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UVA's Graduate Program in Scripture, Interpretation, and Practice prepares students for advanced research and teaching about the phenomena of scriptural study, textual interpretation, and religious practice in all three of the Abrahamic traditions, as well as in other scripturally centered traditions. The first goal of the Program is to examine the Bible, the Qur'an, and other scriptures as literatures that generate communities of religious practice: practices of study, of interpretation and reflection, of ritual, and of social life. The PhD in SIP is designed to prepare students for teaching positions in departments of Religious Studies, where they will be able to offer advanced courses in their primary tradition of study (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, or other traditions) and more general courses in Abrahamic and other traditions.
Coursework in SIP focuses primarily on the three Abrahamic traditions, with emerging programming in Asian religions as well. There are foundational courses: in the languages, texts, and histories of the Tanakh, the New Testament, and the Qur'an; and in the interpretive traditions of rabbinic Judaism, of early and Patristic Christianity, and of classical Qur'anic exegesis and interpretation. There are ethnographic and comparative courses in the religious practices of individual traditions, from reading practices to ritual and prayer practices, in the past and today. There are courses on interpretation theory, on ritual theory, and in philosophical hermeneutics, pertinent to each of the traditions and to broader, comparative studies. And there are courses on the practice and theory of "scriptural reasoning": our term for modes of study, fellowship, and analysis that bring Abrahamic and other text-traditions into sustained dialogue.
Ahmed al-Rahim: Islamic Studies, Muslim intellectual history.
Elizabeth Alexander: Rabbinic literature and hermeneutics.
Valerie Cooper: Black Church history; History and Scriptural Hermeneutics.
Asher Biemann: Modern Jewish thought, German-Jewish intellectual history.
Greg Schmidt Goering: Classical Hebrew language; Jewish wisdom literature.
Clarke Hudson: Daoist thought and commentary; social thought; hermeneutics.
Peter Ochs (convener): Scriptural reasoning in the Abrahamic traditions.
Vanessa Ochs: Jewish ritual studies; material culture and religious studies.
Abdulaziz Sachedina: Islamic and Shi'ite Studies; Islamic Biomedical Ethics.
Larry Bouchard : Religious and Ethical Studies of Imaginative Literature; Interpretation theory.
Vigen Guroian: Patristic Philosophic Theology; Iconography; Orthodox Theology.
Martien Halvorson-Taylor: Hebrew Bible, Biblical Interpretation, Second Temple Period .
Kevin Hart: Phenomenology and Theology; Catholic Theology; Poetry and Religion.
Charles Mathewes: Comparative religious ethics; Christian thought; religion and politics.
Paul Jones: Christian theology and philosophy of religion in the West; Christology.
John E. Portmann: Catholicism; contemporary religious practices, ethics, religion and science.
Students may also take courses with other members of the Department of Religious Studies and, with approval, other members the Arts and Sciences Graduate Faculty.
All Ph.D. candidates within the Department of Religious Studies who do not hold a graduate degree are required to pass a minimum of 54 credits (18 courses) in classes at the 5000 level and above plus 18 additional credits (which may be taken in non graded non-topical research consultation). Students who already hold a graduate degree in Religious Studies from another University (M.A., M. Div., or equivalent) may petition for advanced standing at the end of their first year of residence and be permitted to waive up to 24 credits (8 courses) of the course-work requirement.
All Ph.D. candidates in SIP must fulfill the following distribution requirements:
SIP Language Requirements: General
Like all Doctor of Philosophy Candidates in Religious Studies, candidates in SIP must demonstrate by examination a reading competency in both French and German, but one substitution may be approved when other modern languages are appropriate to the field of concentration (such as Modern Hebrew or Arabic). Candidates in SIP must also demonstrate by examination a reading competency in languages specific to their primary area of concentration.
Doctor of Philosophy Candidates in SIP are expected to demonstrate reading competency in two of the following scriptural languages: Classical Hebrew, Koine Greek, and Classical Arabic. Upon matriculation, students are expected to demonstrate competency in at least one scriptural language (see below). All students are strongly encouraged to take at least one course each semester that requires readings in their primary scriptural language(s).
Candidates in SIP may also be expected to demonstrate reading competency in languages specific to their primary area of concentration:
A student’s responsibility for supplemental language study will be assessed through a cooperative effort among the student, the student’s advisor, and appropriate language faculty. Students will annually file a “Language Requirement Worksheet” with SIP faculty that details the student’s and the faculty’s expectations for that student’s language study. This worksheet will be completed upon matriculation and at annual reviews each spring.
