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Master of Theological Studies ADVANCED COMPETENCY FOR FAITHFUL INTERPRETATION
Class Type
16-week courses, 100% Online
Start Date
September 1, 2023
Accreditation
0
Credit Hours
0
Years

The Master of Theological Studies degree is designed for a wide range of learners and attracts a diverse profile of students ranging from moms to monks. This degree equips students who might be interested in preparing for doctoral studies, life of ministry, non-profit work, or simply personal enrichment. The Master degree is completed over a period of two years. Each academic year has 3 terms: Fall, Spring, and Summer. Students can only take a maximum of 2 courses per term. This 36 credit hour degree is divided into 18 credits of core courses, 9 credits of elective courses, and 9 credit hour thesis.

The M.T.S. program is designed to offer a general introduction to Oriental Orthodox theology through the introductory graduate level study of church history, dogmatics, scripture, patristics, spirituality and liturgics. In addition to three semesters of academic study, students are afforded the opportunity to write a master thesis in a specialized area of study.

The M.T.S.  program outcomes are intended to prepare students to:

  • Demonstrate a broad familiarity with Orthodox theology and history as expressed by the Orthodox Christian faith and tradition.
  • Articulate a holistic understanding of the Orthodox religious heritage.
  • Think theologically and critically about the Orthodox Christian tradition both historically and within contemporary church and society.
  • Communicate coherently, effectively, and persuasively in writing.
  • Construct in a thesis a coherent, sustained theological argument in an area of specialized study.

COURSES OFFERED

Master of Theological Studies courses are research-based, involving regular meetings with the professor for guidance and evaluation. The guided research and reading is adapted to the specific goals of each student.

Required Courses

This course explores an introductory discussion of the nature of theology. The aim of this course is to highlight the two-fold nature of theology both as an encounter of the human soul/heart and an expression of the human mind. Basic and fundamental themes and concepts of Orthodox theology will be discussed. Various sources, resources, and methodologies will be discussed to show the inner- coherence of theological loci and their relevance to everyday life.

This course provides a survey of the history of the Christian Church from an Orthodox perspective from the coming of our Lord to the Council of Chalcedon (451). Topics to be covered include the Apostolic period, the Early Fathers, the Ecumenical Councils, and the development of the Church’s ecclesiology noting the beginnings of East-West divergences.

Council of Chalcedon to the present day by tracing key historical events and themes to gain a better understanding of the Oriental Orthodox Christian tradition and its legacy in the Middle Eastern religious mosaic. The examination of this trajectory provides an opportunity to delve into the Oriental Orthodox viewpoint of Christian history. Participants analyze historical themes in order to strengthen their knowledge of and develop an appreciation for this tradition.

Students will research, write and submit their 14,000-word Master thesis under the guidance of a supervisor from the Faculty. Typically, students have six months to complete and submit the dissertation. This course is required for the Master of Theology programs. The purpose of this course is to complete the capstone project in the Master degree programs and validating the students as master practitioners. Based upon the thesis proposal and recommendation of the thesis supervisor with the approval of the University faculty, students are able to complete their thesis writing. Upon successful completion of this module, in addition to satisfaction of all other required academic and financial obligations, the students are deemed qualified to graduate with the Master of Theology degree.

In consultation with the thesis supervisor, each student will develop his or her own work schedule for the course. At the beginning of the course, all students are required to attend a virtual research and methodology orientation seminar. All students are entitled to a total of 10 hours of supervision per term by their thesis supervisor.

This course provides a survey of the Old Testament within the context of Orthodox Christian theology as well as modern biblical criticism. The course content is divided into three parts, each focusing on different aspects of Old Testament studies: Part 1 focuses on the introduction to Old Testament studies as they are presented in the modern era; Part 2 is a (re)reading of the major portions of the Old Testament in light of the modern scholarly conversation; Part 3 looks at Byznato-Chalcedonian approach to the Old Testament in the modern era as a dialogue partner with our own Orthodox tradition within the non-Chalcedonian communion.

