Historical Studies in Religion

The Committee on Historical Studies in Religion concentrates on the development of Western religious traditions, primarily Judaism and Christianity, from their origins to the present, including the Bible, History of Judaism and History of Christianity areas. Topics that span the Committee include the formation and interpretation of the Jewish and Christian scriptures, and the social, cultural, and intellectual history of Judaism and Christianity from antiquity to the present, as independent traditions and in their interactions with each other and other world religions, including Islam, in various geographical regions.


Simeon Chavel, Alireza DoostdarCurtis J. Evans, Michael FishbaneHans-Josef Klauck, Karin Krause,  David Martinez, Paul Mendes-Flohr, Margaret M. Mitchell, Willemien Otten, Lucy K. Pick, James T. Robinson, Susan E. Schreiner,  Michael Sells, Jeffrey Stackert


The Committee on Historical Studies in Religion supplements the written PhD examinations offered in its areas with one Committee-wide examination: Scripture in History, Literature, Thought, and Culture. Subject to the requirements of his or her area of concentration, a PhD student in the Divinity School may stipulate the Committee-wide examination as one of his or her four written examinations.


The Bible area seeks to understand and interpret the Jewish and Christian scriptures and related texts in their historical and cultural settings as well as in their subsequent roles as canonical texts for Judaism and Christianity. Contributing to these goals are four distinct areas of research: the historical contexts of these scriptures from ancient Israel to the Roman empire, the history and transmission of biblical and post-biblical literature, the history and methods of exegesis, and biblical and post-biblical theology.

Bible brief overview (pdf)

Written Examinations

The area offers two PhD exams in Hebrew Bible and two in New Testament. PhD students concentrating in Bible must take the two exams offered in one of these, and select their third exam from the two offered in the other.

1. History and Religion of Israel
2. Hebrew Scripture
3. Christian Origins
4. New Testament and Related Texts view exam information 

Complete Overview and Guidelines for Area (pdf)


History of Christianity

The History of Christianity area focuses on one major western religious tradition, in itself and in its interactions with other religions and cultures across time. The area fosters knowledge of the range of communities claiming an identity as "Christian" from the first through the twenty-first centuries, as well as allowing for individual specialization in a particular movement or historical moment, including ancient Christianity (to Constantine), late antique and medieval Christianity, the Reformation and early modernity, the Puritan movement, and American Christianity and American religion in general. Coursework and guided research emphasize the acquisition of essential skills of documentary and artifactual interpretation, critical appraisal of a range of methodological approaches to the material, and a sophisticated appreciation of the tasks, goals and audiences of historiographical writing. The construction of this area is based on the assumption that there are major issues that apply and extend to all periods (such as forms of biblical interpretation, means of adjudicating "orthodoxy" and "heresy," the relationship between Christian communities and the social order, forms of institutional and personal piety), as well as particular expressions of those dynamics in different chronological and geographical settings. It also assumes the need for integration of intellectual, social, institutional and cultural histories for interpreting the body of existing evidence and adequately addressing most important questions about this particular religious tradition in its various manifestations. Students in the HC area are encouraged to formulate an interdisciplinary approach to their research, through coursework throughout the areas of the Divinity School and the University (including the Department of History).

History of Christianity brief overview (pdf)

The Following Written Examinations are offered by the HC Area:

1. Ancient (to 600 CE) view bibliography (pdf)
2. Medieval (600-1300) view bibliography (pdf)
3. Early Modern (1300-1600) view bibliography (pdf)
4. Modern (1600-present) view bibliography (pdf)

A student in the area is expected to take three of the four examinations, or two plus the Historical Studies Committee exam on the History of Comparative Exegesis (pdf), together with one other examination, preferably outside the Historical Studies Committee. Every student must complete at least one major course in the four chronological periods of the history of Christianity delineated by the exams.


