Great Religious Texts 1
In this unique module you’ll read and discuss a wide range of important religious works including scriptural, philosophical, theological, and mystical texts. The aim is to explore the scope of the discipline of theology and religious studies and become familiar with a range of central questions as well as the processes of debate and critique. You’ll study primary texts from the Bible, the Qur’an and the Bhagavad-Gita as well as extracts from the work of Plato, Augustine, Anselm and Julian of Norwich, among others. Teaching is carried out through weekly seminar discussions led by your tutor for the module.
Great Religious Texts 2
This module follows on from Great Religious Texts 1 and gives you the opportunity to continue to read and discuss a wide range of important religious works including scriptural, philosophical, theological, and mystical texts. The aim is to explore the scope of the discipline of theology and religious studies and become familiar with a range of central questions as well as the processes of debate and critique. You will study works by Kierkegaard, Nietzsche and other well-known figures, and texts ranging from 17th century Sikh hymns through to the Kairos document of 20th century apartheid South Africa. Teaching is carried out through weekly seminar discussions led by your tutor for the module.
History, Literature and Theology of the Hebrew Bible
In this module you’ll be introduced to the literature, history and interpretation of the Hebrew Bible, also known as the Old Testament. You’ll consider the biblical text as history, literature and scripture in both the Jewish and Christian Traditions. For this module you'll have a two-hour seminar each week.
Introduction to the Study of the New Testament
In this module you’ll gain an overview of the texts that makes up the New Testament and cover central methods, topics and issues in studying them including: the formation of the New Testament canon; the Roman, Greek and Jewish background to the New Testament; the development of historical criticism of the Synoptic Gospels; the historicity of the Synoptic Gospels and Acts, and the authenticity of Paul’s letters. You’ll have a total of three hours of lectures each week for this module.
Christian Thought and Culture to 1600
In this module you’ll learn about the lives and works of some of the main theologians ranging from the first Christian thinker in the 2nd century, up to the Reformation and Counter-Reformation movements of the 16th century. You’ll study figures such as Augustine, Aquinas and Luther, looking at their ideas but also placing them in their broader historical and ecclesiastical context. For this module you’ll have a combination of two hours of lectures and a one hour seminar each week.
Theology and Ethics in the Modern World
This module introduces the development of Western Christian theology from the Enlightenment to the present. It surveys the challenges posed to Christian faith by modernity and a range of theological responses to these challenges. In this way you’ll deal with central theological and ethical questions arising in the work and historical context of key thinkers such as Descartes, Kant, Schleiermacher, Kierkegaard and Barth. You’ll be taught through two hours of lectures each week and a seminar every other week.
Philosophy for Theologians
In this module you’ll be given an overview of the most important philosophical ideas, theories and arguments and their relation to religion and theology. You’ll begin by studying the Greek ‘natural theology’ of the pre-Socratic thinkers and end with the postmodern ‘turn to religion’ of Emmanuel Levinas and Jacques Derrida. For this module you’ll be taught through a combination of two hours of lectures each week and a seminar every other week.
Introduction to Islam
This module examines the narrative and textual foundations of the Islamic tradition including the Qur'an, the prophetic tradition and the life of the Prophet Muhammad. You’ll also look at the development and structure of Islamic society, law, doctrine and spirituality through the classical period, and Muslim responses to challenges posed by modernity including questions of gender and the nation state. You’ll have two hours of lectures each week and a seminar every other week.
Introduction to Judaism
This is an introduction to Jewish life, religion, and culture, from its origins in the ancient Near East to its impact on contemporary popular culture. Attention will be paid to the development of Judaism over many centuries and in a range of locales, emphasizing the diversity and creativity of the Jewish experience. The aim here will be to introduce the manifold aspects of Jewish history & religion, Judaism's foundational narratives as they are expressed & addressed in its historical development, and the diverse forms of self-understanding on display in the Jewish tradition. For this module you’ll have a lecture and a seminar each week.
