Midrash and Scriptural Interpretation

Professors

Alan Cooper, Hebrew Bible and Its Interpretation

Benjamin D. Sommer, Hebrew Bible and Its Interpretation

Burton L. Visotzky, Talmud and Rabbinics, Program Advisor  

Associate Professors

Robert Harris, Hebrew Bible and Its Interpretation

Marjorie Lehman, Talmud and Rabbinics  

Assistant Professor

Walter Herzberg, Hebrew Bible and Its Interpretation   

Midrash and Scriptural Interpretation Program   

The program in Midrash and Scriptural Interpretation is interdisciplinary, designed to enable students to gain expertise in the broad varieties of rabbinic biblical exegesis and rabbinic narrative. Students are exposed to critical study of the Bible and rabbinic literature; current methodologies in the study of Midrash and scriptural interpretation; and appropriate cognate literatures. Background is offered in the social history of late antiquity through the medieval period. A concentration in Midrash and Scriptural Interpretation focuses on exegesis of biblical and rabbinic texts from the 2nd century through the medieval period. Students must choose a concentration in either Midrash or Medieval Bible Exegesis, and focus course work and comprehensive examinations accordingly.  

Bachelor of Arts  

Admission Requirements

See the List College Admissions page.  

Degree Requirements     

From the Core Curriculum      

  • One 1000-level Talmud course, e.g., TAL 1011: Introduction to Rabbinic Literature (3 credits)         
  • One 3000-level Talmud text course (3 credits)  

BA in Midrash

30 credits (generally 10 courses) beyond the core curriculum requirements, chosen in consultation with the major advisor, as follows:        

  • TAL 3323: Mishnah for Majors (3 credits)
  • One Talmud text course, numbered 3000 or higher (3 credits)
  • One Parshanut course (3 credits)
  • MID 3944 or MID 5022: Midrash for Majors (3 credits)
  • HIS 1010: Ancient Jewish History (3 credits)
  • One course in the cognate literature of the period (e.g., New Testament, patristics, Greco-Roman literature, Islamic literature, or Gnostic literature) or in the social history of the period (taken at JTS, Columbia University, Barnard College, or Union Theological Seminary) [3 credits]
  • 9 additional credits in Midrash (MID 6101: Introduction to Exegesis [3 credits] is recommended)
  • One senior capstone seminar (3 credits)  

BA in Medieval Scriptural Interpretation

30 credits (generally 10 courses) beyond the core curriculum requirements, chosen in consultation with the major advisor, distributed as follows:  

  • BIB 5013: Parshanut: Pentateuch with Rashi (or equivalent; 3 credits)
  • BIB 3307: Introduction to Miqra'ot Gedolot or BIB 5826: Classical Medieval Commentaries (or equivalent; 3 credits)
  • 9 additional credits in Medieval Scriptural Interpretation
  • HIS 1011 (or equivalent; 3 credits)
  • MID 3944: Midrash for Majors or MID 5022: Introduction to Rabbinic Narrative (Aggadah) [3 credits]
  • One Midrash course beyond the beginner's level (3 credits)
  • One course in the cognate literature of the period (e.g., Karaite, Christian, or Islamic exegetical literature) or in the social history of the period (taken at JTS, Columbia University, Barnard College, or Union Theological Seminary) [3 credits]
  • One senior capstone seminar (3 credits)   

Master of Arts   

Admission Requirements

For admission, see The Graduate School.  

Degree Requirements (Midrash)   

Courses

Students entering the program will be required to take the following courses, or their equivalent, if they have not had the equivalent previously:            

  • BIB 5013: Pentateuch with Rashi          
  • TAL 6113: Survey of Mishnah          
  • MID 5022: Midrash for Beginners  

Students are permitted to register for courses counting towards the degree while fulfilling these prerequisites.   In addition to courses required of all students in The Graduate School, 30 graduate credits are required as follows:            

  • MID/MDS 6101: Introduction to Exegesis I (3 credits)          
  • MID 6307 Miqra'ot Gedolot I (3 credits)          
  • MID 8525–8526: Critical Methods I and II (6 credits)          
  • HIS 6117: Jews and Judaism in the Ancient World or HIS 6313: Jews and Judaism in the Middle Ages (3 credits)          
  • 6 credits of electives in Midrash, Talmud, Bible or Medieval Bible Exegesis at the 6000 level or above   
  • 9 credits chosen in consultation with the advisor, at least one course of which focuses on biblical narrative  

Comprehensive Examinations

Oral:
Students must exhibit the ability to read and translate with fluency from an unmarked text (previously prepared) 50 chapters of Genesis Rabbah, all of Leviticus Rabbah, or the equivalent amount of text in Midrash (with approval of the advisor).  

Written:
Students must answer essay questions on a reading list (to be determined annually by the advisor).  

Degree Requirements (Medieval Scriptural Interpretation)   

Courses

Students entering the program will be required to take the following courses, or their equivalent, if they have not had the equivalent previously:            

  • TAL 6113: Survey of Mishnah           
  • MID 5022: Introduction to Rabbinic Narrative (Aggadah)           
  • BIB 5013: Parshanut: Pentateuch with Rashi  

Students are permitted to register for courses counting toward the degree while fulfilling these prerequisites.  

In addition to courses required of all students in The Graduate School, 30 graduate credits are required as follows:            

  • MID/MDS 6101: Introduction to Jewish Exegesis (3 credits) and either BIB 5826: Classical Medieval Commentaries or BIB 6307: Medieval Biblical Exegesis (3 credits) or the equivalent           
  • Two courses in advanced Medieval Scriptural Interpretation (6 credits)           
  • HIS 6313: Under Cross and Crescent: Jews and Judaism in the Middle Ages (or equivalent; 3 credits)
  • 6 credits of electives in Midrash, Talmud, Bible, or Medieval Scriptural Interpretation at the 6000 level or above           
  • 9 credits chosen in consultation with the advisor, at least one course of which focuses on biblical narrative   

Comprehensive Examinations  

Oral:
Student is responsible for reading and translating with fluency any comments of Rashi, Rashbam, Ibn Ezra on two parashiyot, one narrative and one legal, to be determined. This exam will be "open book and closed notes." Student is responsible for a predetermined selection from Ramban's Torah commentary.  

Written:
The student and faculty advisory committee will determine a bibliography for the purpose of conducting a written comprehensive examination.   

Doctor of Hebrew Literature   

Admission Requirements

For admissions, see The Graduate School.  

Additionally, students must have a master's degree or its equivalent in Midrash or medieval Bible exegesis, or a cognate field with the approval of the Midrash and Scriptural Interpretation program advisor.  

Degree Requirements (Midrash)   

Courses

In addition to courses required of all students in The Graduate School, 30 graduate credits beyond the MA are required as follows:            

  • MID 8525–8526: Critical Methods I and II (if the student has taken 8525–8526, he or she is then required to add 6 credits in Midrash)
  • One doctoral-level course in Midrash one course in Midrash halakhah          
  • One course in Talmud (6241 [level IV] or higher)          
  • At least one course in cognate studies is strongly recommended (e.g., Roman social history, Roman religions, Introduction to Christianity to 325, Introduction to New Testament, Patristic Literature, Introduction to Islam, Introduction to Quran and Hadith, Karaite Exegesis)           
  • Four other 3-credit courses should be selected in consultation with the advisor            

Comprehensive Examinations

Upon satisfactory completion of all course work, the student will take two examinations as follows:  

Oral:
The student must demonstrate expertise in

  • Genesis Rabbah or           
  • Leviticus Rabbah plus one-half of Genesis Rabbah or           
  • The equivalent amount of text in Midrash (with approval of advisor)  

Written:
The student must compose an extensive reading list with the advice of the advisor. The list shall survey major critical contributions to the field of Midrash and emphasize those works that formed the direction of critical studies during the last two centuries. The final reading list, on which the candidate will be examined, requires the approval of the program faculty.  

Dissertation

A competent piece of research that constitutes a contribution to the field.  

Degree Requirements (Medieval Scriptural Interpretation)   

Courses

In addition to courses required of all students in The Graduate School, 30 graduate credits beyond the MA are required, to be selected from the following list:            

  • Five courses in Medieval Scriptural Interpretation (15 credits)           
  • Two courses in Midrash (6 credits)           
  • One course in Targum or Targumic Aramaic (3 credits)           
  • One course in Medieval Jewish History (3 credits)           
  • One course in the cognate literature of the period (e.g., Karaite, Christian, or Islamic exegetical literature) taken either at JTS or in one of the consortium institutions (3 credits)  

Note: Two of the above courses must be research seminars with major papers.   

Comprehensive Examinations

Upon satisfactory completion of all course work, the student will take two examinations as follows:  

Oral:  
1. With regard to Rashi's commentary, the student should be able to (1) read on sight and intelligently explain any Rashi comment; and (2) upon examination of a relevant midrashic text, be able to explain how Rashi adapted it or otherwise made use of it.

2. Student is responsible for all comments of Rashi, Rashbam, Ibn Ezra on four parashiyot, two narrative and two legal; faculty will choose two, student chooses two others (one narrative, one legal).

3. Selections from the commentaries of Ibn Ezra, Ramban, and Radak, chosen by the faculty in consultation with the student.  

