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PhD Programs in Biblical Theology

Many seminaries and colleges across the U.S. offer Ph.D. degree programs in biblical theology and related fields. This article discusses what students can learn from this degree program and which career paths they can take once they earn the degree.

How to Earn a Ph.D. Degree in Biblical Theology

A doctorate in biblical theology aims to train scholars in studying the Old and New Testaments and analyzing contemporary issues relevant to the Scriptures. Some of these doctorate programs may be offered as general theology programs with the option to specialize or major in biblical theology and may be completed within three to seven years. To earn the degree, students need to complete a dissertation and pass their comprehensive exams.

Biblical Theology

Courses on biblical theology form the foundation of this Ph.D. program. The relationship between the Old and New Testaments, encompassing shared themes and issues, is thoroughly discussed. The coursework focuses on researching and writing theological and contemporary interpretations of the Scripture to produce case studies.

Research

A comprehensive course on doctoral research (usually taken at the start of the program) is offered to prepare students for the intellectual pursuits of biblical theology. Through this course, students develop their skills on academic research and writing. Writeups and research proposals may be part of the course requirements.

Biblical Hermeneutics

Biblical hermeneutics deals with the interpretation of the Scriptures and is therefore essential to studying biblical theology. Particular attention may be given to the contemporary practice of biblical interpretation. Students may learn how to create solutions to hermeneutical issues and how to deliver this information.

Old Testament and New Testament Theology

The study of theology can be done in the context of either the Old Testament or the New Testament. Students may opt to take both or concentrate on one. These courses provide an advanced analysis of classical and modern issues in the Old and New Testaments.

Teaching in Higher Education

Courses on teaching in higher education are designed specifically to provide students with the skills needed to teach in seminaries and other higher-education institutions. Students might be taught about the philosophies and instructional methods that are used in these institutions. Students could also learn about curriculum design, assessment tools, and creating course objectives that complement teaching methods.

Admittance Requirements for a Ph.D. Biblical Theology Program

The selection process for applicants to Ph.D. programs in biblical theology (or related fields) is competitive and adheres to high standards. Aspiring Ph.D. students must comply with the following educational and competency requirements:

  • An M.Div. or equivalent degree. Some schools may require completion of certain courses. A minimum GPA (3.0 or 3.5 out of a 4.0 scale) is usually specified as well.
  • Proficiency in languages like biblical Hebrew and Greek. Other languages, like German and Latin, may be swapped for one of the two.
  • A satisfactory GRE score
  • A research paper or proposal
  • Interview with a faculty member or panel
  • Entrance exam
  • Curriculum vitae
  • Recommendations from previous professors

Ph.D. in Biblical Theology Career Paths

Pastor

Clergy professionals like pastors are the religious authorities or spiritual leaders who lead worship and perform various religious functions. They preside over ceremonies such as baptisms, weddings, and funerals. Because they serve as the embodiment of the religion's doctrines, a deep understanding of theology is required, and a doctoral degree in biblical theology could prove useful.

Postsecondary Philosophy and Religion Teacher

Many graduates of the Ph.D. Biblical Theology program join academia to mentor and teach other aspiring scholars of theology. Professors of biblical theology also engage in research. To teach at a 4-year college or university, and also at a seminary, a doctoral degree is required.

Director of Religious Activities and Education

Directors of religious activities and education are in charge of upholding the practices of the religion by designing and directing events and programs for the community. They may also be available to guide religious constituents in navigating personal, marital or family, financial, and religious troubles. A background in biblical theology may provide them with a better perspective in identifying the needs of the community.

Job TitleMedian Salary (2019)Job Growth (2019-2029)
Clergy$50,400 (2019)4%
Postsecondary Philosophy and Religion Teacher$75,2407%
Director of Religious Activities and Education$43,8603%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

A Ph.D. in Biblical Theology can be completed in three to seven years, through the completion of comprehensive exams and a dissertation. With this degree, users may build careers as pastors, professors of religion, or directors of religious activities.