The Bible in Music, Art and Literature
The Bible is one of the bestsellers and its influence on Western culture is unparalleled. This module explores the way in which the Bible is drawn upon in art, music and literature ranging from Jewish synagogue mosaics and early Christian iconography, to contemporary secular films and music. You’ll be encouraged to engage with case studies of works of art and critically consider the way in which art, music and literature function as biblical interpretations. You’ll have a two-hour lecture each week for this module.
In this module you’ll be introduced to the Greek language as used in the New Testament. You’ll gain the ability to understand and translate basic sentences into English by the end of the module. The module is taught through four hours of classes each week.
In this module you’ll be introduced to the basics of reading Biblical Hebrew. You’ll gain the ability to understand and translate basic sentences into English by the end of the module. You’ll have four hours per week of classes for this module.
This module will examine from a wide range of perspectives how the person of Jesus of Nazareth has been understood by Christians down the centuries, how he has been perceived by non-Christians, and the impact of those perceptions on human cultures. After a four week introduction to Christology (the study of the person of Christ) the module will examine topics including depictions of Christ in art (medieval and Pre-Raphaelite); Christ in films and Christ in poetry. The module will conclude with two weeks devoted to Jesus in Messianic Judaism and Christ in Islam.
This module examines different approaches to the study of Islam and gender. We will look at texts of women and gender relations in the Qur'an, the Hadith and Islamic law. We will also consider the lived experience of gender and the development of Muslim feminist theology and critique, especially in 20th and 21st century Egypt and Iran. Topics will include Islamic marriage and family, Muslim women's rights and culture, sexuality and veiling (including recent European discussions), the gendering of space, and homosexuality. You’ll have two hours of lectures each week for this module.
Optional modules in years 2 and 3 may be taken from the wide range on offer in the department. These include modules in the areas of philosophy of religion and ethics, biblical studies, religious history, Christian theology and culture, Islam and Judaism:
Year 2 & 3
The Philosophy of Religion
In this module you’ll explore significant problems in the philosophy of religion, such as the credibility of the existence of God, the relation between religion and science, the relation between religion and morality, the problem of evil, and the possibility of an after-life. There will also be discussion of significant themes such as the nature of being, of faith, of religious experience, of religious language, and of religious love. You will consider significant thinkers including Plato, Anselm, Aquinas, Hume, Kant, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Freud and Weil. You’ll have two hours of lectures each week and a seminar every other week.
Twentieth Century Theology
Examining the major theologians of the last century this module will ask – what is nature, and what is grace? Likewise, what is natural and what is supernatural? This module will explore how theologians (Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox) have articulated this division and the many profound consequences that have arisen from such attempts. One central question will be how theology speaks of a creator and of creation, what their relation is, and how we are to understand the difference between them? Should we speak of an analogy of being – analogia entis, as Balthasar does, or is such an idea idolatrous as Barth seemed to think it was, instead speaking of an analogy of faith? Is it theologically legitimate to posit a pure nature (natura pura) with its own independent telos or end to which grace is extrinsic, or is nature already imbued with a natural desire for grace? This module will trace the development of various heated debates that tackled the above questions and in so doing influenced the shape of twentieth century theology, the idea of secularism, the relation between philosophy and theology, and lastly, between theology and science. You’ll have two hours of lectures each week and a seminar every week.
Money, Sex and Power: Religion and Critical Theory
This modules explores the central questions such as ‘What is religion for?,’ ‘What interests does it serve?,’ and ‘Whether or not religion is 'true', may it be suspected of producing an illusory view of itself?’ You will be introduced to and explore three critical worldviews and their critiques of established religion: psychoanalysis (religion as wish-fulfilment); Marxian critical theory (religion as ideology); and Nietzschean scepticism (religion as will to power). You will examine the view of modern critical theories of religion that it is the drive of money, sex and power which govern the shape of life, and provide a framework for understanding all experience, including pre-eminently that of religion. You’ll have a two hour lecture each week for this module.
