the advisory faculty, will design a curriculum that allows for exploration while remaining focused.  RS 2000 must be taken as soon as possible.

At the end of the first year, students will choose both a major and minor field.  Upon choosing these fields, each student will be assigned a preliminary advisory committee consisting of at least one faculty member from the major and one from the minor field.  This advisory committee may or may not be identical to the student's eventual dissertation committee.  

Possible major/minor fields include:

  • Israelite Religion
  • Judean Religion (Judaism) from the fifth century, BCE to the first century, CE
  • Judean Religion (Judaism) from the first century, CE to the seventh century, CE
  • Greek Religion
  • Roman Religion
  • Early Christianity (first-fourth centuries, CE)
  • Christianity in Late Antiquity (fourth-seventh centuries, CE)
  • Early Islam

In addition to these, students may choose as a minor field only:

  • Northwest Semitic religion (i.e. Ugaritic, Phoenician, Aramean);
  • Egyptian Religion
  • Mesopotamian Religion

Students are expected to complete at least three seminars (or independent studies) in one's major field and two in one's minor.  All coursework must be completed prior to being allowed to sit for the Preliminary Examination.


All students must demonstrate that they are able to comprehend and utilize scholarly writings in French and German.  Those students who major or minor in some fields (particularly Israelite religion and Judaism in any time period) must also demonstrate competency in modern scholarly Hebrew.  Required ancient languages are determined according to the student's field, in consultation with the student's advisory committee.  All major fields require knowledge of Greek; Israelite religion and all periods of Judaism also require proficiency in ancient Hebrew, and knowledge of Aramaic; early Islam requires proficiency in Arabic.  Students studying Christianity are ordinarily expected to learn Latin and/or Coptic/Syriac.  Diagnostic examinations are ordinarily given to entering students in Greek, Latin, and other languages as appropriate, typically consisting of a three-hour translation test in which lexical aids may be used.  Students may be asked to retake one or more of these examinations annually until they have achieved an adequate level of competence, as determined by the faculty.  In some cases, advanced (graduate level) coursework, with a grade of B or better, may satisfy this requirement, at the discretion of the faculty.  All language requirements should be completed by the end of the student's second year (or third if the student entered without an M.A.), and must be fulfilled prior to sitting for the Preliminary Examination.

Preliminary Examination

Ordinarily, students who entered with an MA in a related field will spend their third year of study preparing for and taking the Preliminary Examination.  Students who entered without an MA in a related field are expected to complete the Preliminary Examination during their fourth year of study.  Presently, the RAM Preliminary Examination is taking in four parts: Major Field; Minor Field; Ancillary area, Dissertation area.  Preparation for these examinations, including reading lists for the major and minor fields, will be made in consultation with the student's advisory committee.  The major field advisor, in consultation with the advisory committee, administers the major field examination; the minor field advisor, also in consultation with the advisory committee, administers the minor field examination.  

The dissertation area examination is also administered by a faculty member chosen by the student in consultation with the student's committee, and who usually becomes the dissertation director. 


RAM students follow the usual departmental procedures for the preparation and submission of a dissertation prospectus, appointment of dissertation committee, research, writing, submission and defense of the dissertation.  For details, see the handbook.

Core Faculty

Susan Ashbrook Harvey, Royce Family Professor of Teaching Excellence, Willard Prescott and Annie McClelland Smith Professor of Religious Studies

Nancy S. Khalek, William A. Dyer, Jr. Assistant Professor of Humanities (Religious Studies)

Nicola Denzey Lewis, Visiting Associate Professor of Religious Studies

Saul Olyan, Samuel Ungerleider Jr. Professor of Judaic Studies and Professor of Religious Studies 

Michael Satlow, Professor of Judaic Studies and Religious Studies

Affiliated Faculty

Susan Alcock, Director of the Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World; and the Joukowsky Family Professor of Archaeology, and Professor of Classics

James Allen, Wilbour Professor of Egyptology

John Bodel, W. Duncan MacMillian II Professor of History and Classics

Deborah Boedecker, Professor Emerita of Classics

Katharina Galor, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Judaic Studies

Mary Louise Gill, Professor of Philosophy and Classics

David Konstan, Professor Emeritus of Classics and Comparative Literature

Stratis Papaioannou, William A. Dyer, Jr. Assistant Professor in the Humanities (Classics)

Kurt Raaflaub, Professor Emeritus of Classics and History

Matthew Rutz, Assistant Professor of Egyptology and Ancient Western Asian Studies

Kenneth S. Sacks, Professor of History

Recent Seminars

  • Early Jewish Prayer
  • Ancient "Pseudepigrapha"
  • Roman Religions
  • The Cappodocians
  • Issues in Pauline Studies
  • Early Christian Hymnography
  • Christianity in the Late First and Early Second Centuries
  • Christianizing Antioch
  • The Christianization of the Syrian Orient
  • The Disappearance of the (Judean) Diaspora
  • Literature of the Early Second Temple Period
  • Early Christian Narrative Traditions (Gospels)
  • Early Christian Narrative Traditions (Apocryphal Acts)
  • Exegesis at Qumran
  • Orthodoxy in Antiquity
  • Jewish and Christian Women in the Greco-Roan Period
  • Midrash Sifra
  • Early Christian "Apocalypticism"
  • The Virgin Mary in Late Antiquity
  • Moral and Religious Economies of Greco-Roman Households
  • Philo
  • Problems in Israelite History of Religion
  • Psychology and Psychagogoy in Hellanistic Philosophy and Early Christianity
  • Religion in the Dead Sea Scrolls

Recent Dissertations

  • "If Sons, Then Heirs": A Study of Kinship and Ethnicity in Paul's Letters
  • Exorcising the Devil to Silence Christ's Enemies: Ritualized Speech Practices in Late Antiquity
  • The Body of the Poor in the 4th Century Cappadocia: Seven Sermons on Hunger, Sickness, and Penury
  • The Rhetorical Form of the Melchizedek - Christ Comparison in Hebrews 7
  • "I Have Myself Seen": The Representation of Humanity in the Writings of Apa Shenute of Atripe
  • "They Sit Apart at Meals" Early Rabbinic Commensality Regulations and Identity Construction
  • Inscribing Devotion and Death in Context: Deciphering Jewish Culture of Roman North Africa (2nd-6th Centuries, C.E.)
  • The Establishment of Proper Mental Disposition and Practice: the Origin, Meaning, and Social Purpose of the Prohibition of Oaths in Matthew 
  • Images of Others: Icon Parodies and Iconic Politics in Ancient Israel
  • What Temples Stood For: Constantine, Eusebius, and Roman Imperial Practice
  • Lives in Competition: Biographical Literature and the Struggle for Philosophy in Late Antiquity
  • Apostolic Memories: Religious Differentiation and the Construction of Orthodoxy in Syriac Missionary Literature
  • The End of Animal Sacrifice
  • Resistance and Multiplicity: Readings of the Acts of Mariamne and Philip
  • You Divided the Sea by Your Might: The ‘Conflict Myth’ and the Biblical Tradition
  • By the Power of Signs and Wonders: Paul, Divinatory Practices, and Symbolic Capital
  • Paul's Letters and Contemporary Greco-Roman Literature: Theorizing a New Taxonomy