Friday, February 27, 2015

A Telling Juxtiposition

The following two quotes come from adjacent articles from the Anchor Bible Dictionary. Both deal with the topic of source criticism:
While an appreciation of stylistic difference is often to some extent subjective, the variations within books such as these are wide enough to make it unlikely that a single author is responsible for all the material.
(John Barton, "Source Criticism (OT)," ABD 6:163.)
Compare this with:
No definite evidence, however, can be drawn from differences of vocabulary and style, as any author is able to remold a written text (although not all NT writers do this), or, on the other hand, to adopt the style and vocabulary of a source in passages which he is going to write himself. Therefore, observations on different style and language can only have subsidiary importance.
 (Dietrich-Alex Koch, "Source Criticism (NT)," ABD 6:166.)
So stylistic differences are both crucial and largely meaningless for source criticism.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

On Historical Discrepancies

One of the disciplinary leitmotifs of biblical studies is the search for discrepancies or inconsistencies or contradictions in the text. Supposedly discrepancies or inconsistencies indicate different sources since we all know that human beings in general and source critics in particular are entirely free from inconsistencies. Supposedly inconsistencies with historical or archaeological evidence indicates that the account is not historical.

Unfortunately, inconsistency is a staple with ancient history. Take for example the history of Til-Barsip (modern Tell Ahmar). A poetical account from Assyria tell us that in 856 BC. the Assyrians under Shalmaneser III conquered the Aramaean forces of Bit-Adini under the ruler, Ahuni, at Til-Barsip, resettled Assyrians in the city, reorganized it as a royal residence, and renamed it Kar-Shalmaneser.

We know Aramaeans were in the city because tablets bearing Aramaic inscriptions were found there. The Assyrians also left a provincial palace which is attested archaeologically, as is an expansion of the town to cover 50 hectares. Assyrian statuary, murals, and mosaics have been found.

So from Assyrian sources we know that the Assyrians conquered the Aramaic speaking nation of Bit-Adini in Til-Barsip in 856 BC. These seem to be supported archaeologically.

Now, as it so happens, a number of inscriptions from the ninth century BC. were also discovered at Tell Ahmar. From these inscriptions, in Hieroglyphic Luwian, we learn that Tell Ahmar was the home of a pair of dynasties of Luwian speakers throughout the entire ninth century. The kingship seems to have passed from Hapatilas to Ariyahinas to Hamiyatas's father (whose name is missing) to Hamiyatas to Hamiyatas's son (whose name is also missing) and back to Ariyahinas's son. These Luwian speaking rulers ruled a country called Masuwari.

The Hittite style architecture and the statuary is also attested archaeologically at the site.

So the contradictions here are huge. They include the name of the country (Bit-Adini vs. Masuwari), the names of the rulers (Ahuni vs. Hamiyatas or Ariyahinas), and whether or not there was an Assyrian invasion. There have been a variety of attempts to make sense of the historical and archaeological record but the inconsistencies are plainly there. None of those who have dealt with the evidence (Lipinski, Hawkins, Akkermans and Schwartz) seem to deny that any of the evidence that they work with was not historical or accurate; none of them deny the Assyrian conquest or the account left in poetic form.

Tell Ahmar is now on a island in a lake created by the Tishrin dam on the Euphrates and part of the tell has washed away. It is also located in the Kobane province of Syria and so not an ideal place to excavate at the moment. So it is unlikely that there will be any additional help from archaeology for a resolution of the contradictions at the moment.

Inconsistencies and discrepancies are a standard part of the historical and archaeological record. The existence of inconsistencies does not mean that the events did not take place or were not historical, nor does the fact that the historical accounts were couched in poetic form, despite what some biblical scholars might think. Navigating through such discrepancies is what historians do. Different historians will propose different theories to resolve the discrepancies in the historical evidence. The usual method of deciding which historical theory is to determine which theory best accounts for the available evidence.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A Different View of Teenagers Leaving

When I reexamined the National Survey of Youth and Religion (NSYR) publications for why youth lose their faith, I discovered that I had overlooked one of the books: Lisa D. Pearce and Melinda Lunquist Denton, A Faith of Their Own (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011). Dissatisfied with previous four NSYR categories (devoted, regulars, sporadic, and disengaged) that accounted for only 63% of the surveyed youth, the authors take a very different look at the relationship of adolescents to their faith. They divide youth into five classes regardless of their formal affiliation based on the content of their faith, their conduct, and the centrality of their faith.The classes all have labels that start with an a:

The abiders (22% of wave one and 20% of wave two) are those who report high levels of practice, belief and centrality.

