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Hebrew Bible prep for next season


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Hey there -- I'm currently in an MA in a pretty good RS program exploring my options for my application season next year. I've been in a Biblical Hebrew year-long course and am among the top of my class, and am vastly enjoying a different exegesis course I'm in as well. I'm wondering what those of you in/applying to HB PhD programs had in your "toolbox" -- what else can I do to make myself look like a competitive applicant? Presumably, I'll be in similar courses next year as well, as well as in Modern Hebrew. It's been suggested I go to Middlebury but I can't on account of having a wedding (mine) during that time. Will it be best for me to continue study and not apply that season?

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One of the biggest challenges I think in non-PhD work is proving capability in primary texts classes. I can only speak for myself, but by the time I had finished my undergraduate, I had not actually taken a true text-course of a book that was purely an examination of the Hebrew text. The main problem with this is that when applying to graduate schools I had difficulty providing a substantive writing sample that I was proud of and demonstrated my ability to use Hebrew for research (all of the classes I took were primarily Hebrew reading classes, with not much attention paid to critical issues and problems--the whole point of graduate school).


All this to say, there is simply no replacement for having as many Hebrew text-courses under your belt (and as many strong term-papers to choose from/revise for writing samples). I would definitely check around and see if any professors are offering any Hebrew text-courses, and if not, if any professor would be willing to provide guidance for a text directed study with a substantive term paper at the end.


Of course other Semitic languages are helpful, but it seems that many programs will require you to re-take them anyways, especially if you only have one year to work on them. Burning through a "Biblical" Aramaic grammar so that you can put it on your CV might not hurt though. I definitely wouldn't try to tackle Akkadian unless you go to a school that has really strong Akkadian faculty. I would definitely not overlook Greek however! I really think that Greek seems to be more immediately useful if your interest is Hebrew Bible than Semitic languages. More useful than Greek or any Semitic language though is the most important ANE language of them all... German! There are books and courses designed specifically for getting grad students to be strong in German as quick as possible.

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