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; help you develop research methodologies through the writing of a 15,000-word dissertation; and to provide you with a solid basis in the subject area if you are considering to going 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 biblical, exegetical and 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). You will be expected to attend such classes regularly, and to complete any homework set in good time. It is also essential to spend time consolidating your knowledge of the grammar and vocabulary of the languages you are studying during the university vacations at Christmas and Easter.
Most teaching for this Master’s 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, classes and seminars. You will be expected to prepare the set 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 expected to attend seminars in relevant areas: there are regular seminar series in Jewish Studies in the Greco-Roman Period, Patristics, Late Antique and Byzantine Studies, Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, and New Testament, as well as special lectures given by visiting scholars. An average attendance of two seminars per week in Michaelmas and Hilary Terms is advisable, in line with your subject choices and interests.
You may come to Oxford with precise ideas about the subject of your dissertation, or you may have a broader interest in a particular topic that needs to be developed. Either way, you will be able to discuss dissertation ideas with your supervisor or lecturers towards the end of the first term, spend time thinking and reading over the Christmas Vacation, and submit your title at the very beginning of the second term (Hilary). You may meet with your thesis supervisor two or three times over the course of the second term as your work progresses. They will read and offer feedback on two or three drafts over the Easter Vacation and the beginning of the third term, before you submit. It is vital to start work on the dissertation early in the academic year, and not to leave it too late.
Overall, you may expect to spend 10-12 hours attending lectures, seminars, tutorials, and classes each week during term, and a minimum of a further 30 hours on self-directed study. The university vacations are also important times for reading and study, especially the Easter vacation, when you will principally need to focus on your dissertation.
For this course, 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.
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 at the end of 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.
Changes to this course and your supervision
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. The safety of students, staff and visitors is paramount and major changes to delivery or services may have to be made in circumstances of a pandemic (including Covid-19), epidemic or local health emergency. In addition, in certain circumstances, for example due to visa difficulties or because the health needs of students cannot be met, it may be necessary to make adjustments to course requirements for international study.
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 illness, sabbatical leave, parental leave or change in employment.
Other courses you may wish to consider
If you're thinking about applying for this course, you may also wish to consider the courses listed below. These courses may have been suggested due to their similarity with this course, or because they are offered by the same department or faculty.
Courses suggested by the faculty
All graduate courses offered by the Faculty of Oriental Studies
Entry requirements for entry in 2021-22
Proven and potential academic excellence
As a minimum, applicants should normally hold or be predicted to achieve the equivalent of the following UK qualifications:
- a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours in any subject.
For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.5 out of 4.0.
If your degree is not from the UK or another country specified above, visit our International Qualifications page for guidance on the qualifications and grades that would usually be considered to meet the University’s minimum entry requirements.
GRE General Test scores
No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.
Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience
- You should have a sufficiently adequate knowledge of Classical Hebrew or Aramaic or Syriac to benefit from the course.
- Evidence of proficiency in Greek or Latin will be expected if options in either of these languages are chosen.
- Publications are not expected.
If your ability to meet the entry requirements has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic (eg you were awarded an unclassified/ungraded degree) or any other exceptional personal circumstance (eg other illness or bereavement), please refer to the guidance on extenuating circumstances in the Application Guide for information about how to declare this so that your application can be considered appropriately.
English language requirement
This course requires proficiency in English at the University's higher level. If your first language is not English, you may need to provide evidence that you meet this requirement. The minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level are detailed in the table below.
|Test||Minimum overall score||Minimum score per component|
|IELTS Academic (Institution code: 0713)||7.5||7.0|
TOEFL iBT, including the 'Home Edition'
(Institution code: 0490)
*Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English or Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE)
†Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English or Cambridge English: Proficiency (CPE)
Your test must have been taken no more than two years before the start date of your course. Our Application Guide provides further information about the English language test requirement.
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
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.
Any offer of a place is dependent on the University’s ability to provide the appropriate supervision for your chosen area of work. Please refer to the ‘About’ section of this page for more information about the provision of supervision for this course.
How your application is assessed
Your application will be assessed purely on academic merit and potential, according to the published entry requirements for the course. 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. Whether you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.
Admissions panels and assessors
All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgement of at least two members of the academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and must also be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent within the department).
Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.
After an offer is made
If you receive an offer of a place at Oxford, you will be required to meet the following requirements:
If you are offered a place, you will be required to complete a Financial Declaration in order to meet your financial condition of admission.
Disclosure of criminal convictions
In accordance with the University’s obligations towards students and staff, we will ask you to declare any relevant, unspent criminal convictions before you can take up a place at Oxford.
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 Centre 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 common rooms in both the Oriental Institute and Clarendon Institute where tea and coffee is available and staff and students can meet.
The University expects to be able to offer up to 1,000 full or partial graduate scholarships across the collegiate University in 2021-22. You will be automatically considered for the majority of Oxford scholarships, if you fulfil the eligibility criteria and submit your graduate application by the relevant January deadline. Most scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic merit and/or potential.
For further details about searching for funding as a graduate student visit our dedicated Funding pages, which contain information about how to apply for Oxford scholarships requiring an additional application, details of external funding, loan schemes and other funding sources. Please ensure that you visit individual college websites for details of college-specific funding opportunities using the links provided on our college pages.
Further information about funding opportunities for this course can be found on the faculty's website.
Annual fees for entry in 2020-21
Annual Course fees
|Home (UK, Republic of Ireland,|
Channel Islands & Isle of Man)
|Overseas (including EU)||£27,460|
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.
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.
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 2021-22 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,175 and £1,710 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 2021-22, you should allow for an estimated increase in living expenses of 3% each year.
All graduate students at Oxford belong to a department or faculty and a college or hall (except those taking non-matriculated courses). If you apply for a place on this course you will have the option to express a preference for one of the colleges listed below, or you can ask us to find a college for you. The Colleges section of this website provides information about the college system at Oxford, as well as factors you may wish to consider when deciding whether to express a college preference. Please note that ‘college’ and ‘colleges’ refers to all 45 of the University’s colleges, including those designated as Permanent Private Halls (PPHs).
For some courses, the department or faculty may have provided some additional advice below to help you to decide. Whatever you decide, it won’t affect how the academic department assesses your application and whether they decide to make you an offer. If your department makes you an offer of a place, you’re guaranteed a place at one of our colleges.
The following colleges accept students on the MSt in Bible Interpretation:
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:
A maximum of 1,500 words
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 word count should include any bibliography.
If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.
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 a maximum 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.
If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.
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: Read our guide to getting started, which explains how to prepare for and start an application.
Step 2: Check that you meet the Entry requirements and read the How to apply information on this page.
Step 3: Check the deadlines on this page and the deadline information in our Application Guide. Plan your time to submit your application well in advance - we recommend two or three weeks earlier.
Step 4: Check if you're eligible for an application fee waiver. Application fee waivers are available for:
- UK applicants from low-income backgrounds who meet the eligibility criteria;
- residents in a country listed as low-income by the World Bank (refer to the eligibility criteria);
- current Oxford graduate taught students applying for readmission to an eligible course; and
- additional applications to selected research courses that are closely related to your first application.
Step 5: Start your application using the relevant link below. As you complete the form, consult our Application Guide for advice at each stage. You'll find the answers to most common queries in our FAQs.