Christine Neal Thomas - Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
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Christine Neal Thomas, Ph.D., M.Div., B.A.

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Assistant Professor of Bible & Cognate Languages (Joint Appointment with Xavier University)


Rabbinical Program, Cincinnati
Academic Field: 
Bible and Cognate Studies

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I am delighted and honored be a member of the faculty of HUC-JIR. The distinguished history of this institution, the excellence of its scholars, and its dedication to training religious leaders have long been known to me. As soon as I joined the community, I could see that the commitment to fostering a dynamic relationship between tradition and innovation, characteristic of the Reform movement, was being expressed in new initiatives unfolding in the graduate and rabbinical school programs.

I bring a diverse range of intellectual interests and academic training to this position. I began undergraduate work at Princeton University where I did advanced coursework in Japanese. My interest in feminist criticism took me to Smith College where I completed a BA in women’s studies and Japanese language and literature. I then received a Fulbright grant to study at Tokyo University and work with the Japanese poet who had been the subject of my BA thesis. The discipline of learning Japanese and the access this study gave me to a world beyond my own provided the basis for my later work in ancient languages.

Upon returning to the United States, I received a Presidential Fellowship for the Master of Divinity program at Princeton Theological Seminary, where I focused on Hebrew Bible and systematic theology. Alongside my academic work, I served in Episcopal congregations–preaching, teaching, and engaging in pastoral care. I seek to share with my students at HUC–JIR what this process taught me: when intellectual work is understood as a means of maturing as a human being, one’s academic training can become a reservoir of support in meeting the challenges of serving a religious community.

My doctoral work at Harvard University in Hebrew Bible and Northwest Semitics gave me the tools to work with a range of ancient languages and texts through training in comparative linguistics, epigraphy, and historical study of the ancient Near East. My training extended into archaeological fieldwork in Israel through three seasons on the Tel Beth Shemesh Excavations and a season as a square supervisor at Tel Dor. My goal in all the courses I teach is that students will come to see ancient texts as points of access to civilizations as complex as our own. My dissertation, “Reconceiving the House of the Father: Royal Women at Ugarit,” took this approach. Through a series of close readings of Hittite imperial legal verdicts from Late Bronze Age Ugarit, I showed that the texts were witnesses to a dynamic world in which political affiliation and inter-dynastic relations were matters of heated dispute among royal women and men.

Selected Publications and Edited Works

“Women in the Ancient Near East,” The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, 2009

Illustrator for Patrick D. Miller, Religion in Ancient Israel, Westminster John Knox Press, 2000

Current and Future Courses
Biblical Prophecy
The Book of Judge
Women, Gender, and Biblical Narrative
Jewish History: from the Judges to the Rabbis
Aramaic Targums
Biblical Aramaic
Akkadian Texts from Ugarit