Skip to main content

Matthew Arakaky

Religious Studies



• Ph.D. Student (Hebrew Bible/Old Testament), Duke University, The Graduate Program in Religion
• Coursework (Northwest Semitic Philology), The Johns Hopkins University
• A.M. (Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations), The University of Chicago (2020)
• M.Div. (Hebrew Bible and Semitic Languages), Princeton Theological Seminary (2019)
• B.A. (Religious Studies and Psychology), University of Virginia (2015)

Research Languages (Ancient)

• Classical Hebrew (Advanced)
• Ugaritic (Advanced)
• Akkadian (Intermediate)
• Aramaic (Intermediate)
• Syriac (Elementary)
• Koine Greek (Intermediate)

Research Languages (Modern)

• Spanish (Speaking Proficient) 
• German (Reading Proficient)
• French (Reading Proficient)

Research Interests

Matthew Arakaky is a Ph.D. student in the Graduate Program in Religion (Hebrew Bible/Old Testament; Minors: Literary Theory and the Academic Study of Religion). His research interests lie in biblical narrative and its underlying poetic features. Far from unsophisticated, the narratives of the Hebrew Bible evince careful and conscientious structuring, characterized by the strategic deployment of dialogue, repetition of key motifs and Leitworter, and the presence of either an overt or covert narrator, among other artful determinations, culminating in literary mastery. Indeed, Robert Alter describes the potency of word order in particular, claiming that it allows the author to “refine meanings, make meanings more memorable, more satisfyingly complex, so what is wrought in language can more powerfully engage the world of events, values, human and divine ends.” In this same vein, it is noteworthy that Hebrew prose narrative is not thematically monolithic. Stated otherwise, biblical narrative not only illumines the religious beliefs of ancient Israel, but also explicates and contemplates the social and political institutions germane to the text’s cultural milieu. Accordingly, narratives of the Hebrew Bible are not merely art for art’s sake but were aptly composed to make intellectual and religious claims about divine and human spheres, ultimately serving a didactic purpose. Biblical narrative helps construct and frame the worldview of its audience, guiding the reader through the theological heights and psychological depths of textual simulation. In this same vein, Matthew tries to unveil what Alter calls “a delight in the manifold exercise of literary craftsmanship.”

As a potential project, Matthew envisions himself investigating how biblical poetry functions literarily in its narrative environs, and how this combination serves to construct meaning. More specifically, how does the combination of genres, formerly sundered by form critics to distinct Sitz im Leben, function poetically, contributing to the mechanics of the text and its overall argument? While modern readers tend to impose their own strict literary taxonomy onto the Hebrew Bible, Matthew's studies have led him to believe that genre was more malleable, if not creative, in the ancient Levant. The intentional interplay of various genres has poetic significance, effectively employed to amplify themes and imagination in the narrative text. In other words, the combination of genres is a rhetorical strategy and scholars have only recently begun to assess its attendant poetic significance.

Current Appointments & Affiliations