The Spirit of Utopia: Critical Theory, Politics and Religion
In this module you’ll trace the development of Critical Theory from its beginnings in the original Frankfurt School, through its American offspring and its German continuation (Habermas, Honneth, Sloterdijk), up to its influence on French deconstruction (Derrida). The name of the module derives from the early work of Ernst Bloch, The Spirit of Utopia, which for the first time fused Marxist and Freudian ‘theories of suspicion’ with the Messianic idiom. You will explore the way that Critical Theory, far from being ‘atheistic,’ is, in fact, deeply influenced by a certain form of religious narrative deriving mostly from the sources of Jewish Messianism. You’ll have a weekly two hour lecture for this module.
What is Darwinism? Is it metaphysics, a philosophy, or ‘merely’ science. Does it entail atheism? Could it even accommodate theism? This module will explore Darwin’s theory of evolution, outlining its historical development up to the present day and considering the various debates that shaped its formation. You’ll explore the theory’s application in terms of Social-Darwinism, Sociobiology, and Evolutionary Psychology and the consequences this might have for our own self-understanding, and for how we interpret the world. The module is taught by Conor Cunningham, whose book Darwin’s Pious Idea and BBC documentary on the topic have ignited much debate. You’ll have two hours of lectures and a one-hour seminar each week for this module.
Prophets and Prophecy in the Hebrew Bible
In this module you’ll examine the prophetic literature of the Hebrew Bible, considering the nature of prophecy in the Hebrew Bible and in the wider ancient Near Eastern context. You’ll examine biblical prophetic texts as literature such as: Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel as well as the narratives about the prophets in the Pentateuch/Torah, historical books, and Latter Prophets. For this module you’ll have a three hour lecture/seminar each week.
Sex, Violence and God: Ethics in the Hebrew Bible
This module will examine a range of ethical issues in the Hebrew Bible, considering the nature of ethical thought in ancient Israel and its relationship to surrounding ideas in the Ancient Near East, as well as the ongoing use of these texts as a moral resource right up to the present day. Topics for specific study include those such as the justification of violence and warfare, sexuality and gender issues, and ideas of social justice. The module is taught through a two-hour seminar each week.
The Life and Teaching of Jesus
This module provides a historical and theological introduction to the life and work of Jesus. It will involve a critical evaluation of the relevant sources for Jesus’ life, and discussion of the related question of faith and history - the tension between the Jesus of faith and the historical Jesus. Consequently the life of Jesus and his basic teaching will be considered with respect to the different perspectives visible in the New Testament itself. The focus will be upon on the Synoptic Gospels (Mark, Luke, Matthew), though the other sources will not be neglected. You will explore central issues such as the messianic identity and role of Jesus, his teaching and mission, and the reasons for his death. This module is taught through one two hour lecture, and one seminar per week.
The Gospel of Matthew
This module interprets key parts of Matthew’s Gospel and engages with aspects of its impact in theology and the life of the church, as well as the historicity of the narrated events. The influence and importance of the Gospel of Matthew from the second century to the twenty-first cannot be overestimated. It was used as a main source for Christian beliefs and ethics, with famous texts including the Lord's Prayer, the Sermon on the Mount, the parable of the last judgment, and the Great Commission. These texts, which in their Matthean version influenced Christianity for good or ill to a large degree, will be explored in the context of this module so that you will not only develop your understanding of this key formative text for Western civilisation, but also the skills needed to analyse it. The module is taught through a weekly two hour lecture.
Identity, Discipleship and Community in Early Christianity
In this module you will focus on five early church documents (1 Thessalonians; The Didache; Mark’s Gospel; 1 Clement; and 1 Peter) to identify the varying patterns that emerged in early churches with regard to a) their identity as followers of Jesus; b) their understanding of the nature of discipleship; and c) their understanding of themselves as a specific community within history. The module is taught through a two hour lecture and a seminar each week.
The Theology of Paul
In this module you’ll focus on the theology of Paul as found in the seven letters which are generally accepted as genuine among critical scholars. Central themes such as reconciliation, justification, grace, faith, baptism, ecclesiology and eschatology will be explored. You’ll be taught through three hours of lectures each week.
