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Turning your most deeply held beliefs into academic research

Theology and Religious Studies: Research

Peace, Trauma and Religion

The study programme

Specializations

The Master's programme Theology & Religious Studies: Research offers specializations in a Thematic and in a Theological tradition, which are directly linked to research centers that are part of the faculty.

The Master's programme Theology & Religious Studies: Research is a two-year programme (120 EC). The programme consists of in-depth training in specialized research and allows advanced studies in all major subdomains in theology and religious studies. There are ten different specialisations to choose from. 

First year

Regardless of which specialization you choose, the first year starts with a course in Hermeneutics where this pivotal approach to theology and religious studies will be taught and exercised. You will also take two courses within your chosen specialization and do a research internship that provides insight into the chosen field of study. Furthermore, you will develop your academic skills preparing and delivering a conference paper. In addition, you will read two classical (theological) works together with students from other specializations.

Second year

In the second year, you will follow two courses in your specialization and one course of your own choice, further deepening and broadening your academic expertise. Furthermore, you will design a proposal for your thesis and a PhD dissertation, and gain skills in writing articles for peer-reviewed journals.

This programme is also part of Faculty of Religion and Theology’s Talent Policy.

The start date of this programme is September 1st.

Which topic do you choose?

Find out what the different possibilities are within the master's programme. 

Summary

The Master’s programme Biblical Studies and Digital Humanities, specialization of the Theology and Religious Studies: Research, focuses on the study of the Hebrew Scriptures by means of computational tools that have entered the field of “Digital Humanities”. The application of these tools to texts and traditions challenges the traditional disciplinary boundaries between the Humanities and the Sciences. It has a great potential for interdisciplinary research, addressing pertinent questions in the biblical scholarship, as well as new questions that arise with the new possibilities of corpus analysis one could only dream of in the pre-digital era.

In your studies, you will deepen your knowledge of biblical texts and languages, acquire basic programming skills in the Python language, and will learn how to apply these skills for textual analysis of the Bible or other ancient sources. Depending on your own interests, you can specialise further in biblical studies, programming for linguistics, or Bible translation.

This research programme is offered by the Eep Talstra Centre for Bible and Computer (ETCBC), an internationally renowned research group that combines the meticulous analysis of biblical texts and languages with innovative state-of-the-art methods of digital analysis. Students of this programme participate in the research meetings of this centre and are offered the possibility to do an internship with one of the ETCBC researchers.

Are you interested in deepening your expertise in Biblical Studies, in crossing borders between disciplines and to enter unexplored paths of innovative research, this programme will be a perfect choice.

Biblical studies and digital humanities courses

Summary

The Bible is the world’s most influential book. The specialization “Contextual Biblical Interpretation” trains you to understand how the Bible is being used, what kind of effect the use of the Bible has on its readers, and how that is (and isn’t) related to the origins of the Biblical books. How can the same book be used to advocate human dignity and be claimed by populist politicians? What role does the Bible play in times of crises (such as the Corona crisis) and what is the role of the Bible in the arts? How does the Bible relate to issues such as gender, race and class across the world and throughout history?

Through courses on both Hebrew Bible/Old Testament and New Testament case studies, you gain a broad overview of the role that the Bible plays in different contexts. The relationship between text and context is of particular interest: contextuality is a catalyst for interpretation. Each context invites new and unique interpretations, showing how inexhaustible the Bible is, both as a sacred text and as a cultural classic. Students can combine courses on biblical subjects with courses in the history of religions or church history and disciplines such as systematic theology, missiology or Bible translation.

The Centre for Contextual Biblical Interpretation in Amsterdam is a hub for research on the use of the Bible. Its academic colloquium offers a great opportunity for exploring cutting edge research with the researchers themselves. Ongoing research includes topic such as ecological hermeneutics, intercultural hermeneutics, biblical interpretation in church plants, autobiographical criticism, masculinities and queer studies and beyond. Also, the Centre hosts the exchange program Bridging Gaps, creating an intercultural community of learners with students from all over the globe in the fall. Annually, a senior scholar delivers the Dom Hélder Câmara lecture in contextual biblical interpretation in November. Uniquely, the Centre is a collaborative effort of both the Protestant Theological University and the Faculty of Religion and the Theology of the Vrije Universiteit, giving members access to both academic communities.

Contextual Biblical Interpretation courses

Summary

Ever since the 6th century BC the sacred writings have been translated and are now collected in our Bibles. The processes of Bible translation overlapped and interacted significantly with the processes of Bible formation and will continue to do so, especially through modern-day technology.

These technological changes, from scroll to codex, print and digital media, had and will have a deep impact on the way the sacred texts of Jewish and Christian communities will be understood, translated, distributed, performed and received in the future.

The Research Master's specialization Bible Translation gives you a unique opportunity:
exploring the principles and practices of Bible translation from a cross-disciplinary perspective.

The questions that drive this programme are both fundamental and applied in nature:

  • How can we understand the interplay of historical, hermeneutical, linguistic, cultural and exegetical conditions that shape Bible translations?
  • What is the relationship between Bible translation, cultural contexts and biblical scholarship, what are the best practices in modern Bible translation projects?
  • How can we integrate the powerful tools of digital humanities in present and future practices of Bible translation?
  • What is the role of power, inequality and gender in Bible translation?

This thematic specialization combines hands-on modules from our interfaculty programme with relevant modules offered by the Centre for Contextual Biblical Interpretation and by the research master specialization Biblical Studies and Digital Humanities.

Bible translation courses

Summary

The Research Master’s programme Church History, specialization of Theology & Religious Studies: Research, focuses on themes such as exile and identity, and on philosophical interplay with religious topics.

Christians who were forced to leave their homelands, kept opposing to the predominant culture. Thus they felt like strangers or pilgrims, looking for a sense of belonging. Ever since the days of Augustine believers saw themselves as foreigners on earth, on their way to the heavenly fatherland. This called for a specific sense of identity, a notion which can only be studied when relevant social and philosophical ideas are taken into account.

This idea of being a foreigner was a heritage of the days of Homer and so Christian motives need to be seen from different angles. Therefore this Research Master’s programme focuses on different aspects of the notion of exile, identity, and cultural currents.

History of religious migration courses

Summary

The Research Master's programme Interreligious Studies is a relatively new, but growing specialization of the Research Master's Theology & Religious Studies. The focal point of this specialization are the multiple dimensions of how individuals and groups who orient around religion interact differently with one another, along with the implications of this interaction for communities, civil society and global politics.

Drawing upon a variety of disciplinary perspectives (hermeneutics, sociology, theology, ritual/spatial studies, genealogy a.o.) this programme is unique in its kind.

Interreligious Studies courses

Summary

Are you interested in deepening your expertise in Christian theology, especially from a Reformed and Evangelical perspective? Do you want to learn how to cross borders between disciplines and to enter unexplored paths of innovative research?

Following the lead of great theologians such as Calvin and Edwards, Wesley and McClendon, Bavinck and Berkouwer, the Research Master’s programme Reformed and Evangelical Theology challenges you to reconsider your theological convictions.

Contemporary developments in society raise new theological questions, and this programme trains students to take these questions seriously. For example, how can our churches and ecclesiology adapt to an ever more flexible and digital world? How should Christian theologians conceptualize God’s wrath in a time of religious extremism and violence? Depending on your own interests, you can specialize in a specific theological tradition, thinker or topic.

This specialization of the Theology and Religious Studies Research Master is offered by the Herman Bavinck Centre for Reformed and Evangelical Theology (HBCRET). Students of this programme will be invited to participate in the research meetings of this centre and are offered the possibility to do an internship with one of the HBCRET researchers.

Reformed and Evangelical Theology courses

Summary

What is the importance of researching Peace within religious studies?
In what way are religions related to political and economic conflicts?
In what stand is religion relevant for actual politics?
How are religions being used to heal wounds, to create hatred, to work for peace?


Are you triggered by the questions above? Or do you have other questions related to the field of peace and conflict studies? Then the Peace, Trauma, and Religion (PTR) Research Master will be a perfect fit for you.

During the Peace, Trauma, and Religion program, you will have the chance to discuss topics with students from different backgrounds and different contexts. Students gain knowledge and skills required for research at the frontier of peace and conflict studies. At the same time, it will become clear that academic understanding is more than knowledge alone. In order to acquire some precise insights regarding peace and conflict studies with the focus on religion, PTR students have the opportunity to join an excursion to have an in situ experience; e.g., Colombia, Israel/Palestine, South Africa, Germany.

This two-year program is the only track where students take all PTR specialization courses such as Public Theology, Just Peace, and Religion and Trauma (all taught in English). While being introduced to the most recent discussions in peace and conflict studies, the component of religion is being discussed to understand how it overlaps with peace and conflict studies. At the same time, you will have the freedom to explore your favorite topics or denominations in depth. Additionally, room for specialization is offered by a freely elective course. 

The program also features expert-instructions on doing research in the courses Hermeneutics, Research Skills, Master Seminar, Research Design I, and Research Design II. These cover interpretation, academic writing, publishing in peer-reviewed journals, presenting at a conference, and producing solid research proposals. Also, the students follow a 12EC internship. Those who follow regularly Research Master trajectory write a 30EC RMA thesis in the second year and follow modules Classics I and Classics II. Furthermore, students who finish the 1-year specialization Peace, Trauma and Religion have the option to switch to the 2nd year of the Research Master program. A choice that can be discussed with the coordinator of the program.

Summary

In this Research Master’s programme Islamic Studies and Theology, specialization of Theology & Religious Studies: Research, you will expand your knowledge and research skills within a broad interdisciplinary framework and prepare yourself for further graduate studies in Islam.

Within the programme you can focus on a specialized area within Theology or Religious Studies. It encourages you to pursue your own interests. You will develop knowledge and skills on topics and debates concerning Islam within contemporary contexts. Furthermore, you will examine materials that are at the forefront of academic research in Islamic Studies and that provide a foundation for future research.

This Research Master’s programme is connected to the VU Amsterdam’s Centre for Islamic Theology, that offers several courses on Islam in the modern world. Among others, you can choose for extra-courses in Islamic hermeneutics, religious transmission and Islam in context.

Summary

Early Christianity was never a single phenomenon. Instead, the label refers to a wide variety of groups that held diverging ideas and practiced their beliefs in just as wide a variety of settings. The Early Christianity track of the Research Master’s programme will introduce you into this variety of early Christianity, but also into their rootedness in early Judaism and the Greco-Roman world. You can choose your own specialisation and decide which focus your own research will have. 

Questions to be addressed in this programme are:

  • How should we weigh current scholarship on the Greek text of the New Testament?
  • What can we say about the historical Jesus?
  • How should we understand Paul’s contribution to the growth of what would become Christianity?
  • What dynamics characterise the process of growth from proto-orthodoxy into the orthodox Catholic church of the 4th century?
  • How do early Christian rituals relate to e.g. the practices of Hellenistic mystery cults?
  • Did the first generations of Christians lead completely different lives from their pagan and Jewish neighbours?

Conflicting Identities in early Christianity courses

Summary

Religion is a pivotal phenomenon in the modern world, including the West: it inspires, it motivates, it consoles, but at times it can also obstruct or even harm. Consequently, it is highly contested: its truth-claims, its attitude towards reality, its societal consequences, and its relation to contemporary science. The Philosophy & Religion track of the Research Master’s programme will introduce you into some of the core issues surrounding religion in Western democracies and it will do so from an empirically informed philosophical and theological perspective. You can choose your own specialisation and decide which focus your own research will have. 

Questions to be addressed in this programme are:

  • What is the nature and value of religious faith?
  • What ethical and meta-ethical challenges does religion face?
  • What are the main arguments for and against belief in God?
  • How should we construe and assess naturalism and atheism in our modern world?
  • How does religious faith relate to science?
  • How can we conceptualize the nature of God in Abrahamic religions?

Philosophy and Religion courses

  • Faith and Reason
  • Arguing for and Against God’s Existence
  • Moral Reasoning and the Religious Life
  • Philosophy and Revalation
  • Biblical studies and digital humanities

    Summary

    The Master’s programme Biblical Studies and Digital Humanities, specialization of the Theology and Religious Studies: Research, focuses on the study of the Hebrew Scriptures by means of computational tools that have entered the field of “Digital Humanities”. The application of these tools to texts and traditions challenges the traditional disciplinary boundaries between the Humanities and the Sciences. It has a great potential for interdisciplinary research, addressing pertinent questions in the biblical scholarship, as well as new questions that arise with the new possibilities of corpus analysis one could only dream of in the pre-digital era.

    In your studies, you will deepen your knowledge of biblical texts and languages, acquire basic programming skills in the Python language, and will learn how to apply these skills for textual analysis of the Bible or other ancient sources. Depending on your own interests, you can specialise further in biblical studies, programming for linguistics, or Bible translation.

    This research programme is offered by the Eep Talstra Centre for Bible and Computer (ETCBC), an internationally renowned research group that combines the meticulous analysis of biblical texts and languages with innovative state-of-the-art methods of digital analysis. Students of this programme participate in the research meetings of this centre and are offered the possibility to do an internship with one of the ETCBC researchers.

    Are you interested in deepening your expertise in Biblical Studies, in crossing borders between disciplines and to enter unexplored paths of innovative research, this programme will be a perfect choice.

    Biblical studies and digital humanities courses

  • Contextual Biblical Interpretation

    Summary

    The Bible is the world’s most influential book. The specialization “Contextual Biblical Interpretation” trains you to understand how the Bible is being used, what kind of effect the use of the Bible has on its readers, and how that is (and isn’t) related to the origins of the Biblical books. How can the same book be used to advocate human dignity and be claimed by populist politicians? What role does the Bible play in times of crises (such as the Corona crisis) and what is the role of the Bible in the arts? How does the Bible relate to issues such as gender, race and class across the world and throughout history?

    Through courses on both Hebrew Bible/Old Testament and New Testament case studies, you gain a broad overview of the role that the Bible plays in different contexts. The relationship between text and context is of particular interest: contextuality is a catalyst for interpretation. Each context invites new and unique interpretations, showing how inexhaustible the Bible is, both as a sacred text and as a cultural classic. Students can combine courses on biblical subjects with courses in the history of religions or church history and disciplines such as systematic theology, missiology or Bible translation.

    The Centre for Contextual Biblical Interpretation in Amsterdam is a hub for research on the use of the Bible. Its academic colloquium offers a great opportunity for exploring cutting edge research with the researchers themselves. Ongoing research includes topic such as ecological hermeneutics, intercultural hermeneutics, biblical interpretation in church plants, autobiographical criticism, masculinities and queer studies and beyond. Also, the Centre hosts the exchange program Bridging Gaps, creating an intercultural community of learners with students from all over the globe in the fall. Annually, a senior scholar delivers the Dom Hélder Câmara lecture in contextual biblical interpretation in November. Uniquely, the Centre is a collaborative effort of both the Protestant Theological University and the Faculty of Religion and the Theology of the Vrije Universiteit, giving members access to both academic communities.

    Contextual Biblical Interpretation courses

  • Bible translation

    Summary

    Ever since the 6th century BC the sacred writings have been translated and are now collected in our Bibles. The processes of Bible translation overlapped and interacted significantly with the processes of Bible formation and will continue to do so, especially through modern-day technology.

    These technological changes, from scroll to codex, print and digital media, had and will have a deep impact on the way the sacred texts of Jewish and Christian communities will be understood, translated, distributed, performed and received in the future.

    The Research Master's specialization Bible Translation gives you a unique opportunity:
    exploring the principles and practices of Bible translation from a cross-disciplinary perspective.

    The questions that drive this programme are both fundamental and applied in nature:

    • How can we understand the interplay of historical, hermeneutical, linguistic, cultural and exegetical conditions that shape Bible translations?
    • What is the relationship between Bible translation, cultural contexts and biblical scholarship, what are the best practices in modern Bible translation projects?
    • How can we integrate the powerful tools of digital humanities in present and future practices of Bible translation?
    • What is the role of power, inequality and gender in Bible translation?

    This thematic specialization combines hands-on modules from our interfaculty programme with relevant modules offered by the Centre for Contextual Biblical Interpretation and by the research master specialization Biblical Studies and Digital Humanities.

    Bible translation courses

  • History of religious migration

    Summary

    The Research Master’s programme Church History, specialization of Theology & Religious Studies: Research, focuses on themes such as exile and identity, and on philosophical interplay with religious topics.

    Christians who were forced to leave their homelands, kept opposing to the predominant culture. Thus they felt like strangers or pilgrims, looking for a sense of belonging. Ever since the days of Augustine believers saw themselves as foreigners on earth, on their way to the heavenly fatherland. This called for a specific sense of identity, a notion which can only be studied when relevant social and philosophical ideas are taken into account.

    This idea of being a foreigner was a heritage of the days of Homer and so Christian motives need to be seen from different angles. Therefore this Research Master’s programme focuses on different aspects of the notion of exile, identity, and cultural currents.

    History of religious migration courses

  • Interreligious Studies

    Summary

    The Research Master's programme Interreligious Studies is a relatively new, but growing specialization of the Research Master's Theology & Religious Studies. The focal point of this specialization are the multiple dimensions of how individuals and groups who orient around religion interact differently with one another, along with the implications of this interaction for communities, civil society and global politics.

    Drawing upon a variety of disciplinary perspectives (hermeneutics, sociology, theology, ritual/spatial studies, genealogy a.o.) this programme is unique in its kind.

    Interreligious Studies courses

  • Reformed and Evangelical Theology

    Summary

    Are you interested in deepening your expertise in Christian theology, especially from a Reformed and Evangelical perspective? Do you want to learn how to cross borders between disciplines and to enter unexplored paths of innovative research?

    Following the lead of great theologians such as Calvin and Edwards, Wesley and McClendon, Bavinck and Berkouwer, the Research Master’s programme Reformed and Evangelical Theology challenges you to reconsider your theological convictions.

    Contemporary developments in society raise new theological questions, and this programme trains students to take these questions seriously. For example, how can our churches and ecclesiology adapt to an ever more flexible and digital world? How should Christian theologians conceptualize God’s wrath in a time of religious extremism and violence? Depending on your own interests, you can specialize in a specific theological tradition, thinker or topic.

    This specialization of the Theology and Religious Studies Research Master is offered by the Herman Bavinck Centre for Reformed and Evangelical Theology (HBCRET). Students of this programme will be invited to participate in the research meetings of this centre and are offered the possibility to do an internship with one of the HBCRET researchers.

    Reformed and Evangelical Theology courses

  • Peace, Trauma and Religion

    Summary

    What is the importance of researching Peace within religious studies?
    In what way are religions related to political and economic conflicts?
    In what stand is religion relevant for actual politics?
    How are religions being used to heal wounds, to create hatred, to work for peace?


    Are you triggered by the questions above? Or do you have other questions related to the field of peace and conflict studies? Then the Peace, Trauma, and Religion (PTR) Research Master will be a perfect fit for you.

    During the Peace, Trauma, and Religion program, you will have the chance to discuss topics with students from different backgrounds and different contexts. Students gain knowledge and skills required for research at the frontier of peace and conflict studies. At the same time, it will become clear that academic understanding is more than knowledge alone. In order to acquire some precise insights regarding peace and conflict studies with the focus on religion, PTR students have the opportunity to join an excursion to have an in situ experience; e.g., Colombia, Israel/Palestine, South Africa, Germany.

    This two-year program is the only track where students take all PTR specialization courses such as Public Theology, Just Peace, and Religion and Trauma (all taught in English). While being introduced to the most recent discussions in peace and conflict studies, the component of religion is being discussed to understand how it overlaps with peace and conflict studies. At the same time, you will have the freedom to explore your favorite topics or denominations in depth. Additionally, room for specialization is offered by a freely elective course. 

    The program also features expert-instructions on doing research in the courses Hermeneutics, Research Skills, Master Seminar, Research Design I, and Research Design II. These cover interpretation, academic writing, publishing in peer-reviewed journals, presenting at a conference, and producing solid research proposals. Also, the students follow a 12EC internship. Those who follow regularly Research Master trajectory write a 30EC RMA thesis in the second year and follow modules Classics I and Classics II. Furthermore, students who finish the 1-year specialization Peace, Trauma and Religion have the option to switch to the 2nd year of the Research Master program. A choice that can be discussed with the coordinator of the program.

  • Islam in the west

    Summary

    In this Research Master’s programme Islamic Studies and Theology, specialization of Theology & Religious Studies: Research, you will expand your knowledge and research skills within a broad interdisciplinary framework and prepare yourself for further graduate studies in Islam.

