Jun 16, 2024  
2019-2020 Academic Bulletin 
2019-2020 Academic Bulletin [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Theology ThD

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.

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.


There are four degree concentrations:

  • Biblical Studies
  • Historical Studies
  • Missiological Studies
  • Theological Studies

 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
  • New Testament
  • Old Testament
  • Religious Education
  • Theology and Christian Philosophy
  • World Mission
  • 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.

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.

Total Credits - 64

Concentration - 33

The student chooses one of the following four areas of concentration which combines classes from two departments. The 33 credits are divided between the two departments with a minimum of 12 credits in a department. Additional language requirements may be part of the coursework set by departments jointly:

  • Biblical Studies
  • Historical Studies
  • Missiological Studies
  • Theological Studies

Cognates - 9

The concentration is supplemented with one of the cognate areas listed below. The cognate must be taken in a department other than the two which make up the concentration. If the concentration does not include Old Testament, New Testament or Theology as one of the departments of the concentration, then one of those must be taken as the cognate.

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

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

Additional Requirements

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 the minimum GPA of 3.00, 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.

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.


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 coursework credits) must be taken in residence.

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 Examination

The comprehensive examinations determine a students proficiency in the major area of emphasis 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 the major area of emphasis than in the cognate area. Students are required to pass five comprehensive examinations within a four week period scheduled by the PhD/ThD office. Four of these examinations are set in the principal area of study and one in the cognate area.

  • All 48 credits of coursework must be completed a minimum of 6 months prior to taking the comprehensive exams.
  • The student’s comprehensive exam schedule and all comprehensive exam contracts must be approved a minimum of 6 months prior to taking the comprehensive exams.
  • The student must clear all DG grades a minimum of 3 months prior to taking the comprehensive exams.
  • the comprehensive exams will be offered three times a year (Fall, Spring, and Summer semesters).
  • 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.
  • During semesters of preparation for comprehensive exams and the semester of the exams the student registers for:
  • GSEM 880 GSEM 880 - Preparation for PhD-ThD Comprehensive Examinations 

    Below is a table that indicates what months the student has to accomplish the above requirements in order to take the exams at the appointed time. The PhD/ThD office will abide by these deadlines.

Table of Dates for Comprehensive Exams

  Fall Comps Spring Comps Summer Comps
Complete Coursework April July December
Turn in Schedule & Contracts April July December
Clear DG’s June September March
Take Exams October/November January/February July/August

*Comprehensive exams are scheduled by the PhD/ThD office. Check with the office for the starting dates for the exams.

Dissertation Committee and Defense

The student’s dissertation committee is formed by a collaborative process involving the student, the department chair, the professors to serve on the committee, and the PhD director as described in the PhD/ThD Student Handbook.

At the conclusion of the collaborative process the PhD/ThD committee appoints the student’s dissertation committee.

Dissertation Proposal
The student may prepare his/her dissertation proposal by taking GSEM854 PhD-ThD Dissertation Proposal Seminar or by taking up to 3 dissertation credits during the coursework phase. In the case of the first option, the 3 credits of GSEM854 count toward dissertation credits.

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 GSEM 844 GSEM 844 - PhD-ThD Dissertation Proposal Preparation  (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 GSEM 995 - PhD-ThD Dissertation  for 1–16 dissertation credits (1-13 credits if GSEM854 is taken) for up to six semesters. If the dissertation is not completed after all 16 dissertation credits have been taken, the candidate must register forGSEM 888 GSEM 888 - PhD-ThD Dissertation Continuation  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

  • Make an original contribution to scholarship.
  • Demonstrate the candidate’s competence to do independent research.
  • Reveal the candidate’s familiarity with and proficiency in handling the pertinent literature.
  • Present a logically organized, methodologically sound, and readable account of the investigation, findings, conclusions, and implications of the study.
  • 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:

  • Acceptance of the dissertation as presented
  • Acceptance of the dissertation subject to minor revisions
  • Acceptance of the dissertation subject to major revisions
  • 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 Student Handbook. A copy may be accessed online at: www.andrews.edu/sem/programs-degrees/phd/phd-handbook.pdf

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. The applicant’s transcript(s) will be reviewed by the PhD/ThD office for applicability to the program’s prerequisites. Additional coursework may be required to make up deficiencies.
  • Show high promise of future usefulness to church and society.
  • Read proficiently in ancient and/or modern languages as noted in the Language Requirements.
  • Minimum GRE score of 288
  • Demonstrate the ability to handle doctoral-level work in English according to the following guidelines:
    • Applicants for whom English is not a primary language of communication are required to take the TOEFL exam and must achieve the entry level score of 90 for iBT TOEFL exam (equivalent to a paper based ITP TOEFL exam score of 575) for regular admission to the ThD program.
    • Applicants who have received a bachelor’s or higher degree in the past 5 years from an institution where English is the medium of instruction are exempt from the requirement to take the TOEFL exam.
    • All international students applying to the ThD programs are required to have a language evaluation interview with the program director whether or not they are required to take the TOEFL exam. The content of this interview may include reading and listening comprehension components and writing and speaking components. The interview can be in person or via Skype if the applicant is not in the Berrien Springs area. A proctor will be involved in any reading and writing components of the interview.
    • Based on the results of the language evaluation interview the applicant may be required to take ESL courses to enhance their English language ability in one or more of the areas covered in the interview (reading, listening, speaking, writing).
    • For an iBT TOEFL score between 80 and 89 (equivalent to a paper based ITP TOEFL score between 550 and 574), the applicant is eligible to enter the Seminary ESL Bridge program in which the student takes two courses with ESL and one or two 3 credit courses in the ThD program. This is counted as full time student status.
    • For iBT TOEFL scores below 80 (550 for ITP TOEFL) the applicant is ineligible for the Seminary ESL Bridge program.
    • For further details regarding the Bridge program and its policies see the ESL website.
  • 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 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.

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.

Additional Information

Full Course Load

The full-time load for regular course work is 8 to 12 credits per semester. Students with full-sponsorship 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.

Student Learning Outcomes


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


Graduates of this program will be able to:

  • Articulate an integrated theology and philosophy of faithfulness to God and Scripture, objectivity in research, and integrity in relationships.
  • Provide evidence of an integrated understanding of two major content areas and competency within the area of the minor discipline.
  • 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.
  • Write scholarly research, make a professional presentation and submit for publication.
  • Display teaching ability appropriate for college and university settings.