About the course
This course is intended to give you experience in reading a range of primary exegetical texts in Classical Hebrew, Aramaic and Syriac, to develop research methodologies in the writing of a 15,000-word dissertation and to provide a solid basis in the subject area for those intending to go on to do original research.
Teaching for the compulsory core course is covered by a combination of lectures, seminars and tutorials covering the principal sources for exegesis of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, and select topics will be covered in Michaelmas and Hilary terms. These may include ancient Bible translations, Qumran texts, the New Testament, Rabbinic hermeneutics, Greek and Latin patristics, or early Syriac commentaries. They will be explored in the essays set which you will present in meetings with your tutor, either in one-to-one sessions or with one or two other students in related subjects (such sessions are known as ‘tutorials’).
For your other two papers, you will select two options from the following five:
- Hebrew biblical and exegetical texts
- Aramaic (Targum) texts
- Syriac biblical and exegetical texts
- Greek biblical and exegetical texts
- Latin biblical and exegetical texts.
Set texts in the first Semitic language (or in Latin and/or Greek if chosen) will be studied in classes in all three terms.
If required, intensive elementary language teaching in a second Semitic language followed by textual study is available in the first term, comprising two to three hours per week. Since elementary language teaching will start with the basics of the grammar, classes may be shared with beginners in other appropriate courses (Classical Hebrew, Syriac and Aramaic, at undergraduate or graduate level).
Most teaching for this Masters course will take place in small classes or tutorials, normally given mainly by the course convenor, Professor Alison Salvesen, but also supplemented by recommended lectures and seminars. You will be expected to prepare the language exercises or texts in advance of each class, in order to derive the maximum benefit from the intense form of study. Numbers of students on the course are very small (one or two per year) and so teaching is tailored according to the needs and interests of individual students. Classes are sometimes shared with those on other similar courses.
You will also be strongly encouraged to attend seminars in relevant areas: there are regular seminar series in Jewish Studies in the Greco-Roman Period, Patristic studies, Late Antique and Byzantine studies, Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, and New Testament, as well as special lectures given by visiting scholars.
Assessment takes place at the end of the academic year, and takes the form of three 3-hour examination papers (one on the compulsory core paper, and the other two on prescribed texts), plus a 15,000-word dissertation on some aspect of Bible interpretation in antiquity. The topic and title of the dissertation are chosen in consultation with your supervisor, and the dissertation itself will be submitted in the fourth week of Trinity term, before the examinations for the other papers.
The first examination paper consists of essay questions for the compulsory core paper on early translations and interpretations of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament; you are required to answer three essay questions (out of at least seven that are set). On both of the two papers chosen as options you will be asked to translate into English three passages out of four from the set texts and comment on points of exegetical and other interest in them, and also to write one essay (out of a choice of four) on the background or aspects of the set texts. You will normally also be examined orally (viva voce), unless individually excused by the examiners.
In taught graduate degrees the pass mark is 50. In the MSt, a distinction may be awarded for a final overall mark of 70 or above. The final mark is arrived at as a numerical mean of the marks on individual papers, with the qualification that you must also pass on each paper individually.
Oriental studies graduates have found employment in many and diverse fields including business, finance law, civil service, journalism, government and industry.
Many graduates have also undertaken further research into subjects linked with Oriental studies and have pursued successful careers in the academic world, education and in museums.
Other courses in this area
- MSt in Classical Hebrew Studies
- MSt in Jewish Studies
- MSt in Jewish Studies in the Graeco-Roman Period
- MSt in Syriac Studies
- MSt in Oriental Studies
- MPhil in Jewish Studies in the Graeco-Roman Period
- DPhil in Oriental Studies
Changes to the course
The University will seek to deliver this course in accordance with the description set out in this course page. However, there may be situations in which it is desirable or necessary for the University to make changes in course provision, either before or after registration. For further information, please see our page on changes to courses.