    Within the programme you can focus on a specialized area within Theology or Religious Studies. It encourages you to pursue your own interests. You will develop knowledge and skills on topics and debates concerning Islam within contemporary contexts. Furthermore, you will examine materials that are at the forefront of academic research in Islamic Studies and that provide a foundation for future research.

    This Research Master’s programme is connected to the VU Amsterdam’s Centre for Islamic Theology, that offers several courses on Islam in the modern world. Among others, you can choose for extra-courses in Islamic hermeneutics, religious transmission and Islam in context.

  • Conflicting Identities in early Christianity

    Summary

    Early Christianity was never a single phenomenon. Instead, the label refers to a wide variety of groups that held diverging ideas and practiced their beliefs in just as wide a variety of settings. The Early Christianity track of the Research Master’s programme will introduce you into this variety of early Christianity, but also into their rootedness in early Judaism and the Greco-Roman world. You can choose your own specialisation and decide which focus your own research will have. 

    Questions to be addressed in this programme are:

    • How should we weigh current scholarship on the Greek text of the New Testament?
    • What can we say about the historical Jesus?
    • How should we understand Paul’s contribution to the growth of what would become Christianity?
    • What dynamics characterise the process of growth from proto-orthodoxy into the orthodox Catholic church of the 4th century?
    • How do early Christian rituals relate to e.g. the practices of Hellenistic mystery cults?
    • Did the first generations of Christians lead completely different lives from their pagan and Jewish neighbours?

    Conflicting Identities in early Christianity courses

  • Philosophy and Religion

    Summary

    Religion is a pivotal phenomenon in the modern world, including the West: it inspires, it motivates, it consoles, but at times it can also obstruct or even harm. Consequently, it is highly contested: its truth-claims, its attitude towards reality, its societal consequences, and its relation to contemporary science. The Philosophy & Religion track of the Research Master’s programme will introduce you into some of the core issues surrounding religion in Western democracies and it will do so from an empirically informed philosophical and theological perspective. You can choose your own specialisation and decide which focus your own research will have. 

    Questions to be addressed in this programme are:

    • What is the nature and value of religious faith?
    • What ethical and meta-ethical challenges does religion face?
    • What are the main arguments for and against belief in God?
    • How should we construe and assess naturalism and atheism in our modern world?
    • How does religious faith relate to science?
    • How can we conceptualize the nature of God in Abrahamic religions?

    Philosophy and Religion courses

    • Faith and Reason
    • Arguing for and Against God’s Existence
    • Moral Reasoning and the Religious Life
    • Philosophy and Revalation

Part-time studying

The Research Master's programme Theology & Religious Studies is offered both full-time and part-time. There are no special teaching hours for part-time students. Following the programme on a part-time basis means that you follow the programme half time. If full-time students have two courses at the same time, part-time students follow one course. Fees are the same in both cases.

Studying abroad

Full-time students of the Research Master's programme Theology & Religious Studies are very much encouraged to study part of their programme abroad. Preparations should be started as early as possible through conversations with the programme director. Students may benefit from one of our Erasmus+ contracts with universities in Europe or from one of our Memoranda of Understanding with universities outside Europe. More information about opportunities for study abroad can be found at VUnet (for students).

Students may study abroad in the second semester of the first year, or the first semester of the second year. The Master thesis must be written under the supervision of a VU staff member.

Why at VU Amsterdam?

Change your future with the Theology and Religious Studies Research programme

Change your future with the Theology and Religious Studies Research programme

Many have used the programme to prepare themselves for research intensive jobs in professional fields such as:

  • researcher, policy advisor, and/or (speech) writer for research institutes, media, NGOs, or government at local, regional and national level and the business community;
  • education (at secondary as well as higher professional education level);
  • further specialization in churches, the media, coaching and spiritual care (for instance in health care and penitentiary system).
  • The PhD programme, offered by the Graduate School of the Faculty of Religion and Theology at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, could be the next logical step in your academic career. If you graduate with consistently outstanding grades (an average of at least 8 out of 10), you will be eligible for acceptance into the doctoral programme at the Faculty’s Graduate School of Religion and Theology.
  • After having completed this programme, many students start a PhD project at our university or elsewhere. Students who wish to pursue their theological or religious studies at a doctorate level are strongly advised to complete this Research Master's programme. 
Explore your future prospects
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