(JACKSON, Miss.) — Dr. Miles Van Pelt, Alan Hayes Belcher, Jr. Professor of Old Testament and Biblical Languages and Academic Dean, taught the Akkadian language as an elective course at Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson during the spring 2021 semester.
Akkadian is an ancient Semitic language, sharing many common linguistic features with Hebrew and Aramaic. It is known as one of the oldest languages in the world, being used in the millennia-old Code of Hammurabi. Today’s scholars have access to a treasure trove of other Akkadian literature, especially from the time of the Assyrian empire.
Several students approached Dr. Van Pelt to teach the course in spring 2021. The class used a forthcoming grammar from a major academic publisher, providing important feedback to its authors before it reached the final stages of publication. The students learned the language using the Code of Hammurabi as their main text, acquiring the skills necessary to understand and interpret cuneiform signs.
Having observed and participated in the class, Dr. Michael McKelvey, Associate Professor of Old Testament at the Jackson campus, commented: “Akkadian is one of the most difficult languages to learn from the ancient Near East. Dr. Van Pelt did an excellent job teaching the basics of this language, and the students showed a serious commitment to learning as much as they could.”
“Greater familiarity with this family of languages helps us to better understand the languages of the Old Testament when we engage in interpretation and exposition,” Dr. Van Pelt said. “Akkadian was the language of Babylon, a nation that figured prominently in the Old Testament, especially during Israel’s exile. It was the language that Daniel and his colleagues would have learned, along with Aramaic, during their three years of education at the beginning of the Babylonian exile. Knowing Akkadian provides us with access to the vast amount of historical resources from that time, helping us to understand the cultural context of the biblical world.”
RTS Jackson’s faculty are known for their commitment to teaching classical and biblical languages. In the past three years, students here have studied biblical Hebrew, biblical Greek, biblical Aramaic, ecclesiastical Latin, and now Akkadian. One of the distinctive features of the campus is the Summer Institute of Biblical Languages, where students acquire two semesters’ worth of Hebrew or Greek in an intensive format that spans eight weeks.