Entry requirements for entry in 2019-20
Within equal opportunities principles and legislation, applications will be assessed in the light of an applicant’s ability to meet the following entry requirements:
1. Academic ability
Proven and potential academic excellence
Applicants are normally expected to be predicted or have achieved a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours (or equivalent international qualifications), as a minimum, in any subject.
For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.5 out of 4.0.
If you hold non-UK qualifications and wish to check how your qualifications match these requirements, you can contact the National Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom (UK NARIC).
You should have an adequate knowledge of Classical Hebrew or Aramaic or Syriac.
No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.
Other appropriate indicators will include:
You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including references and an official transcript. See 'How to apply' for instructions on the documents you will need and how these will be assessed.
Performance at interview(s)
Interviews may be held as part of the admissions process.
Interviews are not a regular feature of the admissions process, but a Skype interview may be arranged by the assessors if considered helpful; for example, to discuss the suitability of the chosen course. The interview will normally be held by the two assessors, and the date and time will be agreed by email. Candidates would not need to do any additional preparations for their Skype interview.
Publications are not expected.
Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience
Evidence of proficiency in Greek or Latin will be expected if options in either of these languages are chosen.
2. English language requirement
Applicants whose first language is not English are usually required to provide evidence of proficiency in English at the higher level required by the University.
3. Availability of supervision, teaching, facilities and places
The following factors will govern whether candidates can be offered places:
- The ability of the Faculty of Oriental Studies to provide the appropriate supervision, research opportunities, teaching and facilities for your chosen area of work.
- Minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to Oxford's research and taught programmes.
The provision of supervision, where required, is subject to the following points:
- The allocation of graduate supervision is the responsibility of the Faculty of Oriental Studies and it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff.
- Under exceptional circumstances a supervisor may be found outside the Faculty of Oriental Studies and Faculty of Theology and Religion.
Where possible your academic supervisor will not change for the duration of your course. However, it may be necessary to assign a new academic supervisor during the course of study or before registration for reasons which might include sabbatical leave, maternity leave or change in employment.
4. Disability, health conditions and specific learning difficulties
Students are selected for admission without regard to gender, marital or civil partnership status, disability, race, nationality, ethnic origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation, age or social background.
Decisions on admission are based solely on the individual academic merits of each candidate and the application of the entry requirements appropriate to the course.
Further information on how these matters are supported during the admissions process is available in our guidance for applicants with disabilities.
All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgment of at least two members of academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and additionally must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent departmental persons or bodies).
Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.
6. Other information
Whether you have yet secured funding is not taken into consideration in the decision to make an initial offer of a place, but please note that the initial offer of a place will not be confirmed until you have completed a Financial Declaration.
While studying for the MSt in Bible Interpretation at Oxford you will have access to the major holdings of the Bodleian Library and its associated central libraries, the collections of the Oriental Institute (which holds many Syriac books), the Sackler Library (Classics and the Ancient Near East), the Philosophy and Theology Faculties Library (for patristic writers), and the Leopold Muller Library at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies — especially the Louis Jacobs Collection, a recent acquisition in the field of Rabbinics.
A limited amount of grant money for trips abroad (eg for supplementary language study during vacations) may be sought from the Unit for Hebrew and Jewish Studies.
You will have access to the University's centrally provided electronic resources and the Faculty IT Officer. There is a computer room for the use of graduate students in the Oriental Institute, as well as a common room where tea and coffee is available and staff and students can meet.
There are over 1,000 full graduate scholarships available across the University, and these cover your course fees and provide a grant for living costs. If you apply by the relevant January deadline and fulfil the eligibility criteria you will be automatically considered. Over two thirds of Oxford scholarships require nothing more than the standard course application. Use the Fees, funding and scholarship search to find out which scholarships you are eligible for and if they require an additional application, full details of which are provided.
Applicants to this course may also be eligible to apply for other scholarship and funding opportunities, including the Ertegun Scholarship Programme. In order to be considered for this award you will need to complete the scholarships section of the course application form and submit additional supporting material. The programme’s website provides more details about the application process as well as any eligibility criteria which apply.