Written:
The student must compose an extensive reading list with the advice of the advisor. The list shall survey major critical contributions to the field of Midrash or medieval Bible exegesis, and emphasize those works that formed the direction of critical studies during the last two centuries. The final reading list, on which the candidate will be examined, requires the approval of the program faculty.  

Dissertation

A competent piece of research that constitutes a contribution to the field. The topic will be selected in consultation with the faculty advisory committee.    

Doctor of Philosophy  

Admission Requirements

For admission, see The Graduate School.  

Additionally, students must have a master's degree or its equivalent in Midrash or medieval Bible exegesis, or a cognate field with the approval of the Midrash and Scriptural Interpretation program advisor.  

Degree Requirements (Midrash)  

Languages

In addition to German and one other modern research language required of all students in The Graduate School, reading proficiency must be demonstrated in one or more primary text languages (e.g. Greek, Arabic, Syriac, Latin, etc.) the advisor deems necessary for the dissertation.  

Courses

In addition to courses required of all students in The Graduate School, 30 graduate credits beyond the MA are required as follows:            

  • MID 8525–8526: Critical Methods I and II (if the student has taken 8525–8526, he or she is required to add six credits in Midrash)   
  • Two doctoral-level courses in Midrash Aggadah and one course in Medieval Bible Exegesis          
  • One course in Midrash halakhah          
  • One course in Talmud (6241 [level IV] or higher)          
  • One or more courses in cognate studies (e.g., Roman social history, Roman religions, Introduction to Christianity to 325, Introduction to New Testament, Patristic Literature, Introduction to Islam, Introduction to Quran and Hadith, Karaite Exegesis)          
  • Two other 3 credit courses may be selected (with consent or requirement of advisor) in rabbinics, Medieval Bible Exegesis, or cognate fields   

Comprehensive Examinations

Upon satisfactory completion of all course work, the student will take two examinations as follows:  

Oral:
The student must demonstrate critical expertise in            

  • Genesis Rabbah (with the Theodor/Albeck commentary) or           
  • Leviticus Rabbah (with Margulies commentary) plus one-half of Genesis Rabbah (with commentary) or
  • The equivalent amount of text in Midrash (with approval of advisor)  

Written:
The student must compose an extensive reading list with the advice of the advisor. The list shall survey major critical contributions to the field of Midrash and emphasize those works that formed the direction of critical studies during the last two centuries. The final reading list, on which the candidate will be examined, requires the approval of the program faculty.  

Dissertation

An original piece of research that advances knowledge in the candidate's field of specialization.  

Degree Requirements (Medieval Scriptural Interpretation)   

Languages

In addition to Modern Hebrew, German, and one other modern research language, required of all students in The Graduate School, reading proficiency must be demonstrated in one or more primary text languages (e.g., Latin, Arabic, Old French, etc.) the advisor deems necessary for the dissertation.   

Courses

In addition to courses required of all students in The Graduate School, 30 graduate credits beyond the MA are required as follows:            

  • Five courses in Medieval Scriptural Interpretation (15 credits)          
  • Two courses in Midrash (6 credits)          
  • One course in Targum or Targumic Aramaic (3 credits)          
  • Two courses in Medieval Jewish Literature (e.g., piyyut; 6 credits)          
  • Two courses in Medieval Jewish History (6 credits)          
  • One course in the social history of the period (taken either at JTS or in one of the consortium institutions; 3 credits)          
  • One course in the cognate literature of the period (e.g., Karaite, Christian, or Islamic exegetical literature) taken either at JTS or in one of the consortium institutions (3 credits)  

Note: Two of the above courses must be research seminars with major papers.   

Comprehensive Examinations

Upon satisfactory completion of all course work, the student will take two examinations as follows:  

Oral:  
1. With regard to Rashi's commentary, the student should be able to (1) read on sight and intelligently explain any Rashi comment; and (2) upon examination of a relevant midrashic text, be able to explain how Rashi adapted it or otherwise made use of it.

2. Student is responsible for all comments of Rashi, Rashbam, Ibn Ezra on four parashiyot, two narrative and two legal; faculty will choose two, student chooses two others (one narrative, one legal).

3. Selections from the commentaries of Ibn Ezra, Ramban, and Radak, chosen by the faculty in consultation with the student.  

Written:
The student must compose an extensive reading list with the advice of the advisor. The list shall survey major critical contributions to the field of Midrash or medieval Bible exegesis, and emphasize those works that formed the direction of critical studies during the last two centuries. The final reading list, on which the candidate will be examined, requires the approval of the program faculty.   

Dissertation

An original piece of research that advances knowledge in the candidate's field of specialization.