Religious Studies

Religious Studies

Courses & Curriculum

Religion plays an important role in human life and history. A liberal education would be seriously incomplete if it did not provide some of the intellectual tools necessary for dealing with this important dimension of human life.

The department expresses the religious dimension of the college’s founding in the Jesuit and Catholic tradition. Its orientation is to serve the community that shares the values of that tradition.

A major in religious studies and theology provides a broad intellectual context for those who wish to study religion in greater depth. The major program offers courses in five different areas: World Religions, Jewish & Christian Origins, History of Christianity, Religion in the Modern World and Systematic Theology.

In its courses the department offers a scientific and theological study and appreciation of Roman Catholicism, other confessional Christian churches, Jewish religious thought, and other religions. This approach involves the ecumenical and comparative study of religions and a positive approach to the varieties of non-religion, such as atheism. The department provides the opportunity for a critical appraisal of religious faith through the study of primary source materials — scriptural, historical and theological — and the use of interdisciplinary methodologies, such as anthropology, sociology and psychology.

Religious Studies and Theology Curriculum

1. Core Curriculum Requirements:
View the Core Curriculum requirements. All students complete these requirements as part of their overall Canisius education.

2. Major course requirements: (10 courses)

RST 200 Introduction to the Old Testament  3 credits
RST 201 Introduction to the New Testament  3 credits
Course in a non-Christian contemporary religion 3 credits
RST 400 Religious Studies and Theology Seminar 3 credits
RST 489 Project for Majors 3 credits
Religious Studies electives: (5 courses)
 Electives should be concentrated in three of the five areas
 offered in the Religious Studies program. RST 101 may
 not be included. See listing below.
18 credits

3.  Free electives:
Free electives are courses in addition to the Core Curriculum and major requirements sufficient to reach a minimum of 120 credit hours for graduation. Students may graduate with more but not less than 120 credit hours.

History of Christianity
RST 219
-History of Eastern Orthodox Christianity
RST 231-Intro to Catholic Studies
RST 314-New Testament in Literature & Art
RST 325-Early Christianity
RST 326-Medieval, Renaissance and  Reformation Christianity
RST 327-Modern Global Christianity
RST 328-The Jesuits: History, Spirituality & Culture

Systematic Theology
RST 230
- Catholic Belief Today
RST 350-The Christian Concept of God
RST 351-Freedom, Sin & Grace
RST 352-The Church in the Modern World
RST 353-Sacramental Theology
RST 354-Jesus Christ and Modern Culture
RST 355-The Problem of Suffering
RST 359-Revelation and Faith
RST 365-Christian Spirituality

World Religions
RST 218-Intro to Western Religious Traditions
RST 220-Intro to Eastern Religions
RST 221-Native American Religions
RST 222-African Religions
RST 223-Religions of China
RST 224-Islam: Tradition & Revival
RST 226-Hinduism
RST 228-Introduction to Mahayana Buddhism
RST 240-Dev of Jewish Religious Thought & Practice
RST 327- Modern Global Christianity
RST 329-Religions in N America to 1865
RST 330-Religions in N America 1865-present
RST 360-Magic, Science & Religion
RST 363-Women, Gender and Religion
RST 364-Zen and the Meditative Life
  Jewish and Christian Origins
RST 200
-Intro to the Hebrew Bible
RST 201-Intro to the New Testament
RST 205-Reading the Bible: Literary & Theoretical Approaches
RST 301-The First Three Gospels
RST 303-Ethics and the New Testament
RST 311-Paul’s NT Epistles & His Church
RST 312-The Gospel, Letters & Rev of St. John
RST 321-New Testament Society
RST 322-Women Reading the Bible: Feminist Approaches to Scripture
RST 323-Biblical Archeology

