Jun 24, 2024  

Doctor of Theology, Missiological/Biblical Studies ThD

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Thomas Shepherd, Director

The Doctor of Theology (ThD) program prepares teacher-scholars in interdisciplinary theological fields, primarily for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in its institutions of higher learning around the world.

Areas of Specialization:

  • Mission and Old Testament
  • Mission and New Testament

Each field of study is to be supplemented with one of the cognate areas listed below:

  • Biblical Archaeology and History of Antiquity
  • Christian Ministry
  • Church History
  • World Mission
  • New Testament
  • Old Testament
  • Religious Education
  • Theology and Christian Philosophy
  • Area selected from approved graduate-level studies

The cognate must be taken in a department other than the two departments bridged in the field of study. If the field of study does not include New Testament, Old Testament, or Theology and Christian Philosophy then the cognate must come from one of these departments.

THD: Doctor of Theology

The ThD program builds on expertise and training developed in approved master’s programs. It provides individuals equipped with skills and methods appropriate to genuine scholarship to do original and responsible research, and it promotes the proficient application of sound and valid principles of biblical interpretation and historical research. It seeks to acquaint students with the Judeo-Christian heritage and the findings of various branches of biblical scholarship and communicates the religious and ethical values of that heritage as found in Scripture and as understood by conservative Christians, in general, and the Seventh-day Adventist Church, in particular.

This degree is not earned by the mere accumulation of credits. It is conferred on those who demonstrate clearly and capably, in written and oral form, mature and independent research marked by discriminating analysis, careful evaluation of evidence and theories, and sound interpretation of available data. The ThD is granted only to those who give evidence that they have attained a distinctly superior level of expertise in their principal area of study and the supplementary cognate area.

One who holds a ThD in Religion should possess the following competencies:

  • Faithfulness to God and Scripture
  • Mastery of content relevant to the chosen discipline
  • Advanced research and writing capability in the chosen discipline
  • Expertise in teaching and other forms of communication

Program Outcomes

  1. Articulate an integrated theology and philosophy of faithfulness to God and Scripture, objectivity in research, and integrity in relationships.
  2. Provide evidence of an integrated understanding of two major content areas and competency within the area of the minor discipline.
  3. Demonstrate ability to propose a delimited topic of original research that integrates the knowledge base of two major content areas, carry out the investigation under faculty mentorship, and produce a logical and coherent written report of the study.
  4. Write scholarly research, make a professional presentation and submit for publication.
  5. Display teaching ability appropriate for college and university settings.


Admission Requirements

All applicants must meet the Graduate Programs Admission  requirements, and the Seminary Admission Requirements . Admission to the ThD program is granted by the PhD-ThD Committee to applicants who

  • Hold an MDiv degree (or its equivalent), from an approved seminary or university.
  • Show high promise of future usefulness to church and society.
  • Read proficiently in ancient and/or modern languages as noted in the Language Requirements.
  • Demonstrate the ability to handle doctoral-level work in English. A TOEFL score of 90 is required of all PhD Religion program applicants whose native language is other than English and who have not completed a bachelors or masters degree in an English based program.
  • Complete and return the Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire.
  • Depending upon the applicant’s academic background, the PhD-ThD Committee may also require proficiency examination(s) before granting admission to the doctoral program.
  • Have completed GSEM 620 - Research Methods .

Time to Apply. Students who desire to enter the program in the autumn semester (the normal entry point), or, summer semester must submit all application materials to the Office of Graduate Admissions by December 15 of the preceding year. Students may also enter the program in the spring semester, in which case the application materials must all reach the Office of Graduate Admissions by June 15 of the preceding year.

The number of students who may enter the program in any given year is limited. Rarely is one accepted who applies late. Students whose applications are late may request consideration for admission in the following year.

Items to Submit. In addition to submitting the items required of all graduate students , applicants to the PhD-ThD programs must also submit

  • A 300-word personal statement including their philosophical perspective, the relationship of their religious concerns and ethical values to their responsibilities as a teacher-scholar and leader in the church; an indication of what they hope to accomplish professionally in the future, and a topic for the dissertation if one has already been selected.
  • A significant research paper (30-40 pages in length), normally written during MDiv studies. The topic of this paper should coincide with the area of concentration. This paper should have the following characteristics:
    • A problem in the area of research is described that engages the debate in the secondary literature
    • A clear thesis is stated
    • The case for the thesis is argued succinctly and logically, taking into account the discussion in the secondary literature
    • Conclusions are presented clearly and convincingly
    • The paper is in good English prose without grammatical, syntactical or spelling errors

Dual Enrollment. Dual enrollment in undergraduate or other graduate degree programs is not allowed in the ThD program.

