Master of Theology in Oriental Orthodox Studies

Agora University is offering a Master of Theology (M.Th.) in Orthodox Theology. Candidates for the M.Th. must successfully complete the first three terms of Graduate courses in Orthodox Theology. The candidate will then start research under the guidance of an advisor. The candidate will be expected to submit a research thesis of about 10,000 words in one term. The M.Th. program is 36 credit hours (27 Courses + 9 Thesis) completed over 2 years. The program tailored to young professionals who have busy schedules yet are able to dedicate 10 to 15 hours of reading and writing per week. The program is designed to engage with roots of Eastern Christianity and make them relevant to our contemporary challenges. The program of study is 3 courses per term for 3 terms. Each course is 15 weeks and requires a total of 2 research papers. Students who maintain a grade of B in all courses are given the opportunity to advance to the MTh thesis.

Program Objectives

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

Program Outcomes

The MTh program outcomes are intended to prepare students to:

  • Demonstrate a broad familiarity with Orthodox theology and history as expressed in the various fields of Scripture, church history, dogmatics, patristics, spirituality and liturgy.
  • 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

Introduction to Theology, Philosophy and Epistemology (3 credits)

Description: 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.

Church History I: The Early Church (3 credits)

Description: 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.

Liturgical Theology: Sanctification of Life (3 credits)

Description: 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.

Holy Scripture I: Old Testament (3 credits)

Description: The purpose of this unit’s reading is to develop a working knowledge of the Old Testament and the relationship between its three parts: The Law, the Prophets, and the Writings.

Church History II: The Oriental Church (3 credits)

Description: 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 analyse historical themes in order to strengthen their knowledge of and develop an appreciation for this tradition.

Holy Scripture II: New Testament (3 credits)

Description: 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.

Pastoral Theology and Spirituality (3 credits)

Description:  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.

Patristics (3 credits)

Description:  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.

Doctrine: The Holy Trinity, Christology and Ecclesiology (3 credits)

Description: We study the development of the Christian doctrine of God including Trinitarian Theology and Christology and related themes in Ecclesiology from Scripture to the 20th century. We pay close attention to significant texts in the Christian tradition (including creedal statements, and the writings of Origen, St. Athanasius, St. Gregory the Theologian, John of Damascus, Moltmann, Danielou, Zizioulas, and others). The course requires careful reading of key primary texts and secondary sources.

Master Thesis (9 credits)

Students will research, write and submit their 10,000-word Master thesis under the supervision of a supervisor. The University will assign a second reader. Please refer to the Master Thesis Guide for details.