History of Judaism

Jewish Studies has been an important field of research at The University of Chicago since the institution's founding in 1892. Among its first five full professors, two taught Judaica: William Rainey Harper and Emil Gustav Hirsch. The University's first president, Professor Harper was a renowned Biblical scholar and oversaw the beginnings of programs in Hebrew Bible and Ancient Near Eastern Civilizations. A few decades later, these early initiatives received a huge institutional boost with the founding of the Oriental Institute, which remains one of the pre-eminent centers for the study of ancient Near Eastern languages, civilizations, and archeology. Professor Hirsch held a chair in rabbinical literature and Jewish philosophy. Current to his duties as the principal rabbi of Congregation Sinai, located in the neighborhood of the university, Hirsch taught until his death in 1923 a full range of courses in Talmud, Midrash, and Medieval Jewish philosophy.

The subsequent flourishing of Jewish Studies at Chicago has been sustained by appointments in a wide range of departments: Classics, Philosophy, History, Social Thought, Political Science, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, Music, Germanic Studies, Slavic Languages and Literatures, Romance Languages and Literatures, to name a few. In 1994 the Divinity School established its History of Judaism program for the training of graduate students in Jewish Studies. During the decade and a half since, the School has appointed eminent scholars in the study of Hebrew Bible, Midrash, Medieval Jewish Thought, and Modern Jewish Thought. Working together, these fields and disciplines have created the most comprehensive, distinguished and interdisciplinary program in Jewish Studies available at any American university.

History of Judaism brief overview (pdf)

Complete Overview and Guidelines for Area (pdf)

The History of Judaism Faculty, focused on the study of Jewish texts in their various historical, cultural, philosophical, literary, and religious contexts, includes Arnold Davidson, Michael Fishbane, Paul Mendes-Flohr, and James Robinson.

In the Divinity School, advanced degree programs are available at the AMRS, MA, MDiv, and PhD levels. The History of Judaism doctoral program offers three different concentrations: Ancient Judaism, Medieval Judaism, Modern Judaism.

Requirements for the PhD in the History of Judaism Area are:
1. Course Work and Residency: There is a four-year scholastic residency requirement for every student in the Divinity School. With supervision by the primary academic advisor, students develop a course of study that will help them prepare for comprehensive exams and acquire necessary linguistic facility.

2. Research Languages: Each area of research has its own unique language needs. In general, PhD students in the History of Judaism will be required to master two languages related to their interests, for example Rabbinic Hebrew and Aramaic or Syriac; Medieval Hebrew and Arabic or Latin (or a relevant romance language); Maskilic Hebrew and Yiddish or another European language. Students with strong chronological interests can focus on the various stages of Hebrew: Biblical, Rabbinic, Medieval, and Modern.

3. Languages of Modern Scholarship: All History of Judaism PhD students are required to show competency in Modern Hebrew, French, and German. Competency is determined by a formal faculty-administered exam tailored to the student's research interests. One must pass the required language exam before taking the doctoral orals and submitting a dissertation proposal.

4. Third-Year Colloquium: After completing the course and residency requirement and passing the relevant language exams, students participate in a colloquium with all members of the History of Judaism faculty in attendance. This colloquium will provide opportunity for intensive discussion of one substantial research paper by the student in relation to his or her larger research goals.

5. Comprehensive Exams: Students in the Divinity School are required to sit four comprehensive examinations followed by an oral defense. In the History of Judaism, at least two and not more than three of the exams must be in the History of Judaism, at least one and not more than two in another area of the Divinity School. An "orals paper," related to the student's prospective dissertation research, is submitted prior to taking exams and will be discussed during the oral defense. Sample bibliographies (pdf) can be seen here: AncientMedievalModern. There is, additionally, a committee-wide exam in comparative exegesis entitled "Scripture in History, Literature, Thought and Culture."  (pdf). Sample exams from previous years can be consulted in the Dean of Students office.

6. Dissertation Proposal: Upon successful completion of the comprehensive exams, students must formulate and submit a dissertation proposal together with a dissertation committee of at least three faculty members: a primary adviser and two readers. The proposal must be submitted to the Committee on Degrees for formal approval.

