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Master of Arts - Religion


The M.A. in Religion is a thirty-six semester-hour program. It includes eighteen hours taken from a common core offered by the Department of Religion Studies and Philosophy. Students select an additional twelve hours in the department in a biblical Studies/Languages concentration, or they select a concentration outside the department in the School of Psychology and Counseling, Department of English Language and Literature, School of Divinity, or School of Education. The Department of Religious Studies and Philosophy must approve these concentrations. Students must also meet all requirements established by the departments/schools involved for taking courses outside of the Department of Religious Studies. Students also select six hours from one of two tracks: the research track (thesis research and writing) or the teaching track (a pedagogy course and an internship in university teaching).



In addition to the basic requirements for admission to the University’s Graduate School (a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution of higher learning, transcripts, satisfactory scores on either the Graduate Record examination or the Miller Analogies Test, and three positive letters of recommendation), full admission is granted to students who have met the following requirements:


  1. Demonstrated proficiency in the biblical languages (normally this proficiency will be achieved through three undergraduate semesters of Greek and three undergraduate semesters of Hebrew with a “C” or better in all language courses);
  2. A major in religious studies or the equivalent with a GPA of 2.75 or greater;
  3. Submit a 15-20 page research paper with documented research on a topic in the field of Religious Studies. This essay can be something the applicant has written previously for an academic assignment. The essay must be submitted electronically in Rich Text Format by email to the Graduate School.
  4. A successful departmental interview to determine academic preparation and vocational appropriateness of the degree for the prospective student (students desiring to work in pastoral ministry are directed to a Master of Divinity program rather than the M.A. in Religion).


Students lacking the appropriate undergraduate background or language proficiency may be admitted provisionally until prerequisites are met through the completion of a prescribed program.


The Department of Religious Studies and Philosophy admits students into the Masters of Arts program for the fall semester.  Prospective students are encouraged to submit all admission materials by March 15 for priority consideration.  The deadline for completing the application process is May 1.



The purpose of the program is the academic (rather than parish ministry) study of religion in order to prepare students for one or more of the following possibilities:


  1. Meeting Ph.D. entrance requirements
  2. College teaching on the freshman and sophomore levels
  3. Teaching in private schools



The Master of Arts in Religion program is designed to meet the following goals:


  1. Graduate students will develop the research and writing skills essential for scholars in the field of religious studies.
  2. Graduate students will become conversant on the philosophical assumptions, classical and modern theories, and current research in the field or religious studies.
  3. Graduate students will demonstrate proficiency in expressing scholarly ideas through either a written thesis or a supervised teaching experience.



A. Common Core (18 semester hours)
           RELI 600 Research Seminar 3 hrs.
           RELI 605 Biblical Studies Seminar 3 hrs.
           RELI 640 Theological Studies Seminar 3 hrs.
           RELI 660World Religions Seminar 3 hrs.
           RELI 680 Literature and Religion Seminar 3 hrs.
One of the following three courses:
           RELI 650 Philosophy of Religion Seminar 3 hrs.
           RELI 630 Historical Studies Seminar 3 hrs.
           RELI 670 Psychology of Religion Seminar 3 hrs.


B. Research or Teaching Track (6 hours)

   Advances Research Track:      OR      Teaching Track:
   RELI 695           Thesis 6 hrs.        RELI 685 Religious Instruction Seminar 3 hrs.
                                                     RELI 690 Graduate Internship 3 hrs.

C. Concentrations (12 hours)*
   (1) Biblical Studies/Languages within the Department
              RELI 610 Advanced Hebrew Exegesis Seminar 3 hrs.
              RELI 620 Advanced Greek Exegesis Seminar 3 hrs.
              RELI 615 Old Testament Seminar 3 hrs.
              RELI 625 New Testament Seminar 3 hrs.


    (2) Out of Department


With approval from the Department of Religious Studies and Philosophy and permission of the appropriate department/school, twelve graduate hours may be taken from the Department of English Language and Literature, School of Divinity, School of Education, or School of Psychology and Counseling. These hours may be taken from one department/school or from a combination, based upon the student’s vocational interests.


*Students may choose a combination of courses from the Biblical Studies/Languages concentration along with out-of-department electives. However, students desiring to meet Ph.D. entrance requirements in the area of biblical studies/languages are strongly encouraged to follow the Biblical Studies/Languages concentration and to examine the requirements of the specific Ph.D. program to which they wish to apply.



In order to graduate, all students in the program must pass comprehensive written examinations on their course work. These students in the thesis track must pass a successful oral defense of their thesis. Those students in the teaching track must pass a successful written or oral defense of their internship.



Gardner-Webb offers a combined M.DIV./M.A. in Religion degree. For details about this degree and for the policy on dual degree programs, see the Master of Divinity section of the catalog (pp. 145-150).


Dual degree students must apply to the Graduate School as well as to the School of Divinity, following the admission requirements of the respective programs, and be accepted to each in order to pursue both degrees. Also, when academic policies and standards differ between the two schools (e.g., grades required for maintaining good academic standing and for graduation), the policies and standards of the appropriate school apply to the respective portion of the dual degree.


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