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James W. Watts

James W. Watts

James W. Watts

Professor and Director of Graduate Studies


501 Hall of Languages
Office: 315.443.5713


Jewish Studies Minor / Modern Jewish Studies
Middle Eastern Studies


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


Social/Academic Links

Courses Taught

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.


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

Faculty Page-Turners

(March 6, 2020)

Recent books by professors from A&S | Maxwell.

Hebrew Scholar Shines New Light on Old Testament

(Nov. 8, 2017)

Religion Professor James Watts examines first five books of Bible

Syracuse Professor Using German Fellowship to Study Religion, Senses

(April 15, 2016)

Watts is visiting fellow at Ruhr University in Germany