Department of Old Testament Studies

History of the chairs

The beginning of the Department of Old Testament Studies can be found in the Faculty of Humanities. There was just one chair for Oriental Studies and Biblical Sciences. The first chair holder was Johann David Michaelis followed by Johann Gottfried Eichhorn, Heinrich Ewald, Paul de Lagarde and Julius Wellhausen. With Ernst Bertheau a second chair was inaugurated in 1848. He was succeeded by Rudolf Smend Sen. Within the Faculty of Theology, however, Old Testament Studies played only a subordinate role (e.g. H. Schultz 1876 – 1903).

On the occasion of Rudolf Smend’s retirement in 1914 the second chair was transferred to the Faculty of Theology - following the example of other universities. The chair was held by Alfred Bertholet (1914-1928) followed by Johannes Hempel (1928-1937), Friedrich Baumgärtel (1937-1941), Gerhard von Rad (1946-1949), Walther Zimmerli (1951-1975), Lothar Perlitt (1975-1995) and Reinhard Gregor Kratz (since 1995).

In the Faculty of Theology the chair for Old Testament Studies was complemented by a personal professorship (Alfred Rahlfs). This position has been vacant since 1935. In 1955 a second full professorship was established at the faculty currently held by Reinhard Müller (since 2019) succeeding Kurt Galling (1955-1962), Herbert Donner (1964-1968), Rudolf Smend Jun. (1971-1998) and Hermann Spieckermann (1999-2019).

The Faculty of Theology further comprises a professorship for Old Testament studies concentrating on Septuagint or Qumran research (Robert Hanhart 1977-1990; Anneli Aejmelaeus 1991-2009) which, in the future, will be held by Junior professors (post-doctoral researchers), a lectureship for Biblical Theology (Erik Aurelius 1996-2004; Karin Schöpflin since 2005), and a lectureship for Biblical Hebrew and Semitic languages (Thilo Alexander Rudnig).

Research and Teaching

Both chairs cover the entire range of subjects in Old Testament studies. The academic work of the department reflects the individual research profiles of the two chair holders.

The major focus of the chair of Reinhard Kratz is on the history of the literature and theology of the Old Testament, especially the prophetic literature. Particular emphasis is placed on the history of ancient Israel and Judaism in the Persian and Hellenistic periods. Affiliated to the chair is a department for Qumran studies.

The research interests of the second chair (R. Müller) focus on the emergence and development of Israelite-Judean religion against the backdrop of ancient Mediterranean and ancient Near Eastern traditions, the text transmission and literary history of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament as well as Hebrew Bible/Old Testament hermeneutics and theology.

The spectrum covered in research and teaching is supplemented by Septuagint studies (Göttingen Edition of the Septuagint), Qumran studies (Qumran-Lexicon), Biblical Theology, Semitic languages and the various special research projects of the professors emeriti (R. Hanhart, R. Smend), the lecturers, post-doctoral researchers and doctoral students.

Affiliated to the department is the Centrum Orbis Orientalis et Occidentalis (Centre for Ancient and Oriental Studies) of the Academy of Sciences and the University of Göttingen which coordinates various interfaculty and interdisciplinary research projects and education on ancient philologies and cultures.

Study Structure

Courses in Old Testament studies are included in the following curricula:

  • Protestant Theology (Magister Theologiae)
  • Protestant Religion (secondary school teacher education)
  • Semitic Philology (Hebrew studies)
  • Ancient Near Eastern Studies

According to the curriculum one of the following lecture series is offered every semester: The History of Ancient Israel, Introduction to the Old Testament and Theology of the Old Testament. These lectures are complemented by an exegetical lecture series treating one of the central biblical books. All courses are designed for students from all curricula (Hebrew is not a prerequisite for attendance).

In the introductory stage of study (Grundstudium), students learn the fundamentals of Biblical Hebrew. The undergraduate seminars deal with the essentials of the subject as well as the methods of exegetical work. These courses including the three overview lecture series and the seminars for students without Hebrew are offered in a rotating schedule.

Study at the advanced level (Hauptstudium) comprises exegetical lectures, advanced seminars on Old Testament topics and texts, tutorials on special subjects of Old Testament studies, exam preparation courses as well as advanced language courses (Hebrew reading course or Hebrew II, Aramaic, Ugaritic et al.).

The research seminar is open to doctoral and postdoctoral students. Research students are able to present developing research and discuss current issues within Old Testament scholarship.