The adapters (28% of wave one and 20% of wave two) are basically those who take a smorgasbord approach to religion. They strongly believe but are not particularly committed to any denomination and are eclectic in their religious practices.

The assenters (30% of wave one and 31% of wave two) are basically those who are involved in a denomination but religion is not particularly important to them. For them their church is something of a social club.

The avoiders (17% of wave one and 24% of wave two) are those who vaguely believe but are not really interested in religion.

The atheists (3% of wave one and 5% of wave two) actively do not believe in God.

The various percentages at any given wave imply more stability than is actually there. On the individual level a fair number of individuals changed groups between waves. The most stable group is actually the abiders, 85% of whom stay in that category between waves. If abiders changed groups they were more likely to switch to assenters. The next most stable group is the avoiders, 84% of whom stayed in the same category. If avoiders changed category, they were more likely to become atheists. Two thirds (67%) of assenters stayed in their category between waves; if they changed, they were more likely to become atheists though they might become anything. Adapters were almost as stable (65%), and while they might become anything were most likely to become assenters. The least stable category were atheist (52%); almost half of them became something else, with becoming avoiders being the most likely change although they could become almost anything.

In general, youth only moved one or two categories between waves but could end up moving almost anywhere. There is an exception to that rule though: Abiders did not become avoiders or atheists and vice versa.

Abiders tended to have the most desirable sociological outcomes.

Where do Latter-day Saint youth fit into this picture?

Because at the end of wave three 56% of Latter-day Saints were in the devoted category, I would guess that at least that many would be in the abiders category. Beyond that, I could not locate enough information to determine any percentages. When we talk about Latter-day Saint youth losing their faith, we seem to be talking about them becoming either avoiders or atheists.

This study seems to suggest that youth do not just go from being active committed Latter-day Saints to non-believers. Rather they first go through a stage where it is either no longer important to them or that they start picking and choosing what parts they will accept. When Latter-day Saints start to see the Church as some sort of social club or take a smorgasbord approach to religion they are moving off safe ground.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Kenneth Dunn (1922-2015)

My friend Ken Dunn passed away the other day. He was a good man and devoted to his dear wife who preceded him a few years ago.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Secular and Theological Vocabulary

Words are often used in a number of different ways. Many words are just normal words that are used in many different circumstances. Some are technical terms used in special circumstances. There are often special dictionaries to explain technical terms in foreign languages. Theological vocabulary is one set of specialty vocabulary and those who are studying the New Testament have numerous dictionaries to explain the special nuances of vocabulary that is seen as technical theological vocabulary with special significance. Using these dictionaries is normally seen as a way of unpacking the theological significance of a scriptural passage.

