Near Eastern Religions

Joint Ph.D.

The joint degree program in NER is under review and, therefore, is not currently accepting new students. Prospective students interested in this program are encouraged to consider our program in Biblical Studies.



Students may study, in depth, the archaeology, history, languages, literatures, and thought patterns of the ancient Near East and Egypt, with emphasis on various forms of the religious expression of these ancient people.

The Ph.D. is jointly administered and granted by GTU and the University of California, Berkeley.



Student Work


Cindy Lee Ausec, Gods Who
Hear Prayers:  Personal Piety or
Kingship in New Kingdom Egypt

Michael Thomas Tupou
“Israel and the Nations”
in the Mekhilta of Rabbi Ishmael
and Origen’s Homilies on Exodus:
A Study in Biblical Interpretation


ROBERT ALTER • UCB (Near Eastern Studies and Comparative Literature) • Bible and Modern Hebrew Literature.

DAVID L. BALCH • PLTS (New Testament) • Luke-Acts, both exegesis and the visual world of the readers; Paul (Romans, Galatians, Philippians, Corinthians), and post-colonial interpretation; Roman domestic art and architecture; the visual world of early house churches.

DANIEL BOYARIN • UCB (Near Eastern Studies) • Rabbinic Literature and Jewish Cultural Studies.

AARON BRODY • PSR (Bible and Archaeology) • Archaeology of the Southern Levant; archaeology of religion; cultures of the Hebrew Bible; ancient economy; Tell en-Nasbeh.

STEED DAVIDSON • PLTS (Old Testament) • Postcolonial studies and biblical studies; philosophies of hermeneutics and their relationships to current reading practices; prophetic literature in their ancient Near East context; the book of Jeremiah; early Persian period with a focus on diaspora communities and displaced communities.

JOHN C. ENDRES, S.J. • JST (Sacred Scripture/Old Testament) • Intertestamental literature (Book of Jubilees); Book of Psalms; Dead Sea Scrolls; Wisdom literature; scripture and Ignatian spirituality.

LEANN SNOW FLESHER • ABSW (Old Testament) • Biblical laments; Apocalyptic literature; Psalms; hermeneutics/global perspective; protest literature of the Bible.

BARBARA GREEN, O.P. • DSPT (Old Testament) • Book of Jeremiah; biblical hermeneutics; religion and violence.

RONALD HENDEL • UCB (Near Eastern Studies) • Ancient Hebrew Language, Literature, Religion and Culture.

GINA HENS-PIAZZA • JST (Old Testament) • Prophets; Deuteronomistic history; feminist readings; new historicism and cultural studies.

TAT-SIONG BENNY LIEW • PSR (New Testament) • Inter(con)textual and interdisciplinary reading/studying of the New Testament; colonial/postcolonial studies; gender/sexuality studies; racial/ethnic studies, particularly Asian American studies; philosophical hermeneutics/literary theory; studies on the Greco-Roman world.

EUGENE EUNG CHUN PARK • SFTS (New Testament) • Gospel of Matthew and formative Judaism; new perspective on Paul; Biblical hermeneutics; Dialogues of Plato in Greek.

BENJAMIN W. PORTER • UCB (Near Eastern Studies) • Near Eastern Archaeology.

JEAN-FRANCOIS RACINE • JST (New Testament) • Narrative study of the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles; New Testament textual criticism; Biblical hermeneutics.

CAROL REDMOUNT • UCB (Near Eastern Studies) • Egyptian and Syro-Palestinian Archaeology.

ANNETTE SCHELLENBERG • SFTS (Old Testament) • Wisdom literature; Priestly text; anthropology (concepts about humans); reception history; ancient Near Eastern context of the Old Testament.

MARTIN SCHWARTZ • UCB (Near Eastern Studies) • Pre-Islamic Iranian Language, Culture, and Society.

DAVID STRONACH • UCB (Emeritus) • Near Eastern Archaeology.

NIEK VELDHUIS • UCB (Near Eastern Studies) • Sumerian, Cuneiform, and Akkadian Literature.

ANNETTE WEISSENRIEDER • SFTS (New Testament) • Ancient medical texts/iconography and the New Testament; transsubjective pneumatology in Pauline theology; western patristic and Pauline interpretations of Holy Communion against the background of ancient culture and philosophy.

