Linguistics and Ancient Languages, M.A.

As of Fall 2019, this degree is in teach out phase, no new students will be admitted.

Program Description

Students who want to specialize in Bible translation have the option of the Master of Arts in Linguistics and Ancient Languages. This degree combines the resources of Talbot School of Theology, where students take classes in Greek or Hebrew and biblical exegesis, and the Department of Applied Linguistics and TESOL where they take classes in linguistics and translation. The application of linguistic principles to the study of the ancient languages facilitates a deeper understanding of these languages. The study of Greek or Hebrew and linguistics develops skills in exegesis and translation for virtually any language situation.

Those who wish to specialize in Bible translation and who already have significant training in Bible, Greek, and/or Hebrew, also have the option of the Master of Arts in Applied Linguistics. That degree allows for greater flexibility, through more electives, while also enabling students to complete a concentration in translation.

SIL at Biola

Each of these Applied Linguistics programs benefits from SIL-at-Biola, a collaboration between the Summer Institute of Linguistics and Biola. Experienced instructors who have served with Wycliffe Bible Translators cooperate in teaching a range of courses here. These courses are equivalent to those offered at other SIL schools and are recognized by Wycliffe as valid training for their goals of translation. Depending on the expected field of service and specialty, some students, however, may need to take additional courses at Biola or other SIL summer programs to meet all their SIL training requirements.


The purpose of the M.A. in Linguistics and Ancient Languages is to provide advanced training in ancient languages and exegetical knowledge to Christians desiring to meet the needs of agencies involved in Bible translation, such as SIL International. While the M.A. in Applied Linguistics provides broad perspectives on issues such as translation, literacy, orthography, and language planning, the M.A. in Linguistics and Ancient Languages has a more specific focus on linguistics, exegesis and ancient languages. Students who complete the M.A. in Linguistics and Ancient Languages program will be able to accurately analyze either Hebrew or Greek, understand the relevant historical and cultural background, exegete the Scriptures, and apply sound linguistic and biblical principles in the translation of the Scriptures.

Program Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of the Master of Arts in Linguistics and Ancient Languages, students will be able to:

  1. Students will apply knowledge and skills as working applied linguists in Bible translation (ULO 1).
  2. Students will collect, organize, and interpret language data in order to provide written documentation of their findings (ULO 1).
  3. Students will assess their values, compare them with those of other languages and cultures, and demonstrate sensitivity to them (ULO 2).
  4. Students will exhibit a professional commitment to ethical and biblically informed practice in applied linguistics (ULO 2).
  5. Students will demonstrate their ability to interact appropriately with translation partners and constituency according to standards of best practices in the field (ULO 3).

Each Program Learning Outcome (PLO) listed above references at least one of the University Learning Outcomes (ULO 1, 2, 3), which may be found in the General Information section of this catalog.

Admission Requirements

Applicants must have completed all bachelors requirements prior to the start of the program and must have a bachelors degree with a 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale) grade point average conferred from a regionally accredited institution prior to the start of the second term. Applicants must submit a written statement outlining their vocational objectives and how the degree will relate to those objectives; a one-page typed letter should be appended to the application. Three letters of reference on forms supplied by Biola are required, as are official transcripts of previous schools attended. Applicants for whom English is not a primary language must demonstrate both spoken and written proficiency in English through an oral interview with an admissions counselor or faculty member and through submission of an internationally recognized standardized test of English (taken within the last two years). A TOEFL score of 100 iBT is normally required. The essay score should be at least 5.5. Alternatively, an IELTS score of 7.0 (no less than 6.0 in any element) is required.

Foundational Requirements

Students are required to have 15 foundational credits as noted below. Students entering the program without the stated foundational credits may take them concurrently with regular program courses, normally completing them by the end of the first year.

Because teachers and applied linguists are expected to have a high degree of competence in written English, all new graduate students, both first and second language English speakers, are required to take the department's Writing Proficiency Exam. If the results indicate that the student needs additional work in grammar and composition to perform at the level expected for these fields, he or she will be directed to take a writing course in the English Language Studies Program or do independent supplementary work on writing.

Program Requirements

The Master of Arts in Linguistics and Ancient Languages requires 15 credits of foundational courses (Old Testament survey, New Testament survey, hermeneutics, introduction to linguistics, and phonetics) and 42 additional credits for the Hebrew and Greek concentrations. The culmination of the Master of Arts in Linguistics and Ancient Languages consists of a comprehensive exam or, with permission of the department, a thesis.

Students who complete the M.A. in Linguistics and Ancient Languages program will be able to accurately analyze a language unknown to them, understand the relevant historical and cultural background, exegete the Scriptures, and apply knowledge of Hebrew or Greek, along with sound linguistic and biblical principles in the translation of the Scriptures.

The Master of Arts program requirements may be reduced for students with appropriate background course work, but the minimum number of graduate credits required is at least 32, 24 of which must be taken through Biola University.

Graduation Requirements

Students must successfully complete all required coursework with a minimum grade point average of 3.0 to qualify for graduation. No ALT course with a grade less than a "B" (3.0) will be counted for the Certificate or M.A.

The M.A. degree in Linguistics and Ancient Languages is usually completed within two years by full-time students; but may require an additional semester or two for students without the foundational credits. Part-time students may have up to seven years for the M.A. degree.

All students must meet with their department advisor and Graduate Graduation Counselor in the Office of the Registrar one year prior to graduation to declare intent to graduate. (See Graduate Graduation Check description in the Admission, Enrollment and Graduation Requirements section).

Curriculum Requirements

Foundational Courses 1
Bible 29
ISAL 520Introduction to Language and Linguistics (Bible)3
ISAL 521General Articulatory Phonetics (Program Courses)3
Program Courses
ISAL 523Introduction to Phonology3
ISAL 525Introduction to Syntax3
ISAL 529Introduction to Semantics and Pragmatics3
ISAL 535Introduction to Bible Translation3
ISAL 648Discourse and Text Analysis3
ISAL 650Seminar in Linguistics and Biblical Exegesis3
ISAL 654Field Methods in Linguistics3
ISAL 697Comprehensive Examination0
Elective Courses
Select a Hebrew or Greek specialization detailed below18
Total Credits57


Hebrew Specialization

Select 6 credits of electives in Hebrew exegesis or linguistics6
TTOT 603Elements of Hebrew I3
TTOT 604Elements of Hebrew II3
TTOT 705Exegesis in Genesis and Selected Passages3
TTOT 745World of the Old Testament3
Total Credits18

Greek Specialization

Select 6 credits of electives in Greek exegesis or linguistics6
TTNT 501Beginning Greek I3
TTNT 502Beginning Greek II3
TTNT 503Introduction to Exegesis3
TTNT 701The World of the New Testament3
Total Credits18