One can perhaps go overboard with this tendency. Here is an example of a passage that is filled with technical theological vocabulary where it might be helpful to translate it to bring out the special theological meaning of the passage:
9 καὶ ἀπέστειλεν πρέσβεις πρὸς δημήτριον τὸν βασιλέα λέγων δεῦρο συνθώμεθα πρὸς ἑαυτοὺς διαθήκην καὶ δώσω σοι τὴν θυγατέρα μου ἣν εἶχεν ἀλέξανδρος καὶ βασιλεύσεις τῆς βασιλείας τοῦ πατρός σου
10  μεταμεμέλημαι γὰρ δοὺς αὐτῷ τὴν θυγατέρα μου ἐζήτησεν γὰρ ἀποκτεῖναί με
11  καὶ ἐψόγισεν αὐτὸν χάριν τοῦ ἐπιθυμῆσαι αὐτὸν τῆς βασιλείας αὐτοῦ
12  καὶ ἀφελόμενος αὐτοῦ τὴν θυγατέρα ἔδωκεν αὐτὴν τῷ δημητρίῳ καὶ ἠλλοιώθη τῷ ἀλεξάνδρῳ καὶ ἐφάνη ἡ ἔχθρα αὐτῶν
13  καὶ εἰσῆλθεν πτολεμαῖος εἰς ἀντιόχειαν καὶ περιέθετο τὸ διάδημα τῆς ἀσίας καὶ περιέθετο δύο διαδήματα περὶ τὴν κεφαλὴν αὐτοῦ τὸ τῆς αἰγύπτου καὶ ἀσίας
14  ἀλέξανδρος δὲ ὁ βασιλεὺς ἦν ἐν κιλικίᾳ κατὰ τοὺς καιροὺς ἐκείνους ὅτι ἀπεστάτουν οἱ ἀπὸ τῶν τόπων ἐκείνων
15  καὶ ἤκουσεν ἀλέξανδρος καὶ ἦλθεν ἐπ' αὐτὸν ἐν πολέμῳ καὶ ἐξήγαγεν πτολεμαῖος καὶ ἀπήντησεν αὐτῷ ἐν χειρὶ ἰσχυρᾷ καὶ ἐτροπώσατο αὐτόν
16  καὶ ἔφυγεν ἀλέξανδρος εἰς τὴν ἀραβίαν τοῦ σκεπασθῆναι αὐτὸν ἐκεῖ ὁ δὲ βασιλεὺς πτολεμαῖος ὑψώθη
17  καὶ ἀφεῖλεν ζαβδιηλ ὁ ἄραψ τὴν κεφαλὴν ἀλεξάνδρου καὶ ἀπέστειλεν τῷ πτολεμαίῳ (1 Maccabees 11:9–17)
9 And he sent out ambassadors as apostles to Demetrius, the king, saying: Come let us make a covenant with each other and I will give you my daughter whom Alexander has married and you shall rule the kingdom of your father.
10 I have repented of giving my daughter to him since he has sought to kill me.
11 And he blamed the same grace of him lusting for his kingdom.
12 And having expiated his daughter, he gave her to Demetrius and alienated Alexander and their enmity was revealed.
13 And Ptolemy entered into Antioch and began to bestow the crown of Asia and began to bestow two crowns around his head, that of Egypt and Asia.
14 Alexander the king was in Cicily in those days since those in that place had apostatized.
15 And Alexander heard and came to war against him and exegeted war and he answered him with a strong hand and furnished him with an oar thong.
16 And Alexander fled into Arabia to be protected there, but King Ptolemy was exalted.
17 And Zabdiel, the Arab, expiated the head of Alexander and sent it as an apostle to Ptolemy.
This is certain to reveal much deeper theological significance than a secular translation would:
9 And he sent ambassadors  to Demetrius, the king, saying: Come let us make a treaty with each other and I will give you my daughter whom Alexander has married and you shall rule the kingdom of your father.
10 I have reconsidered giving my daughter to him since he has sought to kill me.
11 And he blamed him because he desired his kingdom.
12 And having taken back his daughter, he gave her to Demetrius and alienated Alexander and their enmity was open.
13 And Ptolemy entered into Antioch and wore the crown of Asia and began to wear two crowns around his head, that of Egypt and Asia.
14 Alexander the king was in Cicily in those days since those in that place had revolted.
15 And Alexander heard and came to war against him and waged war and he opposed him with a strong arm and set him to flight.
16 And Alexander fled into Arabia for protection there, but King Ptolemy was victorious.
17 And Zabdiel, the Arab, took off the head of Alexander and sent it to Ptolemy.

On second thought, perhaps some passages do not have deep theological meaning even if they are scriptural and even if they are filled with technical theological terms.

