the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Doctor of Philosophy

Description of Doctor of Philosophy Program

The Ph.D. program equips students for advanced scholarship, effective teaching, and service. The program is intended to qualify graduates for college or seminary teaching. It may also be useful in the pastorate and in other church-related ministries that benefit from advanced Christian scholarship.

The program requirements for the Ph.D. in the School of Theology vary somewhat from field to field. The student consults with his or her faculty supervisor to design a plan of study that will result in breadth and depth of scholarship in the major field of study and conversance with one or more minor fields.

Students typically need four years of full-time study to meet all program requirements, however, there are many factors that may affect program length.

Program Requirements

Two Research languages 0
Eight Area Seminars 32
Graduate Research Seminar 2
Teaching Principles 4
Higher Education 2
Five Colloquia (one per semester) 10
Comprehensive Exams 0
Dissertation 8
Dissertation Defense 8
Total PhD credit hours 66

Areas of Study

  • Scripture and Interpretation
    • Old Testament
    • New Testament
    • Biblical Studies (studies in both Testaments with emphasis on the biblical languages)
  • Theology and Tradition
    • Church History and Historical Theology
    • Systematic Theology
  • Worldview and Culture
    • Christian Philosophy
    • Christian Ethics
    • Christian Apologetics and Worldview Studies
    • Christianity and the Arts
  • Ministry and Proclamation
    • Biblical Spirituality
    • Christian Preaching
    • Biblical Counseling
    • Pastoral Theology

Overview of the Program

Committee of Instruction

At the time of matriculation the student meets with his or her faculty supervisor to develop a plan of study and secure a committee of instruction. The committee of instruction is composed of the student’s faculty supervisor and two other professors with whom the student expects to take seminars. This committee will normally prepare the student’s comprehensive examinations and may serve as the dissertation committee.

Area Seminars

Ph.D. study is pursued in large part through area seminars in the student’s major and minor fields of study. A minimum of eight area seminars is required. Seminars should be chosen in consultation with the faculty supervisor.

General Seminars

Three seminars that are not specific to the student’s areas of study are required. Students are expected to take the Graduate Research Seminar (81020) prior to the beginning of their coursework. The Higher Education Seminar (81300) may be taken at any point in the student’s program. Teaching Principles and Methods (81200) may be taken any time after the student completes two years of study. For each of these seminars most of the preparation is done before the first day of class.


The colloquium serves as a forum for exploration of literature, issues, and developments in the student’s major field of study. Students are required to take a minimum of five colloquia. Area faculty or the faculty supervisor may request that a student participate in the colloquium beyond the five colloquia program requirement.

External Study

Up to two seminars may be taken at an approved doctoral granting institution other than Southern Seminary with the approval of the faculty supervisor and the Associate Vice President for Doctoral Studies. Students engaged in external study register at Southern Seminary under Ph.D. Student: Affiliate Registration (course 81990) and pay the fees and tuition required by the host institution.

If the student is simultaneously taking courses for credit at Southern Seminary he or she will also pay Southern Seminary’s registration fees and tuition. The student is responsible for insuring that an official transcript of course work taken at other institutions is sent to the Office of Academic Records.

Language Requirements

A reading knowledge of two modern and/or classical languages is normally required. Additional languages may be required if the committee of instruction determines that it is necessary for the student’s program of study. Common language options are German, Latin, French, and Spanish. The decision as to which languages are to be learned should be guided by the student’s particular research needs. In all cases the supervisor must approve the languages chosen. Students majoring in biblical fields may be required to take additional study in Hebrew, Greek, or cognate languages.

A student may satisfy a language requirement by earning a passing grade in a non-credit language course offered by the seminary by passing a language proficiency examination, or completing an equivalent language course at another institution. The Office of Doctoral Studies administers these examinations several times a year. Knowledge of one language should normally be acquired before matriculation. If a student has not yet gained proficiency in a language, he or she will be expected to take a reduced seminar load during the first semester of study and to enroll in a language course offered by the seminary. Competence in a second language must be demonstrated prior to the beginning of the third semester.

Exceptions to the language requirement require approval by the student’s faculty supervisor and the Associate Vice President for Doctoral Studies. Exceptions are sometimes made in the following cases.

  1. Students whose study will benefit from empirical research, statistics, or a computer language may be permitted to substitute demonstrated proficiency in one of these for a language requirement.
  2. International students may be permitted to use their native language to satisfy a language requirement when that language is a primary language for student’s research.

Learning Outcomes

  • Students will be able to demonstrate a thorough acquaintance with literature in area of specialization and the ability to engage critically and productively in this area.
  • Students will be able to demonstrate conversance with the literature in the general field of study and fields closely related to the area of specialization.
  • Students will be able to demonstrate the ability to use standard research tools and methods in the chosen field of study.
  • Students will be able to plan and conduct research in the area of specialization and to communicate its results effectively.
  • Students will be able to demonstrate an understanding of the role of the professor inside and outside the classroom in institutions of Christian higher education.

Grading Policy

The minimum passing grade in any course taken for Ph.D. credit is a “B” (3.0 on a 4.0 scale). A student who earns a grade lower than a “B” will lose credit for that course and will be placed on probation. The student may also be subject to an enrollment review.

Comprehensive Examinations

Comprehensive examinations corresponding to the student’s areas of study are administered at the conclusion of the student’s coursework. Most students take three comprehensive examinations; biblical studies majors take four. The student should consult his or her committee of instruction for guidance in preparing for these exams.

Additional preparation beyond what has been required for seminars and colloquia will normally be expected. Students majoring in Old Testament or New Testament are required to pass a biblical language comprehensive exam. Failure on any part of a comprehensive exam will result in a review of the student’s status by the committee of instruction and the Associate Vice President for Doctoral Studies.


Each student must demonstrate the ability to conduct and report on original research. The first stage in this process is the submission of a dissertation proposal, which is called a prospectus. Following approval of the prospectus by the student’s supervisor, the dissertation committee, the Associate Vice President for Doctoral Studies, and the faculty, the student completes a defense draft of the dissertation. When the faculty supervisor determines that the draft is defensible, it will be submitted to the Office of Doctoral Studies from which it will be distributed to the dissertation committee and to an external reader who is a recognized scholar in the student’s field of study.

At the oral defense the committee will consider the evaluation of the external reader and will assign a grade to the written work and to the oral defense. A passing grade requires the unanimous approval of the committee. The dissertation committee will also inform the student of any additional revision required for the final submission.


That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.