Language Requirements. Applicants must demonstrate proficiency in specified foreign languages either by passing language proficiency examinations or by taking specified graduate level language courses at Andrews University and earning a grade of B or above. The language requirements for the ThD degree are advanced Hebrew and advanced Greek and reading knowledge of French and German.

When warranted by the student’s program, language substitutions may be made with the approval of the student’s advisor and the director of the ThD program. Some departments allow up to 6 hours of language requirements to count toward the field of study. 

Schedule of Meeting Language Requirements. All language requirements should be completed before entrance. If that is not possible, a student may be required to take a reduced load in order to meet these requirements. Language requirements must be met by the end of the third consecutive semester in the program (including summer). Students who fail to meet this schedule take no further regular course work until all the language requirements are met. Because of the amount of study and the length of time usually required in developing skill in languages, the PhD-ThD Committee may require applicants to clear all the language requirements prior to admission.


Residence and Course Requirements

In order to fulfill the requirements for the ThD degree, students must:

  • Register for 64 credits by completing 48 or more credits of formal course work in lecture, seminar, directed-study, and reading courses, and 16 credits for the dissertation:

Field of Study - 33

A field of study links two departments in the Seminary. Coursework is divided between the two departments with a minimum of 12 hours in any one of the two. Certain fields of study include additional languages as part of the coursework requirements set by the two departments jointly.

Students who include the area of Church History in their field of study must take CHIS 628 - Historical Research and Historiography .

Area of Cognate - 9

Requirements for cognates may be obtained from the PhD/ThD Office.

Dissertation - 16

Residency and Other Requirements


  • Take at least two semesters of formal full-time study consecutively and in residence, registering each semester for no fewer than 8 credits. At least 33 credits (of the minimum 48) must be taken in residence.

Coursework Levels

  • Take all course work at the Seminary on the 600-, 800-, and 900-levels; some non-seminary graduate courses may be approved by the student’s doctoral committee in consultation with the director of the ThD Program.
  • Take a minimum of 24 credits on the 800- and 900-levels.

Colloquia and Seminary Worship

  • Attend doctoral colloquia and Seminary worships.

Grade Point Average

  • Achieve grades of B (3.00) or better and/or S. Only such grades are credited toward the degree requirements. No more than 15 credits in courses with an S grade may be applied to the program requirements. If the student falls below this minimum GPA, he/she is placed on probation and can regain regular standing only after having again reached the B (3.00) level. The matriculation of a student with grades below B may be terminated after review by the PhD-ThD Committee. A student who accumulates more than three grades of C or below (2.00 or below) is not allowed to continue in the doctoral program.

Full Course Load. The full-time load for regular course work is 8 to 12 credits per semester. Sponsored students are expected to take a full load of 12 credits per semester. On-campus students who are registered for GSEM 880 , GSEM 844 , GSEM 888  (non-credit courses) are counted as full-time students. Students who register for GSEM 995  are also counted as full-time students if the work is done on campus and they register for 16 credits in a maximum of six semesters.

Advanced Standing. Advanced standing may be considered for students having done post-MDiv work in an approved institution if the work is appropriate to the program, carries grades of B or above, and was taken within six years of the students’ first enrollment in the ThD Program. Credits earned towards the MDiv degree are not considered for advanced standing. The director of the ThD Program determines the appropriateness, relevance, and currency of the work considered for advanced standing and authorizes such standing. In no case is the minimum residence requirement reduced.

Time Limits. The maximum time limit for completion of the ThD is ten years from first enrollment. Regular course work and the comprehensive exams must be completed within five years of first enrollment. The dissertation must be completed within five years of passing the comprehensive exams.