A survey of the New Testament, this course covers the life and redemptive work of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and the early development of the Church through the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles. Readings outside of scripture set the historical background for the reading of the primary texts.

Here the student is introduced to the subject of Liturgical theology, Liturgical science and traditions. The readings emphasize the integral character of Baptism, Chrismation, and Eucharist constituting together the beginning of the Christian life. Also, it emphasizes the understanding of sacrament or mystery as an action of the Church, rather than a “private” rite. The course also focuses on the sacraments of penance, unction, marriage, and holy orders as well as on the liturgical services of Vespers, Matins, and the Eucharistic liturgy. It focuses on how the prayer of the Church transfigures the life of the Christian.

The courses listed here are indicative, and there is no guarantee that they will run for the current academic year. Students will take the courses in the order they are made available.

Elective Courses

Students choose Three courses from the following

Church, Culture, and Tradition is a 3-credit module, which aims to investigate the meaning of the Church and its diverse expressions through a study of ecclesiology, Tradition and culture. The module will start by defining the term ‘Tradition’ followed by an overview of the true identity of the Church and its expression within different contexts throughout history. The module will then discuss our contemporary context and the appropriate ways of engaging with a theology of incultration by incarnating in a multi-cultural and pluralistic society.

One definition of asceticism is that it is a practice of bodily discipline and self-deprivation, usually for religious purposes. Some ascetical practices include prayer, fasting, prostration, and night - vigil. While asceticism plays an important role in cultivating morality in Christianity generally speaking, reducing these practices as simply reflections of religious belief diminish their broader social importance. In order to understand asceticism, this course uses anthropological tools to contextualize the wider conditions that influence how ascetical practices come to be understood in different Orthodox Traditions. What do people of various socio-cultural and Orthodox Traditions understand asceticism to be? How are ascetic practices linked to the wider-socio-political conditions of respective communities? How can we understand morality in relation to asceticism? Using ethnographic and historical examples, the course considers these questions as they relate to a wide range of Orthodox contexts. It offers an overview of the ways in which anthropological analyses of ascetical life can provide scholars new perspectives with which to make sense of larger questions of theology, religious identity, politics, imagined community, nationhood, and belonging.

What is beauty? Why does it matter so? How does it relate to the Christian experience of God and the Church’s interpretation of divine revelation? What role should the arts play in contemporary Orthodox faith and witness? This course engages such perennial questions (and more) through a survey of the sources, themes and media characteristic of Eastern Christian aesthetic theory and practice, drawing also upon pertinent Western dialogue partners.

The Christian faith confesses a Trinitarian God who is a diversity of persons in unity. This doctrine must present Christians with a model of appreciating diversity while also being rooted in a unity. This course traces the development of the Christian doctrine of God and related themes from Scripture to the 20th century. The course pays close attention to significant texts in the Christian tradition to discussions of the doctrine of the trinity and its relationship to diversity. We explore how our Trinitarian faith should be lived daily by reflecting on contemporary challenges surrounding diversity of religion, sexuality, culture, and biodiversity.

 This course examines the fundamental elements of Eastern Christian worship as it developed in the early centuries of the Church, in order to historically ground subsequent theological discussion of contemporary renewal. After several weeks exploring the common repository of Orthodox liturgical tradition, we consider examples of current scholarship on the extant Rites in use among the Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches: Armenian, West Syrian, Coptic, Ethiopian, East Syrian and Byzantine. The selected readings showcase key scholars in the field, highlight the value of comparative and interdisciplinary methodologies, and illustrate the challenges of integrating history and theology with pastoral practice. The final weeks invite students to synthesize what they have learned by means of reflection on their own identity as worshippers in the modern world—with all its challenges: how does the beauty of the Lex Orandi (“rule of prayer”) relate to the truth of the Lex Credenda (“rule of belief”), while also cultivating the goodness of an authentic spirituality, that is, a faithful and fruitful Christian Lex Vivendi (“rule of living”)?

