SU College of Arts
                        & Sciences
Department of Religion

Jim at Sacred Texts conference

Ark on lintel from Capernaum

Jim at Bethsaida

Sargeant's Cherub with Decalogue

Iconic Books Symposium 2009

Egyptian Scribe

Jim teaching

Fons Sapientia, Leuven, Belgium

Jim on
                book in British Library

at Pergamaum alter

Akhenaton Private Shrine

James W. Watts
Office: 501 Hall of Languages
Phone: 315-443-5713
E-mail: jwwatts at syr dot edu

                              Watts 2013

I am professor of Hebrew Bible and ancient Near Eastern textual traditions. My courses ranging from biblical studies to ancient religion and culture to comparative scriptures studies. 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 in cross-cultural and trans-historical perspectives.

Watts' Courses -- Education & Career -- Publications -- CV -- Iconic Books Project -- SCRIPT


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 316 The Torah/Pentateuch

REL 607 Ancient Religious Rhetoric
REL 611 Scriptures
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, 2009-2015
    • William P. Tolley Professor in the Humanities 2011-2013
    • Director of Graduate Studies, SU Department of Religion, 2006-2009
  • Secretary-Treasurer of the Society for Comparative Research on Iconic and Performative Texts (SCRIPT), 2010-present
  • Associate Professor, Syracuse University, 1999-2007
    • Director of Undergraduate Studies, 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


Leviticus 1-10 HCOT 2013

Leviticus 1-10, Historical Commentary on the Old Testament, Leuven: Peeters, 2013. (online review here)
Watts Ritual &
                              Rhetoric 2007
Book Graphic Ritual and Rhetoric in Leviticus: From Sacrifice to Scripture, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007. (online reviews here and here)

Reading Law: The Rhetorical Shaping of the Pentateuch, Biblical Seminar 59, Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1999.  (online review

Book Graphic
Iconic Books & Texts
Psalm and Story: Inset Hymns in Hebrew Narrative, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series 139, Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1992.
(Editor) Iconic Books and Texts, London: Equinox, 2013. Book
(Editor) Persia and Torah: The Theory of Imperial Authorization of the PentateuchSBL Symposium Series, Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2001. (RBL review)
Book Graphic (Editor with Corrine Patton and Steven Cook) The Whirlwind: Essays on Job, Hermeneutics and Theology in Memory of Jane Morse, JSOTSup Series 336, London: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001.
(Editor with Paul R. House) Forming Prophetic Literature: Essays on Isaiah and the Twelve in Honor of John D. W. Watts, JSOTSup Series 235, Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1996. Book Graphic

Articles on Iconic Books both Contemporary and Ancient, on Comparative Rhetoric, on the Pentateuch, on Leviticus, on Inset Poetry, and on other topics:

Iconic books:

Ancient iconic books:

Comparative rhetoric:



  • Ritual Rhetoric in the Pentateuch: The Case of Leviticus 1-16,” in Colloquium Biblicaum Lovaniense 2006: Leviticus and Numbers, ed. Thomas Römer, Beitrage zum Ephemerides Theologicae Lovanienses, Leuven: Peeters, 2008. 305-18.
  • The Rhetoric of Ritual Instruction in Leviticus 1-7,” in The Book of Leviticus: Composition and Reception, ed. Rolf Rendtorff and Robert Kugler, Vetus Testamentum Supplement Series, Leiden: Brill, 2003. 79-100.
  • ‘Olah: The Rhetoric of Burnt Offerings,” Vetus Testamentum 66/1 (2006): 125-137.
  • “The Historical and Literary Contexts of the Sin and Guilt Offerings,” in Text, Time, and Temple: Literary, Historical and Ritual Studies in Leviticus, ed. Francis Landy, Leigh M. Trevaskis, Bryan Bibb, Sheffield: Phoenix, 2014.
  • "Illustrating Leviticus: Art, Ritual and Politics," Biblical Reception 2 (2013), 3-15.
  • Introduction and notes on Leviticus in The Common English Study Bible (Nashville: United Methodist Publishing, 2013), 155-199.
  • "Leviticus," Mercer Commentary on the Bible , ed. Watson E. Mills et al, Macon: Mercer University Press, 1994, pp. 157-74.  Reprinted in Mercer Commentary on the Bible, Vol. 1: Pentateuch/Torah, ed. Watson E. Mills et al, Macon: Mercer University Press, 1998.

Inset psalmody:

Other topics:

  • “The Unreliable Narrator of Job,” in The Whirlwind (see books above), pp. 168-80.
  • "Text and Redaction in Jeremiah's Oracles Against the Nations," Catholic Biblical Quarterly 54 (1992) 432-47.
  • "HNT: An Ugaritic Formula of Intercession," Ugarit-Forschungen 21 (1989) 443-49.
  • "Psalm 2 in the Context of Biblical Theology," Horizons in Biblical Theology 12/1 (1990) 73-91.
  • "The Remnant Theme: A Survey of New Testament Research, 1921-1987," Perspectives in Religious Studies 15/2 (1988) 109-129.
  • "Narrative Time in Luke's Gospel," Paradigms 1/2 (1985) 65-80.
  • (Translator)  “Persian Imperial Authorization: A Summary” by Peter Frei, in Persia and Torah (see books above), pp. 5-40.

Book Reviews: