DEGREES

Master of Arts:
Biblical Studies

“Every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a house, who brings forth out of his treasure things new and old.”
Matthew 13:52

About the Program

The Master of Arts in Biblical Studies forms men and women to serve the Church’s “biblical apostolate” (Verbum Domini §75) in the academy, Catholic seminaries and schools, or other ecclesial settings. The program offers advanced training in biblical languages, the tools of contemporary scholarship, and the interpretive principles and aims handed down by the Church’s tradition of reading Scripture. 

The Master of Arts in Biblical Studies is a two-year, 48-credit-hour program available to full-time students at the Augustine Institute’s campus in Greenwood Village, Colorado. The program’s entrance requirements are:

  • an undergraduate degree in a related field or, if not, a demonstrably strong formation in humanities, philosophy, and theology;
  • a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.70; 
  • a competitive GRE score; 
  • the ability to write clear and effective English prose; and, 
  • a strong Catholic identity and commitment to evangelization and cultural engagement. 

Four Pillars

1. Theological Formation:

The formation offered here is faithful and rigorous, grounded in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, the Church Fathers, the lives and witnesses of the saints, the Second Vatican Council, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

2. Spiritual Formation:

Students receive a vital spiritual formation that will enrich their own personal encounter with Christ and h is Church—and prepare them for the challenges and spiritual realities of lay ecclesial service.

3. Pastoral and Catechetical Formation:

Anchored in the pastoral vision of the Second Vatican Council, our balanced pastoral and catechetical formation equips students to hand on the truth of Jesus Christ.

4. Human Formation:

Students receive the tools and skills to be effective leaders for the New Evangelization. Highlights include key moral virtues for lay ecclesial leadership, communication and management techniques, and awareness and understanding of ecclesial life and structures.

Four Pillars

Built on the same four pillars as priestly and religious formation, this program offers a comprehensive, integrated training that prepares lay ecclesial leaders to share the truth of Jesus Christ amidst contemporary challenges.

1. Theological Formation:

Students receive a faithful and rigorous theological formation grounded in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, the Church Fathers, the lives and witnesses of the saints, the Second Vatican Council, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. This instruction grounds the students in the long theological tradition of the Church with an eye towards the authentic implementation of the New Evangelization.

2. Spiritual Formation:

Through course material, seminars, and practicum experiences, students receive a spiritual formation that enriches their own personal encounter with Christ and prepares them for the challenges and spiritual realities of lay ecclesial service.

3. Pastoral, Evangelistic, and Catechetical Formation:

Grounded in the pastoral vision of the Second Vatican Council, the program offers pastoral and catechetical formation that equips students to hand on the truth of Jesus Christ in this time of the New Evangelization. This formation is centered around sound principles of pastoral care and key methods of authentic catechetical renewal envisioned and articulated by the documents of Vatican II, the writings of St. John Paul II, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

4. Human Formation:

Through coursework, seminars, and practicum experiences, students receive practical and essential human formation that forms them to be effective leaders for the New Evangelization. These crucial skills and dispositions include the key moral virtues for lay ecclesial leadership, communication and management skills, an appropriate awareness and understanding of ecclesial life and structures, and interpersonal skills related to ecclesial life and service.

Three Pillars

The course of study in the Graduate School of Theology leads to the Master of Arts degree in Theology; it is available on our campus in Denver or via distance education. The program consists of three pillars:

1. Sacred Scripture

Students learn to express the narrative of salvation history, explain the biblical foundations of Catholic doctrine, interpret the texts in light of tradition, and substantiate the reliability of Sacred Scripture.

2. Sacred Doctrine

Each of our students develops a foundational knowledge of the Catholic Church’s dogmatic, sacramental, moral, and spiritual teaching as exemplified by the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

3. History and Mission

Students come to grasp the main themes of Church history, particularly in the West, with special emphasis on evangelization and on the saints and martyrs as teachers and models.

Programmatic Goals

I. Theology: to demonstrate a foundational knowledge of the Catholic Church’s dogmatic, sacramental, moral, and spiritual teaching, building upon that doctrine as exemplified by the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Graduates will be able to analyze, explain, and where relevant defend the following elements of understanding:
II. Spiritual Interiority: recognizing that a mature Christian interior life is both a prerequisite to effective mission and the goal toward which that mission is oriented, as well as an essential part of the methodological structure of all catechetical practice, graduates will be able to explain and defend the following elements of understanding:
III. Pastoral, Evangelical & Catechetical: to demonstrate an understanding of the fundamental principles of evangelization and catechesis, as well as strategies of pastoral care and the ability to develop, to implement, and to assess effective evangelistic, catechetical, and pastoral initiatives in an ecclesial setting which respond to the leading challenges facing the Church’s mission today. Graduates will be able to analyze, explain, and where relevant defend the following elements of understanding:
IV. Leadership: to demonstrate readiness for collaborative work and management in the life of the Church so as to implement effective discipleship strategies. Graduates will demonstrate an articulate understanding of and principled commitment to the following elements:

Interpreting the Bible in Faith

The Catholic Church understands “the study of the sacred page” to be “the soul of sacred theology” (Dei Verbum §24). Confessing that God is the author of Scripture, the Church also affirms that the biblical books are the product of human writers. Just as the Church has rejected views of the person of Jesus Christ that deny or minimize his human nature, so too does the Church’s approach to Scripture affirm the importance of discerning the intention of the Bible’s human authors, as we see in this celebrated passage from the documents of the Second Vatican Council:
The interpreter of Sacred Scripture, in order to see clearly what God wanted to communicate to us, should carefully investigate what meaning the sacred writers really intended, and what God wanted to manifest by means of their words. . . The interpreter must investigate what meaning the sacred writer intended to express and actually expressed in particular circumstances by using contemporary literary forms in accordance with the situation of his own time and culture (Dei Verbum §12). 
Following this direction, the Augustine Institute’s M.A. in Biblical Studies puts the historical, linguistic, and literary tools of contemporary scholarship in conversation with the Church’s theological and exegetical traditions, in the hope that its students will experience a rich harvest of wisdom.

Degree Requirements

The Master of Arts in Biblical Studies curriculum includes sixteen courses, each of three credit hours: two courses each in Biblical Greek and Hebrew, four courses treating the theological framework of Biblical interpretation, six exegetical courses (three devoted to Old Testament texts and three to New Testament texts), and two electives. Students who enter with a reading knowledge of either biblical language may choose advanced language instruction or additional electives. A Master’s thesis is optional. During their final semester, students will take an oral comprehensive examination.

Courses

The Master of Arts in Biblical Studies curriculum includes sixteen courses, each of three credit hours: two courses each in Biblical Greek and Hebrew, four courses treating the theological framework of Biblical interpretation, six exegetical courses (three devoted to Old Testament texts and three to New Testament texts), and two electives. Students who enter with a reading knowledge of either biblical language may choose advanced language instruction or additional electives. A Master’s thesis is optional. During their final semester, students will take an oral comprehensive examination.

Principles of Biblical Interpretation

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This course introduces students to the methods and principles that guide the Church’s interpretation of Scripture. Analyzing works of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, recent papal and magisterial documents, and the instructions of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, the course forms students to interpret the biblical text in a way that attends to the implications of both its divine and its human authorship.

Pentateuch

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The purpose of this course is to give an in-depth introduction to the first five books of the Old Testament, known as the Torah. Questions of authorship, dating, and composition will be considered, but emphasis will be given to understanding how these ancient Hebrew texts work literarily. After studying the rhetorical strategy of these foundational narratives and laws, the student will be introduced to the major theological themes found in the Torah and how those these themes have been interpreted in Christian tradition.

Prophets

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This course introduces students to the lives and literature of the biblical prophets. Starting with an introduction to the historical development of the phenomenon of prophecy in Israel and its relation to prophetic activity and writing among other peoples of the ancient Near East, this course will survey the Major and Minor prophets, including Lamentations and Baruch. For each prophetic book, students will consider its historical context, rhetorical goals, literary techniques, critical issues, theological implications, and application to Christian life today. 

Psalms and Wisdom Literature

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Students will examine the historical background, literary provenance, and poetic purposes of the diverse books of Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Sirach, and Wisdom. In addition to form-critical and compositional concerns, the course will treat the function of the Psalms in the cult of ancient Israel, the social role and development of wisdom literature in the life of post-exilic Judaism, the Christological interpretation of the Psalms in the New Testament, and the use of Psalms in Jewish and Christian traditions of prayer. 

Synoptic Gospels and Acts 

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This course analyzes the literary, historical, and theological issues involved with the study of the Synoptic Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. After examining questions regarding the authorship, dating, and context of the Synoptic Gospels, as well as their relationship to one another, it will offer in-depth look at their accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus, with special consideration of Christological titles, miracles, parables of the Kingdom, the Sermon on the Mount, and the eschatological discourses. The course also considers how the Acts of the Apostles continues the story begun in Luke.

The Apostle Paul and His Letters 

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The letters of Paul are vitally important sources for Christian theology and the history of the earliest Church. This course surveys Paul’s letters and the book of Acts to introduce the apostle’s life, his letters and their content, and to contextualize them within Paul’s broader theological vision. Students are trained to think through critical issues involved with the study of Paul and his letters, as well as their legacy in Christian theology.

Johannine Literature

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This course examines the literary, historical, and theological issues relating to the study of Johannine Literature. The course begins with an examination of the contents of the Fourth Gospel. After studying key background issues (authorship, dating, provenance, genre, and literary structure), students enter into a close reading of the Gospel. Following this, the course turns to examine the background and contents of the Johannine Epistles, with special attention to the question of the relationship of these letters to the Gospel. 

Catholic Faith and the Church of the Fathers

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This course considers the Church’s catholicity and apostolicity in the patristic period, in an approach that is simultaneously historical and theological. Students will attend to historical contexts but also seek to discern how the Church and its members manifest within history the supernatural life that is theirs by the gift of the Spirit (Lumen gentium 7). That life is sustained in varying historical settings by doctrinal fidelity, sacramental communion, and hierarchical politeia—that is, by the “visible bonds of communion” (CCC 815). 

Patristic and Medieval Exegesis

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The Church recognizes in the Fathers and Doctors a capacity “to penetrate to the very innermost meaning of the divine word” and celebrates the “almost inexhaustible riches” contained in their works of biblical interpretation (Divino afflante Spiritu 28, 29). Students will gain insight into the hermeneutical principles that animate, guide, restrain, and lend coherence to classical biblical interpretation, and they will consider how these principles might inform and enrich their own efforts to read and interpret Sacred Scripture “in the sacred spirit in which it was written” (Dei Verbum 12).

Theology in the Life and Mission of the Church

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This course will explore the role of disciplined reflection on the word of God in three key areas: (1) the Liturgy, especially the Eucharistic liturgy, the Lectionary, and the Liturgy of the Hours; (2) the Christian spiritual life, especially the prayerful reading of Scripture known as lectio divina; and (3) the Church’s mission, especially the teaching of theology. Particular attention will be paid to the relationship between the interior life and the theological apostolate, as well as the ecclesial vocation of the theologian. 

Greek I & II

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These courses focus on the “common” or “Koine” Greek of the Septuagint and New Testament, with occasional supplementary exercises drawn from classical authors. After close instruction in the grammar, vocabulary, and syntax of ancient Greek, students will proceed to the translation and analysis of ancient and biblical texts. Our aim will be to read and translate whole passages from the New Testament, along with some passages from the Septuagint and Apostolic Fathers. 

Hebrew I & II

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These courses introduce students to the grammar, vocabulary, and syntax of biblical Hebrew. Students will learn the basic differences between Semitic and western languages as well as the proper pronunciation of Hebrew words. By the end of the two-part sequence, students will be able to translate biblical texts with the help of a lexicon.

Elective Courses

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Students take two elective courses from a slate of regularly-offered exegetical courses on the Historical Books of the Old Testament, Apocalyptic Literature, the Catholic Epistles, and the Epistle to the Hebrews. Additional options, with the consent of the program’s director, include advanced courses in theology, directed readings courses, or an independent study dedicated to the writing of a Master’s thesis.

Graduate Bulletin

Read more and see full course listings in our graduate bulletin

Download our graduate bulletin

Program Faculty

John Sehorn

Associate Professor of Theology (Ph.D., Notre Dame)

John Sehorn has been a member of the Augustine Institute faculty since 2015. He has a longstanding interest in understanding more deeply how God speaks to his Church through Sacred Scripture, an interest that he pursues by studying the exegetical practices of the patristic and medieval masters of the Sacred Page. Dr. Sehorn is the author of The Bible and the Eucharist (Baker Academic, forthcoming) and Marian Consecration: What Every Catholic Should Know (Augustine Institute/Ignatius Press, forthcoming), and he has published several academic essays on the theology of the Fathers. With Tim Gray, he is editor of Baker Academic’s series A Catholic Biblical Theology of the Sacraments.

James Prothro

Assistant Professor of Scripture and Theology (Ph.D., Cambridge University).

James Prothro brings a background in Classical languages and training as a preacher to his study of the Bible. His lively interest in Greek linguistics and principles of Catholic interpretation influence his teaching and writing. He is the author of Both Judge and Justifier: Biblical Legal Language and the Act of Justifying in Paul (Mohr Siebeck, 2018) and The Apostle Paul and His Letters: An Introduction (Catholic University of America Press, 2021). He has published in various academic journals, including, Catholic Biblical Quarterly, New Testament Studies, Journal for the Study of the New Testament, Nova et Vetera, and Journal of Theological Interpretation. He serves as Sub-editor (Koine Greek) for Religious Studies Review. 

Brant Pitre

Distinguished Research Professor of Sacred Scripture (Ph.D., Notre Dame)

Brant Pitre has a special love for finding the Old Testament in the New and Christ throughout the pages of Scripture. His many contributions to Catholic Biblical studies include a two-volume Catholic Introduction to the Bible, with John Bergsma – their volume on the New Testament will soon join the one on the Old Testament published in 2018 (Ignatius), as well as many scholarly and best-selling books, including Jesus and the Last Supper (Eerdmans, 2015), The Case for Jesus (Image, 2016), and, most recently, his Introduction to the Spiritual Life (Image, 2021). 

Israel McGrew

Assistant Professor of Sacred Scripture (Ph.D., Marquette)

Israel McGrew brings a love for Catholic theology to the historical and literary study of the Hebrew Bible. In his new post at the Augustine Institute, he will be teaching Salvation History and exegetic courses on various books of the Old Testament. His article “‘What is Enosh?’: The Anthropological Contributions of Job 7:17–18 through Allusion and Intertextuality,” appeared in Catholic Biblical Quarterly in 2022 and won him the “Emerging Scholar” award by the Catholic Biblical Association. He is the author of The Riddle of Job: Allegorical Representation and Argumentation in the Book of Job (manuscript under review). 

Elizabeth Klein

Assistant Professor of Theology (Ph.D., Notre Dame)

Elizabeth Klein’s formidable knowledge of the Bible has its roots in her childhood participation in Bible Quiz competitions. Her academic studies have focused on Patristic theology, and she regularly teaches courses on Augustine that examine his use of Scripture in his preaching, teaching, and works of controversy. She is the author of Augustine’s Theology of Angels (Cambridge University Press, 2018) and God: What Every Catholic Should Know (Ignatius Press; Augustine Institute, 2019).

Timothy Gray

Professor of Sacred Scripture (Ph.D., Catholic University of America)

Tim Gray has been a noted interpreter of the Bible in diverse academic, ecclesial, and popular settings for over two decades. He helped to found the Augustine Institute and has served as its President since 2008. He is the author of The Temple in the Gospel of Mark: A Study in Its Narrative Role (Mohr Siebeck/Baker Academic, 2008), Peter: Keys to Following Jesus (Ignatius, 2016), Praying Scripture for a Change: An Introduction to Lectio Divina (Ascension, 2009), and the best-selling Walking with God (with Jeff Cavins; Ascension, 2010, new edition 2018). With John Sehorn, he is editor of Baker Academic’s series A Catholic Biblical Theology of the Sacraments.

Mark Giszczak

Associate Professor of Sacred Scripture (Ph.D., Catholic University of America)

A member of the first graduating class of the Augustine Institute, Mark Giszczak joined its faculty in 2010. He has a passion for Scripture and loves helping Catholics read, pray, and understand the Bible. He is the author of Wisdom of Solomon, Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture Series (Baker Academic, forthcoming), Bible Translation and the Making of the ESV Catholic Edition (Augustine Institute, 2022), and Light on the Dark Passages of Scripture (Our Sunday Visitor, 2015). His articles have appeared in the Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha, Catholic Biblical Quarterly, the Journal for the Study of the Old Testament. Professor Giszczak also holds the Licentiate in Sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Commission.

Michael Patrick Barber

Professor of Sacred Scripture and Theology (Ph.D., Fuller Theological Seminary)

Michael Barber is Director of the Master of Arts in Biblical Studies and a regular participant in leading scholarly conversations about the study of the Bible. His books include The Historical Jesus and the Temple: Memory, Methodology, and the Gospel of Matthew (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming, with a Foreword by Dale C. Allison, Jr.) and Paul, A New Covenant Jew: Rethinking Pauline Theology, with Brant Pitre and John Kincaid (Eerdmans, 2019). His articles have appeared in academic journals such as Journal of Biblical Literature, Journal for the Study of Paul and His Letters, Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus, and Religious Studies Review. You can read more about his work on Academia.edu.

Additional Degrees and Concentrations

M. A. in Pastoral Theology: Concentration in Catechetics 

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Master of Arts: Pastoral Theology

So also I send you.
—John 20:21
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Master of Arts: Theology with Concentration in Sacred Scripture

Put on the mind of Christ.
—1 Corinthians 2:16
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Master of Arts: Theology

Faith seeking understanding.
—Anselm of Canterbury, Proslogion
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