Friday, February 13, 2015

On the Importance of Historical Accuracy

From the thoughtful Craig Blomberg:
Christians may not be able to prove beyond a shadow of doubt that the Gospels are historically accurate, but they must attempt to show that there is a strong likelihood of their historicity.
( Craig L. Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels, 2nd ed. [Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Academic, 2007], 36.)
Christianity is a historical faith. If Jesus did not actually rise from the dead, then there is not much point to it.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Notes on Modern Scribal Training II

In a previous post, I looked at the requirements to get a doctoral degree in Hebrew Bible from a good school. A number of people thought I was looking down at those programs. Not at all. They are good programs. They may not require everything but they require some good things. To see this, lets take a look a what it takes to get a doctoral degree in biblical studies from other schools.

Concordia Seminary

Concordia Seminary is a fine Lutheran school with a distinguished list of alumni including Martin E. Marty, Frederick W. Danker, Jaroslav Pelikan and Richard John Neuhaus. According to their catalog to get a degree in Hebrew Bible requires the following coursework:
A total of 36 quarter hours of classroom work for credit at the 800 level, generally, two courses per quarter for two years.
They must demonstrate command of Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic, German and one other language. And they must take the following courses:
EO804 Advanced Hebrew Readings
EN804 Advanced Greek Readings
EO80X Old Testament Issues
EN80X New Testament Issues
E8XX Advanced Biblical Theology
Two Major Figures Courses (6 credits)
One Old Testament and one New Testament course (6 credits) 
Neither history nor archaeology is required for the Ph.D.


The Claremont School of Theology offers a degree in Hebrew Bible.
Students in the Hebrew Bible track must pass research language exams in French and German as well as an examination in Biblical Hebrew and demonstrate competence in Aramaic. Students are also required to study at least one additional Semitic language. Normally, the additional language will be Akkadian, although Ugaritic, Syriac, Arabic, and other relevant languages may be substituted with the permission of the student’s program advisor.
 Students are specifically required to take courses in the following:
T HB4033: Aramaic 4 units
Minimum 16 credit hours in Hebrew Bible 16 units
Free Electives 8 units
Hebrew Bible Track Additional Requirements – 20 units
Additional Hebrew Bible Electives 16 units
One additional Semitic language, such as Akkadian, Ugaritic, Syriac, or Arabic 4 unit
But that is not all:
In addition, students may take up to two courses (8 credits) in religious traditions outside of Judaism.
So neither history or archaeology is required here either.

Illif School of Theology

The Iliff School of Theology is a Methodist university that offers doctorates in biblical studies. The course requirements are:
Theories and Methods in the Study of Religion
Lived Religion Colloquium
Conceptual Approaches to Religion Colloquium
Text, Image, and Artifact Colloquium
Pedagogy and the Teaching of Religion
Dissertation Proposal Seminar
Additionally students must pass an exam in a modern language (and modern language classes do not count toward graduation requirements):
Typically French, German, or Spanish, this language allows the student to read scholarship in the field of religious studies.
 And just in case you thought they forgot it:
Students focusing in biblical studies must acquire additional languages such as Hebrew, Greek, and/or Aramaic, as primary content in their field.
The artifact colloquium may or may not cover archaeology. History is not required and it looks as though only one ancient language is required and there is no indication how much.

Dallas Theological Seminary

The Dallas Theological Seminary is one of the top evangelical universities in the country. PhD students in Hebrew Bible are required to pass a proficiency exam in Hebrew grammar and then take the following two courses:
OT103 Introduction to Hebrew Exegesis 3 hours
OT104 Principles of Hebrew Exegesis 3 hours
 Then they are allowed to proceed to stage two of the process:
For Biblical Studies majors, 9 hours of course work are required in divisional courses. In addition to this core curriculum, each student must take 12 hours in a concentration, either Old Testament Studies, New Testament Studies, or Bible Exposition and complete a 3-hour dissertation in their major field. Each student also has 11 hours of electives.
This includes numerous courses including mainly exegesis but also could include things like Akkadian, Ugaritic, or Northwest Semitic Inscriptions. What is on the books may not be offered all the time but this semester they are offering Hebrew grammar classes, two different courses on exegesis and an introduction to Ugaritic.

