Combining his studies in Greek and Latin with his passion for Near Eastern history and the New Testament, Professor Eric Huntsman, the current Ancient Near Eastern studies (ANES) coordinator, is running a program that helps students gain a broad understanding of the civilizations of the ancient Near East and the languages of the Bible, with a focus on the history, literature, religions, and cultures of Middle Eastern countries from 3,000 BC to AD 640.
Originally a premed student, Huntsman intended to be a doctor or a lawyer, but an honors course called Greek Through the New Testament and a Pearl of Great Price class taught by Hugh Nibley developed within him a burning excitement for the ancient world, which eventually changed the course of his education and his career. “My initial interest in Greek was for the New Testament,” he recalls. “Once I got into Greek, I fell in love with the whole ancient world and the classical world in particular.”
It was Huntsman’s passion and that of other professors with similar interests in the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, and the ancient world that began the development of the ancient Near Eastern studies major. There was already a Middle Eastern studies major and religious education to study the Bible, but Huntsman and others wanted to create a program that would provide an academic study of the Bible. They decided to create a new program that focused on the history, culture, and language of the Middle East. In 2005 the program was formed, and Dana Pike became the first coordinator.