In this course, we will be examining the human will, divine will, and the paradox notion that arises from discussions on the freedom of the human will. The approach to the topic is grounded in how this phenomenon is envisioned in scriptures, then interpreted by church fathers, and medieval archimandrites in different schools of philosophical thought. By exploring the notion of human will (human desire) and divine will, the course offers venue into how to think about larger questions of what it means to be human, especially in our current technological world.

In this course, we will be examining the phenomenon of human suffering as our approach to encountering the scriptures, focusing on the Old Testament. By exploring the notion of suffering in the human condition, we will unlock some of the more important points of Christian theology that will provide us with the exegetical framework for reading, understanding, and integrating the Old Testament narrative into our lives.

The Orthodox ascetic tradition, that spans more than ten centuries of contemplative prayer and theology, often describes the ascent towards God with the stages of Purification, Illumination and Union with God. The themes of illumination and deification especially, may be found throughout the entire theological and ascetic tradition of the Christian East. This tradition of contemplative prayer developed in the Egyptian desert, in Constantinople and in Syria, but its roots may be found in the Biblical and the Neoplatonist tradition. This module examines these writings within their historical, cultural, and spiritual background, and presents the thought of significant writers such as Philo of Alexandria, Origen, John of the Ladder, Maximos the Confessor, Symeon the New Theologian and Gregory Palamas.

This course aims to assist in preparing and developing students for graduate level theological writing. Particular attention will be given to writing effectiveness, to include essay structure, types of papers, the different models of reasoning in research, the crafting and assessment of arguments, elements of form and style, revision, peer review, and final editing. In addition, students will become familiar with logical reasoning as it pertains to sentence structure and crafting their ideas in writing.

This course explores the theological evolution of Christian Mission with particular emphasis on Orthodox theology of mission. It provides an account of multiple ranges of biblical, theological, and liturgical perspectives of the theology of mission. By analyzing the works of Orthodox mission theologians, the course explains the relevance of the Orthodox mission theology in today's global and local contexts. It furnishes relevant missional narratives from various historical contexts for illustrating the Orthodox mission practices. The course also examines the salient features of mission theology in other Christian traditions to encourage a more comprehensive understanding of the theology of Orthodox Christian mission.

This course looks at the matter of the textualization of the incarnation event as the remedy for the ailing human condition and is a companion piece to the course Suffering and the Scriptures. In this course, students will approach the message of the Gospel from the lens of healing, examining the formation of the New Testament in light of the early Christian movement amidst the backdrop of the emergence of rabbinical Judaism and the transition from Hellenic to Roman rule in the region.

This course explores the epistemological grounds for understanding Christianity’s view of concrete truth. The concrete reality of truth in Christianity is fully revealed through a life of encounter and rational expression. While encounter is a mystical experience, theological expression is a colorful tradition that utilizes a spectrum of human philosophies and ideologies. This course traces the commonality of the Christian encounter while investigating the diversity of theological expression fr om ancient times until our post-modern frames of mind.

This course investigates the book of Genesis. Various hermeneutical approaches to the book of Genesis will be undertaken, beginning with the Patristic reception of these texts and their subsequent life in the Church. Special emphasis will be placed on the theology, structure, composition, and themes of Genesis as pertaining to their significance for Christian faith, life, and ministry. Additionally, challenges posed by the content, construction, and assembly of the text by modern critical methods will be explored in order to calibrate the patristic response to such challenges.

The aim of this class is for students to explore the marginalized voice of the Oriental Orthodox tradition, to get to know it on its own terms, and to refine this voice in its engagement with disciplinary discourse. The course will focus on the history of the Alexandrian Church and its legacy in Egypt, from the apostolic era of St. Mark until the Ottoman period. The class is designed for students to be able to understand and analyze the multi-faceted factors that shape the current Christian ecumenical dialogue today by looking back into the history of the most ancient native Christian traditions. It will provide students with the tools to aid their study of Oriental Orthodox Church history-students are the ultimate drivers of their education and are given free rein to pursue and research whichever topic piques interest.

