Student at excavation

History of Religions

This master’s programme uses interdisciplinary approaches to study history and religion in the pre- and early modern world.

Language of instruction

2 years (120 ECTS)

See our admission pages

Semester fee
Ordinary semester fee incl. SiO fee


The MPhil in History of Religions explores fundamental questions about religion from a historical standpoint:

  • What is religion? How did this concept develop?
  • How do historians study ancient religions?
  • How are sacred texts used and abused?
  • What is the relationship between religion and violence?
  • How did religious groups, ideas, and artefacts travel from place to place and how did that migration transform them?

Using the cultures of the ancient Mediterranean world and the Silk Road as a focal point, students will have the chance to explore the study of ancient manuscripts, archaeological evidence, and a variety of theoretical approaches to the study of the pre-modern world.

The program investigates the development and interactions of ancient Jews, Christians, and Muslims, along with lesser known ancient groups such as Manichaeans and the devotees of Isis, Mithras, and other gods, while utilizing both classic approaches and more recent theories and methodologies.



More about the programme


- Bachelor’s degree

- A combination of relevant religious studies and history credits: A minimum of 80 ECTS credits including specialization in one subject area, and a minimum of 20 ECTS credits in the other subject area.

- A minimum average grade of C overall and in the specialization subject area. See MF’s general admission requirements:

- International students must document necessary English language competencies according to MF’s requirements. See MF’s page general requirements:

- A statement of interest: In a statement of 200-400 words, applicants should describe their interest and experience in the academic study of history and religion and inform the admissions office of their reasons for considering a graduate education in History of Religions.

Additional Information Concerning Requirements for Admission:
By “relevant religious studies credits” we mean the study of religion as cultural and historical phenomena explored in fields such as religious studies, history of religion, sociology of religion, anthropology of religion, and academic biblical studies. Other academic studies of religion, such as theology and interdisciplinary studies may also be relevant, and will be considered individually.

By “relevant history credits” we mean studies that focus on the history of the premodern world (political history, social history, archaeology, ancient languages, and art history). Other studies that provide skills to work with ancient evidence can also be relevant and will be considered individually. These might include studies in the humanities such as historiography, history of ideas, and philosophy.

The application for admission should document basic knowledge of multiple religious traditions and research methods.

Programme structure

All courses are mandatory. Students are only able to start this programme in August as HIS5010 is considered a basic theoretical course which, as a main rule, has to be completed before continuing with second semester courses.

Structure as of fall 2019

4.sem. Alt. 1.AVH5080
Thesis for Master in History of Religions:
(60 stp)
4.sem. Alt. 2. AVH5085
Thesis for master in History of Religions (30 ECTS)
(30 stp)
3.sem. Alt. 1. AVH5080
Thesis for Master in History of Religions:
(60 stp)
3. sem. Alt. 2. Utveksling / Exchange

Owning and sharing holy matter: texts, artefacts and places
(10 stp)
Encounters: Common Categories and Concepts in Abrahamic religions
(10 stp)
Methodology: Texts and History
(10 stp)
Theoretical perspectives: The historical study of religion
(10 stp)
Religious change, exchange and counterchange: A long-term historical perspective
(10 stp)
The Craft: Research Skills and Professional Engagement in the Study of Religion
(10 stp)
Semester10 ECTS10 ECTS10 ECTS

Description of the programme

Based on a multidisciplinary approach and applying various theoretical frameworks and interpretative methods, the core courses of the programme aim to reveal historical dynamics, privileging 'how' and tentatively 'why' over 'who' and 'when'.

The programme is conceived at the intersection between political history and history of religions, but relies also on other disciplines, such as the history of ideas, art history and archaeology. These are meant to provide the depth of field expected in Big History by illustrating and clarifying the macro-historical perspectives.

Students who complete a minimum of 10 master level credit points in a relevant language can apply to have these credit points recognized as a part of their degree in History of Religions. If approved, language credit points can replace one or both of the 10 point courses HIS5030 and HIS5050. When such an application is processed, the content and grade level of the student's prior studies will be taken into consideration.

Master thesis:
- As a main rule, 40 ECTS within the programme, including methodology, must be completed before students can register for AVH5080.

- As a main rule, all courses within the programme must be completed before the thesis can be submitted.

Modes of teaching

Teaching and learning are driven by a hands-on and case-oriented attitude and core courses are complemented by lectures and seminars of theory and method.

What will you learn?

Description of Qualifications

The candidate..
has advanced knowledge of the historical development of the main religious traditions and specialised insight in the role that religion played in the evolution of society
has thorough knowledge of the principal theories about religion and religious phenomena
can understand and interact with academic discourses in the field of the history of religions
The candidate..
can critically analyse and use the existing theories within the history and phenomenology of religions as well as their specific methods and interpretative patterns in both practical cases and theoretical debates
can carry out independent scientific research on topics related to the history and phenomenology of religions
can apply knowledge to new areas within the history and phenomenology of religions, history proper or social sciences and address relevant challenges in society
can analyse and address critically different types of empirical data and use it to structure and formulate theoretically valid arguments
can assess the historical background of current social issues related to religious beliefs and practices and propose valid and balanced frameworks for relating to them
General competence
The candidate..
can analyse within a valid methodological framework problems related to religious conflict
can apply his/her knowledge and skills in new areas of society in order to carry out advanced assignments and projects in connection with people’s religious beliefs
can communicate the results of scientific work in the history and phenomenology of religion and masters the specific terminology of these fields
can communicate about issues in the history and phenomenology of religion with the general public
can contribute to theoretical research and practical conflict-solving in the areas of the history and phenomenology of religion


Master of Philosophy in History of Religions.

Further studies and career opportunities

This programme aims at providing education for positions within education or research, as well as within Norwegian or international institutions and organisations, where comparative knowledge of religions, in particular of relations between religions, is required. The programme is also relevant for positions relating to immigration and social integration. The Master's degree qualifies for further studies on PhD level.