Annual fees for entry in 2019-20
Annual Course fees
|Home/EU (including Islands)||£16,415|
The fees shown above are the annual course fees for this course, for entry in the stated academic year.
Course fees cover your teaching as well as other academic services and facilities provided to support your studies. Unless specified in the additional information section below, course fees do not cover your accommodation, residential costs or other living costs. They also don’t cover any additional costs and charges that are outlined in the additional information below. You may have seen separate figures in the past for tuition fees and college fees. We have now combined these into a single figure.
Course fees are payable each year, for the duration of your fee liability (your fee liability is the length of time for which you are required to pay course fees). For courses lasting longer than one year, please be aware that fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on likely increases to fees and charges.
For more information about course fees and fee liability, please see the Fees section of this website. EU applicants should refer to our dedicated webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s plans to leave the European Union.
There are no compulsory elements of this course that entail additional costs beyond fees and living costs. However, as part of your course requirements, you may need to choose a dissertation, a project or a thesis topic. Please note that, depending on your choice of topic and the research required to complete it, you may incur additional expenses, such as travel expenses, research expenses, and field trips. You will need to meet these additional costs, although you may be able to apply for small grants from your department and/or college to help you cover some of these expenses.
In addition to your course fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.
For the 2019-20 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,058 and £1,643 for each month spent in Oxford. Full information, including a breakdown of likely living costs in Oxford for items such as food, accommodation and study costs, is available on our living costs page. When planning your finances for any future years of study in Oxford beyond 2019-20, you should allow for an estimated increase in living expenses of 3% each year.
How to apply
It is not necessary for you to make contact with an academic member of staff before you apply.
The set of documents you should send with your application to this course comprises the following:
Your transcripts should give detailed information of the individual grades received in your university-level qualifications to date. You should only upload official documents issued by your institution and any transcript not in English should be accompanied by a certified translation.
More information about the transcript requirement is available in the Application Guide.
A CV/résumé is compulsory for all applications. Most applicants choose to submit a document of one to two pages highlighting their academic achievements and any relevant professional experience.
Statement of purpose/personal statement:
Up to three pages
Your statement should be written in English and explain your motivation for applying for the course at Oxford, your relevant experience and education, your experience of and proficiency level in the required language(s) and the specific areas that interest you and/or you intend to specialise in. The overall page count should include any bibliography.
This will be assessed for your reasons for applying, especially to Oxford; evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study; commitment to the subject; preliminary knowledge of research techniques; capacity for sustained and intense work at a high intellectual level; reasoning ability; and ability to absorb new ideas at a rapid pace.
Two essays of 2,000 words each
Academic essays or other writing samples from your most recent qualification, written in English, are required. Extracts of the requisite length from longer work are also permissible.
The word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes.
This will be assessed for:
- comprehensive understanding of the subject area
- understanding of problems in the area
- ability to construct and defend an argument
- powers of analysis; powers of expression
- clarity and accuracy of thought and writing
- conceptual sophistication
- critical skill
- control of relevant primary and secondary sources
- presentation of material in the appropriate scholarly form.
It is helpful if written work relates closely to the proposed area of study, though it is not compulsory, as there are many things that the assessors look for in the written work which are not specific to the subject area, such as ability to construct and defend an argument and presentation of material in the appropriate scholarly form.
References/letters of recommendation:
Three overall, generally academic
Whilst you must register three referees, the department may start the assessment of your application if two of the three references are submitted by the course deadline and your application is otherwise complete. Please note that you may still be required to ensure your third referee supplies a reference for consideration.
Whilst it is appreciated that obtaining academic references will be difficult for some candidates, academic references are requested because it is necessary to establish whether a candidate is intellectually prepared for a course. It is unlikely that this is something that can be established from a professional or personal reference, so you should only submit such references if there is absolutely no alternative.
Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation, and fitness for chosen course of study.
Start or continue an application
Step 1: Carefully read the entry requirements on this course page to make sure you meet all the criteria.
Step 2: Check above what documents are required and prepare to apply by reading our Application Guide.
Step 3: Apply as soon as possible. Consult the Application Guide for more information about deadlines.