And, by the way:
Doctoral students are required to demonstrate ability to read scholarly French and German.
So neither history nor archaeology is even offered and languages other than Hebrew, German and French are not required.


As can be seen, a doctorate in Hebrew Bible from some programs does not necessarily mean that one will have much more than a rudimentary grasp of Hebrew. It is possible in some programs not to have studied any other Semitic language. Some programs require only one modern foreign language though most seem to require two. Some programs not only do not require history or archaeology, they do not even offer them. A doctoral degree in Hebrew Bible may be very rigorous or extremely lax. You never know when you encounter someone with a doctorate in Hebrew Bible how much they might actually know or not know. At the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) meetings I have seriously met professors of Hebrew Bible who teach Hebrew at universities but who had never read more than a dozen chapters of the Bible in Hebrew. At SBL meetings one meets individuals who run the entire gamut from the prodigiously learned and frightfully competent to the abysmally ignorant and dreadfully incompetent and everything in between. I have avoided pointing fingers at any specific individual even though I have used specific examples of real programs. One cannot assume much of someone who has a doctoral degree in biblical studies. That may not be how it should be, but that is how it actually is.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Using Historical Information to Answer Old Testament Questions

What use is history in the study of the Old Testament?

A friend asks the following question about Joshua 1:3-4 ("Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast."):
What do you make of the fact that Israel never attained the borders described here? 1 Kings 5:1 describes Solomon as ruling this entire land, but rather than rule directly, he ruled through vassal states that owed him tribute. The people of Israel did not occupy that land even when Solomon controlled it.
It is hard to know where to start with a question like this. As phrased the question reflects a profound ignorance of both the ancient world and the Bible. My friend has unfortunately only read the scriptural text and has had a little second-hand exposure to literary-critical scholarship, but never really delved into history or archaeology. The description of the lands that Solomon ruled over is in 1 Kings 4:21-24, not 1 Kings 5:1:
And Solomon reigned over all kingdoms from the river unto the land of the Philistines, and unto the border of Egypt: they brought presents, and served Solomon all the days of his life. . . . For he had dominion over all the region on this side the river, from Tiphsah even to Azzah, over all the kings on this side the river: and he had peace on all sides round about him. (1 Kings 4:21, 24)
So the biblical text actually says that in the days of Solomon Israel did attain the borders described in Joshua. (Azzah is modern Gaza; Tiphsah is on the Euphrates). But what about the rule through vassal states?
It was actually typical to rule over this territory through vassal states as we know from Hittite inscriptions, the El-Amarna tablets, the Idrimi inscription, the Azitiwada inscription from Karatepe, and the Assyrian inscriptions. The Hittites, Egyptians, and Assyrians all had empires covering this area that were ruled through vassal states. Judah and Israel themselves became, at times, vassal states. Even the book of Judges describes the typical functioning of vassal states. It is not clear why Solomon should be an exception.

Here the inscriptional evidence discovered by archaeology can help.

The following maps show where monumental Neo-Hittite inscriptions (mostly royal inscriptions) left by various kingdoms north of Israel. Monumental inscriptions attest independent kingdoms.

These are the locations of inscriptions that date to the tenth century. This is the time of Solomon.

Neo-Hittite States in the Tenth Century B.C.
At this time, the kingdoms of Karkamesh and Melid (known from the eleventh century) are joined by the kingdoms of Kummuh, Gurgum, Masuwari and Halab. Halab is the furthest south that an independent kingdom exists.

In this map we see inscriptions dating to the ninth century. This is the time of Elijah:
Neo-Hittite States in the Ninth Century B.C.
At this time, kingdoms of Unqi, Hamath, Que, and those of the region of Tabal join the list (although Melid is not attested at this time).The Tabal region needs a special note as this is a region populated by individual independent kingdoms on a smaller scale than the larger kingdoms in the south east. So while the colored dots represent parts of larger states, the grey ones are independent.

The kingdom of Hamath, which is mentioned in the Bible as being immediately north of Israel, appears as an independent entity at this time.