7. Dissertation: The final requirement of the PhD is the dissertation, which must represent substantial and original research in the student's chosen field of expertise.

BIBL 30601 Introduction to Judaic Civilization. Robinson
BIBL 31000 Jewish History and Society: Introduction to the Hebrew Bible. Chavel
BIBL 31800 Family Matters in Ancient Israel. Chavel
BIBL 32500 Introduction to New Testament: Texts and Contexts. Mitchell
BIBL 32700 Law in Biblical Literature. Chavel
BIBL 33900 Elementary Hebrew. Staff
BIBL 34000 Intermediate Hebrew I. Staff
BIBL 34100 Intermediate Hebrew II. Staff
BIBL 35100 Elementary Koine Greek. Staff
BIBL 35300 Intermediate Koine Greek. Staff
BIBL 36300 Plutarch: Isis and Osiris. Martinez
BIBL 39900 Song of Songs. Fishbane
BIBL 40300 The Gospel of Luke. Klauck
BIBL 41000 Amos. Stackert
BIBL 41800 The Old Testament in the Gospel of John. Klauck
BIBL 41801 Justin Martyr. Martinez
BIBL 42000 The Gospel According to Mark. Mitchell
BIBL 42100 The Thessalonian Letters. Mitchell
BIBL 42200 The Farewell Discourses of the Gospel of John. Klauck
BIBL 42400 Isaiah 40-66: Babylon and Yehud. Chavel
BIBL 42500 Revelation: The New Testament Apocalypse. Klauck
BIBL 43400 Science and Scripture: Jewish Philosophical Exegesis in the Middle Ages. Robinson
BIBL 43501 The Question of Jewish Intellectual Culture. Fishbane
BIBL 43600 The Pastoral Epistles. Mitchell
BIBL 43801 Ritual, Cult, and Magic in the Hebrew Bible. Stackert
BIBL 43900 I Corinthians. Mitchell
BIBL 44400 Lucian of Samosata. Martinez
BIBL 44500 Philo of Alexandria. Martinez
BIBL 45200 Studies in Midrash: Pirke De-Rabbi Eliezer. Fishbane
BIBL 45500 The Bible and Its Ancient Interpreters. Fishbane
BIBL 45700 Studies in Midrash: Leviticus Rabba. Fishbane
BIBL 46400 Israelite Love Lyrics: the Song of Songs. Chavel
BIBL 46900 Wrath of God in the Hebrew Bible. Fishbane
BIBL 47200 Reconsidering Patristic Biblical Interpretation. Mitchell
BIBL 50400 Early Christian Rhetoric. Mitchell
BIBL 51000 Papyrology and Early Christian Backgrounds. Martinez
BIBL 51401 The Documentary Hypothesis. Stackert
BIBL 51700 Dio Chrysostum and the New Testament. Klauck

