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James W. Watts

James W. Watts


501 Hall of Languages

Research and Teaching Interests

I teach Hebrew Bible and ancient Near Eastern textual traditions with courses range from biblical studies to the religions and literatures of ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Ugarit, and Israel, including Second Temple Judaism. My research involves the overlaps between rhetoric, ritual and scriptures. An assignment to write a large commentary on Leviticus has me focused on very detailed texts in their ancient Near Eastern and later Jewish and Christian contexts, while the Iconic Books Project provides a vehicle for considering the functions of scriptures from trans-cultural and trans-historical perspectives. At the graduate level, I teach mostly in the Texts & Contexts concentration of the Religion MA and PhD programs. I am interested in directing graduate research on iconic books, biblical ritual texts, and scripturalization.


REL/JSP 114 The Bible in History, Culture, and Religion

REL/JSP 215 The Jewish Bible/Christian Old Testament

REL 301 Ancient Near Eastern Religions and Cultures

REL/JSP 307 The Temple & the Dead Sea Scrolls

REL/JSP 311 The Bible As Literature

REL/JSP 316 The Torah/Pentateuch

HON 340 Writing Scripture Law

REL 610 Textual Practices: The Torah/Pentateuch

REL 620 Textual Scripts: Iconic Books and Performative Texts

REL 630 Textual Bodies: Pollution and Purity in Leviticus

REL 690 Textual Archives: The Functions of Scriptures


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, Yale University, 1990
Master of Divinity (M.Div.), Master of Theology (Th.M.) in New Testament, Southern Seminary, 1985, 1986
Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Philosophy, Pomona College, 1982


Professor, Syracuse University, 2007-present

Chair, SU Department of Religion, 2009-2015

William P. Tolley Professor in the Humanities, 2011-2013

        Chair, SU Humanities Council, 2010-2012

Director of Graduate Studies, SU Department of Religion, 2006-2009

Associate Professor, Syracuse University, 1999-2007

Core Faculty, Renée Crown Honors Program, 2004-07

Undergraduate Coordinator, SU Department of Religion, 2000-2004

Director, SU Religion & Society Program, 2002-2004

Chair, Pentateuch Section of the Society of Biblical Literature, 1998-2003
Associate Professor, Hastings College, 1998-1999

Assistant Professor, Hastings College, 1993-1998

Adjunct, Stetson University, Barry University, Valencia Community College 1991-1993
Visiting Assistant Professor, Stetson University, 1990-1991

Instructor, Yale Divinity School, 1989


    Publications list (personal website)
    Full CV
    Online publications (SU library's online repository)