Graduate Study

Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean (RAM)

Description

RAM students focus on the interdisciplinary study of religion throughout the ancient Mediterranean and west Asia.  Choosing both a major and a related minor area, students examine ancient religions synchronically and diachronically, understanding how they formed and functioned in their social, intellectual, and political contexts.  Students may choose as either a major or a minor field work in

  • Israelite religion
  • Judean religion (Judaism) from the fifth century CE
  • Judean religion (Judaism) from the first century CE to the seventh century CE (including rabbinics and/or the Greco-Roman Diaspora)
  • Greek religion
  • Roman religion
  • Early Christianity (first-fourth centureis CE)
  • Christianity in Late Antiquity (fourth-seventh centuries CE)
  • Early Islam

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

  • Egyptian religion
  • Mesopotamian religion

Admission

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 any aspect of ancient Israelite or Judean religion (Judaism) must have a minimum of two years of college level biblical Hebrew or its equivalent; a working knowledge of modern and 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.  Students intending to specialize in any aspect of early Isalm should have prior study of classical Arabic. Preference will be given to RAM applicants who have appropriate prior study of the major language(s) of their proposed field, and a reading knowledge of French or German, as well as prior work in the history, literature, and religions of the ancient Mediterranean.  

Coursework

Upon matriculation, students will be assigned a preliminary advising committee of two faculty members in the primary areas of interst.  During the first year, students, in consultation with the RAM program coordinator and their committee, design a curriculum that allows for exploration while remaining appropriately focused.  RELS 2000, which is a required course and is taughter every other year, should be taken as soon as possible.  At the end of the first year, students choose both a major and minor field.  Upon choosing these fields, the student's advising committee may be re-assigned so as to include 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.

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

 Qualifying Requirements

These depend upon the student's specific areas of interest but always include language training, RELS 2000, and appropriate preparation in the sources and methods of the areas of focus.  Students should discuss the expectations for their particular areas with the RAM program coordinator, their advising committee, and any other appropriate faculty, as soon as possible.

Languages

Ancient Languages

Required ancient languages are determinded according to the student's field, in consultation with the student's advisory committee.   Regardless of field, there will be a minimum of two ancient languuages required.  Some major fields require knowledge of Greek; some require proficiency.  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 Israelite religion also require Akkadian; students studying Christianity  are ordinarily expected to gain proficiency also in Latin and/or Coptic or Syriac.  Diagnostic examinations are ordinarily given to entering students in ancient Hebrew, 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 determinded 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 (third if the student entered without an M.A.), and must be fulfilled prior to sitting for the preliminary examination.

Modern Scholarly Languages

In addition to demonstration competence in two modern languages, ordinarily French and German, those students who major or minor in some fields, particularly Judaism in any time period, must also demonstrate competency in modern scholarly Hebrew.  Depending on the student's area of interest, additional modern languages may be desirable or even required, such as Italian, Spanish, modern Arabic, and others.  Competency in these languages can be demonstrated in one of three ways:

  • a grade of B or higher in an appropriate course, as determined by the advisory committee in consulation with the Graduate Advisor.
  • a translation test, typically lasting three hours during which the student is asked to translate, with the aid (if desired) of lexical aids, a passage of scholarly prose; or
  • a working exercise, administered by the faculty, in which typically a student reads a substantial scholarly article or book in the designated language and submits a report on it in English.

Preliminary Examination

The RAM Preliminary Examination may be taken in four parts: Major field; Minor field; Ancillary area; Dissertation area.  Alternatively, the ancillary area may be included in the dissertation area exam, if approved by the advisory committee.  Ordinarily, students who entered with an MA in a relevant 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 Prelimnary Examination during their fourth year of study.  Preparation for these examinations, including reading lists for the major and minor fields, will be made in consulation with the student's advisory committee.  The various parts of the examination may be taken in any order, although the dissertation part is normally the last.

The major field examination is administered by the major field advisor, in consultation with the advisory committee.  Its purpose is to assess teaching and research competency, and to assure broad competency in the scholarly discussions and major debates in the major areas of the student's primary field.  The minor field examination is administered by the minor field advisor, also in consultation with the advisory commitee.   The purpose of the exam is to assure teaching competency, as well as competency in the salient issues relevant to the dissertation area.  The ancillary exam, or portion of the dissertation exam, is determined in consultation with the advisory commitee and may, as appropriate, involve the participation of additional faculty.  The dissertation area examination is also administered by a faculty member chosen by the student in consulations with the student's committee, and who usually becomes the dissertation director.  Its purpose is to lay the groundwork for the dissertation by surveying the state of research relevant to the the topic the student will be pursuing.  Inclusing of the ancillary area may be through the consideration of varying types of primary source dat (e.g., archaeological or documentary, in addition to textual material), or thorugh use of varying methodologies (e.g., anthropology).

The format of each exam will be determined by consultation between the student and the advisory committee.  Possible formats include

  • for the major area exam: a one-week take-home exam, with option of writing on one big question (approx. 20-25 pp.) or a choice of more specific questions (for example, 5 out 7 questions, for essays of 5 -pp/ each)
  • for the minor exam: a four-hour sit-down exam, writing on 2 out of 4 questions or two papers on proposed thematic topics (10 pages each)
  • The dissertation area exam is in the form of a paper (20-25 pages).

Dissertation

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)

Ross S. Kraemer, Professor Emerita of Religious Studies & Judaic 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

Stanley Stowers, Professor Emeritus of 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

Jonathan Conant, Assistant Professor of History

Katharina Galor, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Judaic Studies

Mary Louise Gill, Professor of Philosophy and Classics

Johanna Hannink, Assistant Professor of Classics

Sarah Insley, ACLS Fellow of Classics

David Konstan, Professor Emeritus of Classics and Comparative Literature

Lisa Mignone, Assistant Professor of Classics

Stratis Papaioannou, Associatet Professor of 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
  • Grief in Late Antiquity
  • Orthodoxy in Antiquity
  • Jewish and Christian Women in the Greco-Roman Period
  • Midrash Sifra
  • Early Christian "Apocalypticism"
  • The Virgin Mary in Late Antiquity
  • Philo
  • Problems in Israelite History of Religion
  • Religion in the Dead Sea Scrolls

Recent Dissertations

  • "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
  • At the Temple Gates: The Religion of Freelance Experts in Early Imperial Rome
  • Foreign Lands - Multiple Perspectives: Foreign Land Impurity in the Hebrew Bible, its Context, and its Ideological Underpinnings
  • Gaining Virtue, Gaining Christ: Moral Development in the Letters of Paul
  • Reciprocity, Sacrifice and Salvation in Judean Religion at the Turn of the Era
  • Non-Peoples and Foolish Nations: Religion, Xenophobia and Ethnic Foreigners in the Hebrew Bible and Mesopotamia
  • Non-Anthropomorphic Gods? Manufactured Entities and Divine Qualities and Attributes Characterized As Gods in the Textual Evidence from Ancient Mesopotamia, Syria, North Arabia, Palestine, and Elephantine
  • The Beginnings of Christian Literature