MA Biblical Studies FAQ

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Why consider studying for the MA in Biblical Studies?

This program is designed primarily as a terminal degree for students who are seeking an in-depth knowledge of Scripture and theology as an important part of their on-going training for leadership within the church. It serves ordained and lay leaders in local congregations, parachurch organizations or missionary agencies, as well as those who have been called to various marketplace vocations.

What are the chief goals of the program?

There are four major learning objectives for students in the program: 1) to develop the tools needed for lifelong biblical and theological study; 2) to gain biblical and theological foundations by gaining a deeper knowledge of Scripture, the Christian intellectual heritage, and ethics; 3) to broaden awareness of issues in biblical and theological interpretation; 4) to enhance the integration of biblical and theological studies into everyday life, career, ministry and interests.

What is the academic vision of the program?

The mission of the Department of Biblical & Theological Studies is to help cultivate Christians who are biblically rooted and theologically formed.  Accordingly, the MA in Biblical Studies degree brings together in-depth study of Old and New Testaments, study of Christian doctrine and the church’s theological traditions, and Christian ethics. We see biblical and theological learning as deeply connected: we aim to read Scripture theologically (to rightly discern its message) and to theologize biblically (since the Bible is the basis and standard for theology).

What is the content of the curriculum?

The degree requires comprehensive courses on the Old Testament (BITH 537, BITH 538) and New Testament (BITH 544, BITH 545) that study the Scriptures with attention to contextual and background studies, issues in biblical criticism and major theological themes. The program also requires an advanced book study in each testament (BITH 536, BITH 546). Additional core courses aim to develop competency in biblical interpretation (BITH 566), to enable an astute theological reading of Scripture (BITH 565), to understand and appreciate the diversity of ecclesial traditions (BITH 569), to develop a biblical-theological account of Christian ethics and contemporary moral challenges (BITH 673), and to engage the biblical interpretation and theological reflection as practiced throughout global Christianity (BITH 625).  There is also a ministry integration course designed to connect biblical learning with the practice of ministry and mission. The program concludes with a comprehensive exam.

What is the theological orientation of the program?

Wheaton College stands in the evangelical Protestant tradition. Consistent with the College’s distinctive mission, all our academic programs are concerned to shape students as “whole and effective Christians” who will “help build the church and improve society worldwide.” Wheaton provides an academically rigorous context for critical and constructive thinking in the disciplines of biblical studies, theology, and Christian ministry. We assume that personal growth and spiritual formation is consistent with academic excellence and scholarly engagement.

What is the educational philosophy behind this program?

The program operates with the assumption that students are adult learners who are self-motivated and responsible for their learning. Classroom learning is participatory. It also assumes that by taking one course at a time, and working through a deliberate sequence of carefully connected courses in a set curriculum, there is a real educational advantage when compared with a more random assortment of courses accumulated over time but without a built-in progression.

How many credit hours are required?

The program requires completion of 42 credit hours.

How long does it take to complete?

It is designed to be completed in three years, part-time.

Where does the teaching take place?

On the campus of Wheaton College in Wheaton, IL.

What is the delivery system for the program?

The MA in Biblical Studies degree is offered in a cohort model where students stay together as a group throughout three years of study, taking weekly evening classes one night per week, and two one-week intensive courses each year. This scheduling allows you to plan your time, knowing that all the courses for the degree will be offered when you can take them.

How does a cohort program work?

The idea of a “cohort” is that a group of individuals from diverse life locations come together and stay together as a closed community for the entire three years—they start and finish the program together. We believe that there are many advantages of such an approach. Participation in a sustained group conversation centered on course content provides a rich learning environment. At the same time, staying together as a group provides community—together students will share a journey of learning and spiritual growth. People in these groups often form deep bonds of friendship and shared ministry.

What does the academic workload look like?

The workload expectations for this program are consistent with our other graduate programs in Biblical & Theological Studies. There are weekly reading assignments, papers to write, and exams to take. Most papers are short, or involve putting together several short assignments into a longer paper. In a typical 4-credit hour class, a student should plan on spending 10-12 hours per week doing class assignments.

How do intensive courses work?

The program features two one-week courses each year. These courses require advance reading in preparation for the classroom sessions, and require writing assignments that are typically due 3-4 weeks after the course ends. 

How can busy people manage to study in this program?

This program was designed with the busy individual in mind—those with work, family and church commitments. We believe that there are excellent advantages, both academically and practically, in taking one course at a time. Most students in similar such programs develop a weekly plan for using their evenings and weekends strategically. At the time of application, students are encouraged to create a practical and personal plan for balancing their current responsibilities (family, church, job, etc.) alongside their anticipated studies; in other words, prospective students would do well to consider carefully the time commitment involved. If you know in advance that normally you would need to miss more than three class periods in any given semester, then we would discourage you from enrolling in this program.

What happens if a student cannot complete a course due to personal or family emergency?

The program is meant for students who can commit to doing the entire program in the planned sequence, from start to finish. However, genuine emergencies sometimes happen. Depending on the circumstances and pending approval, a student could miss a given course and then rejoin his or her cohort for their next course, or the student could join another cohort in order to recontinue the program.

Does the program include Greek and Hebrew?

No. All classes operate on the basis of English translations of the Bible. We recommend using a translation such as the NIV, ESV, NASB, or NRSV for class purposes.

Does this program prepare people for doctoral studies?

No. As an English-Bible based program, the MA in Biblical Studies is not intended for those who plan to pursue formal academic studies on the doctoral level, which typically require Greek and Hebrew on the MA level.

Is there a thesis option, instead of the comprehensive exam?  

No. A thesis is not an option for this program.

Can I transfer credits into the program?

Yes, up to 10 credit hours, with permission of the Bible & Theology Department. However, if you have already taken a comparable course to one required by the program, you will need to audit the course. This keeps you involved with your cohort and with the group’s ongoing learning and discussion.

Is there financial aid available?

Wheaton College provides a special tuition rate designed to make the cohort program affordable.  All courses in the MA Biblical Studies program are charged 20% less than the normal graduate tuition rate for the regular academic year. This special rate only applies to courses taken in this program. Cohort students are also eligible for Federal Stafford loans during the Spring and Summer academic terms, since students carry a half-time load.  With planning, a student can take out loans in the Spring and Summer to be able to cover the cost of Fall courses.  We have a graduate financial aid counselor who is available to help with understanding loan options.

How much should I expect to pay for textbooks?

You should plan to pay around $100 per course for the books required. These books will become well-used tools for your current studies and future ministry. Most books used in the program are available used for lower prices.

What student benefits accompany being a student in this program?

Like all other grad students, you would receive access to use of the Sport & Recreation Center on campus, a library card, free admission to intercollegiate sporting events, discounted tickets on cultural events, and other benefits. These benefits apply to all students and their family members.

Can I take courses in this program as a special student?

No. You must be admitted as a degree student in MA Biblical Studies in order to take these courses.

If I am a degree student in another graduate program at Wheaton, can I take one of these courses?  

No. Courses in the MA Biblical Studies program are open only to members of that program. In other words, students in other programs are not eligible for these courses.

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