skip to content

The information here is for the current academic year. The papers on offer can vary from year to year.

Part IIA (second year)

Paper B1a - Intermediate Hebrew

Paper Coordinator: Dr Nathan MacDonald

Assessment method: Examination

This paper is taken in the year after offering Elementary Hebrew (A1a), normally in Part IIA. But a student who took Elementary Hebrew in Part IIA would be able to offer B1a in Part IIB. The study of the texts from Deuteronomy, Judges, and Jonah is designed (apart from their intrinsic interest) to lead students on to a fuller appreciation of the syntax of prose texts (including the significance of word order and the less common uses of the tenses of the verb). Throughout the course lectures and private study are expected to be supplemented by fortnightly supervision work on translation from English into Hebrew, which will be tested in the examination. The lectures will focus mainly on linguistic aspects of the texts, but their theological and literary aspects will explored in two or three essays which students will write in the course of the year.


Paper B1b - Intermediate New Testament Greek

Paper Coordinator: Dr Simon Gathercole

Assessment method: Examination

The overall objective will be to introduce students to the language, syntax, exegesis and theology of Mark and Galatians on the basis of the Greek text. Students will acquire not only a more advanced knowledge of New Testament Greek and the basic skills of exegesis, but will also relate these to the identification and interpretation of key historical and theological issues in a gospel and an epistle.


Paper B1c - Intermediate Sanskrit

Paper Coordinator: Dr Vincenzo Vergiani

Assessment method: Examination

This paper will contain passages for translation, textual, exegetical and theological comment from such portions of text as the Faculty Board will from time to time prescribe.


Paper B1d - Intermediate Qur'anic Arabic

Paper Coordinator: Dr Timothy Winter

This paper will contain passages for pointing, for translation, and for linguistic and exegetical comment from portions of the Qur'an, Qur'anic commentaries and other Islamic literature which the Faculty Board shall from time to time prescribe. The paper will also contain a passage for translation from English into Arabic.

Assessment method: Examination


Paper B2 - Israel in Exile: Literature, History and Theology

Paper Coordinator: Dr Katharine Dell

Assessment method: Examination

The exilic age has long been regarded in scholarship as a watershed for the faith of Israel, with important theological understandings formulated in this period. It is also a crucial time in the history of Israel and a time of the collection and writing of formative documents. This course seeks to give a thorough understanding of the literature, history and theology of the period leading up to the Exile, of the Exile itself and of the repercussions that followed it. It involves study of texts from different genres of Old Testament material, including some detailed textual work. It also involves engagement with scholarly methods of analysing literary texts, of evaluating historical claims with the assistance of archaeological finds and ancient Near Eastern parallels and of seeking an overall sense of the theological developments of the period.


Paper B3 - The Shaping of Jewish Identity (332 BCE – 70 CE)

Paper Coordinator: Dr James Aitken.

Assessment method: Examination

The paper will examine how Jewish ideas and literature developed in the context of the political and social changes of the period, extending the history of Israel from the end of the narrative of the Hebrew Bible, as well as informing on the Jewish context in which the New testament arose. It was a time when the authoritative books of the bible were read and reinterpreted by individuals such as the scribe Ben Sira and the community attested in the Dead Sea Scrolls. New literature arose such as the Jewish novella, as seen in the tale of seduction and decapitation in the Book of Judith. And the historian Josephus wrote in Greek fashion of the life of Herod, leaving a memorial of him that is far from flattering. Against the background of the political upheavals under Alexander the Great and his successors, followed by Jewish independence under the Hasmoneans, and finally intervention under the Herodians and Romans, we see developments in Jewish practices such as the synagogue, prayer life, the role of the temple (and competing temples), reading of the scriptures, and treatment and beliefs over the dead. How Jews shaped their identity in a turbulent period of history is viewed in a multi-faceted way through literature, historical writings, theology, archaeology, and manuscripts.

The course will also introduce the historical and artistic significance of such evidence as Jewish manuscripts and coins through practical seminars in the University Library and Fitzwilliam Museum. The Board may from time to time prescribe particular texts for study.


Paper B4 - The letters of Paul

Paper Coordinator: Dr Jonathan Linebaugh

Assessment method: Examination

This course will consider the theological thought and practice of the apostle Paul, the finest mind among the early followers of Jesus. Paul's theological emphases have always been prominent in the Christian tradition. Aspects of his teaching provoked controversy in the early centuries - and still do today. Paul's own letters as well as letters traditionally considered to be 'Pauline' will be studied, including Ephesians, and the Pastorals. Special attention will be given to I Corinthians, the set text for this paper.


Paper B5 - The Johannine Tradition

Paper Coordinator: Professor George Van Kooten

Assessment method: Examination

The paper will involve detailed investigation of main themes and issues involved in the study of the Gospel and Epistles of John. The main topics that will be dealt with will include: The distinctive character of the Johannine literature; the narrative shape of the Fourth Gospel; the person of Jesus; the death of Jesus; the Johannine view of past and present; Johannine dualism and eschatology; implied ecclesial structures; the Jews and other opponents in the Fourth Gospel; ideological and narrative readings; the argument of the Epistles; sin and ethics in 1 John; Christology in 1 and 2 John; the interpretation of 3 John; Johannine traditions outside the New Testament. Although students will be expected to be familiar with the Gospel and Epistles of John, specific chapters will be set for more detailed analysis.