Religion in the Modern World
RST 225
-Religion & Society
RST 230-Catholic Belief Today
RST 231-Intro to Catholic Studies
RST 235-Religion & Politics
RST 236-Theology & European Film
RST 237-Images of Jesus in Film and Art
RST 242: Introduction to the Spirituality of Business
RST 327-Modern Global Christianity
RST 340-Moral Issues Today
RST 341-Catholic Social Ethics: Theological Perspectives
RST 342-Theological Ethics and Environmental Justice
RST 343-Religion & the Challenge of Science
RST 344-Theology of Family Process
RST 345-Bio-Moral Problems
RST 352-The Church in the Modern World
RST 361-The Psychology of Religion
RST 362-Fundamentalism
RST 366-Theology of Death


The department has no required foreign language course(s) for its majors, but it strongly encourages all majors, if they are considering seminary or graduate study in theology or religion, to take a foreign language that is especially relevant to a student’s interest in the discipline, such as Biblical Hebrew, Greek, Latin, or a modern foreign language.

Dual Majors

Religious Studies and Theology majors have also majored in Communications, Education, History, Philosophy, and Psychology


The Religious Studies and Theology Department offers a minor in the general area of religious studies for those seeking an overview of the field, as well as minor tracks in three specialty areas within the discipline.

Religious Studies Minor

Track 1: Religious Studies and Theology  
Biblical studies (RST 200 or 201)  3 credits
Survey of world religions (RST 218 or 220)  3 credits
Christian tradition(s): one course(e.g., RST 325, 340) 3 credits
Religious Studies and Theology electives:
3 upper-level (200 or above) courses
9 credits 
Total  (6 courses) 18 credits
Track 2: Biblical Studies    
RST 200 Introduction to the Hebrew Bible 3 credits
RST 201 Introduction to the New Testament 3 credits
Biblical studies electives:
four upper-level (200 or above) courses
12 credits
Total (6 courses) 18 credits
Track 3: Christian History, Thought, and Ethics   
Christian history:
one course (e.g., RST 325, 326, 327, 329, 330)
3 credits
RST 340 Moral Issues Today 3 credits
Religious Studies electives:
four upper-level (200 or above) courses
12 credits 
Total (6 courses) 18 credits
Track 4: Religions of the World    
RST 218 Introduction to Western Religions 3 credits
RST 220 Introduction to Eastern Religions 3 credits
Religious Studies electives:
four upper-level (200 or above) courses
12 credits 
Total  (6 courses) 18 credits

Interdisciplinary Minor in Catholic Studies

The Religious Studies and Theology department is the administrative center for an Interdisciplinary Minor in Catholic Studies. This minor has six required courses: RST 231, CTH 400 and four other courses. These are taken in each of four areas: Catholic Theology and Life; Catholic History and Politics; Catholic Social Thought and Philosophy; and Catholic Culture: Literature, Art, Music and Science. For further information, see Catholic Studies in the “Special Programs” section of this catalog.

Introductory Level

RST 101 Introduction to Religious Studies and Theology    3 credits
An academic introduction to the nature and role of religion in human life and society, including the Jesuit and Catholic traditions as well as other world religions. (Foundation) Fall, Spring

Intermediate Level

200 level courses generally introduce a student to a religion or a particular method of study of religion; 300 level courses generally explore a particular topic or aspect of religion in greater depth. 

All courses listed have RST 101 as a prerequisite.

RST 200 Introduction to the Hebrew Bible          3 credits
Introduction to the literature of the Old Testament within its ancient Near Eastern setting. Particular attention paid to historical, literary, cultural and theological questions. (Field 1) 

RST 201 Introduction to the New Testament          3 credits
Introduction to the literature and background of the New Testament. (Field 1) Fall

RST 205  Reading the Bible: Literary & Theoretical Approaches           3 credits
Study of the Jewish and Christian Bibles from the standpoint of literary and critical theory. (Field 1)

RST 218 Introduction to Western Religious Traditions           3 credits
Introduction to and survey of the western religious tradition, including the ancient Near East, Greece and the great traditions of Judaism, Islam and Christianity. (Field 1)

