Original Research: Historical Thought and Source Interpretation

Biblical Languages: Challenges for postgraduate supervision in Old and New Testament Studies

Lodewyk Sutton
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 79, No 2 | a8487 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v79i2.8487 | © 2023 Lodewyk Sutton | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 23 January 2023 | Published: 22 June 2023

About the author(s)

Lodewyk Sutton, Department of Old and New Testament Studies, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa


In South Africa and in many other countries in Africa and around the globe, the demand for more Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) candidates has increased. With such a demand, a number of challenges also arise. In the discipline of Theology, these challenges are becoming apparent in Old and New Testament Studies, where these fields are experiencing a declining number of students enrolling for biblical languages. This problem is enhanced as the current inherent requirement to study for a PhD in Old Testament is that one must have a knowledge of Biblical Hebrew (and Aramaic), and for New Testament, one needs Greek at an advanced level. Supervisors are challenged more and more to defend these requirements that are complicated by the developmental goals of institutions that require that the number of PhD candidates be increased. In this article, the challenges faced by PhD supervisors (and candidates) in respect of students wanting to enrol for PhDs in Old and New Testament without the necessary requirements are considered, and a case is made as to why it is essential that these students have a background in biblical languages. If students do not take the biblical languages as part of their (undergraduate) studies, immediate concerns for the future of Old and New Testament research and biblical translations (and ministry) are raised. The article concludes with possible suggestions for addressing some of these concerns.

Contribution: This article makes an interdisciplinary contribution based on current challenges experienced in the education and supervision of postgraduate studies in the fields of Old Testament and New Testament and on the development and training of postgraduate supervisors in practical education as to contribute to the relevance and practice of theological education today and the future.


Old and New Testament Supervision; doctoral supervision; Biblical Hebrew and Greek; teaching and learning; postgraduate studies.

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 4: Quality education


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