Doctor of Philosophy in Religious Studies (PhD)
Hebrew Bible and the Ancient Near East
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Dissertations completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest dissertations.
Ancient Israelite prophecy has long been regarded as a spontaneous phenomenon, with individual prophets called by the deity to deliver oracles to unsuspecting audiences. This understanding of prophecy stands at odds, however, with recent scholarship that treats prophecy as a form of divination. Taking the view that divination involves the active pursuit of suprahuman information, I re-examine the supposed spontaneity of prophecy. I show how the study of prophecy has been shaped by an unfounded dichotomy between “religion” and “magic” with the result that scholars associated the spontaneous oracles of the classical prophets with a highly evolved Israelite “religion” and connected oracular consultation to the “magical” mindset of primitive, pagan peoples (chapter 2). In re-describing oracle giving as a divinatory practice, I take a comparative approach and examine evidence for oracle giving across ancient West Asia, especially from the Old Babylonian kingdom of Mari (chapter 3) and the Neo-Assyrian capital of Nineveh (chapter 4). I then turn to the biblical evidence for oracle giving in ancient Israel (chapter 5). I conclude that deliberate consultation was integral to the practice of oracle giving in ancient Israel, as well as in the broader East Mediterranean and West Asian world. At the same time, the distinction between spontaneous and elicited oracles is not an invention of modern scholars; it has its origins already in the scribes who produced the Hebrew Bible. Thus, I also seek to show how and why biblical representations of revelation depart from the traditional (i.e., oral and consultative) practice of oracle giving (chapter 6). Following the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in 586 BCE, Hebrew scribes idealized, amplified, and wrote new oracles that were thought to originate with the god of Israel. In the process, they (re)framed literary works as oracular in origin; created a repository of written, suprahuman information; and positioned themselves as essential and exclusive brokers of divination-derived knowledge for their people. Their creation of oracular writings gave rise, in turn, to a new form of mantic inquiry as Jewish and Christian readers continued to consult the ancient prophets via scripture.
Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.
No abstract available.
Whether the biblical texts can or cannot be dated has a significant impact on the reliability,or usefulness in using them to reconstruct Israelite history. In addition, knowing when a textwas written impacts our ability to understand what its meaning was for its readers. Somebiblical texts can be dated to the post-exilic period with relative confidence based onconvergences between content and historically dated extra-biblical material and/or literarysources. This corpus, for most scholars, would include Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah andChronicles. Beyond these, however, there is much debate about whether it is possible to evenprovide relative dates to any other texts. Numerous scholars, past and present, confidentlyassert that linguistic features can date biblical texts, on the basis of typology, to at least oneof three periods: pre-monarchic, pre-exilic or post-exilic. In contrast, especially since theearly 1990s, numerous linguists, Hebraists, and Hebrew Bible scholars have challenged thatthesis. In large part, they reject the idea that typology indicates chronology and argue ratherthat it is indicative of authorial/editorial style and of genre. The purpose of this paper is, first,to summarize and explain each side in this debate. This will be followed by a linguisticanalysis of Judges 5 in order to demonstrate the principle that linguistic features alone areinsufficient for textual dating. This conclusion will be supported through a critique of someof the essential assumptions on each side of the debate. Finally, I will offer a path throughthe current impasse and towards continued study and respectful discussion that will add toour knowledge and deepen our understanding of the role of linguistic features in the dating ofbiblical texts.