What Does God Expect? New Testament Ethics
This module will examine a range of ethical issues in the New Testament and their theological foundation. You will discuss the Jewish heritage and context of these issues as well as the idea of universal ethical standards that apply to all humanity. Topics covered in this module include: the expected behaviour in relation to the divine (e.g. worship, sacrifice, purity); personal ethics (e.g. identity, love of self, martyrdom); ethical relationships (e.g. love of family and neighbour); sexual issues, economic and social issues (e.g. caring for the poor); and political ethics (e.g. relationship to the state and pagan rulers). For this module you’ll have three hours of lectures each week.
Intermediate Hebrew or Greek
This module builds on the year 1 introductory biblical language modules (i.e. Biblical Greek or Biblical Hebrew) and aims to develop your ability to handle the biblical text in its original languages. The basis of the module is the study and translation of individual texts with analysis of vocabulary, grammar and style. By the end of the module you’ll be able to read and produce a detailed exegesis of a range of biblical texts in their original language. For this module you’ll have two 1-hour seminars per week.
Literature and Religion
In this module you’ll first be introduced to the literary genres of the Bible, primarily poetry, myth, parable and gospel narrative. In addition you’ll engage in a historical survey of the way in which a wide range of literary texts engage in religious thought and the way they ‘perform’ or ‘do’ theology. Texts include: Dante’s Commedia, Milton’s Paradise Lost, Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress and Brontë’s Jane Eyre. This module will be taught through three hours of lectures each week.
Religion and Fantasy
This module offers an investigation into the rise of the fantasy genre at the precise point at which religion in the western world was challenged by the rise of rationalism, materialism and historical criticism. You’ll analyse a range of literary fantasies and fantastic tales as apologies, theodicies or critiques that seek to address these challenges. Authors studied include George MacDonald, G. K. Chesterton, Charles Williams, J.R.R. Tolkien's and C.S. Lewis. You’ll have three hours of seminars each week for this module.
Virtue Ethics and Literature
In this module you’ll be introduced to virtue ethics as an ancient form of moral practice, which has come back into prominence in recent years. Virtue ethics emphasises the lived experience of a tradition and is therefore narrative in character, offering itself naturally to literary embodiment. You’ll study key ancient Greek texts of the virtue tradition including Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics as well as works by Theophrastus, Cicero, Aquinas and contemporary reconstruals of the virtue tradition by Alasdair MacIntyre and Stanley Hauerwas. Virtue ethics will then be analysed in literary texts, such as Homer's Iliad, the medieval poem, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Jane Austen's Mansfield Park and Graham Green's Brighton Rock. You’ll have a one-hour lecture as well as two hours of seminars every week for this module.
The Eucharist: An Historical Approach
The Eucharist has been known by many names over its history: the ‘Eucharist’, the ‘Agape’, the ‘Divine Liturgy’, the ‘Mass’, the ‘Lord’s Supper’ and ‘Holy Communion’. The variety of names suggests not only its significance for Christians but also the diverse ways in which it has been understood over the past two millennia. In this module you’ll discuss topics such as the practice and development of the Eucharist as well as central disputes and contemporary issues relating to it. For this module you’ll have a one-hour lecture and seminar each week.
Religion in Nineteenth Century Britain
In this module you’ll explore nineteenth-century religious life and thought in Britain – a period that is often regarded as the last great age of Christian faith, and when Britain was at its height as a world power. You’ll gain an informed understanding of the world from which Christianity in contemporary Britain emerged and cover topics including the concept of church reform, the dynamics of the major Christian denominations, the expansion of the Jewish community, revivalism, worship, church buildings, missions, and education. Teaching is carried out through two hours of lectures and a seminar each week.
Religion in Twentieth Century Britain
This module investigates religious life and thought in Britain over the course of the 20th Century allowing you to understand further the immediate context of religion in contemporary Britain. Topics covered include: the transition from the Victorian to the modern age; the birth of ecumenism; the impact of the two World Wars on religion; the Second Vatican Council, the secularisation debate, the growth of multiculturalism, the church-state relationship. The module addresses the changing fortunes of the established Churches, the Free Churches and Roman Catholicism, and the patterns of growth of other world religions. You’ll be taught through one 2-hour lecture and a 1-hour seminar each week.
