Oriel in particular has a powerful theological tradition.
What do you enjoy the most about your course?
I really enjoy the depth of the course that has encouraged me to delve into profound questions and the historical responses to these questions, which remain with us today. The course emphasises that what earlier generations considered sacred and important remains sacred and great for us too, and at the very least, the questions that were raised about why there is something rather than nothing, what is meant by the human condition, and questions regarding salvation remain significant.
Therefore, I most enjoy grappling with questions, but steeped in the historical tradition. I very much enjoy reading about the history of Christianity, as well as about the complex intellectual history that underpins the theological tradition in general.
“The course has encouraged me to delve into profound questions and the historical responses to these.”
How is your subject taught?
There are 8-12 tutorials per term, each of which entails sitting with a tutor (usually a top academic in the field) to discuss an essay and readings (usually several articles or a few books) done in preparation. On top of this, there are lectures (usually 16 lectures per paper) and often classes (small-group discussion groups led by a professor), as well as language classes for language courses.
This Michaelmas term, for instance, I had 8 tutorials for the Narrative World of the Hebrew Bible, 4 tutorials for Patristics, a load of lectures. I also voluntarily attended a Greek New Testament reading class, 16 classes of Hebrew, a Hebrew Bible seminar series, and an Augustine Latin reading group.
What made you decide to apply for Oxford/Oriel and do you have any top tips on the application process?
The sheer historical tradition of Oxford, and Oriel in particular, made the application very appealing. Oriel in particular has a powerful theological tradition, ranging from such giant figures as St Thomas More, Cardinal William Allen, and Oxford Movement figures such as St John Henry Newman and John Keble. In a special way, I think that their presence can be felt, both in the academic rigour of the College, as well as in the ancient buildings themselves.
“The sheer historical tradition of Oxford, and Oriel in particular, made the application very appealing.”
In terms of applications in theology, I would highly recommend being enthusiastic about the subject matter, especially recognising with humility that there is an entire tradition of thought that asks the big questions about the nature of reality, the meaning of life, and the lofty questions regarding the Divine.
How did you prepare for your interview?
It is important to read widely – before applying I took the time to read through much of what had been written by St John Henry Newman, such as the Apologia pro vita sua, and excerpts of On the Development of Christian Doctrine. I also read a Commentary of the Gospel of John known as the Catena Aurea, which really gave me an insight into both Patristic, Medieval, and Biblical thought. I also took the time to think about the powerful questions that seemed to make sleep difficult – I indulged in them, and read about what others – especially historical figures – had to say about them.
What advice do you have for prospective students interested in studying your subject?
I would say that Theology is the most entertaining subject at times, and the most meaningful subject in other times. Theology, when taken seriously, is something that you love, and want to devote your entire life to, because of how beautiful it can be. Theology involves desiring to know more about the Divine in the context of our fallen world, and thus involves much fantasy, much heartbreak, but also the greatest joy that the world cannot provide. I would advise prospective students to seriously consider this beautiful subject, and contemplate the big questions and ponder them in their heart.
“As a student from abroad, I am a very big fan of Formal Hall dinners, which are very frequent at Oriel.”
What do you like the most about being an Orielensis?
As a student from abroad, I am a very big fan of the Formal Hall dinners, which are very frequent at Oriel (6 times a week), and the traditions associated with Chapel, Formal Dinners, as well as the atmosphere of the College as a whole.