RST 219 History of Eastern Orthodox Christianity           3 credits
Historical study of Eastern Christian Churches. (Field 1) Fall & Spring

RST 220 Introduction to Eastern Religions          3 credits
History, meaning and practice of living religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam. (Field 1)

RST 221 Native American Religions           3 credits
The nature of indigenous religions in Native American societies and the effect of cultural change through contact with other cultures. (Field 1) Fall

RST 222 African Religions           3 credits
Thematic study of religion in tribal societies. Primary emphasis on African, American Indian and Pacific Island traditions. (Field 1) Spring

RST 223 Religions in China           3 credits
History, thought and practice of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism in China. Chinese folk religion. Christian missions to China. The fate of religion since Mao. (Field 1)

RST 224 Islam: Tradition and Revival     3 credits
From pre-Islamic Arabia to Muslim reform in the modern world. Islamic cult, institutions and faith. Islam in Africa, Asia and the Middle East today. (Field 1)

RST 225 Religion and Society           3 credits
Relationship of religion and society. Sociological theories of religion. Concrete interaction of religion and society in U.S. and other cultures. (Field 1)

RST 226 Hinduism           3 credits
Development of classical and contemporary styles of Hindu religious thought and practice; from the Vedas to Hare Krishna; from Patanjali to TM. (Field 1)

RST 228 Introduction to Mahayana Buddhism          3 credits
An introduction to the Mahayana Buddhist tradition and some of its permutations, e.g., Zen, through an exploration of its key doctrines, theologies, ethics and spiritual practices. (Field 1) Fall

RST 230 Catholic Belief Today           3 credits
Scripture and tradition. The Trinity, incarnation, grace, sacramental life, worship. The Church as community and structure. (Field 1) Fall & Spring

RST 231 Introduction to Catholic Studies          3 credits
Major movements and personalities in Catholic theology, history, culture and spirituality. The Catholic worldview and its relation to modern society. (Field 1) Fall & Spring

RST 235 Religion and Politics           3 credits
Interaction of religion and politics in the United States and other cultures. (Field 1) Fall

RST 236 Theology and European Film          3 credits
Analysis of a selection of foreign films to understand the artists’ positions regarding the nature of humanity, of God and of other theological themes. (Field 1) Spring

RST 237 Images of Jesus in Film and Art          3 credits
Development of artistic representations of Jesus and other Biblical persons along with Christian concepts and themes.  Selection of European and American films as well as pertinent art from Western Christianity. (Field 1) Fall

RST 240 Development of Jewish Religious Thought & Practice            3 credits
Jewish religious thought from biblical times to the present: Hebraism and Judaism in pre-Christian times, Jesus and Jewish thought and modern trends in Judaism. (Field 1) Fall & Spring

RST 242: Introduction to the Spirituality of Business             3 credits       
Everybody is involved in business in the modern world: as employers, employees, investors, and customers. By far, the vast majority of our everyday decisions are made in a commercial context. Spirituality is based on a vision of ultimate reality and meaning. It provides practical wisdom about how to choose good and avoid evil, and how to bear patiently with wrongs and wrongdoers. This course will offer some suggestions about how Christianity offers a way to make wise decisions and develop the virtues necessary for happiness in this world.  (Field 1)  Fall

RST 250 Biblical Greek           3 credits
Introduction to Greek with a focus on grammar, vocabulary, and syntax of the koine Greek used in the New Testament. Taught as a private study. Prerequisite: Permission of chair.

RST 251 Greek Exegesis           3 credits
Biblical Greek on an intermediate level. Nuances of grammar and syntax and their effect on translation and interpretation of the text of the New Testament. Taught as a private study.  Prerequisite: Permission of chair.

RST 252 Biblical Hebrew           3 credits
Introductory course for students with no prior Hebrew language experience. Study of the Torah text. Taught as a private study. Prerequisite: Permission of instructor.

