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BA (Hons) Religion - TR041

From September 2019, the School of Religion will offer a BA in Religion.

With our BA Hons. in Religion (TR041), you can:

Study the world’s religions

Approach the study of a number of the world's religions with an academic eye. Using cultural studies and comparative techniques, you will explore theories of religion, material culture of religions, and interreligious encounters. You will study Islamic, Buddhist, Jewish, and Christian sources, and examine the place of religion in the world today.

Explore biblical studies and religions in antiquity

Study the origins of Judaism and Christianity, and learn about history, ancient literature, and languages. Discover the diverse cultures of the ancient Mediterranean world. Use archaeology and ancient texts as windows to the religious pasts that continue to shape the civilisations of our world.

Discover theologies for today’s world

Theology explores the key questions from different eras about God’s existence and agency. It relates the significance of Jesus Christ in Christianity to questions of human freedom and meaning, history and cultural expression. In a pluralistic and non-denominational context, theology asks what role faith plays in the public realm and in debates on justice, science, ecology, and inter-religious dialogue. It allows you to engage a wide range of subjects simultaneously, including philosophy, ethics, anthropology, history and the study of the Bible.

Debate the big ethical and political issues of the day

Questions of ethics and politics are major concerns for our time. How have different religious and humanist traditions understand what it means to be an ethical or moral human being through history and in our time? What does it mean to think ethically about unprecedented problems like artificial intelligence or climate change? What do religious traditions say about sex and gender, politics, war and peace, the common good and human dignity?

Explore our modules

Read an overview of each module below. Detailed information like learning outcomes and reading lists will be provided in the Undergraduate Handbook at the start of term.

Introducing the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible

The variety of terms used to designate the ‘Hebrew Bible’ (e.g. Old Testament, Hebrew Scriptures, Tanak) indicate the richness of traditions related to these writings, the various ways that they are viewed, and also their life within different communities at different times. This module will orient students to the literary and theological contours of the Hebrew canon, introducing them to the rich variety of genres within.

The exploration of the Pentateuch and Chronicler’s History will provide a historiographical framework and develop students’ ability to identify literary themes while interrogation of the Prophets, Psalms and Wisdom Literature will demonstrate the incredible diversity of literary and theological genres contained within the Hebrew Bible. Students will also be introduced to the interpretation of the Hebrew Bible in antiquity and in contemporary culture.

Introducing the New Testament

The writings included in the canon of the New Testament have been composed by different authors over a relatively long period of time. Translated in countless languages, the stories and ideas found in the New Testament have played a major role in shaping socio-political, ethical and religious discourses across the centuries and in different cultures and have been a constant source of inspiration in art, music and literature.

In this module, students will learn about the most relevant scholarly approaches to the study of the New Testament and its background in Second Temple Judaism and in the Graeco-Roman world, examine the variety of literary genres and the diversity of sources and traditions, which contributed to the development of early Christianity and to the formation of new religious and cultural realities in the Graeco-Roman world, and be introduced to the history of interpretation of the New Testament in antiquity and in contemporary culture.

Introducing Theology: Key Texts and Methods

The course will introduce the students to classical definitions of theology from Anselm and Aquinas, as well as to formulations of theology’s task from modern theologians such as Karl Barth, Dermot Lane and Elizabeth Johnson. The different methodological approaches to the study of religion will be introduced and the distinctive task of theology in this regard will explored. In carrying out this task in the course of the module the students will study at least four representative primary texts. Attention will be drawn to patterns of continuity or discontinuity, agreement and conflict in the texts. The purpose is to train students to integrate conceptual and historical skills in the reading of theological texts.

Introducing Theology: Key Questions

The module examines key questions and turning points in theological thinking from Antiquity to Modernity. Beginning with the current challenge of the link between monotheism and violence, it will investigate biblical sources of the doctrine of God; outline the debates on imago Dei, free will and original sin in theological anthropology, compare models of salvation, and discuss theologies of history on theodicy and eschatology. New challenges to and responses from theology in relation to modernity’s turn to subjectivity, critiques of religion (from philosophy and the social, medical and natural sciences), and the place of theology as a subject in the modern university will conclude the module.

Ethics Matters: Global Questions, Ethical Responses

The module will begin with a consideration of the nature of ethical analysis and investigation, and discuss the importance of bringing an ethical analysis to bear on a range of contemporary issues. Students will be introduced to some of the major philosophical and religious/theological approaches to ethics, drawing on a range of traditions from across the globe.

Key ethical categories, modes of ethical reasoning and traditions of argumentation will then be considered. These theoretical dimensions will then be analysed, both in their more abstract (philosophical/theoretical) manifestations and as they are raised through key contemporary socio-political issues. Students will be guided and engaged in addressing issues of: global inequality, political violence and genocide, immigration, environmental issues, international finance and globalisation, technology and artificial intelligence, issues in biomedical sciences and ageing.

Becoming Moral: Ethical Reasoning in Theological Perspective

Coming soon.

Approaches to the Study of Religions

Religion as a cultural phenomenon is interrelated with possibly all aspects of human life, such as the formation of social communities; identity building; politics; healing practices; or art and literature. Hence, studying the role of religions in their cultural context requires a broad range of approaches and methods.

After a brief introduction to the disciplinary history of the Academic Study of Religion and its colonial, philosophical and religious context the module gives an overview of the major approaches to the Study of Religion, both the “classical” approaches sociology, anthropology and psychology of religion, and the more recently developed such as the economy or the aesthetics of religion. Examples taken from different religious traditions and from the students’ own field observations provide the basis for experiencing the relationship between the approaches applied and the knowledge gained about religions.

The Qur’an: Its History and Reception

This is an introductory course on the Qurʾān, the sacred text of Islam, and on its reception both in the classical Islamic period and modernity. The course does not require prior knowledge of the subject and will introduce students to some of the major Qurʾānic themes and to the ways in which this foundational work has been interpreted by generations of medieval and modern readers.

Topics to be discussed include the social, religious, and historical circumstances surrounding the emergence of the Qurʾān; the structure, style, and literary techniques underlying the Qurʾānic text; the tradition of religious exegesis (tafsīr) that developed in Islam; and key Qurʾānic narratives and themes.

Students will acquire a basic understanding of the place of this scripture in the Islamic tradition and of its role in Muslim worship and cult. The class will consist of both lectures and student discussion on key themes covered by the readings. We will also be reading various Qurʾānic verses in a comparative perspective with the other monotheistic traditions.

Jewish Thought and Practice

This module introduces key social, cultural, and religious aspects of Jewish thought and practice from antiquity to our own time. The focus of this module is on Judaism as a major world religion that has shaped Western Civilization. Rabbinic textual traditions that underpin Jewish religious thought—especially the Mishnah, Talmud, and Midrashim—are explored.

Calendar, festivals (esp. Day of Atonement, New Year, Festival of Booths, Passover, Hanukkah), and rites of passage (e.g. birth, circumcision, Bar/Bat Mitzvah, marriage, divorce, death) are studied both within the classroom as well as, when appropriate, in visits to local Jewish synagogues. Contemporary Jewish movements and the history of their traditions (e.g., Modern Orthodoxy, Reform, Conservatism) come into view along with their different beliefs and practices (e.g., kashrut, Sabbath, worship, prayer). National movements within modern Judaism (e.g., Zionism, diaspora nationalism) are also considered.

Introduction to Philosophy

The module firstly considers the question what philosophy is and why it is relevant for theology. It offers an overview of Western philosophy and analyses the questions treated in its main branches. Beginning with the Greeks as the founders of the western philosophical tradition, key texts from Plato and Aristotle will be studied and the influence of their work on human self-reflection, ethics, the state and community, and on concepts of the Good and of God examined. The transformations of their thought in late Antiquity will be followed up into their role in Medieval thinking, bringing it into direct contact with theology.

Two great philosopher-theologians of the Christian tradition, Augustine (354-430 CE) and Aquinas (1225-1274 CE) will be given particular attention. Questions arising from late medieval Nominalism will be traced through to modernity with Kant’s anthropological turn. Kierkegaard and his reception in twentieth century existentialism, Wittgenstein, Heidegger, Critical Theory and hermeneutics will conclude the overview.

Religions in the Ancient Mediterranean

Employing literary sources as well as inscriptions, funerary art and ancient iconography, and other archaeological finds, this module investigates the religious beliefs and practice of the various peoples and civilisations of the ancient Mediterranean from ancient Egypt to Imperial Rome, focusing on the study of ancient rituals (e.g. burial customs, animal and human sacrifice) and on Mediterranean myths and mythologies (e.g. dying-and-rising deities in Egypt, Syria and ancient Greece).

Students will reflect about the methodological challenges of studying ancient religions, focusing on the problem of interpreting fragmentary evidence, understanding ancient definitions of religion and magic, and distinguishing between private and public devotion in ancient societies. The course will help student to think about such questions as did people in antiquity believe in their myths? Why did the Egyptians mummify their dead? What is the significance of the ancient myths of Osiris, Gilgamesh and Baal? Did the ancient Phoenicians and Carthaginians practice human sacrifice?

Dharmic Religions

The module will examine the early origins of Hinduism in the Vedic religions. Students will engage critically with the Hindu scriptures, focusing on the Vedas, the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita, while seeking to understand the important concepts of Samsara, Moksha, Dharma, Yoga as the basis of ‘the Hindu way of life’. There will be an examination of Hindu cosmology, Brahman, Atman, Trimurti, the gods and goddesses, the avatars as well as Hindu ritual and its purpose. The course will deal with the question of Hindu identity and the more recent politicisation of Hinduism in the Hindutva movement.

The second part of the module will look at the emergence of Buddhism and examine its significance as part of a wider movement during the Axial Age, with its move away from the ritual to the ethical as one person’s search for the problems of human existence. There will be a general treatment of the Buddhist scripture, notably the Pali Canon. Student will come to understand the important distinction between Theravada, Mahayana and Tibetan or Vajrayana Buddhism. There will be a comparative reflection on concepts of atman and anatman in Hinduism and Buddhism.

The module will examine the essential teachings of the Buddhist Dhamma, notably the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. There will be a brief examination of how Buddhism has influenced contemporary Western spiritualities as well as a critical look at Buddhism in the world today. There will be brief treatment of Jainism in the context of the movement that gave rise to Buddhism. The use of iconography and music is an important element of the module that seeks to give students an understanding of the wider cultural world of Asian religions.

Trinity Electives

Broaden your Trinity Education. Engage with Trinity’s ground-breaking research, explore languages and cultures, or address key societal challenges by choosing a Trinity Elective, a stand-alone 5 ECTS module outside of your core discipline. For more information on what modules are being offered please visit the Trinity Electives website.

Trinity Electives are included as part of the BA. Religion program and who / when you can choose one is covered in the course Handbook.

Students taking religion and another subject, who entered in 2018-2019 or earlier do so within the framework of the Two Subject Moderatorship Degree (TSM). Please see the TSM Website for further information (follow link above).