To the east of Hamath was the Aramaean state of Aram-Damascus. But
It is only towards the end of the 10th century B.C. that Damascus becomes a significant political entity in the Levant as capital of an Aramaean state.
(Edward Lipinski, The Aramaeans: Their Ancient History, Culture, Religion [Leuven: Peeters, 2000], 367.)
In fact:
With the death of Solomon and the division of his kingdom into two small rival states of Israel and Judah began the political ascendancy of Damascus in southern Syria, Palestine, and Transjordan.
(Lipinski, The Aramaeans, 370.)
So Aram-Damascus mainly comes into play in the ninth century.

In the last map, we see inscriptions dating to the eighth century. This is the century of the Assyrian conquests:
Neo-Hittite States in the Eighth Century B.C.
During this time, the Assyrian empire swallowed up many of these kingdoms. The inscriptions come from the earlier part of the century.

So looking at these maps, one of the things that we can notice is precisely at the time period of Solomon, we do not have independent kingdoms in the area of Solomon's empire while we do have them later. This is not proof that Solomon controlled all this area but is evidence consistent with that hypothesis.

Thus the archaeological and epigraphic evidence supports the biblical account of Solomon controlling the area up to the Euphrates. If Israel controlled that territory, this would mean, in turn, that Israel did obtain the borders that the Lord described in Joshua even if they did not hold the territory long. Unfortunately, the basis of my friend's question is thoroughly wrong. From a historical background, the question does not even make sense.

This example illustrates why it might be useful to know something about the history, archaeology, and epigraphy of the ancient world and not limit ourselves to literary, theological, or philosophical approaches to scripture.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

What Was That Point Again?

A number of people seem to have misunderstood my point from a few posts ago. The question was asked whether one could become a biblical scholar without taking any coursework in history or archaeology. The answer is yes, one can. I quoted in extenso from a number of first rate programs to show that this is the case.

So, there is no guarantee that if one encounters a biblical scholar that she will have any training in history or archaeology because many good programs do not require it.

On the other hand, just because it is not required does not mean that any given biblical scholar does not have training in history or archaeology.

Furthermore, just because a scholar did not receive training in a field does not mean that he cannot acquire competence in that field through other means.

The flip side of this is that just because a scholar has had coursework in a subject does not mean that he has understood the subject. Likewise, a scholar may never use the training that she has had.

In the end, a biblical passage explains it best:
Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. . . . Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. (Matthew 7:16–18, 20)

Another New Testament Papyrus Discovery

Another New Testament Papyrus was discovered in possession of the University of Birmingham (which already holds twelve other New Testament manuscripts). My BYU colleague, Lincoln Blumell, found it a couple of days ago. The press release is here. Congratulations to Lincoln, the other members of the BYU team, and the University of Birmingham! This is an exciting discovery and should be properly and promptly published.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

An Amusing Display of Ignorance

Those interested in a cheap shot by someone showcasing their ignorance and cowardice might look here. At least I have the courage to put my real name behind my opinions.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Notes on Modern Scribal Training

In consequence of something I mentioned earlier (here), A friend of mine (who is a physician) asked if it is true that one can become a biblical scholar without taking any archaeology or history classes.

Here are only the coursework requirements (not teaching, writing, or dissertation requirements) from a number of Ph.D. programs in biblical studies. All of these programs have good reputations:


A certain amount of coursework is required:
Three years of full-time residence are required at the normal rate of at least seven term courses each academic year.
These courses could cover many subjects but the following are required:
Students in the Bible and Ancient Near East concentration (BANE) must establish competence in biblical Hebrew, Akkadian, Northwest Semitic Languages, and two secondary research languages (normally German and French); in addition, students focusing on Bible must establish competence in modern Hebrew as a research language. 
Aside from demonstrating competence in five different languages, no other courses or subjects are listed as required.