HCHR 30100 History of Christian Thought I. Otten
HCHR 30200 History of Christian Thought II. Staff
HCHR 30300 History of Christian Thought III. Schreiner
HCHR 30400 History of Christian Thought IV. Hector
HCHR 30700 History of Christianity, 1600–1900. Gilpin
HCHR 30900 History of Christian Thought V. Hector
HCHR 31000 History of Christian Thought VI. Hopkins
HCHR 31200 Transatlantic Perspective on Modern Christianity. Gilpin
HCHR 31500 Liturgy and Devotion in the Middle Ages. Pick
HCHR 31800 Before and After Augustine: Echoes of a Church Father. Otten
HCHR 40000 Religion and Slavery in America. Brekus
HCHR 40500 Religion in Colonial America. Brekus
HCHR 40600 Religion in Early National and Antebellum America. Brekus
HCHR 40700 Women and Religion in America: From the Puritans to the Civil War. Brekus
HCHR 41200 Religion in Modern America, 1865–1930. Gilpin
HCHR 41300 Christians, Muslims, and Jews in Medieval Spain. Pick
HCHR 41600 American Sermons. Gilpin
HCHR 41700 Calvin’s Institutes. Schreiner
HCHR 42100 The Enlightenment in America. Brekus
HCHR 42300 Readings in Luther. Schreiner
HCHR 42400 English Puritanism. Gilpin
HCHR 42901 Christianity and Slavery in America, 1619-1865. Evans
HCHR 43100 The Catholic Reformation. Schreiner
HCHR 43200 Colloquium: Ancient Period. Mitchell
HCHR 43301 Religion in Modern America, 1865-1920. Evans
HCHR 43400 Jonathan Edwards. Gilpin
HCHR 43600 Religion in Twentieth-century America. Gilpin
HCHR 43800 Knowledge, Salvation, and Certainty: The Sixteenth Century and Its Legacy. Schreiner
HCHR 43900 Luther and the Old Testament. Schreiner
HCHR 44100 Reading and Writing as Medieval Spiritual Practice. Pick
HCHR 44901 Race and Religion in Twentieth-century American Culture. Evans
HCHR 45000 Theology and American Pragmatism. Gilpin
HCHR 46801 Incarnation and the Body in the Latin West: From Tertullian to Thomas Aquinas. Otten
HCHR 46802 Affective Spirituality: The Victorine and Franciscan Tradition. Otten
HCHR 48600 The Book of Nature: Diachronic Perspectives. Otten
HCHR 48700 Late Medieval Women: Authorship and Authority. Otten
HCHR 49000 The Letters from Prison in Early Modern America. Gilpin
HCHR 50300 Medieval Latin. Pick
HCHR 52000 Eriugena’s Anthropology: Paradise at the Crossroads Between East and West. Otten
HCHR 53440 Reading Augustine's Confessions. Otten

HIJD 30400 Readings in Midrash. Fishbane
HIJD 30601 Jewish Heretics and Apostates in the Middle Ages. Robinson
HIJD 30700 Introduction to Jewish Mystical Literature: The Book of Zohar. Fishbane
HIJD 31200 Dialogical Thought of Franz Rosenzweig. Mendes-Flohr
HIJD 34000 Franz Rosenzweig’s Concept of Revelation. Mendes-Flohr
HIJD 34300 Models of Jewish Spiritual Perfection and Piety: Sixteenth-Century Safed. Fishbane
HIJD 35000 Jewish Philosophy in the Middle Ages. Robinson
HIJD 35100 The Jewish Study of the Bible in the Middle Ages. Robinson
HIJD 36600 East and West European Conceptions of Judaism in Modern Times. Mendes-Flohr/Brinker
HIJD 40000 Readings in Midrash: Lamentations Rabba. Fishbane
HIJD 40400 Biblical Myth and Rabbinic Mythmaking. Fishbane
HIJD 40500 Modern Jewish Religious Thought. Mendes-Flohr
HIJD 41100 Animal Spirituality in the Middle Ages. Robinson
HIJD 41200 Mystical Texts: Readings in the Book of Zohar. Fishbane
HIJD 42600 Spinoza and Mendelssohn. Mendes-Flohr
HIJD 42900 The Jews in Medieval Spain. Robinson
HIJD 44900 Buber’s I and Thou. Mendes-Flohr
HIJD 45000 Studies in Legal Midrash. Fishbane
HIJD 45100 Zachor: History and Memory in Modern Jewish Thought. Mendes-Flohr
HIJD 45400 Readings in Maimonides’ Guide of the Perplexed. Robinson
HIJD 45500 Medieval Commentaries on Ecclesiastes. Robinson
HIJD 45800 Franz Rosenzweig: The New Thinking. Mendes-Flohr
HIJD 46900 Wrath of God in the Hebrew Bible. Fishbane
HIJD 46901 Modern Jewish Theology. Fishbane
HIJD 49600 Exile in Jewish Thought and Literature. Mendes-Flohr/Brinker
HIJD 50600 Soul, Intellect and Immortality in Medieval Jewish Thought. Robinson
HIJD 50900 Hermann Cohen’s Religion and Reason. Mendes-Flohr