The department offers courses in Near Eastern languages, most of which are taught on a regular cycle. The offerings cover the ancient Near Eastern languages and the languages of the early Christian Near East. Students interested primarily in the ancient world are encouraged to study the later languages and literatures as well, and students of the later period may choose to study the older languages.
Students on the master of arts level may specialize in ancient or Christian Near Eastern studies. The masters degree requires 30 hours of course work, competence in scholarly writing (though no thesis is required), and demonstrated competence in French or German. Under ordinary circumstances the masters degree, including the requisite comprehensive examinations, can be completed in two years.
A masters in ancient studies, primarily devoted to the languages of the Hebrew Bible and related literatures, includes work in Biblical Hebrew and in Aramaic. The program provides ample opportunities for reading biblical text, and the range of courses offered in Aramaic is exceptional. Students interested in doing further graduate work in biblical studies can take courses in classical and biblical Greek. Courses beyond the elementary level count toward the 30-hour degree requirement. Students interested in the ancient Near East may study Akkadian, the various Northwest Semitic languages related to the later literary languages (including Old and Official Aramaic, Phoenician-Punic and Epigraphic Hebrew), and languages of the later Near East. Masters students in the Christian Near East may specialize in Arabic, Coptic, or Syriac, and are expected to do coursework in another of these languages.
Students on the Ph.D. level generally continue from an M.A. degree in the department and progress in their primary languages. It is possible, however, to enter the program at the doctoral level. Competence in both French and German must be demonstrated. The coursework ordinarily is completed in one year after the M.A., and the student then takes another set of comprehensive examinations and prepares a dissertation. Examinations and dissertation follow the coursework, thus allowing the student to complete a doctorate in two or three years.
In the ancient Near Eastern program, students continue work on biblical texts and add familiarity with other languages, ancient and later. Occasionally students in the ancient program teach elementary biblical Hebrew.