The Joint Doctoral program is administered by a six-member Executive Committee composed of faculty from both the GTU and UCB. Three members are appointed from the UCB Department of Near Eastern Studies and three members are usually appointed from the Biblical Studies area at GTU (one GTU member may be from the Center for Jewish Studies). The combined GTU and UCB faculty are drawn from a rich and diverse group of eminent teachers and scholars with a broad range of expertise and interests.




Joint Ph.D.

The Joint Ph.D. program in Near Eastern Religions is the only one of its kind in this country. The rich faculty and library resources of the University of California, Berkeley and the Biblical Studies area of the Graduate Theological Union are combined to provide a program of extraordinary flexibility, breadth, and depth, supervised by a committee of faculty from both institutions.

Students may study, in depth, the archaeology, history, languages, literatures, and thought patterns of the ancient Near East and Egypt, with emphasis on various forms of the religious expression of these ancient people.

Among the major fields students may study are: biblical or Near Eastern archaeology; the comparative religions of the ancient Near East; early post-biblical Hebrew literature; Hebrew Bible (history, literature, or theology); Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Canaanite, or Iranian religion and mythology. Minor fields may include any of those listed, and also later Judaica, early Christian literature, history, and archaeology, feminist readings, anthropological modeling, new historicism, cultural studies, rhetorical analysis, and queer theory.

This Joint Ph.D. program provides opportunity for a wide variety of areas of concentration. The student's own interests and resources can be combined in creative and innovative ways with the opportunities offered by the program.

Admission Requirements
To be admitted to the Joint Degree Program, a student must have an accredited B.A. and an M.A. (or its equivalent) in Near Eastern or biblical studies, or a related field from an accredited academic institution. The student must also have competence in at least two ancient languages and one modern foreign language appropriate for the proposed program.


For initial consultation about coursework and language preparation in the first year of the program, the student meets with the program's Graduate Advisor. During the first semester of the Ph.D. program a personal program advisor is selected and assigned to the student who will guide him/her further on courses, language study, and preparation for the doctoral qualifying exams. By the second semester, the student adds 2 faculty members to her/his program advisor to form a 3 member advisory committee, representing both the GTU and UCB, which will continue to help the student through the initial stages of the program. This committee must be approved by the Executive Committee of the Joint Degree Program.



Unit and Course Requirements
There are no specific course requirements. The student will select those courses most pertinent to his or her major field and two minor fields.


Language Requirements
Students must pass language exams in at least two ancient and two modern languages, one of which would normally be German.

Examination Committee
The student forms a four or five person qualifying examination committee consisting of two members from the GTU and academic senate members from UCB, one UCB member must be from the department of Near Eastern Studies and the other member from another department (typically, the advisory committee forms the foundation for this committee). This committee will be formed in consultation with the Graduate Advisor and program advisor. The chair of this committee cannot later serve as chair of the student's dissertation committee. The qualifying examination committee supervises the exam and determines whether the candidate may proceed to the dissertation.

Comprehensive and Qualifying Examinations
Students are expected to pass comprehensive qualifying exams in one major and two minor fields. At least two months before the student's examination date, the student should consult with the Graduate Assistant in Near Eastern Studies at UCB, who prepares an application for the student to be admitted to the qualifying examinations. This application is signed by the Graduate Advisor. Final approval is recommended by the Chairperson of the Executive Committee to the Deans of both institutions. Upon approval by the Deans of the application, the student may proceed to the qualifying exams.

Dissertation Committee
After passing Qualifying Examinations, the student consults with the Graduate Advisor and program advisor and chooses a five-person dissertation and oral defense committee. The Executive Committee approves the committee, upon recommendation of the Graduate Advisor and pending final approval from the GTU Dean. The committee is made up of three readers representing both the University and the GTU, appointed to guide the student in his or her research and pass judgment on the merits of the dissertation, and two additional members appointed for the final defense of the dissertation. One member of the committee must be from a Department at UCB other than Near Eastern Studies. The student's committee and defense requirements are to conform to UCB's Plan A.

Proceed to Dissertation
The student submits a dissertation prospectus (not to exceed three pages) with an application for candidacy to UCB. Normally, after a student has been admitted to candidacy, he or she will be expected to complete the dissertation within three years (six semesters). To this total accrued time of three years can be added a maximum of a two year grace period. All students are required to have an oral examination.