The Master of Arts (Biblical and Theological Studies) Degree Program


Program Overview

The purpose of the Master of Arts (Biblical and Theological Studies) degree is to provide a graduate level understanding of biblical and theological disciplines for students seeking specialized education. It is ideal for students with various academic goals who realize the need for graduate study in theological and biblical disciplines; persons seeking a solid theological education to enhance their chosen professions and prepare them to fill a vital ministry role; students building a substantial academic foundation for doctoral studies; and for those serving with parachurch organizations or other specialized ministries who desire advanced biblical/theological competency. The MDiv is recommended for those seeking ordination (chaplaincy), or for those who anticipate subsequent doctor of ministry studies.

Program Goals and Student Learning outcomes

The MA (Biblical and Theological Studies) program goals include:

  • Cultivate skills in the efficient study and interpretation of Scripture.
  • Provide theoretical and practical skills in one area of focused specialization; and
  • Promote growth in Christian maturity demonstrated through effective interpersonal relationships.

Program learning outcomes:

  • Students understand and integrate Scripture in decision making and problem solving.
  • Students effectively judge between competing ideas and apply theological truth.
  • Students exhibit a Christ-like integrity that encompasses their personal and public life.
  • Students are committed to an ongoing process of spiritual formation that is clearly grounded in the Gospel.

Admission Requirements

In addition to the general requirements for admission to the Seminary, applicants for the MA (Biblical and Theological Studies) program must possess a four-year baccalaureate degree or its educational equivalent from a college or university accredited by a United States association holding membership in one of the seven regional accrediting associations, membership in the Association of Universities and Colleges in Canada, membership in the Association for Biblical Higher Education, or from an institution which maintains similar academic requirements and standards. Additionally, M. A. applicants must present a GPA of 3.0 or higher, including a breadth of liberal arts. Applicants who do not meet these general academic requirements may petition the Admissions Committee for consideration. A recommendation from the applicant’s pastor and three personal recommendations regarding the applicant’s Christian character and leadership also are required.

Transfer Credit, Advanced Standing, and Residence Requirements

Upon approval by the registrar’s office, transfer of up to 28 hours credit is allowed toward the MA program from graduate institutions accredited by the Association of Theological Schools. Students must have earned a grade of B or higher for a course to be considered for transfer and coursework should normally have been completed no more than five years prior to matriculation to Western Seminary. Students may request to be assessed by exam for currency on courses to be transferred that are more than five years old. Transferability of credits earned at Western and transferred to another institution is at the discretion of the receiving institution.

Alternatively, students may receive advanced standing of up to 14 credit hours of the 28 credit hours of transfer credit allowed toward their program if they are able to demonstrate current competency in required coursework based on prior study (based on parallel undergraduate work or transfer credit that is ineligible for consideration based on age). Advanced standing is allowed for up to eight credits of the required BL courses (501, 502, 503) and eight credits of the required TH courses (501, 502, 503). They may qualify for four additional credits of advanced electives for the remaining credits in each of these required courses. Students can receive a maximum of six credits of advanced standing in NT and OT required courses. Consult the registrar’s office for information on eligibility of transfer credit and advanced standing.

Residence requirements for Portland, San Jose and Sacramento Campuses: Of the 56 credit hours required for the Master of Arts (Biblical and Theological Studies), a minimum of 28 credit hours must be completed through coursework completed at Western Seminary, with a minimum of 18 credit hours taken in resident study at one of Western Seminary’s physical campus locations.

Residence requirements for Online Campus only: Of the 56 credit hours required for the MA (Biblical and Theological Studies) program, a minimum of 28 credit hours must be completed through coursework at Western Seminary, with a minimum of 10 credit hours taken in the Online LIVE (synchronous web conferencing) format or 6 credit hours taken in resident study through the following specific courses and program orientation (Approved exception to ATS Standards A.3.1.3 and B.3.1.3):

Online LIVE Study Format

  • Students will take 10 Online LIVE credits of their choosing throughout the course of their degree.
  • International students taking 10 Online LIVE credits will not require a visa as they are not required to make a trip to campus.
  • Resident Study Format

    • During October, February, or June of a student's first academic year, the student must travel to Portland for one week to attend program orientation and two threshold courses, CS501 Learning to Love God and Others (2 credit hours) and MF501 Introduction to Theological Study and Ministry Formation. (2 credit hours).
    • During the student's final academic year, the student must return to Portland to attend the capstone course, TH504 Integrating Ministry and Theology (2 credit hours).
    • International students coming to the US on an F1 visa are required, because of US government regulation implications, to come for only one trip to the Portland Campus. This will generally be done in the June threshold week and will consist of the two threshold courses mentioned above as well as an additional two credit intensive class thus still equaling the 6 required residential courses.

Degree Requirements

Students may complete their studies in as few as four semesters with a minimum of 56 credit hours required for graduation. The program is designed around a common core of 36 credits and a combination of electives for an additional 20 credits.

The Master of Arts (Biblical and Theological Studies) degree is conferred upon the attainment of certain personal and academic requirements. In addition to the general seminary requirements, degree candidates must (1) give evidence of a genuine Christian character, orthodox belief, and conduct consistent with a God-given call to a position of leadership; (2) complete all courses in the prescribed MA curriculum with a minimum grade point average of 3.0.

All work leading to the Master of Arts (Biblical and Theological Studies) must be completed within five years from the time of matriculation. Permission to extend the five-year statute of limitation must be granted through submission of an academic petition. Reinstatement to the program after withdrawal requires Admissions Committee action and may subject the student to additional requirements for the degree. All credits applied toward the degree requirements earned within ten years of the awarding of the degree. Alternatively, new or re-entering students whose prior coursework exceeds the ten-year limit may request to demonstrate current competency by examination up to the advanced standing credit limitations for each degree program as specified elsewhere in this catalog.

Master of Arts (Biblical and Theological Studies) Curriculum Plan

Foundational Studies: 12 credits
BT501 Hermeneutics 2
BT502 Understanding Biblical Theology 2
CS501 Learning to Love God and Others 2
CS502 Growing in Prayer and Other Key Spiritual Disciplines 2
MF501 Introduction to Theological Study and Ministry Formation 2
ML506 Ministerial Ethics 2
Biblical Studies: 12 credits
BL501 Interpreting Genesis to Song of Solomon 4
BL502 Interpreting the Prophets and Gospel 4
BL503 Interpreting Acts to Revelation 4
Theological Studies: 12 credits
Knowing the Living God: Theology I 4
TH502 Glorifying the Word of Life: Theology II 4
TH503 Living as the Community of the Spirit: Theology III 4
Church History: 2 credits
CH502 Learning from Church History 2
Program Electives: 12 credits

With advisor's consent, select courses from BL, BT, CH, NT, OT or TH prefixes. Students are encouraged to consider using part of these electives for study in the biblical languages. Students may request permission from the program director to write a thesis as part of their electives.

Open Electives: 6 credits