RST 301 The First Three Gospels           3 credits
Portraits of Jesus in Matthew, Mark, Luke and “Q” leading to the question of the historical Jesus, against the backdrop of history and religions of New Testament times. (Field 1)

RST 303 Ethics and the New Testament             3 credits
New Testament approaches to ethical questions: the implications for human sexuality, marriage and divorce, racism, sexism, war and peace. (Field 1)

HIS 306 History of Religion in America              3 credits
See HIS 306 for course description.  (Field 1)

CLS 308 Pagans and Christians           3 credits
See CLS 308 for course description.  (Field 1) Spring

CLS 309 Greek and Roman Religion               3 credits
See CLS 309 for course description.  (Field 1)

RST 311 Paul and His Churches           3 credits
Survey of St. Paul’s theology and mission, the variety and controversies of the early church. (Field 1) Spring

RST 312 The Gospel, Letters and Revelation of St. John           3 credits
The gospel message analyzed in Jesus’ words and deeds. The symbols of Revelation seen in their historical and contemporary meaning. (Field 1)

RST 314 New Testament in Literature and Art          3 credits
New Testament themes and personalities analyzed from a scriptural perspective and compared with expressions in the arts. Relationship of religion and art; scriptural roots of Christian art. [Also accepted for Art History major and minor credit.] (Field 1) Spring

RST 321 New Testament Society           3 credits
Recent sociological and cultural-anthropological interpretation of the New Testament and its ancient environment. (Field 1)

RST 322 Women Reading the Bible: Feminist Approaches to the Scripture   3 credits
Examination of the varieties of feminist, scholarly approaches to the Jewish and Christian Bibles. (Field 1) Spring

RST 323 Biblical Archaeology           3 credits
Contributions of Syro-Palestinian and other ancient Near Eastern archeological information to reconstructing the social world, history and religion of ancient Israel. (Field 1)

RST 325 Early Christianity           3 credits
Historical study of the development of Christianity from its first century roots to its rise as the dominant religion of the Roman Empire. (Field 1) Fall

RST 326 Medieval, Renaissance, and Reformation Christianity           3 credits
Historical study of life, thought and worship of the Christians during the medieval, renaissance, and reformation periods. (Field 1)

RST 327 Modern Global Christianity            3 credits
Historical study of the life, thought and worship of Christians, both Protestant and Catholic, from the Reformation to the present. (Field 1) Spring

RST 328 Jesuits: History, Spirituality, Culture          3 credits
Life of St. Ignatius of Loyola. History of Jesuits. (Field 1) Spring

RST 329 Religions in North America to 1865          3 credits
Historical study of the development of religions in North America from the Spanish, French, and English settlements in the 17th century to the Civil War era. (Field 1)

RST 330 Religions in North America 1865-present          3 credits
Historical study of religious developments in North America from the Civil War era to the present. (Field 1)

RST 340 Moral Issues Today           3 credits
An inquiry into religious and secular approaches to morality and the issues raised by specific moral problems. (Field 1) Spring

RST 341  Catholic Social Ethics: Theological Perspectives           3 credits
Study of the principles of Catholic Social Teachings articulated in papal and Episcopal documents with contemporary applications. (Field 1)

RST 342 Theological Ethics and Environmental Justice           3 credits
Investigation of the models of theological ethics and the ways in which ethics informs human interaction with the environment. (Field 1) Fall

RST 343 Religion and the Challenge of Science          3 credits
Traces the emergence of science as independent from and a challenge to the religious world view. (Field 1) Fall

RST 344 Theology of Family Process           3 credits
Biblical and religious ideals of Judaism, Catholicism, Protestantism. Current ethical issues: intimacy, relationship, power. Relevancy of love to sex, marriage, family. Communication styles. (Field 1)

RST 345 Bio-Moral Problems           3 credits
Considers a number of problem areas such as genetic intervention, medical experimentation, behavior control, organ transplants and resource allocation and death and dying. (Field 1) Fall

RST 350 Christian Concept of God           3 credits
Concept of God in light of Biblical faith. Historical development and modern approaches to the Christian doctrine of God. (Field 1) Spring

