There are about 40 theology students in each year, who tend to have a real variety of viewpoints and interests. This is reflected in the course - you have far fewer restrictions on module choices than students doing other subjects, which allows you to focus on whatever interests you. The facilities at the Divinity Faculty are great, and the library is well-stocked enough to provide most of the books that you want but can't find in college.
What about the Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion course at Cambridge appealed to you?
Sarah: Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion at Cambridge appealed to me the most because it’s extremely flexible. I can study from the perspective of any particular religion and go deep into the texts and theological concerns, or I can study from an outsider’s standpoint and look at the sociology of religion as a phenomenon. I wasn’t entirely sure where I wanted to go with this degree so I had the option of keeping it broad in my first year. I was surprised with how much I've enjoyed my Biblical language paper - Ancient Hebrew is a big challenge but well worth the effort. By the end of second term we were reading and analysing large portions of Genesis, which was tonnes of fun and very interesting.
How have you found the structure of the course?
Nathan: You can take a broad approach to religion if you choose to, but you are also able to focus on specific religions or fields of study if you like, especially as you move further on in the course.
Hannah: I’ve found the first year course structure great - there is a broad range of papers to choose from, so you can get a good foundation for the further two years of study. This year I chose two biblical papers, a philosophy paper and a history paper, as well as New Testament Greek: as you can see, you can get a little taste of a wide number of topics and disciplines! Every first year student currently has to take a Scriptural Languages paper (which can be continued in second year if you like) - there’s a choice of New Testament Greek, Old Testament Hebrew, Qur’anic Arabic and Sanskrit.
What is your faculty/department like?
Hannah: The Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion course is based in the Divinity Faculty, which can be found next to the History Faculty on the Sidgewick Site. Just a three-minute walk from the University Library, the Faculty is a fantastic building with a welcoming foyer and a spiral staircase (and a lift) which takes you to the two floors of lecture and seminar rooms, all of which are comfortable and spacious, as is the Divinity Library on the top two floors of the Faculty. The Faculty is open from 9am-6pm on weekdays in full term time.
Sarah: The faculty also serves free coffee everyday at 11am, which is generally quite a social event. I often have a chat to some of the Graduate students, they’re very friendly and often give good advice!
What types of work do you have to do?
I have lectures every day, and usually one small class and one supervision each week. We are expected to submit one essay per supervision for discussion, which was hard to begin with but now that I’ve gotten organised it’s perfectly manageable. My Director of Studies (DoS) assigned all my supervisors at the beginning of the year so it was up to me to contact each of them and arrange a time to meet. Discussing one’s work with a world-leading expert in the field can be daunting at first, but it’s incredibly beneficial. If you genuinely love the subject, you won’t want to miss an opportunity like this.
Do you have career plans?
I'm really hoping to go into charity work in the Middle East, or perhaps with refugees in Europe. I feel like understanding the religions which play an important role in some current conflicts will be useful for that, so this year I've been studying Qur'anic Arabic, and I've taken World Religion and Sociology of Religion papers which have allowed me to start learning about Islam and Judaism among other things. There seems to be a really wide range of aspirations in the Faculty: I know a few people are hoping to go into ministry, while other people are talking about diplomacy or law. I think a lot of people are undecided, but the beauty of the Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion tripos is that it's so broad, meaning you can develop all sorts of useful skills and explore new interests.
What about your course would you change?
Nathan: There's not a lot I'd change - I know not everybody enjoys studying a scriptural language in first year so maybe I wouldn't keep that compulsory, but I'm personally loving learning Greek!
Hannah: I don’t think that there is anything I would change about studying this course - it’s such a broad subject with something to interest you no matter what you have studied before, and it is taught by people who are passionate about the subject and experts in their field. The Divinity Faculty is also a really friendly place to study. What more could you want?!
Typical timetable of a 1st year Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion student
Each week, first year Theology students have between nine and eleven contact hours: Scriptural language lessons, supervisions, lectures and seminars make up this time. This leaves a lot of ‘free time’ in the timetable - we tend to use this making use of the many brilliant libraries, preparing essays for Supervisions and enjoying the many social opportunities of Cambridge!
Supervisions are one-on-one or two-on-one discussions with experts in the Faculty, in which you talk about your essays and explore the subject in more detail. These are great times for learning in more detail and asking all of the questions encountered in lectures or in reading for your essays.
Seminars happen in larger groups, and often involve looking at particular texts to do with the particular paper. For example, in New Testament seminars we look at different parts of the Bible and discuss different issues that arise.
|9am||-||-||Reformation History Seminar||-||-|
|10am||-||New Testament Lecture||Philosophy Lecture||-||-|
|11am||-||Reformation History Lecture||-||-||Old Testament Supervision|
|12am||-||-||Old Testament Lecture||Old Testament Lecture||-|
|4pm||-||Greek Lesson||-||Greek Lesson||Greek Lesson|
What has been going on at Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion?
- Recent Events -
In February, the Divinity Faculty hosted two movie nights organised by the Cambridge Inter-Faith Programme: the first was the film ‘Arranged’, which follows the relationship of an Orthodox Jew and a devout Muslim.
On the 22nd of February, the Hulsean Lectures, given by Lord Williams of Oystermouth on the topic of 'Christ and the Logic of Creation', concluded
Talk by Rowan Williams
At the end of February, Rowan Williams (Master of Magdalene College), gave two lectures on literature and Theology. Referred to as 'Storytime' by many of the students who went, this was a popular part of the Course!
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