MA Religions and Theology / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Bible in Ancient Contexts and Current Debates

Course unit fact file
Unit code RELT71002
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course enables Humanities students to engage with the most controversial and influential set of ancient texts. In the home of the world-famous Rylands manuscript collection (which you get to interact with directly), a team of leading scholars will guide you to understand the biblical texts, how they relate to contexts from ancient Near East to the Roman empire, and how those relationships interact with current debates in scholarship and society. For those with prior biblical studies, the course deepens your knowledge and skills, especially in engaging as a scholar among scholars, understanding what drives their varied approaches. For those coming to biblical studies from other related disciplines, the course builds on your prior skills to bring them into engagement with study of the biblical texts and enables you to gain biblical analytical skills and knowledge to complement the critical skills that you already have. 


  • Teach postgraduate-level skills and knowledge of biblical studies, broadly conceived to include canonical and related early Jewish and Christian texts 
  • Teach using a diversity of texts, scholars and approaches, whether focused on production or reception of the texts. 
  • Provide the opportunity to engage with biblical and related texts as material objects, including those at the John Rylands Research Institute and Library 
  • Provide a course that can be successfully taken with or without knowledge of ancient languages. 
  • Enable students to gain biblical studies skills, knowledge and understanding both broadly and in an area of particular interest  
  • Enable students to build successfully on either prior biblical studies or critical study in another field of Humanities 

Teaching and learning methods

1 x 1.5-hour Teaching Seminar per week 

  • Activities of the SALC Centre for Biblical Studies throughout the year, esp. weekly Ehrhardt Research Seminar 
  •  Activities in conjunction with John Rylands Research Institute and Library and other relevant cultural institutions 
  • Guided study for assessed essay project on chosen biblical or related text 

Knowledge and understanding

  • Discuss key content and contexts of various biblical and related texts 
  • Discuss academic issues in study of those texts using a range of approaches 
  • Discuss the work and intellectual context of a diverse range of scholars engaging with the texts 
  • Discuss relationships between aspects of biblical studies and other critical disciplines in Humanities 

Intellectual skills

  • Produce an analytical study of a selected biblical or related text or topic 
  • Choose and make effective use of a range of approaches in biblical studies 
  • Analyse a range of scholars’ work, with proper consideration of each scholar’s context and approaches 

Practical skills

  • Plan and carry out independent research using a variety of sources such as books, journals, electronic databases, online collections, and archival collections. 
  • Independently synthesize and organize primary and secondary source material. 
  • Communicate findings and interpretations in oral and written formats. 
  • Constructively contribute to group discussions 

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Accomplish independent research projects. 
  • Present nuanced interpretations via advanced written and oral communication.  
  • Display critical thinking and analysis. 
  • Show understanding and critical appreciation of your own stances and views 
  • Show understanding and critical appreciation of stances and views of others 

Employability skills

Analytical skills
Locate, organise and interpret complex and contested evidence.
Group/team working
Collaborate in team-work settings.
Act autonomously and take leadership
Communicate complex ideas using written and verbal skills.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written assignment (inc essay) 100%
  • Formative: Seminar presentation on topic of assessed essay 
  • Formative: Outline and bibliography for assessed essay 
  • Summative: Essay on topic agreed between student and Course Unit Director 

Feedback methods

  • Formative: Oral feedback on presentation 
  • Formative: Written feedback on outline and bibliography  
  • Summative: Written feedback on assessed essay 

Recommended reading

                Volumen 1; Volumen 2; Volume 3; Volume 4

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Seminars 24
Independent study hours
Independent study 132

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Peter Oakes Unit coordinator

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