How to prepare to study at Rice in Bible and Beyond

I receive many inquiries regarding what preparations are needed for students who are considering applying for the PhD program in Bible and Beyond at Rice. Matthias Henze (Syriac specialist) and myself are the advisors in this program. If you want to work on Syriac materials and early Jewish pseudepigrapha, Professor Henze is the person to contact ( If you want to work with me in Coptic materials, this is how you should prepare yourself for the application.

1. Get a MA in a strong academic program in biblical studies, classics, near eastern studies, or early christian studies. Why? Because our PhD program is only a 5-year program. When you come to work in this program, this will be the point you specialize in the Coptic materials. There is not enough time for you to lay down all the foundational work that is necessary for you to have in biblical period, literature and languages, and then to also add the Coptic materials to your repertoire. The Coptic materials are not a substitute for the biblical corpus. They are simply more pieces to the puzzle of the early Christian period. They are important pieces indeed, and necessary for any historical understanding of the biblical period and the formative years of Christianity. But the biblical materials must be mastered first.

2. Second-year competency in Greek (preferably classical) and Hebrew (biblical).

3. Reading knowledge of French and German can be obtained in the first two years of our program, but it will behoove applicants to have at least one of these secondary research languages mastered before arriving on campus.

4. A plan to work on Coptic materials or Greek extra-canonical materials as a dissertation project, with the intent to try to understand what these materials tell us about Christian origins and early Christianity.

5. A commitment to the critical and academic study of religion.

6. Contact me, preferrably a year to six months before your application is submitted, so that we can begin discussing your interests and goals, and whether or not working at Rice is your best option.