Paper B6 - Christianity in Late Antiquity (to circa 600)

Paper Coordinator: Dr Thomas Graumann

Assessment method: Examination

Many important features of Christianity emerged and developed in the antique period. The paper examines the development of Christian churches and groups, their organisation, institutions, identities and ways of life in the context of the political, social and cultural life of the Roman Empire. It studies main strands of Christian theological reflection and discussion the period, and introduces exemplary texts from what is often called the “Golden Age” of patristic literature.


Paper B7 - Themes in World Christianities: Context, Theology and Power

Paper Coordinator: Dr James Gardom.

Assessment method: Two essays of 5,000 words each

This paper will be concerned with both the common themes and the diversity of contemporary Christianity in its global setting. Particular emphasis will be given to the contextual character of Christian theological reflection outside Europe and the USA since 1914 in relation both to indigenous cultures and to structures of global political and economic power.


Paper B8 - Great Christian Theologians

Paper Coordinator: Professor Simeon Zahl

Assessment method: Examination

This paper contains questions on the Christian doctrines of God and humanity as illustrated by the writing of selected Christian theologians from the patristic period to the present day. Texts are prescribed. It also contains questions on theological method, and on the sources and norms of theology. The set texts are from Augustine, Gregory of Nazianzus, Julian of Norwich, Martin Luther, Karl Barth, and Catherine Keller. The examination questions will be on these set texts. This paper is designed to be a good introduction to key issues in Christian doctrine, by way of engagement with key thinkers throughout the history of the Christian tradition.


Paper B10 - Philosophy of religion: God, freedom and the soul

Paper Coordinator: Professor Douglas Hedley.

Assessment method: Examination

This paper is conceived as an introduction to Philosophical Theology in the narrow sense, i.e. theories about the nature of God, the cosmos and the soul. Is God one or many, personal and impersonal, transcendent or immanent, timeless or everlasting? How is creation of the cosmos to be thought of? Is the Soul the form of the body or a separate entity? Is God best perceived in nature or in the soul? Is freedom a coherent notion? Can we know God? How does God act? These very general and abstract questions have puzzled philosophers and theologians since Plato. The approaches to these topics tend to be either historical or very abstract. The idea of this paper is to combine the concern with the topics as real issues of contemporary interest with an awareness of how for example Plotinus or Spinoza, Kant or Hegel thought about these problems. The second section will enable candidates to answer at least one question of a more abstract nature. It is felt that candidates for this paper will have acquired a greater degree of philosophical confidence and a broader acquaintance with the philosophical canon to enable them to attempt essays of a more general or abstract philosophical nature.


Paper B11 - Ethics and faith

Paper Coordinator: Dr James Orr

Assessment method: Examination

The aim of this course is to introduce students to the main lines of the tradition of moral philosophy, through study of primary texts, including works by Plato, Aristotle, St Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Montaigne, Hume, Kant, Lord Shaftesbury and Iris Murdoch. The central concern of the course will be to raise questions about the nature, form and justification of morality. What does morality require of us, and why? And what difference, if any, does religious belief make to the answers to be given to these questions?


Paper B13 - Theology and Literature

Paper Coordinator: Dr Giles Waller & Dr Tali Artman Partok

Assessment method: Two essays of 5,000 words each

This paper seeks to examine key theological and ethical issues in novels from the literary traditions of Europe and America shaped by Judaism and Christianity.  A variety of theological and ethical topics will be explored, including suffering, agency and responsibility, the place of the human animal in its natural and political environments, providence, Christology, messianism, hope and despair.  The paper will examine the ways in which the two religious traditions not only relate to these topics through their own prisms, but also the ways in which each tradition relates to the other, and will problematise the ‘Judeo-Christian paradigm’ prevailing in the second half of the 20th century.  The paper will also provide a basic introduction to literary theory and to the practical criticism of literary texts.   


Paper B14 - Modern Judaism: Thought, Culture, and History

Paper Coordinator: Dr Daniel Weiss.

Assessment method: Examination

This paper introduces students to Jewish culture and thought, approaching contemporary issues along with the historical developments that shaped them. Topics will include central Jewish ideas such as Messianism and Zionism, the distinct and variegated character of the Jewish communities in Britain, the State of Israel and abroad, as well as aspects of religious observance such as Shabbat and Prayer. It explores how Judaism relates to surrounding cultures and especially how it has responded to the challenges of modernity, and it approaches Judaism in the methodological context of the study of ‘religion’ and ‘culture’ by inviting students to consider whether the term 'religion' makes sense at all when applied to Judaism. By the study of primary texts, it aims to acquaint students with the self-understandings of Judaism at critical periods of its development. Although history will be provided to give the necessary background, the focus throughout will be on contemporary communities.


Paper B15 - Introduction to Islam

Paper Coordinator: Dr Timothy Winter

Assessment method: Examination

This paper will cover the origins, development and contemporary situation of the theology, law and mysticism of Islam. It will deal with literary-critical and interpretative problems relating to the founding documents of the religion, and with contemporary methodologies in philosophy of religion, gender studies, and comparative jurisprudence as applied to Islam. References to Christianity may be included.


Paper B16 - Life and thought of religious Hinduism and of Buddhism

Paper Coordinator: Dr Ankur Barua

Assessment method: Examination

The principal aim of the study of these Indian traditions is to form a sensitive understanding, in terms of context and historical perspective, of their main beliefs and practices. The approach is thematic and phenomenological, though when occasion demands, anthropological, sociological and political comments will also be made. It is not only important to show what Hinduism and Buddhism mean in the lives of their adherents, but also that as religious traditions they cannot be understood in a vacuum.


Paper B17 - Philosophy: Meaning

The course is taught within the Faculty of Philosophy.

 Assessment method: Examination