Comprehensive Examinations: No sooner than one semester and no later than one year after the completion of all coursework and language examinations, Ph.D. candidates must pass four comprehensive examinations in SIP. The examinations must be taken in the following four areas: The standard model is as follows. To address the wide range of concentrations pursued by SIP students, topics #4-#5 may be varied, on approval by the SIP faculty.
1) Primary scriptural tradition: A 6 hr. exam in either Hebrew Bible and Rabbinic Interpretation; or Old/New Testament and Patristic Exegesis; or Qur'an and traditions of classical and medieval exegesis.
2) Secondary traditions: A 6 hr exam in the two other Abrahamic traditions of scriptural reading and interpretation.
3) Practice: A 4 hour exam on ritual practice, liturgical or other ( as approved by the SIP faculty). The exam addresses the academic theory of ritual practice (anthropological and other theories) and its application to studies of liturgical or other ritualized practices in any one of the Abrahamic traditions.
4) Scriptural Reading and Interpretation in Your Primary Tradition of Study: [ A research paper equal to a 5 hour exam] This is an opportunity for students to write about what they consider history’s most fruitful model of scriptural reading and interpretation (for example, a student might choose Clement of Alexandria, or more recent models such as Franz Rosenzweig or Allameh Tabatabai). The essay would introduce readers to a thinker’s hermeneutic and then re-articulate the hermeneutic so that it could enter into contemporary debates (for example, a student might enlist Marion’s phenomenology in service to Clement, Peirce’s semiotics in service to Rosenzweig, or Ricoeur’s interpretation theory in service to Allameh Tabatabai). To conclude the essay, students should argue for the strength of this approach against one or two leading contemporary alternatives.
5) The Study of Comparative Traditions: Students should prepare a 4 hour exam on one of the following topics: A) Illustrative Thinkers – Compare the thinker you examined in question #4 with one from another scriptural tradition. Introduce the latter’s approach to reading and interpreting Scripture. Compare how you believe the two thinkers would approach any single subject of study. The subject should illustrate the two tradition’s approaches to a form of practice (such as prayer, topics of belief, or interpretation). In conclusion, evaluate how this kind of comparison contributes to the study of comparative traditions. OR B) Scriptural Reasoning – Scriptural Reasoning is often presented as an alternative to more conceptually-oriented models of “comparative religion.” Describe a sample practice of scriptural reasoning. Drawing on recent academic writings on SR, evaluate how well Scriptural Reasoning succeeds in this goal.
Dissertation: Upon successful completion of the comprehensive examinations, a Ph.D. candidate will be invited to choose a dissertation advisor from the SIP Faculty and, with the advisor's guidance, to gather a dissertation committee including at least one other member of the SIP Faculty and at least one faculty member outside of SIP (in any other Area of the Graduate School). The candidate will then prepare a dissertation proposal and submit it to the committee for approval. The candidate is strongly advised to complete the dissertation within two years -and no longer than three years - after completing the comprehensive exams.
For all candidates within the Department of Religious Studies. For all candidates within the Department of Religious Studies. The M.A. in Religious Studies has the following general requirements. Either: a) The successful completion of 24 credit hours (8 courses) of course work, of which at least 6 hours must be taken in courses with a strong emphasis on method; and the preparation and successful defense of a thesis which exhibits competence in the area of specialization, skill in a given method of study, and an ability to employ resources in the relevant foreign language(s); OR b) The successful completion of 30 credit hours (10 courses) of course work, of which at least 6 hours must be taken in courses with a strong emphasis on method; and the satisfactory performance in a comprehensive examination based upon a reading list approved by the relevant field committee; (The choice between these options is determined in consultation between the student and faculty advisors, and with a view to the student's objectives in graduate study.)
Course Distribution Requirements: MA candidates in SIP must fulfill the following distribution requirements:
• Scriptural Tradition: At least one course in each of the three Abrahamic traditions, and at least four courses in the primary tradition of study.
• Practicum: During their first year of study, students are required to attend a practicum in Abrahamic scriptural reasoning, held monthly.
• SIP Seminar: All students in coursework are required to enroll in the one credit SIP seminar offered each semester (see above under PhD requirements).
A reading knowledge of either French or German and must to be demonstrated by examination (although another language may be substituted under appropriate circumstances and with the approval of the Committee on Graduate Studies). On matriculation, candidates in SIP must also demonstrate by examination a reading competency in at least one scriptural language specific to their primary tradition of study. Competency in other scriptural languages is encouraged.