Big News: Jo Ann Hackett and John Huehnergard Moving to the University of Texas-Austin

So far as I know this is ‘cutting-edge’ news.  Jo Ann Hackett and her husband, John Heuhnergard, both renowned Semitic language scholars, are leaving Harvard and joining the faculty at the University of Texas-Austin in the department of Middle Eastern Studies.  These are two very big acquisitions for UT-Austin, and will be some great faces for us at the regional SBL meeting (SWCRS, as we call it).  I am most familiar with Huehnergard’s work in Ugaritic as well as Aramaic; I am less familiar with Hackett’s.  Both are working together on the revision of the Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew/English Lexicon! (see comments to this post for more on this).

For those who may not be familiar with either, here is the information from their Harvard bio page:

Before joining the Harvard faculty to teach Biblical Hebrew and Northwest Semitic epigraphy, Prof. Hackett taught in Religious Studies Departments at Occidental College in Los Angeles and at Indiana University. Besides general Old Testament and epigraphy, her research interests have embraced Phoenician language and religion; the period of the Judges; women’s lives in the ancient Near East; “fertility” religion; sacrifice, including child sacrifice; the study of myths and mythology; polemic against foreigners in the ancient Near East; and computer imaging of Ugaritic tablets. Publications include: The Balaam Text from Tell Deir Alla ; “Religious Traditions in Israelite Transjordan”; “Women’s Studies and the Hebrew Bible”; “Can a Sexist Model Liberate Us? Ancient Near Eastern ‘Fertility’ Goddesses”; annotations to the book of Numbers in The HarperCollins Study Bible ; “Spelling Differences and Letter Shapes Are Telltale Signs”; and “The Era of the Judges” in The Oxford History of the Biblical World.


Professor Huehnergard has been a member of the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences since 1983; he served as NELC’s director of graduate studies from 1988-90, as department chair from 1990-94, and is again the director of graduate studies, 2003-. His research interests are focused on the historical and comparative grammar of the Semitic languages, especially of their morphology and their dialectology. Among the Semitic languages, he has concentrated primarily on Akkadian, and secondarily on Ugaritic, classical Ethiopic (Ge’ez), ancient Aramaic dialects, and classical Hebrew. He is also interested in the study of modern Semitic languages (especially modern Ethiopian Semitic and Neo-Aramaic), in ancient Egyptian, in the larger Afro-Asiatic language family to which Semitic and Egyptian belong, in theoretical aspects of comparative and historical linguistics, and in the history of writing and literacy. Publications include Ugaritic Vocabulary in Syllabic Transcription, The Akkadian of Ugarit, A Grammar of Akkadian, and articles such as “Comparative Semitic Linguistics,” “Old South Arabian Texts in the Harvard Semitic Museum,” “What is Aramaic?,” and “Historical Phonology and the Hebrew Piel.” He teaches courses in Semitic linguistics and in various Semitic languages.

They will be in Texas beginning August 1.

(HT: Jack Sasson).

20 thoughts on “Big News: Jo Ann Hackett and John Huehnergard Moving to the University of Texas-Austin

    • John Anderson says:


      This was news to me as well. Here is a bit of what I was able to glean about the project. Perhaps others can fill in some gaps?

      “Jo Ann Hackett and John Huehnergard plan to create a revision of the standard English dictionary of Biblical Hebrew, the Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament of F. Brown, S. R. Driver, and C. A. Briggs (Oxford 1906). While still the most reliable and most frequently used English dictionary of Hebrew, BDB has also been showing its age for many decades in one of the aspects for which it was most noteworthy, namely, the presentation of cognate information in related Semitic languages — the information on which, in part at least, the meaning of the Hebrew roots is based. This is the aspect of the dictionary that Hackett and Huehnergard plan to revise most thoroughly.”

  1. Brandon W says:

    That’s good to hear! I’m very surprised that a revision hasn’t been undertaken before, but I guess there are now some other good alternatives (e.g., HALOT).

  2. brianfulthorp says:

    that is a mighty task they have take on to revise such a thing as the BDB Lexicon. It was one of my best friends when I was learning Hebrew exegesis. I’ve been from one end to the other and back again with that book! (though I admit I tend to refer to HALOT on my BW 8 now more often than not).

  3. John Anderson says:


    Indeed, quite exciting news. It would be even more exciting if I were a Semitics scholar. I do love languages though, and know 9 (many of which are Semitic!). It is quite interesting they would leave Harvard for UT-Austin, but I’m not complaining. These will be some great names to have at SWCRS.

  4. Jill says:

    Rumor has it that they’ve been unhappy at Harvard for years. Its really saying something when you follow your student (Naama Pat-El, I believe) to UT. I was told a few months ago that this will make Harvard not worth applying to. Although I’m not sure if I’d go that far, the loss of Kugel, Anderson, and now these two certainly gives me pause.


    • John Anderson says:


      I have heard of a semi-similar potential reason explaining their departure, but I won’t say anymore so as not to spread hearsay. I’m just glad for the acquisition. Either way, Harvard is still Harvard, but this does make the landscape a bit more ‘even’ in some respects in terms of programs.

  5. J. P. says:

    I remember talking to John and Jo Ann about this when they were visiting Princeton in 2004, and I sincerely hope they can finish it. God knows how many other scholars and institutions have already tried and given up!

  6. John Anderson says:


    Could you provide any more information? This has certainly set the biblioblogging world abuzz. What did they have to say? How did they envision the project? It’s scope? When did they hope to have it done? Are they the only two primaries on the project? Anything else you can provide?

    Many thanks!

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