This is supported by this paragraph:
Students in the BANE doctoral program take courses for the first three years. Typically a student will take four courses each semester (the minimum full time load is seven courses per year). In a typical semester, a student will take a course in Hebrew Bible, Akkadian and Northwest Semitics, with a fourth text or content course. (The latter includes courses such as Ancient Near Eastern Religion and Mythology, Women in the Bible, Near Eastern Law, Dead Sea Scrolls, etc.) The fourth course may be chosen in accordance with a student's ultimate specialty. Students interested in grammar or semitics are encouraged to study Arabic; those who want to do textual criticism should study Greek. Each student is to consult with all BANE faculty members about course selection at the beginning of each semester.
So Brandeis does not require courses in archaeology or history.


This is complicated because there are a number of different degrees. If one wants to get a degree in Religion with an emphasis in Hebrew Bible, then the following is required:
A high standard of reading proficiency in two modern languages of secondary scholarship relevant to a student's course of study (in addition to English) is required. This proficiency is to be demonstrated through coursework or by exam after enrollment in the program. A student and his or her adviser will determine the choice of the two modern languages, which should not be confused with primary source languages necessary for the specialization. Typically French and German are selected as modern languages of secondary scholarship, however in certain fields other modern languages are more relevant.
In addition:
The committee requires of each student satisfactory completion of two common seminars in the first two years (normally in the first and fourth term of study), and in addition two courses outside the specialty, focusing on a religious tradition, a geographical-historical complex or a methodological approach other than the one a student elects as the context of study.
 For Hebrew Bible specifically, the requirements are:
The field of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament requires students to pursue a number of languages to attain the requisite proficiency of a scholar in the field. These include biblical Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and German. Students often study others, such as Akkadian, Ugaritic, Egyptian, Modern Hebrew, and French, as well.
No other specific courses are required. The student will face the following four examinations:
  1. The language and textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament.
  2. Issue in Biblical Scholarship, which concentrates on literary, historical, theological, and hermeneutical issues.
  3. An area of concentration, of which the most common are (a) the religion of ancient Israel and the comparative study of religion, (b) pre-exilic history, (c) post-exilic Second Temple history, (d) late Second Temple, early rabbinic, and early Christian interpretation of the Hebrew Bible, and (d) theology of the Hebrew Bible. Students work out their area of concentration with the faculty.
  4. A special topic, to be worked out in consultation with the relevant faculty.
Through the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, two different Ph.D. programs are offered: Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, and the Hebrew Bible in its Jewish Interpretive Context. Both have the following course requirements:
PhD candidates are required to complete a minimum of sixteen half-courses or the equivalent. Particular requirements of certain fields of study may require additional coursework.
The primary language requirements are:
The major language of the student’s field of research is normally one of the fields of the general examinations.
In addition, all students are expected to have or acquire knowledge of a second departmental language. The minimum level of competence expected in this requirement is a grade of B in the final examination of a second-year course in the language.
Instead of such language coursework, a student may demonstrate the equivalent level of competence in a required language by taking a special examination administered by a member of the faculty.
If a second departmental language is included in the general examinations, the level of competence will be significantly greater than that ­required in a second-year language course examination.
The modern language requirements are as follows:
Each student must demonstrate reading proficiency in two modern languages of secondary scholarship (other than English) of direct relevance to their proposed subject of study. One of these languages must be either French or German.
But one should note the following:
Courses in the languages of modern scholarship do not count toward the required sixteen half-courses or the equivalent (see above).
Though courses are offered in biblical archaeology, it does not appear that anyone is required to take them. Courses in history seem to be encouraged but not required.

Johns Hopkins:

This is the university where Albight taught. A number of languages are required:
The study of the Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible forms the core of the program.  Students read a wide variety of texts in Hebrew each semester.   The three-year cycle of courses currently includes Archaic Biblical Poetry, Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomistic History (Book of Kings), Prophetic Literature (The Book of Ezekiel), Wisdom Literature (The Book of Job, Qohelet [=Ecclesiastes]) and Persian Period Texts. The approach of each course varies yet common methodologies include textual criticism, historical linguistics, literary criticism, and the application of socio-scientific methods.
Other ancient languages are also required:
 The academic study of the Hebrew Bible as an ancient Near Eastern text requires additional training in cognate languages.  In addition to a student’s minor language (two-three years of Akkadian and/or Egyptian, on which see below), students must also master other languages in the Northwest Semitic language family especially Aramaic and Ugaritic.
Johns Hopkins is one of the rare programs in biblical studies to emphasize epigraphy:
Students are trained in epigraphic methods (both conventional and digital) through dedicated courses covering epigraphic Hebrew, Aramaic, Phoenician and Moabite as well as texts that resist easy classification such as the TransJordanian Deir Alla texts.  In addition, the advanced course in Aramaic deals almost exclusively with epigraphic Aramaic (especially concentrating on Old Aramaic inscriptions).  All Ugaritic texts are read from the original alphabetic cuneiform inscriptions.
They also emphasize placing the Bible in its ancient Near Eastern milieu which means studying history:
Most noticeable is our requirement that all students complete a three-year Near Eastern history cycle--a year each of Egyptian history, Mesopotamian history, and Syro-Palestinian history.  Seminars (e.g. The Seminar in Israelite Religion) regularly situate topics under discussion (e.g. Divinity, Royal Cult, Domestic Religion, Sacred Space, Blood Rituals, Divination) in their broader ancient Near Eastern cultural context.
Johns Hopkins is exceptional in emphasizing material culture:
All students in Hebrew Bible/Northwest Semitics are strongly encouraged to study material culture.  Through the efforts of William Foxwell Albright, Johns Hopkins was the institution that gave birth to the discipline of  Syro-Palestinian Archaeology (formerly termed “Biblical Archaeology”). We have a very strong graduate program in Near Eastern Archaeology, one of our four areas of concentration. 
The strong encouragement is good, but there seems to be no archaeology requirement but history is required.


There are three different ways to study the Hebrew Bible at Yale: One is through the Department of Religious Studies, one is through the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations.

In Religious Studies, one must take the following languages:
Language prerequisites for admission to graduate study in the field are as follows: two or more years of Biblical Hebrew (most applicants have more than two years); some Greek; and a reading knowledge of German and French. Proficiency in German must be demonstrated on entrance and proficiency in French must be demonstrated before the beginning of the third year. Proficiency in German and French is demonstrated by (1) passing an examination administered by the department; (2) by accreditation from a Yale Summer School course designed for this purpose; or (3) by achieving a grade of A or B in one of Yale’s intermediate language courses. During the first two years of course work, students must take at least one semester of Biblical Aramaic, if they have not already studied that language, and they must take a full year of Ugaritic. Students normally take at least a year of another ancient language, usually Akkadian, although in some cases Arabic, Greek, Egyptian, or further work in Aramaic may be appropriate.
Additionally, they must take other courses:
Each student must take at least one graduate seminar in OT/HB and at least one of the following advanced Hebrew courses each semester: Rapid Reading and the Syntax of Hebrew Prose, Problems in Biblical Hebrew Poetry, Problems in the History of the Hebrew Language, Text Criticism. Students normally fill in the remainder of their course schedules with aditional language work, biblical seminars, or courses in related fields, such as New Testament, Judaic Studies, Classics, Anthropology, or Literary Criticism.
There is no archaeology requirement and no history requirement and no courses are listed.

Through Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, things have changed:
 The Department of Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations no longer maintains an active independent doctoral program in Northwest Semitic languages, Bible, or Comparative Semitics, although courses in Ugaritic, Hebrew, Aramaic, and cognate languages are regularly available in the Department. Students interested in doctoral study in Bible and Northwest Semitic languages or in the history, culture, and religion of Israel are advised to consult the Department of Religious Studies.
 So neither archaeology nor history is required.


So the short answer to the question is that one can get a good Ph.D. in biblical studies from a very reputable university without any exposure to archaeology. This does not, of course, mean that all those with doctoral degrees from these institutions have necessarily gotten their degrees without exposure to archaeology or history, just that such courses of study have not been required. That top programs in biblical studies do not require either history or archaeology says something about how biblical studies in conceived by its practitioners.