University of Minnesota
Religious Studies

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Track II: Texts and Traditions

Description of the Track II Major

This track is ideal if you seek in-depth knowledge of a particular religious tradition (for example, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, American Indian, or Hmong). 

It emphasizes learning about the selected tradition through study of its untranslated foundational texts.

For this track, you must complete preparatory work through the 4th semester (or the equivalent) of a language appropriate to the specific religious tradition and its sources.

This track provides a solid foundation for careers serving diverse communities in public arenas, as well as graduate study in the arts, humanities, or social sciences, or in theological or seminary programs.

Track II is particularly recommended if you are interested in such topics as the (1) the advanced study of the Bible or the Qur’an both in their origins and their later interpretations, (2) the history of Judaism, Islam, or Christianity before the modern period, or (3) the study of the traditions and texts of the religions of South or East Asia, whether in their countries of origin or in diaspora.

Sample subject and language pairings include but are not limited to:

  • Judaism: Hebrew (for scriptural or historical area of concentration), German or Yiddish (e.g., for Jewish literature or 20th-century)
  • Islam: Arabic, Turkish
  • Christianity: Greek or Latin (for scriptural or medieval concentration), German or Spanish (for relevant geographical/cultural themes)
  • Buddhism: Chinese or Japanese
  • Hinduism: Sanskrit or Hindi
  • American Indian religions: Ojibwe or Dakota

Requirements of the Track II Major

Completion of preparatory coursework plus a a minimum of 25 credits. Your major advisor gives final clearance (final approval) of your courses. Clearance is required for graduation.

Required Preparatory Coursework

  • RELS 1002 Introduction to the Study of Religion (3 credits). This course introduces you to some of the central concerns, problems, materials, and methods of studying religion.  


  • One of the following courses:
    • RELA 1001 - Introduction to the Religions of the World
    • JWST/ CNES/RELA 1201 - The Bible: Context and Interpretation
    • CNES 1082 - Jesus in History
    • ALL 1275 - Buddhism in East Asia
    • CNES 1001 - World of the Bible
    • RELA 1035 - Introduction to Christianity
    • AMST 1011 - Religions and American Identity in the United States, From World War II to the Present
    • JWST 1034 - Jewish History and Civilization

NOTE: The purpose of the preparatory course requirement is to ensure that you have been introduced to the academic study of religion and understand how it is different from the confessional study of religion you may have experienced in your own family or religious institution.

  • Completion of the 4th semester (C- or better) at the University of Minnesota, or the equivalent, of the language most relevant to the your area concentration. Language selection must be approved by the major advisor.  

Major Coursework

A minimum of 25 additional credits at the 3xxx level or above, to include:

  • RELS 3001 – Theory and Method in the Study of Religion: Critical Approaches to the Study of Religion  (3 credits)
  • Religious Traditions.  1 course each in two different religious traditions, which in turn must be different from the tradition associated with the student’s area concentration (6 credits):  Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, a Native American tradition, Zoroastrianism, other.  With your advisor’s permission, you may substitute a socio-cultural course (e.g., Anth 3045 - Religion and Culture; Soc 4309 - Religion and Public Life in the U.S.; Hist 3491 - Islam in the Catholic Age; ArtH/CNES 5252 - History of Early Christian Art in Context; ALL 3373 - Religion and Society in Imperial China) for 1 religious tradition course.
  • RELS 4951W - Major Project Seminar (4 credits). To be offered every spring. Advanced juniors may be admitted by permission of advisor. We combine Track I and Track II students in the same seminar with the expectation that their respective strengths will complement each other and enrich the senior project experience.
  • 4 elective courses in an area concentration linked to your selected tradition and its associated language and linked together geographically, chronologically, thematically, or methodologically (12 credits).  These courses should be carefully selected with and approved by the major advisor. NOTE:  Courses used for the Religious Traditions requirement cannot be used to fulfill this requirement.

See sample area concentrations below.

Sample Area Concentrations