Credit points


Campus offering

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Teaching organisation

This unit involves 150 hours of focused learning. The total includes formally structured learning activities such as lectures, tutorials, online learning, video-conferencing or supervision. The remaining hours typically involve reading, research, and the preparation of tasks for assessment.

Unit rationale, description and aim

This unit is designed to introduce students to Ecclesiastical Latin, and to open up a world of biblical texts and theological scholarship which is essential to the study of ancient history and theology. Latin is also the language of the Latin Bible (the Vulgate version) and a vast array of literatures of people and cultures in the Mediterranean world in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Learning Latin therefore enables students to read foundational texts, access the works of central figures in the historic tradition in the original language, and engage in detailed research and interpretive study in theology, biblical and Patristic studies.

This unit involves a study of Latin through reading and translation of texts from the Latin Bible. Students are introduced to Latin pronunciation and orthography from the first week. They are then guided through topics in basic Latin grammar, syntax, and morphology. This builds the main focus of the unit, which is developing understanding of these topics through translation activities.

Each week of semester there will be an opportunity to apply Latin knowledge, even after the first hour of study, to translation and investigation of a genuine historical object from the ancient world which will demonstrate the value of learning (and continuing to learn) Latin. The purpose of this approach is to illuminate the way in which the Latin that is being learnt has real-world application to interpretive issues or resolving ambiguities in the New Testament text and other Latin texts. It is often the case that English translations of the Latin either obscure the clarity of the Latin text or make explicit elements of translation that are not in the original. These historical objects will include, but are not limited to a) ancient coins, b) epigraphic inscriptions, c) papyri, d) ostraca, and e) wax tablets. Exposure to these artefacts provides experience with real historical data which serves to reinforce the learning of the Biblical language. It will also enthuse the student amid the more difficult weeks of learning paradigms and vocabulary by encouraging application of learning to genuine historical material.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Demonstrate introductory knowledge of Ecclesiastical Latin morphology, grammar, and syntax working in a fully online environment (GA5; GA10);

LO2 - Read and translate simple original Latin texts into English (GA4; GA5);

LO3 - Translate simple English constructions into Latin (GA4; GA5).

LO4 - Identify methods relevant to biblical studies and engage in more detailed study and interpretation of Biblical scriptures and traditions from a linguistic perspective (GA4; GA5; GA8).

Graduate attributes

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 

GA10 - utilise information and communication and other relevant technologies effectively.


The topics will include:

  • An introduction to the Roman alphabet;
  • An introduction to the most frequently used words and idioms;
  • Ecclesiastical Latin syntax and morphology, as presented in the set text;
  • An introduction to the Latin Bible in the Vulgate version used by the early church.

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit involves 150 hours of focused learning, or the equivalent of 10 hours per week for 15 weeks. The total number of hours includes structured online learning activities such as lectures, tutorials, online learning (including group work), video-conferencing, or supervision. The remaining hours typically involve individual reading of texts, memorising paradigms and increasingly complex vocabulary, research, and the preparation of tasks for assessment.

The unit is normally offered in a fully online mode. Students interact with each other and with academic staff through formally structured and sequenced online learning activities that support the achievement of the learning outcomes. Students are asked to demonstrate understanding of basic vocabulary, grammar, and syntax, integrating new information with existing knowledge. They then apply what they have learned in simple translation exercises. Collaborative and peer learning is also emphasised, as students collaborate and support each other in raising and responding to questions of grammar, syntax, and translation.

THEL502 recognises students as adult learners who engage best when learning outcomes are clear and they are given the opportunity to be responsible for their own learning. In many ways, the student is the one who drives the learning forward, and their active participation in this unit is essential. Formative and summative assessment tasks assist the students to chart and maintain progress throughout the unit. Particularly, informal assessment by instructors and through peer-review in the online environment is designed to give students clear feedback about progress and support them to learn throughout the unit, and staged summative assessment also provides important feedback opportunities. Learning and assessment is thus designed to be a collaborative, engaging and supportive experience, which helps students to develop relevant knowledge, skills, and graduate attributes.

Assessment strategy and rationale

In order to pass this unit, students are required to attempt all assessment tasks and achieve an overall grade of Pass (50% or higher).

The assessment tasks for this unit are designed for students to demonstrate their achievement of each learning outcome.

The unit’s main focus is on building students’ understanding of grammar and syntax, and their capacities in translation. It thus prepares students for more advanced topics covered in THEL503 Latin B. The first assessment task is a Latin Translation forum which focuses on the application of developing knowledge to specific technical ability in translation at a level appropriate for beginning students (including the application of principles of grammar and syntax). It also builds expertise required for the final examination.

The second assessment task is a Latin Composition Forum which places stronger weight on translation ability and seeks to develop confidence through the consistent opportunity to compose a short passage in ancient Latin using the vocabulary and grammatical concepts covered in that week. It simultaneously enables students to apply their knowledge of features of basic Latin grammar and syntax, as well as have an opportunity to translate other students’ compositions.

The third assessment task is a final examination and consists of a range of translational and grammatical questions based on basic sentences, grammatical concepts, cases, gender, prepositions, adjectives, tenses, moods, verbs, pronouns and conjunctions. As the final piece of assessment in the unit, it is the most complex, enabling students to reflect on their work across the unit and demonstrate skills at the appropriate level in translation, linguistic analysis, critical thinking, and communication.

Classes include similar informal tasks (both for individual students and small groups), preparing students for assessment tasks related to translation and grammar and syntax knowledge. The assessment strategy is concerned to provide appropriate scaffolding to enable students to build on their previous knowledge and apply it to new situations. Assessment tasks are therefore closely related to classroom activities and are clearly related to learning outcomes and associated graduate attributes.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Assessment Task 1: Translation Forum (Latin to English). This assessment enables students to demonstrate basic ability in translation, and also apply knowledge of basic Latin grammar and syntax.


LO1, LO2

GA4, GA5, GA8, GA10

Assessment Task 2: Composition Forum (English to Latin). This assessment enables students to demonstrate basic ability in translation, and also apply knowledge of basic Latin grammar and syntax.


LO1, LO2

GA4, GA5, GA8, GA10

Assessment Task 3: The final examination consists of a range of translational and grammatical questions. This assessment enables students to demonstrate ability in translation, reflect on the process of translation, and identify, interpret, and communicate features of the texts they are translating.


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4

GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9, GA10

Representative texts and references

Bretzke, J. (2003) Consecrated Phrases: A Latin Theological Dictionary, Latin expressions commonly found in Theological Writiings. Collegeville MN: Liturgical Press.

Collins, J.F. (1991) A Primer of Ecclesiastical Latin. Reprinted with corrections. Washington DC: The Catholic University of America Press (Set text, which includes a selection of biblical, patristic, and medieval material).

Gryson, R. et al. (1994), Biblia Sacra Vulgata 4th ed. Stuttgart: Deutsche Gesellschaft.

Harden, J.M. (2007) Dictionary of the Vulgate New Testament 2nd ed. London—New York: Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge.

Kennedy, B., Mountford, J.F. and Gerrish, G. (2008) Kennedy’s New Latin Primer. Rev. edn. Richmond: Tiger Xenophon.

Nova Vulgata sacrorum bibliorum editio (1986) Vatican: Libreria Editrice.

Nunn, H.P.V. (1951) An Introduction to Ecclesiastical Latin 3rd edn. Eton: Alden and Blackwell.

Stelten, L.F. (1995) Dictionary of Ecclesiastical Latin. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson.

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