This modules introduces Rabbinic Judaism in its formative period during Late Antiquity, and particularly its growth from the time of the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in the first century CE. You’ll study the main texts of Rabbinic Judaism, the Mishna and its Talmudic commentary, as well as Rabbinic approaches to the Bible as expressed in the Midrash. You’ll also be given an overview of the rabbis’ historical and cultural ties to earlier forms of Israelite religions, and assess their role in defining Judaism. Emphasis will be placed on the literary and legal strategies the rabbis employed to respond to the world around them, and attitudes toward Roman and Persian religions such as Christianity, Zoroastrianism, and Islam. For this module you’ll have a one-hour lecture and a two-hour seminar each week.
Jewish Theology and Philosophy: From Philo to Levinas
The module provides an overview of the most important theological and philosophical ideas, theories and arguments that Jewish thought developed from the Hellenistic period of Philo of Alexandria to the postmodern times of Emmanuel Levinas. The method of instruction will combine historical and speculative approaches, using the perspective of the 'history of ideas'. You’ll have three hours of teaching each week for this module, delivered through a combination of lectures and seminars.
This module will present modern Jewish thought from a theologico-philosophical perspective as an interesting alternative to both Christian and secular models of thinking. Modern Jewish thought emerges from 'the crisis of tradition' (Gershom Scholem) which it tries to resolve in many different ways: either intrinsic to Judaism itself (e.g. Lurianic Kabbalah) or in dialogue with Western philosophy (from Spinoza to Derrida). The module will emphasize the creative impact of Jewish thinkers on the development of modernity by showing the various ways in which these thinkers renegotiate and redefine the most crucial opposition between Athens and Jerusalem, or, in their own rendering, between Yaphet and Shem.
History of Christian-Muslim Relations
This module will examine the history of Christian-Muslim relationships from the rise of Islam to the present. After a brief overview of Christianity in the Middle East before the coming of Islam, we will focus on the Prophet Muhammad's encounters with Christians, the teaching of the Qur'an about Christianity, early Christian and Muslim writings about the other, and how Christians fared under Muslim rule. Following this, we will turn westward to study medieval European perceptions of Islam, the Crusades and early Catholic mission efforts among Muslims. The latter part of the module will discuss Muslim-Christian debates in the modern period, the spectrum of contemporary Muslim perceptions of Christianity, and recent efforts in Christian-Muslim dialogue. Case studies of Muslim-Christian relations in Africa and other regions may also be considered. You’ll have a two-hour lecture each week for this module.
Islamic Theology and Philosophy
This module examines how Muslims have addressed fundamental theological and philosophical questions relating to their faith. These questions concern the foundations of religious knowledge and authority, God's unity and attributes, God's relationship to the world, divine determinism and human freedom, prophecy, and eschatology. The module proceeds historically, beginning with early Muslim theological views and moving on to major philosophical developments in the medieval period that continue to frame much Islamic theological thinking today. You’ll have a two-hour lecture and a one-hour seminar each week for this module.
Ibn Taymiyya was one of the foremost Muslim scholars of the medieval period, and he is well known today for inspiring movements ranging from violent extremism to Salafism and reformist modernism. Ibn Taymiyya campaigned for jihad against the Mongol invaders of Syria, and he landed in jail several times for challenging the religious and political status quo. He also wrote prolifically on law, theology, philosophy, spirituality, Christianity and Shi‘ism in an attempt to reform and commend the Islamic religion. This module examines Ibn Taymiyya’s life and thought and trace his legacy to the present, and it will ask how he is best characterised: as a jihadist, a theologian, or perhaps something else. You’ll have two hours of lectures and a one-hour seminar each week for this module.
The modules we offer are inspired by the research interests of our staff and as a result may change for reasons of, for example, research developments or legislation changes. The above list is a sample of typical modules we offer, not a definitive list.