RST 351 Freedom, Sin and Grace           3 credits
What is humankind? What are our possibilities, radical problems, resources? What Christian faith has to offer as answers to these and other universal human questions. (Field 1)

RST 352 The Church in the Modern World          3 credits
Study of the Church, its mission and structure. (Field 1)

RST 353 Sacramental Theology            3 credits
The presence of God in the midst of the human community, as symbolized by the sacraments. Their history, interpretation and anthropology. (Field 1)

RST 354 Jesus Christ and Modern Culture          3 credits
An historical-theological inquiry into the person of Jesus of Nazareth. (Field 1) Spring

RST 355 The Problem of Suffering           3 credits
Suffering confronts each individual in illness, broken relation-ships, failures, drug abuse and death. The course addresses how God is active even in suffering. (Field 1)

RST 359 Revelation and Faith           3 credits
Exploration into the meaning of revelation and its correlative faith in light of modern challenges to these foundational concepts. (Field 1) Fall

RST 360 Magic, Science and Religion           3 credits
Scholarly approaches used to understand how diverse peoples of the world conceive, make use of and tap into the realm of the extra human. Focus on “exotic” societies and peoples, exploration of the meanings of magic, science and religion in the more familiar contemporary Unites States and Europe. (Field 1)

RST 361 Psychology of Religion               3 credits
Interaction of Psychology and Religion: Freud, Jung, Erikson, Kohlberg, Kohut, Winnicott. Themes: character types, God image, religious psychobiography, narcissism, object relations, sin and love. (Field 1) Fall & Spring

RST 362 Fundamentalism           3 credits
Critical study of religious fundamentalism in a variety of religious traditions and cultural and geographical contexts. Historical, anthropological and sociological methodologies applied to the academic study of religion. (Field 1)

RST 363 Women, Gender and Religion              3 credits
Feminine symbolism and mythologies dealing with feminine archetypes in ancient religions and contemporary cultures: women in the Bible. The feminine in current psychology and theology. (Field 1) Spring

RST 364 Zen and the Meditative Life              3 credits
A study of the Zen tradition in China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam and the West from a Buddhist perspective: meditation, historical context, social milieu, primary texts and modern commodification. (Field 1)

RST 365 Christian Spirituality           3 credits
Historical, analytical and appreciative study of the fundamental principles and development of Christian ascetical theology. (Field 1) Fall

RST 366 Theology of Death           3 credits
The experience of dying and the meaning of death in the Old Testament and New Testament and in Christian theology. Loss and grief. The funeral. Suicide. Aging. Eternal life. (Field 1) Fall & Spring

Advanced Level

400 level courses are reserved for majors, minors, or special permission of the instructor and require RST 101 as a prerequisite.
RST 400 Religious Studies and Theology Seminar          3 credits
A seminar for RST majors and minors, focusing on the history of theory and method in the academic study of religion.

RST 402 Christianity in the New World          3 credits
A study of Third World Christianity by immersion in different areas of Third World Countries. Prerequisite: RST 327.

RST 406 Special Topics in Religious Studies & Theology           3 credits
Critical examination of selected topics in Religious Studies & Theology with a focus on a particular period, religious tradition, author or topic. Subject matter determined by the instructor.  Prerequisites: RST 101 and at least one 200-level RST course.  For RST majors or minors, and others with permission of instructor.  Fall & Spring

RST 489 Projects for Majors           3 credits
Concentrated investigation of a topic of particular interest to the student, under supervision of faculty advisor. Prerequisite: Departmental approval.  Fall and Spring

RST 496 Internship           3 credits
Combination of teaching or religious work with special readings and theological reflection, under the guidance of department faculty. Prerequisite: Consent of chair.  Fall and Spring

RST 499 Independent Study           3 credits
Independent studies allow in-depth study of a specific topic and are most often reserved for seniors who cannot otherwise fulfill a graduation requirement. Prerequisites: Permission of the instructor, department chair and associate dean.