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Faculty of Ancient Near Eastern Studies

The Pontifical Biblical Institute, founded in 1909 by Pope St. Pius X and entrusted to the Society of Jesus, is a center of higher studies in Sacred Scripture and related disciplines.  Beginning from 1932, beside the Biblical Faculty, the Institute is also comprised of the Faculty of Ancient Near Eastern Studies (also known as the «Oriental Faculty») that offers degrees of Licentiate and Doctorate in ancient oriental languages. The doctorate is only open to those who already have a Licentiate degree.

1. Curriculum for the Licentiate in Ancient Near Eastern Studies LEARNING OUTCOMES

The Curriculum for the Licentiate in Ancient Near Eastern Studies is a three-year program (180 ECTS). This Licentiate offers three main tracks:

1) Licentiate in Semitic Studies (Hebrew/Aramaic and Northwest Semitic Philology)

Students on this track can choose to specialize in Hebrew or Aramaic. The first year includes the intensive study of Hebrew and Greek. After this year, students proceed to the advanced levels of Hebrew and the study of other Semitic languages. This program includes 30 ECTS of elective courses, of which at least two are in Old Testament exegesis. Other elective courses in history, religion and archeology of the Ancient Near East are intended to enrich the student’s knowledge of the context before and during which the biblical text emerged. In the licentiate thesis the student will investigate a particular aspect of the Hebrew and/or Aramaic language in order to demonstrate their competence in research and their scholarly ability to present their results.

  • 30 ECTS Hebrew I, II, III, IV
  • 30 ECTS Greek I, II, III, IV
  • 15 ECTS Hebrew A-B-C
  • 10 ECTS Northwest Semitics A-B (Ugaritic, Phoenician, Old Aramaic)
  • 15 ECTS Aramaic A-B-C or  Akkadian A-B-C or Arabic A-B-C 
  • 5 ECTS Biblical Aramaic
  • 10 ECTS Old Testament Exegesis (course or seminar)
  • 20 ECTS Electives (history, archaeology, religion) 
  • 5 ECTS Syntax and Semantics in Hebrew/Aramaic
  • 10 ECTS Seminar in Hebrew/Aramaic studies
  • 30 ECTS Licentiate thesis

2) Ancient Near Eastern Studies and Biblical Studies

Students on this track will pursue a comprehensive education in the history, languages, cultures and religions of the Ancient Near East. An interdisciplinary research approach will be encouraged within a specific area and language of their main interest, which will culminate with the drafting of a thesis that connects the world of the Hebrew Bible with its neighbouring cultures. The program is designed to offer students different perspectives (linguistic, historical, sociocultural, religious) and different methodologies. In the licentiate thesis the student will investigate a particular aspect of the Akkadian or Sumerian language or culture in order to demonstrate their competence in research and their scholarly ability to present their results.

  • 30 ECTS Introductory courses in major language: Akkadian or Sumerian
  • 30 ECTS Hebrew I, II, III, IV
  • 20 ECTS Advanced courses in major language and introductory courses in minor languages (4 courses)
  • 10 ECTS History (2 courses in 2 semesters)
  • 5 ECTS Archaeology (1 course)
  • 20 ECTS Elective courses in history, literature, religion, geography
  • 20 ECTS Electives in languages and linguistics (Semitic Philology, Hebrew A-B, Greek, Egyptian)
  • 5+10 ECTS Seminar with written paper
  • 30 ECTS  Licentiate thesis

3) Egyptology and Biblical Studies

Students on this track will receive a comprehensive education in Egyptian and biblical languages along with the culture, history and religion of Egypt. An interdisciplinary research approach will be encouraged, culminating in the writing of a thesis relating the world of the Hebrew Bible to Egyptian culture. The program is designed to offer students different perspectives (linguistic, historical, sociocultural, religious) and different methodologies. In the licentiate thesis the student will investigate a particular aspect of the Egyptian language in order to demonstrate their competence in research and their scholarly ability to present their results.

Prerequisites: Ancient Greek (high school level), one modern language (either French or German), and passive knowledge of German.

  • 30 ECTS Egyptian A B C S
  • 30 ECTS Hebrew I, II, III, IV
  • 15 ECTS New Egyptian I, II
  • 15 ECTS Other Egyptian languages (ancient or demotic) A B or Coptic A B C
  • 15 ECTS Other languages of biblical interest: Akkadian/Sumerian/Ugaritic (3 courses)
  • 10 ECTS History (2 semesters)
  • 5 ECTS Archeology
  • 15 ECTS Elective courses (religion, literature, geography, Hebrew A B, Greek A B)
  • 5+10 ECTS Seminar with written paper
  • 30 ECTS Licentiate thesis.

