Engaging Biblical Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem

by Miika Tucker

As a member of the Centre of Excellence, Changes in Sacred Texts and Traditions, I was unfortunate to be away from Helsinki during some of the formative months of the Centre’s activities. I was, however, fortunate enough to begin my tenure as a member of the Centre while enjoying a 9-month fellowship at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. For me, a post-graduate student focusing on Septuagint studies, “Jerusalem of Gold,” as the popular local song goes, became a golden opportunity to expand my knowledge and experiences in the field. The Hebrew University has a long history of producing excellent research in Septuagint studies.

Photo 1. The Temple Mount in the foreground, the Mount Scopus campus of the Hebrew University in the background. (Photo: Herbert Chan)
Photo 1. The Temple Mount in the foreground, the Mount Scopus campus of the Hebrew University in the background. (Photo: Herbert Chan)

My research stay was made possible by the Thanks to Scandinavia scholarship fund, which awarded me the Benjamin Sperling Fellowship for the 2013–2014 academic year. The goals I set for myself upon arrival in Jerusalem were twofold: to acquire insight and ideas for my research on Septuagint Jeremiah and to get a general picture of the current research environment at the University.

The Hebrew University has its own faculty for students from abroad, called the Rothberg International School. I was naturally enrolled in this faculty, but as a visiting research student, and with sufficient ability to understand Modern Hebrew, I had the liberty to participate in classes offered within the faculty of Humanities. This gave me access to lectures on the Septuagint and other facets of biblical studies that were not concurrently offered at the International School.

Most beneficial was a class taught by Dr. Michael Segal on the Greek texts of Daniel. Its purpose was to introduce students to the textual criticism, interpretation, translation technique and textual development of the book by focusing on the relationships between the Hebrew text and the Greek texts of Daniel. I also participated in lectures by Prof. Menahem Kister, on Ancient Biblical Exegesis, and by Prof. Alexander Rofe, on textual and literary criticism of the Bible. In addition, I had the chance to study the development of Hebrew from biblical to rabbinic times with Dr. Barak Dan, to learn about textual problems in the Hebrew text of Isaiah from Prof. Chaim Cohen, and to pick up new information about the history of Judah in the 7th and 6th centuries BCE from Prof. Mordechai Cogan.

A significant portion of my time in Jerusalem was spent in a working relationship with Prof. Emanuel Tov. He generously introduced me to much research on issues in Septuagint studies that I was unfamiliar with, and he spent many hours with me discussing my work and how I can improve it. These meetings with Prof. Tov were definitely the most conducive aspect of my fellowship in helping me achieve my goals.

The research institutes of the Hebrew University offer an exceptional means to connect with both Israeli and international biblical scholarship. Many of the centers of these institutes are conveniently located in the Yitzhak Rabin Building for the World Center of Jewish Studies, which is on the Mount Scopus campus of the University. This building provides facilities for the Hebrew University Bible Project and the Orion Center for the Study of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Associated Literature, both of which I had the privilege to frequent while in Jerusalem.

Photo 2. Left: The Rothberg International School. Right: The Yitzhak Rabin Building for the World Center of Jewish Studies. (Photo: Herbert Chan)
Photo 2. Left: The Rothberg International School. Right: The Yitzhak Rabin Building for the World Center of Jewish Studies. (Photo: Herbert Chan)

The Orion Center sponsors several lectures per year by visiting scholars. During my stay, notable lectures were held by Prof. Jan Joosten of the University of Strasbourg and by Prof. Erhard Blum of the University of Tübingen. The Israel Institute for Advanced Studies organized an intensive international conference in May titled “The Pentateuch within Biblical Literature: Formation and Interaction.” Ca. 50 participants from Israel, Europe and North America gathered at the Givat Ram campus for five days to lecture and discuss Pentateuchal studies from various perspectives, ranging from linguistic, literary and theological to historical, archaeological, and even geographical. Participating in this conference was one of the highlights of my visit in Jerusalem.

Photo 3. Poster advertising the conference “The Pentateuch within Biblical Literature,” May 25–29, 2014.
Photo 3. Poster advertising the conference “The Pentateuch within Biblical Literature,” May 25–29, 2014.

Other notable privileges for certain students at the International school included a guided tour of “the Book of Books” exhibition at the Bible Lands Museum. This exhibition is on display from Oct 25th 2013 through Oct 18th 2014 and contains a variety of items from the Green Collection, including papyri from Qumran, Greek fragments and manuscripts of both the Septuagint and the New Testament, and Latin, Syriac, Armenian and Ge’ez manuscripts. Though no Greek or Hebrew passages from Jeremiah were on display, it was for me a very inspiring experience to see these ancient texts.

In retrospect, my 9-month stay in Jerusalem exceeded all my expectations and I was able to fulfill the goals I had set for myself at the outset of my journey. Upon my return to Helsinki, I can assuredly say that the experiences, knowledge and friendships that I gained while doing research at the Hebrew University have given me ample ideas and inspiration for my future endeavors in Septuagint studies and within biblical studies in general.

For further information, please follow these links:

The Hebrew University Bible project

The Orion center

The Pentateuch within Biblical Literature

The Book of Books exhibition

3 thoughts on “Engaging Biblical Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem”

  1. I would like to do my research in the Old Testament in Hebrew university.I have completed my Master of Theology programme from Serampore University in India.Kindly give me the updates

  2. I would like to engage in Biblical Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem I working on a Masters of Divinity in Biblical Studies in Nairobi. I would be grateful to receive detailed information of your programs and prerequisites for enrolling i Doctoral studies.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *