MA, Theological Studies

Comprehensive Theological Education for Inquisitive Minds

Do you feel drawn to thorough theological and biblical studies education? Our Master of Arts in Theological Studies (MATS) program will prepare you for your PhD program. Designed for students interested in academia rather than pastoral ministry, this degree program features a required teaching internship; Greek, Hebrew and German language study options; and spiritual formation courses. (If you're interested in a master's degree to equip you for pastoral ministry, consider our Master of Divinity program) Request more information

The MATS allows you to choose from four specializations:

  • Biblical Studies
  • Christian History and Theology
  • Creation Care
  • Intercultural Studies

Master of Arts in Theological Studies at a Glance

Semester hours 56
Average Completion Time Two to three years (Based on taking 8 credit hours of study per term in the fall and spring semesters and 4 credit hours during 1-2 summer semesters)
Cost per credit $576* (financial aid available)
Accreditation Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities;
Association of Theological Schools
Location Portland Center (near Tigard), with distance format options
Application Deadlines Rolling application deadline; apply now for the next fall cohort

*All stated financial information is subject to change.

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The MATS program will:

  • Prepare you for future degree work in biblical and theological studies
  • Provide you with survey knowledge of key facts and paradigms related to biblical studies, church history and theology

Students will:

  • Grow in the ability to analyze pertinent texts and materials
  • Develop the capacity to think critically
  • Learn research, writing and communication skills
  • Integrate and demonstrate these learnings through a summative project/thesis

Teaching Apprenticeship

A key component of the educational experience of the MATS program is the teaching apprenticeship, a year-long course sequence that helps students think about and experience the role and rhythm of a theological educator.

Included in the apprenticeship is an opportunity to work with a faculty member and learn about pedagogy in theological education. In most cases, apprentices have opportunities to give lectures, engage with students, and assess assignments.

This unique apprenticeship opportunity gives MATS students a taste of what it is like to participate in theological education as an instructor, and for those who follow that path, it provides a dynamic foundation for a life of educating from a theological perspective.

Spiritual Formation

At the heart of Portland Seminary, historically, is a commitment to the spiritual formation of its students. Formation into Christlikeness prepares the whole person to engage the world for the sake of Christ.

We fulfill this commitment in these ways:

  • Every degree program involves students in an intentionally designed spiritual formation curriculum.
  • The courses include classic spiritual disciplines as well as intentional holistic awareness.
  • Our spiritual formation curriculum is biblically grounded and Christ-centered, and our understanding of spiritual formation involves the intersection of Scripture, theology, psychology, biology and social-cultural factors.
  • Spiritual formation courses are scheduled so that students can participate in formation courses throughout their degree program.
  • Each spiritual formation course combines rich academic content, formational activities, accountability, and fellowship, offering students a robust experience

MA, Theological Studies (56 Credit Hours)

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Curriculum Plan

Complete the following:
Introduces students to the literature of the Old Testament in its socio-historical, literary, and theological contexts with particular interest in spiritual formation and Christian practice.
Introduces students to the literature of the New Testament in its socio-historical, literary, and theological contexts with particular interest in spiritual formation and Christian practice.
Building on the skills and knowledge of BIST 501, this course introduces more advanced exegetical methods through a variety of Old Testament texts. Special attention will be paid to major theological themes such as holiness, justice, theodicy, divine presence and absence, worship, trauma and how these themes are applicable to today's communities of faith. Prerequisite: BIST 501.
Building on the skills and knowledge of BIST 502, this course engages students with the nature of interpretation (hermeneutics) as well as methods and tools that support interpretation (exegesis). Special emphasis will be placed on key moral and theological concerns today and how a variety of viewpoints, methods, and approaches help the reader of the Bible move from ancient text to modern life. Important topics related to the canon will also be included such as the inspiration, authority, and composition of the Bible. Prerequisite: BIST 502.
Choose two of the following:
BIST 511/512 must be completed together.  BIST 521/522 must be completed together.
First course in the Hebrew language sequence, this is an introduction to Hebrew grammar and syntax. Reading and analysis of selected Old Testament texts, and introduction to digital and print resources, such as grammars, lexicons and original language software.
Second course of the Hebrew language sequence, continues to develop mastery of Hebrew morphology and syntax, primarily through reading selected Old Testament texts. Advanced exegetical methods are introduced. Prerequisite: BIST511.
First course in the Greek langauge sequence, in which the student is exposed to the basic principles of New Testament Greek grammar, syntax, and exegesis, to the Greek text of the New Testament, and to the major tools used in its study. While the basics of Greek have to be the center of focus in this introductory course, attention also is given to the Greek text of the New Testament.
Second course of the Greek language sequence, adds to the student’s knowledge and understanding of New Testament Greek through further exposure to the Greek text of the New Testament. While it pays close attention to matters of grammar, the central focus is the text itself, its interpretation, and its use. Prerequisite: BIST521.
Complete the following:
Covers the development of Christianity and Christian theology from the end of the apostolic period through the 16th century. Examines the expansion of the Church, the evolvement of Christian institutions and practice, the conflicts that confronted the Church from within and without, the reform of the Church, and the theological development of doctrines such as the soteriology, Trinity, Christology, grace and free will, and theology of the cross.
This course takes a constructive theological approach, integrating Christian doctrine and contemporary theologies in the church. It builds upon the student’s engagement with historical development of theology, focusing on the Trinity and key considerations in atonement and pneumatology. The principal goal is to reflect upon the normative sources for theology, with a view toward equipping students to engage their own denomination's theological development.
This course examines how Christianity developed in North America from the 15th to the 21st centuries. Special attention will be paid to the role of evangelicalism in American churches, the creative ways that Americans contextualize Christianity, and the contributions that American religious innovators make to global theological conversations.
An introduction to the origins, histories, myths, and basic tenets of other religious traditions in the world and how Christians might engage them in meaningful interaction. Involving a research project and on site visits, a concerted effort will be made to show the common humanity of the people who follow other religions. Co-learners will guard against viewing people from other religions as the "excluded other” by understanding commonalities and celebrating differences.
Complete the following:
Provides an opportunity for students to develop self-awareness in the context of their Christian faith and preparation for ministry. It equips students to reflect critically and constructively on their mission and vision, personal spiritual histories, and the strengths, weaknesses, and spirituality of their personality types.
Gives students opportunities to explore images of God portrayed in the Scriptures and in the mystical traditions of the Church. Students compare these images and traditions to those that have shaped their own thoughts, emotions, and actions. Students are able to inform, strengthen, and transform their images and experiences.
Examines the unique nature and responsibility of spiritual leadership. It analyzes the theology of spiritual leadership and reviews elements such as accountability, boundaries, devotional habits, life balance, retreats, solitude, and emotional, spiritual, and physical health. The course also delves into some of the things that inhibit the exercise of spiritual leadership.
Choose one of the following:
Provides an opportunity for students to develop deeper and more satisfying prayer lives in the context of a global environment. As the essential relational discipline of the Christian journey, prayer is examined and experienced in its diverse ecclesial, ethnic, and cultural forms as found in Scripture, Christian history, and the Church.
Introduces students to some of the classic disciplines and practices of the spiritual life, including self-examination and confession, keeping Sabbath, simplicity, justice and compassion, and embodiment. These spiritual practices are explored in order to become aware of and engage the presence of God in one’s life.
Choose one of the following:
This course combines instruction in pedagogy for higher education with a teaching internship in a higher-ed setting.
Part I of a unique practicum experience in which students participate in an internship in order to gain expertise in the tasks of their degree specialization. The practicum component is coupled with guidance and mentoring of a site supervisor and faculty who facilitate processes of integration. The theological and philosophical underpinnings of academic teaching, in the context of communicating practical strategies and advancing the student’s professional development as a teacher are explored. (Note: it is required that students take both CHTH 568 and CHTH 569).
Choose one of the following:
Students that complete BIST 568 need to take BIST 569 and those who complete CHTH 568 take CHTH 569.
This course is the second half of two-semester sequence. It combines instruction in pedagogy for higher education with a teaching internship in a higher-ed setting.
Part II of a unique practicum experience in which students participate in an internship in order to gain expertise in the tasks of their degree specialization. The practicum component is coupled with guidance and mentoring of a site supervisor and faculty who facilitate processes of integration. The theological and philosophical underpinnings of academic teaching, in the context of communicating practical strategies and advancing the student’s professional development as a teacher are explored. (Note: it is required that students take both CHTH 568 and CHTH 569).
Choose one of the following:
First semester of research/thesis. Requirements outlined in Master of Arts in Theological Studies.
First semester of research/thesis. Requirements outlined in Master of Arts in Theological Studies.
Choose one of the following:
Students that complete BIST 581 need to take BIST 582 and those who complete CHTH 581 take CHTH 582.
Second semester of research/thesis. Requirements outlined in Master of Arts in Theological Studies. Prerequisite: BIST 581.
Second semester of research/thesis. Requirements outlined in Master of Arts in Theological Studies. Prerequisite: CHTH 581.

MA(TS) Tracks (16 hours)

Complete the following:
Complete the following:
Class will apply the interpretive skills developed in BIST503, with special attention on the exegetical issues of the designated Old Testament book. Prerequisite: BIST 503 or permission of instructor.
Class will apply the interpretive skills developed in BIST 504, with special attention on the exegetical issues of the designated New Testament book. Prerequisite: BIST 504 or permission of instructor.
Explores the ancient Near Eastern contexts for the Old Testament through study of extra-biblical texts and Levantine archaeology. Special attention will be given to how text and artifact contribute to an informed understanding of Old Testament texts and its relevance for today.
Reviews both the Jewish and Greco-Roman context of the New Testament. Students will be engaged in primary texts through translation with particular emphasis on their contribution to an informed New Testament hermeneutic.
Choose four of the following:
Students complete two "studios", or combination of courses in sequence of part I and II, for a total of four classes.
Through weekly readings in Hebrew in biblical and extra-biblical texts (Dead Sea Scrolls, Northwest Semitic inscriptions, Targums, etc.), students will develop stronger competencies in all aspects of the biblical languages. Prerequisites BIST 511 or permission of instructor. (Note: it is required that students take both BIST 551 and BIST 552).
Studio course: Through weekly readings in Hebrew in biblical and extra-biblical texts (Dead Sea Scrolls, Northwest Semitic inscriptions, Targums, etc.), students will develop stronger competencies in all aspects of the biblical languages. Prerequisites BIST 511 or permission of instructor. (Note: it is required that students take both BIST 551 and BIST 552).
A small group of students study a specially selected topic with a professor. (Note: it is required that students take both BIST 555 and BIST 565).
A small group of students study a specially selected topic with a professor. (Note: it is required that students take both BIST 555 and BIST 565).
The course explores the usage of the biblical themes and metaphors in various avenues in which Christianity and culture intersect, including politics, art, and various traditional and social media outlets. The course will help the students to develop tools for sophisticated analysis of popular culture. (Note: it is required that students take both BIST 556 and BIST 557).
As films fulfill the human need to “share a common memory,” this course investigates the use of biblical narratives and themes in a broad selection of films, both major studio and independent. Students will analyze and assess the methods in which the artists engage with biblical materials, expanding their ability to discuss biblical themes across popular culture. (Note: it is required that students take both BIST 556 and BIST 557).
Through weekly readings in Greek in biblical and extra-biblical texts (Septuagint, Greek Apocrypha and Greek Pseudepigrapha, Attic Greek texts, etc), students will develop stronger competencies in all aspects of the biblical languages. Prerequisite: BIST521 or permission of instructor.
Through weekly readings in Greek in biblical and extra-biblical texts (Septuagint, Dead Sea Scrolls, etc.), students will develop stronger competencies in all aspects of the biblical languages. Prerequisite: BIST 521 and BIST 562 or permission of instructor.
Complete the following:
Examines the status, roles, and contributions of women and men as they pertain to gender in the history of Christianity and explores the biblical and theological basis for gender equality. Investigating the effects of gender theory in culture and Christian thought, discussion will be aimed toward practical considerations for the flourishing of women and men in the church today.
An exploration of the guiding assumptions and frameworks undergirding various ethical positions and their claims, especially in relationship to Christian theology. The course also analyzes the relationship between context and ethics, specifically as it pertains to the church and its role in the formation of Christian ethics. Implications for the practice of ethics in personal, social, economic, and political problems of our contemporary world will be examined and evaluated.
Explores the integral relationships between ecotheology and global systems of oppression. Students will both engage intersectionality through the lens of environmental degradation and take intentional action out of hope for restoration in the Creation. Students will study current issues such as toxicity, population growth, and an activism rooted in solidarity.
Explores both historical and current manifestations of colonialism as a preparation for holistic, shalom-based, postcolonial Christianity and mission, noting those theologians and movements who understood their faith in juxtaposition to Empire, including Jesus himself. The course will pay special attention to North America's colonial imprint and current postcolonial theologies.
Choose four of the following:
Students complete two "studios", or combination of courses in sequence of part I and II, for a total of four classes.
Course studies the variety of human culture through the discipline of anthropology and indigenous scholars. Students engage perspectives from both non-indigenous anthropology and the indigenous community, particularly within the Indigenous North American context, and explore its relationship to today’s world. (Note: it is required that students take both MLDR 548 and MLDR 549).
Course provides an examination of the history of Christian mission among Indigenous peoples, current Indigenous life, and Indigenous spiritualities in geographic, regionally specific studies that connect to both global issues and local context. Students explore issues such as the harmony ethic, building a theology of the land, and various indigenous religious practices in relation to the Christian faith. (Note: it is required that students take both MLDR 548 and MLDR 549).
Wrestles with Old Testament theologies of Creation, earthkeeping, and the role of humanity in the created order. Students will engage the history and development of these ideas within the Church, and consider how this legacy relates to the current state of the world. Students will explore the diverse issues corresponding to Sabbath and will engage in ecopraxis involving Sabbathkeeping. (Note: it is required that students take both CHTH 546 and CHTH 547).
Explores ecotheology through the lens of the New Testament. Students will analyze how the doctrines of Trinity, pneumatology, and soteriology relate to the current state of the world. Students will also investigate the ecological issues of food, water, and waste and will engage in ecopraxis related to those issues. (Note: it is required that students take both CHTH 546 and CHTH 547).
Immerses students in an experience of the natural world during an extended retreat. Students will reflect on the wonder of Creation and the immanence of God. They will engage such issues as climate change, agrarianism, and the relationship between science and faith. Students will have the opportunity to explore practical ways to build simple living into their daily lives. (Note: it is required that students take both CHTH 548 and CHTH 549).
Course builds on Keeping the Garden by exploring how faith communities can "green" their local worship and ministry. Students will investigate "green teams," community gardens, educational programs, and advocacy for God's Creation. They will continue to have the opportunity to explore practical ways to build simple living into their lives and their faith communities. (Note: it is required that students take both CHTH 548 and CHTH 549).
An examination of Indigenous spiritualities from a Christian perspective and its relationship to Americans from every culture. Students will be exposed to the spirituality of America’s First Nations and others through readings, shared experiences, and various media. The values associated with the Indigenous American harmony concept will be explored along with an understanding of Indigenous American theologies of the land. (Note: it is required that students take both CHTH 550 and CHTH 551).
Immerses students in the natural world during a five-day retreat. Students will abide in Creation and experience the beauty and hope of our immanent God. They will consider Shalom and Indigenous understandings of the land and the relationship between science and faith. They will engage current issues such as agriculture, conservation, land use, and consumption of natural resources. (Note: it is required that students take both CHTH 550 and CHTH 551).
Offers an overview of the Quaker movement from the 17th century to the present. It focuses on the characteristics, beliefs, and ecclesial practices that give Quakerism its unique identity. Key writings, leaders, and contributions to Christian thought and practice are considered. The course is designed especially for those discerning ministry with evangelical friends. (Note: it is required that students take both CHTH 558 and CHTH 559).
Offers a detailed look of Christian practices in the Quaker movement. It focuses on the intersection of Quaker spirituality and praxis, and the influence Quakers have in the world today. (Note: it is required that students take both CHTH 558 and CHTH 559).
An exploration of the life and theology of John Wesley through essential primary and secondary sources. The course gives particular attention to Wesley's eighteenth century context and his role in the development of early Methodism. (Note: it is required that students take both CHTH 560 and CHTH 561).
Explores the influence of John and Charles Wesley and the Methodist movement as it expands and intersects with the Holiness Movement. Attention will be given to the theological tenets of the Holiness movement and the rise of nineteenth century Wesleyan-holiness denominations in relation to their social context. Prerequisite: CHTH 560 or permission of instructor. (Note: it is required that students take both CHTH 560 and CHTH 561).
Examines theologians and practitioners that shape Pentecostal-Charismatic movements, theological & practical trends that distinguish Pentecostal-Charismatics from other Protestants, and innovations that create this growing form of global Christianity. (Note: it is required that students take both CHTH 562 and CHTH 563).
A group of students study a specially selected topic with a professor. (Note: it is required that students take both CHTH 555 & 565.)
A small group of students study a specially selected topic with a professor. (Note: it is required that students take both CHTH 555 and CHTH 565).
Complete the following:
Examines the status, roles, and contributions of women and men as they pertain to gender in the history of Christianity and explores the biblical and theological basis for gender equality. Investigating the effects of gender theory in culture and Christian thought, discussion will be aimed toward practical considerations for the flourishing of women and men in the church today.
An exploration of the guiding assumptions and frameworks undergirding various ethical positions and their claims, especially in relationship to Christian theology. The course also analyzes the relationship between context and ethics, specifically as it pertains to the church and its role in the formation of Christian ethics. Implications for the practice of ethics in personal, social, economic, and political problems of our contemporary world will be examined and evaluated.
Explores the integral relationships between ecotheology and global systems of oppression. Students will both engage intersectionality through the lens of environmental degradation and take intentional action out of hope for restoration in the Creation. Students will study current issues such as toxicity, population growth, and an activism rooted in solidarity.
Explores both historical and current manifestations of colonialism as a preparation for holistic, shalom-based, postcolonial Christianity and mission, noting those theologians and movements who understood their faith in juxtaposition to Empire, including Jesus himself. The course will pay special attention to North America's colonial imprint and current postcolonial theologies.
Wrestles with Old Testament theologies of Creation, earthkeeping, and the role of humanity in the created order. Students will engage the history and development of these ideas within the Church, and consider how this legacy relates to the current state of the world. Students will explore the diverse issues corresponding to Sabbath and will engage in ecopraxis involving Sabbathkeeping. (Note: it is required that students take both CHTH 546 and CHTH 547).
Explores ecotheology through the lens of the New Testament. Students will analyze how the doctrines of Trinity, pneumatology, and soteriology relate to the current state of the world. Students will also investigate the ecological issues of food, water, and waste and will engage in ecopraxis related to those issues. (Note: it is required that students take both CHTH 546 and CHTH 547).
Immerses students in an experience of the natural world during an extended retreat. Students will reflect on the wonder of Creation and the immanence of God. They will engage such issues as climate change, agrarianism, and the relationship between science and faith. Students will have the opportunity to explore practical ways to build simple living into their daily lives. (Note: it is required that students take both CHTH 548 and CHTH 549).
Course builds on Keeping the Garden by exploring how faith communities can "green" their local worship and ministry. Students will investigate "green teams," community gardens, educational programs, and advocacy for God's Creation. They will continue to have the opportunity to explore practical ways to build simple living into their lives and their faith communities. (Note: it is required that students take both CHTH 548 and CHTH 549).
Complete the following:
Course studies the variety of human culture through the discipline of anthropology and indigenous scholars. Students engage perspectives from both non-indigenous anthropology and the indigenous community, particularly within the Indigenous North American context, and explore its relationship to today’s world. (Note: it is required that students take both MLDR 548 and MLDR 549).
Course provides an examination of the history of Christian mission among Indigenous peoples, current Indigenous life, and Indigenous spiritualities in geographic, regionally specific studies that connect to both global issues and local context. Students explore issues such as the harmony ethic, building a theology of the land, and various indigenous religious practices in relation to the Christian faith. (Note: it is required that students take both MLDR 548 and MLDR 549).
Examines the status, roles, and contributions of women and men as they pertain to gender in the history of Christianity and explores the biblical and theological basis for gender equality. Investigating the effects of gender theory in culture and Christian thought, discussion will be aimed toward practical considerations for the flourishing of women and men in the church today.
An exploration of the guiding assumptions and frameworks undergirding various ethical positions and their claims, especially in relationship to Christian theology. The course also analyzes the relationship between context and ethics, specifically as it pertains to the church and its role in the formation of Christian ethics. Implications for the practice of ethics in personal, social, economic, and political problems of our contemporary world will be examined and evaluated.
Explores the integral relationships between ecotheology and global systems of oppression. Students will both engage intersectionality through the lens of environmental degradation and take intentional action out of hope for restoration in the Creation. Students will study current issues such as toxicity, population growth, and an activism rooted in solidarity.
Explores both historical and current manifestations of colonialism as a preparation for holistic, shalom-based, postcolonial Christianity and mission, noting those theologians and movements who understood their faith in juxtaposition to Empire, including Jesus himself. The course will pay special attention to North America's colonial imprint and current postcolonial theologies.
An examination of Indigenous spiritualities from a Christian perspective and its relationship to Americans from every culture. Students will be exposed to the spirituality of America’s First Nations and others through readings, shared experiences, and various media. The values associated with the Indigenous American harmony concept will be explored along with an understanding of Indigenous American theologies of the land. (Note: it is required that students take both CHTH 550 and CHTH 551).
Immerses students in the natural world during a five-day retreat. Students will abide in Creation and experience the beauty and hope of our immanent God. They will consider Shalom and Indigenous understandings of the land and the relationship between science and faith. They will engage current issues such as agriculture, conservation, land use, and consumption of natural resources. (Note: it is required that students take both CHTH 550 and CHTH 551).
Choose two of the following:
Suggested sequence BIST 523 or 524 and then BIST 533 or 534.
Class will apply the interpretive skills developed in BIST503, with special attention on the exegetical issues of the designated Old Testament book. Prerequisite: BIST 503 or permission of instructor.
Class will apply the interpretive skills developed in BIST 504, with special attention on the exegetical issues of the designated New Testament book. Prerequisite: BIST 504 or permission of instructor.
Explores the ancient Near Eastern contexts for the Old Testament through study of extra-biblical texts and Levantine archaeology. Special attention will be given to how text and artifact contribute to an informed understanding of Old Testament texts and its relevance for today.
Reviews both the Jewish and Greco-Roman context of the New Testament. Students will be engaged in primary texts through translation with particular emphasis on their contribution to an informed New Testament hermeneutic.
Choose two of the following:
Examines the status, roles, and contributions of women and men as they pertain to gender in the history of Christianity and explores the biblical and theological basis for gender equality. Investigating the effects of gender theory in culture and Christian thought, discussion will be aimed toward practical considerations for the flourishing of women and men in the church today.
An exploration of the guiding assumptions and frameworks undergirding various ethical positions and their claims, especially in relationship to Christian theology. The course also analyzes the relationship between context and ethics, specifically as it pertains to the church and its role in the formation of Christian ethics. Implications for the practice of ethics in personal, social, economic, and political problems of our contemporary world will be examined and evaluated.
Explores the integral relationships between ecotheology and global systems of oppression. Students will both engage intersectionality through the lens of environmental degradation and take intentional action out of hope for restoration in the Creation. Students will study current issues such as toxicity, population growth, and an activism rooted in solidarity.
Explores both historical and current manifestations of colonialism as a preparation for holistic, shalom-based, postcolonial Christianity and mission, noting those theologians and movements who understood their faith in juxtaposition to Empire, including Jesus himself. The course will pay special attention to North America's colonial imprint and current postcolonial theologies.
Complete the following:

Seminary students complete 8 elective credits from BIST or CHTH courses.

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