Graduate Studies / Degree Programs / M.A. in Theology

Master of Arts in Theology (M.A.)

Program Objectives

The program of studies for the Master of Arts Degree in Theology seeks to meet the needs of ministerial students, active ministers and laypersons interested in reflective biblical, theological and ministerial studies. A candidate's studies can be directed in accordance with personal goals and needs. For anyone who is interested in more advanced scholarship in the academic disciplines, the degree may focus on studies in Bible and theology. For someone who wishes to cultivate skills for ministry, the degree may focus on studies in practical theology and Christian education. This flexibility makes the program attractive to practicing ministers as well as first-time graduate students holding recently conferred baccalaureate degrees.

The courses for the M.A. in Theology are offered in three different formats. There are several week-long modules offered each year, typical of adult studies programs. Students are expected to do preliminary reading and study before the week of classroom instruction for a module. That week begins on Monday afternoon, includes all day on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and concludes by noon on Friday. Follow-up written assignments for research and reflection are then due a month after the week of classes.

There are also more traditional instructional formats, fitting within the usual semester. These include seminars, which meet one afternoon or evening each week for the entire semester, and typical lecture courses which meet two or three times each week throughout the semester.

This variety in instructional delivery also makes the M.A. in Theology program attractive and feasible for full-time ministers living at a distance as well as for typical, traditional graduate students living near the campus. The interchange between students from a wide range of perspectives and experience in a given module or course adds a positive dimension to the learning experiences envisioned for the classes.

The School of Theology and Ministry gives full support to Nazarene Theological Seminary and encourages its graduates to take advantage of the broad, three-year professional program of Nazarene Theological Seminary. The seminary will normally transfer credit from the SNU M.A. in Theology program and will grant advanced standing as allowed by the guidelines of the Association of Theological Schools.

Through the Master of Arts in Theology degree program, the school aims to:

  1. Increase the students' understanding and appreciation of the Bible as both the word of God and the work of inspired writers.

  2. Acquaint the student with the historical, exegetical, theological and devotional literature of the Christian religion.

  3. Encourage proficiency in the biblical languages as an aid to research and exposition of the Bible.

  4. Inspire deep commitment to the worldwide mission of the church.

  5. Improve effectiveness in Christ’s kingdom through increased professional competence.

  6. Enlarge the intellectual and spiritual perspectives of its candidates.

  7. Develop professional competence in the techniques of scholarly research and communication.

  8. Identify and promote the student's mastery of the foundations for ministry – biblical, theological, historical and social.

  9. Cultivate the student's skills for ministry – communicative, hermeneutical, leadership, administrative, organizational and pastoral.

Admission Requirements

  1. Have previously earned a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution. The degree does not have to be in religion/theology, although an undergraduate major or minor in religion / theology is the most beneficial as a basis for graduate work in theology.

  2. Have completed a minimum of six credits in systematic theology. Students deficient in this area may still be admitted, but must take the course Theological Method (THEO 5303) as part of the M.A. CORE.

  3. Have undergraduate preparation in a foreign language of at least nine credits. Students deficient in this area have two further options: a) take three credits of biblical Hebrew as an elective or cognate course, or b) take an additional Bible course as an elective.

  4. Have completed at least 15 credits of religion at the undergraduate level, including three credits in Old Testament and three credits in New Testament. Students deficient in this area will take the course Biblical Interpretation (B LT 5203) as part of the M.A. CORE.

  5. The Miller Analogies Test is required of students whose undergraduate GPA is under 3.00 (test date may not be more than five years prior to application date). It may be taken at any university testing center. The SNU Testing Center gives the test by appointment only.

  6. See the introduction section of this catalog for other admission requirements.

  7. Applicants who may be deficient in one or more admission requirements may be admitted to conditional standing.

  8. Candidacy: completion of or concurrent enrollment in at least 12 credits.


The M.A. in Theology is a 36-credit program. It is built around a 12-credit CORE in biblical literature and theology, augmented by 24 credits of a concentration in Bible, theology or practical theology (or any combination of these). It can be used as a terminal degree, a preseminary program, or a basis for other graduate study.

Courses carrying graduate credit are arranged on three levels designated by the first digit in the course number. Courses numbered 6000-6999 are designed for graduate students only. Courses numbered 5000-5999 are graduate level courses that are also open to select undergraduate seniors.

Courses numbered *4000-*4999 are advanced, upper division undergraduate courses which are also open to graduate students. These courses have additional requirements when taken for graduate credit. Normally, 3000-level courses are not accepted in the M.A. degree program.

The 12 credits of required CORE courses must be taken from 5000- and 6000-level courses. To become eligible for the M.A. in Theology, the candidate must complete an approved program of 36 credits of graduate work. The M.A. in Theology program offers both a thesis and a nonthesis option.

NOTE: A minimum of 18 credits must be in courses in which only graduate students may enroll (typically 6000-level courses).

Course Requirements

Courses Credits
Core Courses
THEO 5303* Theological Method 3
B LT 5233** Biblical Introduction 3
B LT 5203 Biblical Interpretation 3
THEO 6103 Theology of Church and Ministry 3
Total Core Course Credits 12
Total Program Course Credits 36

*Students entering the program with six credits of systematic theology have the option of substituting another theology course.

**Students entering the program with at least 15 credits of religion, including three credits of Old Testament and three credits of New Testament, have the option of substituting another Bible course.

Students may still take a thesis option for up to six credits.

General Information

Graduate level courses in biblical literature (B LT) may not be taken until Biblical Introduction (B LT 5233) is completed; graduate level courses in theology may not be taken until the student has met the prerequisites for systematic theology or has completed Theological Method (THEO 5303).

Biblical Introduction (B LT 5233) is foundational for the M.A. program and should be taken as soon in the student's program as possible. It is usually offered in modular format every 12 to 16 months.

A background in biblical languages is beneficial in all biblical literature courses. The Greek Testament will be a major source for New Testament courses and the Hebrew Bible will be used in Old Testament courses. Therefore, a biblical language is strongly recommended as the language admission requirement.

A graduate committee will be appointed for students choosing a thesis option. The student will work closely with this committee in preparing the thesis.

A distinction is made between directed readings and a directed study course. In a directed study course the student must meet with the guiding professor at least five hours during the semester, preferably once every three to four weeks. In a directed readings course the student is expected to work more independently and must meet with the guiding professor at least twice during the semester, including a final session at the end of the semester. A directed readings course may be taken only on a pass/fail basis. A pass represents the equivalent of "B" or better work. A student is permitted to take no more than four credits of the 36-credit program by directed study and/or directed readings. Approval by the M.A. coordinator and the professor of the area in which the work is being done is required, and depends on the interest and capability of the student to do work in the proposed area, as well as the availability of a professor to supervise the work. A syllabus of required work must be filed with the M.A. coordinator.

Cognate Studies

Cognate courses may be selected from any field in which graduate courses are offered at SNU. If special permission is given by the dean and the M.A. coordinator, cognate courses may be taken in other fields by consignment or transfer. Grades of "B" or better must be earned in all transfer or consignment work.

Exit Evaluation

Each candidate for graduation must successfully complete an exit evaluation. For the thesis candidate, the thesis will be the basis for the evaluation, to be conducted by the candidate's thesis committee. For the nonthesis candidate, the evaluation will be conducted by three members of the School of Theology and Ministry appointed by the M.A. Coordinator.