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James W. Watts

Professor and Chair of the Department of Religion

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.


REL/JSP 114 The Bible
REL/JSP 215 The Hebrew Bible
REL 301 Ancient Near Eastern Religions and Cultures
REL/JSP 302 The Temple & the Dead Sea Scrolls
REL/JSP 311 The Bible As Literature
REL/JSP 416/616 The Torah/Pentateuch
REL 607 Ancient Religious Rhetoric
REL 611 The Idea of Scripture
REL/ANT 619 Ritual Theory and Religious Practice
REL 622 Sacrifice


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-present

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

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

Associate Professor, Syracuse University, 1999-2007

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