The aim of this class is for students to explore the marginalized voice of the Oriental Orthodox tradition, to get to know it on its own terms, and to refine this voice in its engagement with disciplinary discourse. The course will focus on the history of the Alexandrian Church and its legacy in Egypt, from the end of the Ottoman period unto the present day. The class is designed for students to be able to understand and analyze the multi-faceted factors that shape the current Christian ecumenical dialogue today by looking back into the history of the most ancient native Christian traditions. It will provide students with the tools to aid their study of Oriental Orthodox Church history-students are the ultimate drivers of their education and are given free rein to pursue and research whichever topic piques interest.

The course will focus on the history of the Church in Ethiopia and Eritrea from its inception until the present day. As an important part of this class, students will learn about the multifaceted landscape of Christianity in the Horn of Africa. Students will study the major figures and events that shaped the Tewahedo Church in its various locales, languages, and cultures. Special attention will be given to the roles of Syriac and Coptic churches in the formation of Tewahedo Christianity. Students will wrestle with the challenges related to the Church in the Horn of Africa as it struggles with recent political persecution.

The course will focus on the history of the Church in Nubia from its inception until the present day. As an important part of this class, students will learn about the unique cultures of the historical kingdoms in the Sudan. Students will study the major figures and events that shaped the Nubian Church. Special attention will be given to the roles of the Church of Alexandria in the formation of Nubian Christianity. Students will wrestle with the challenges related to documentation of the Church in Nubia and its eventual, albeit recent decline four centuries ago.

The purpose of this course is to help the student understand the basics of pastoral care, with an emphasis on “foundations,” covering both theories and types of personalities and various methods in pastoral care. It will also help the student to discern the most important elements of the Spiritual life in the Eastern Christian experience. The course will highlight the importance of prayer and encounter as a key to theology and the different aspects of spiritual life.

This course surveys the Church Fathers of the East and the West. Despite the emphasis of the course on the Fathers who wrote in Greek and Latin, it will touch on the Fathers who wrote on other languages like Syriac, Coptic, and Arabic. This Course also introduces the student to the historical context of the various Church Fathers. It also aims to give biographic information about those Fathers, their writings, how their thoughts were shaped, and what contributed to their formation. It then explores the literature of the various Fathers, the specific characteristics of each of them, and the contribution of the literature on the overall Christian thought that was preserved by the Church. Introducing the Patristic literature would require us to be introduced to the heretical teachings that urged the Fathers to confront them by their orthodox teachings.

Study Plan

Term 1 – Fall

Term 2 – Spring

Term 3 – Summer

Term 4 – Fall

Intro to Theology

New Testament

Church History II

Elective

Old Testament

Church History I

Liturgical Theology

Elective

 

Term 5 – Spring

Term 6 – Summer

Elective

Thesis

Thesis

Thesis

FACULTY

Our faculty in the Master of Theology program have decades of professional experience as scholars in their fields of expertise, and they are committed to helping students become excellent researchers and teachers.

Fr. Andreas Andreopoulos, Ph.D.

Visiting Professor of Church History

Brian Butcher, Ph.D.

Visiting Professor of Liturgical Theology and Early Christianity

Emmanuel Gergis, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Dogmatics and Systematic Theology

Fr. Jacob Joseph, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Christian Mission

Mary Ghattas, Ph.D. (ABD)

Assistant Professor of Church History and Coptic Studies

Fr. Mebratu Gebru, Ph.D.

Visiting Professor of Liturgical Theology

Michael Wingert, Ph.D.

Dean of Holy Transfiguration College & Associate Professor of Old Testament and Syriac Studies

Michael Armanyous, M.D.

Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology and Spirituality