Comprehensive Examinations and Doctoral Dissertation Student Advisory Committees

  • Not later than the student’s registration for GSEM 854  Dissertation Proposal Seminar, the student selects a tentative dissertation topic in consultation with the chairs of the departments of the student’s field of study. Then the program director, after consultation with the student and the chairs of the departments, appoints as the chair of the student’s dissertation committee, a faculty member in agreement with the tentative topic.
  • The student, the department chairs and the doctoral committee chair collaborate in the selection of two other members to complete the student’s dissertation committee. The appointment of the dissertation committee is subject to approval by the PhD/ThD Committee as are any changes to the committee.


Comprehensive Examinations

  • Students are required to pass five comprehensive examinations within a four-week period designated by the PhD-ThD Committee. Four of these examinations are set in the student’s field of study with components from both departments and the fifth is in the cognate area.
  • The regular course requirements of 48 credits or more must be completed before the student can sit for comprehensive examinations.
  • The comprehensive examinations determine a student’s proficiency in the field of study and in the cognate area of study, familiarity with pertinent literature, and skills in criticism and analysis.
  • Students are expected to demonstrate greater proficiency in their field of study than in their cognate area.
  • The student must submit to the PhD/ThD office the comprehensive exam application form and contracts for all comprehensive exams not less than 6 months prior to the date of the first exam. When the comprehensive exams have been successfully completed and the dissertation proposal has been approved by the PhD/ThD Committee, the student is formally advanced to candidacy by the PhD/ThD Committee.

Dissertation Proposal

After two semesters of tull-time enrollment, students may register for GSEM 854  (3 credits) for fall semester only, and continue attending scheduled sessions through spring semester. In this course the dissertation topic is reviewed with the ThD program director. Under the guidance of the instructor and the chair of their doctoral committee, students write a tentative proposal. During the following semesters, but normally not later than the last semester of course work, students must submit a final proposal that is approved by their doctoral committee and prepared for submission to the proposal review committee and the PhD-ThD Committee.

The proposal must contain a basic survey of pertinent literature, a clear statement of the problem, a succinct purpose statement, a description of the methodology to be employed, a list of tentative chapter and subsection titles, and a preliminary bibliography.

If the dissertation proposal has not been approved by the PhD-ThD Committee by the time comprehensive examinations have been passed the student registers for GSEM844 (non-credit) until the proposal is approved.

After the dissertation proposal is approved and the student has passed the comprehensive examinations, he/she registers for GSEM 995  for 1–16 dissertation credits for up to six semesters. If the dissertation is not completed after all 16 dissertation credits have been taken, the candidate must register for GSEM 888  every semester, and pay a continuation fee until the dissertation is completed and the defense held, or until the time limit has expired.

Dissertation Preparation

The dissertation prepared by the ThD candidate must

  1. Make an original contribution to scholarship.
  2. Demonstrate the candidate’s competence to do independent research.
  3. Reveal the candidate’s familiarity with and proficiency in handling the pertinent literature.
  4. Present a logically organized, methodologically sound, and readable account of the investigation, findings, conclusions, and implications of the study.
  5. Not exceed 100,000 words in content and footnotes, excluding bibliography.

Oral Defense of Dissertation

The oral defense of the dissertation normally cannot be made earlier than 12 months after passing the comprehensive examinations. The date is set and advertised by the director of the ThD program.

At least six weeks before the time of the dissertation defense, the  program director, in consultation with the dean of the Seminary, appoints two additional members to the doctoral committee. One of these persons, the “external examiner”, is normally a scholar from another graduate institution.

The oral defense is conducted by the dissertation defense committee and is held no later than four weeks before the degree is conferred.

To pass the oral defense, the candidates must receive a vote of approval from at least four of the five examiners. The committee votes in one of the following ways:

  1. Acceptance of the dissertation as presented
  2. Acceptance of the dissertation subject to minor revisions
  3. Acceptance of the dissertation subject to major revisions
  4. Rejection of the dissertation.

Normally, rejection of a dissertation terminates the student’s doctoral candidacy, but the PhD-ThD Committee may consider whether to allow him/her to prepare and submit another dissertation and what specific requirements would apply (including possible further course work and additional comprehensive examinations).

After the defense.

  • The student makes all corrections.
  • The deadline for dissertations to be submitted to the Dissertation Secretary with the signed approval page is no later than Wednesday, 10 days before graduation. Strict adherence to this deadline is essential or graduation is postponed.

For more detailed guidelines and scheduling see the PhD/ThD Handbook. A copy may be accessed online at: www.andrews.edu/sem/programs-degrees/phd/phd-handbook.pdf.

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