Each student is assigned an academic advisor who assists the student in formulating their course of studies and assists them with their selection of courses each semester. Their course of studies must also be approved by the Dean.

The student who already has sufficient preparation in Hebrew and/or Greek can take an exam in order to be exempted from Hebrew I, II, III, IV and/or Greek I, II, III, IV.

2. Knowledge of Modern Languages

At the time of enrollment, students must have a sufficient knowledge of English that allows them to understand lessons in English and to read the academic literature (B2). Furthermore, within the first year of the curriculum, they must demonstrate sufficient knowledge of French or German by presenting a certificate (B2) or by passing an exam. If this requirement is not fulfilled, they cannot enroll in the following semester.

3. Admission and credits from previous studies

As the Licenciate is a second level II university degree, a first level university qualification (Bachelor or equivalent studies) is required for admission. Those seeking admission to the programme must present:

  • University degree document.
  • A personal application indicating the main track to be pursued and the reason for the choice.
  • A photocopy of the pages of the passport showing the applicant’s personal data and photo.

Applicants having a previous formal training in some area of Ancient Near Eastern studies may request to be waived from taking several courses by providing official transcripts. No credit for the advanced courses of the main language will be accepted toward the fulfillment of a degree program.

The above documents should reach the Pontifical Biblical Institute Secretary’s office, Piazza della Pilotta, 35; 00187 Roma, Italy, no later than May 10. The electronic version can also be sent via email attachment to; the Secretary’s office will notify the applicant the decision of the Faculty. If admitted, the applicant will also be assigned a Director of Studies for the chosen field(s) of specialization.

4. One Year Program and auditors

Students interested in a certificate program of one year (not academic degree) to study of a specific aspect or language of the Ancient Near East should contact the Dean (pibsegr@biblico.it).

A limited number of auditors (students taking one or more courses not leading to a degree) may be admitted. The students pay the fee of the individual courses.

5. Visa requirement

Successful applicants from countries other than the European Community will need to apply for a student’s visa from the Italian consulate in their home country.  However, prospective students who are members of religious communities are advised to apply for visa “per motivi religiosi”. The Secretary’s office can provide documents that are needed for the student’s visa application if the requirements for admission mentioned in 3 above are satisfied. The letter of presentation (see under 6 below) will be required.

The Institute does not provide housing.

6. Registration

Registration is to be done in person at the Secretary’s office (entrance Piazza della Pilotta, 35), during the scheduled period (see Academic Calendar). Please bring:

  • The letter of notification that the applicant has been admitted (see 2 above).
  • A letter of presentation by an ecclesiastical authority: members of the clergy and religious communities should provide a letter of presentation from their Superior. Lay applicants from countries not in the Schengen treaty (practically countries that are not in the European Union) should bring a letter of presentation by the Ordinary of the Diocese of origin together and a statement of the financial status coveing the tuition and other costs (board and lodgings, health insurance).
  • Application form [to be filled out and sent via web].Alternatively, request a hard copy in Sec retary’s office.
  • One passport-size photo.
  • Proof of payment, or cash, if made during registration. (For information about the fees of full-time student registration and individual courses and the method of payment see Academic fees).
  • Completed form with the list of courses to be taken during the semester; this form is available at the Secretary’s office. The courses to be taken should be approved first by the student’s Director of studies.



Graduates who have successfully completed this program are able to read and translate texts in the primary language that they have chosen to be the focus of their study (Hebrew, Egyptian, Sumerian, Akkadian, Aramaic or Coptic). They also acquire a knowledge of civilizations in the Ancient Near East, including their history and religions. In addition to the primary language, they study other languages either related to it or belonging to the same linguistic area. Thus, they are able to interpret original texts within the broader cultural context in which they were written. Students are evaluated on the basis of exams and seminar presentations. The candidate writes a licentiate thesis of publication quality for a peer reviewed journal. Graduates can apply for admission to doctoral programs.


During course seminars, students present their personal research and develop a collaborative learning environment. They learn how to present coherent, lucid conference papers and how to give and receive feedback from peers. They become capable of presenting their independent research at international conferences and publish in peer reviewed journals, especially in English and Italian.


The candidate learns how to use the research tools available for the critical analysis of ancient near Eastern languages, literatures and cultures as well as related secondary sources. They are able to use and evaluate traditional tools, such as lexicons and other philological resources as well as current eectronic tools to facilitate their personal, independent research.