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Course Offerings


Except for Liturgical Music (LM), all courses are 2 credit courses and meet for two hours a week during the semester in which they are offered (each of the six courses in Liturgical Music carries 1 credit). The first six areas of study (I-VI) contain the St. Nersess Armenian Seminary’s part of the core curriculum for the joint M.Div. degree with St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Seminary, and with the remaining two areas (VII. Biblical Studies and VIII. Church and Society) provide the curriculum for the M.A. degree at St. Nersess. The last area of General Studies (IX) is open to students in both degree programs.


The Armenian classical language, known as grabar or “literary,” was highly developed by the time it came to be written at the dawn of the fifth century. All early Armenian literature, through the eighteenth century, is in the classical language. Command of the language is therefore a must for the study of the Armenian literary heritage, and for its renaissance from ancient manuscripts. Classical Armenian continues to be the liturgical language of the Armenian Church; it is the ecclesial language par excellence. Moreover, Biblical, Intertestamental, and Patristic scholars devoted to textual studies are often drawn to learning it (several Intertestamental and Patristic writings survive in Classical Armenian translation only). Likewise, this ancient language has long attracted the attention of linguists studying Indo-European roots, for the majority of whom it is requisite for the discipline.


The conception that events constitute history and bear meaning is demonstrated most clearly in the history of the Church. The transformation of events into destiny is particularly true in the Armenian experience. The role of history and reflection upon its significance; doctrinal developments; issues spanning Armenian Church history; the life, times, works, concepts and influence of outstanding spokesmen; these themes and others form the contents of the courses listed below.


The intellectual roots of Armenian Christianity are found in the works of the Fathers of the Church. The founders of Armenian letters and nearly all writers for more than a millennium of remarkable literary accomplishments were Church Fathers. Resurrecting most of their works from an archival preservation to a state of relevancy and immediacy for basic issues in current theological discussion and for personal enrichment is the purpose of the courses described below.


In her liturgy the Armenian Church not only meets and communicates with God, but also constitutes herself as the living body of Christ, through the Holy Spirit, an offering pleasing to the Father. The key, therefore, to the heart of the Armenian Church is her liturgy. It is there that the Armenians’ unique expression of the Christian faith is transmitted and lived. The courses in liturgy examine the meaning of the Armenian Church’s worship in all its dimensions, using an historical-comparative approach. Distinctive features of the Armenians’ liturgical expression are revealed, leading to reflection on the liturgy’s force in the lives of the faithful in America today.


Music is an essential component of the priest’s liturgical ministry. Candidates for ordination must be competent to sing and to teach others to sing a substantial repertory of liturgical hymns and chants for the daily and occasional services as well as for festal periods throughout the year. Although but one course is offered each semester, some of the contents of other courses may be taught simultaneously-as it becomes necessary to prepare for impending festal days. Each class period is considered a group session and nearly all singing a group activity. Moreover, students receive individual attention and are tutored according to their individual needs, and their progress is assessed accordingly. All students currently enrolled in the M.Div. program are required to register for the one-credit course each semester.


Basic competencies in the area of church and in the role of priestly ministry are incumbent upon third-year seminarians, who are accordingly required to take the following four courses (PR 401, 402, 405 and 410) during their senior year. Other competencies having to do with attitudes, such as deep love for people and a desire to see them grow in the love of the Lord, realization that God is vitally concerned with people, ability to relate across social and cultural lines, etc., need to be developed earlier-as through the summer requirements of PR 450 and 451 (no credit is given so as to help develop a willingness to spend and be spent in the Lord’s work). Field education is an important part of the curriculum; its purpose is to contribute to the seminarian’s personal development and professional competence.


The very foundation of Christian theological education is found in the Scriptures and their testimony of Christ. More than mere familiarity with the Bible is expected of those who share the Word of God. Courses in this area provide a broad-based acquaintance with the contents of the Bible and its theology; its translation, transmission, and interpretation by the vardapets of the Armenian Church; and its appropriation in the lives of the Armenian faithful both past and present.


Theological education often finds itself closely allied with other disciplines, especially the social sciences. With this in mind, the Seminary encourages students to take courses in this area either as core electives for those in the M.A. in Armenian Christian Studies program or as audits for those in the M.Div. program and for members of the community. M.A. students focusing on Church and Society as their area of concentration may substitute up to five courses in youth ministry, ministry to the elderly, religious education, or other ministries taken at nearby seminaries or universities, and have their credits transferred.


The courses listed under this heading are, for the most part, tutorials for students with known deficiencies in their general Armenian knowledge. No credit is given for courses designated as tutorials. Students taking such courses should adjust their study loads accordingly, especially those with serious language deficiency. As a rule, a language course requires more of a student’s time and effort than some other course.