Doctor of Philosophy

For those called to professorship and theological writing, the Doctor of Philosophy program equips Pastor-Scholars for faithful scholarship in biblical and theological studies






per unit

Faithful Expert

Develop expertise through original research in a specialized area of biblical or theological study.

Equipped Defender

Sharpen your exegetical and theological skills to defend ideas and refute error.

Responsible Scholar

Present ideas effectively through writing, researching, and teaching.

Doctor of Philosophy Program Overview

The Doctor of Philosophy program is based on the (post-Master of Divinity) Master of Theology degree, in which approximately twenty-two semester credit hours of course work plus a research portfolio or research thesis are required.

The qualification phase comprises four qualifying exams:

  • Major Discipline Exams (2 – Old Testament, New Testament, or Theology)
  • German Exam (1) (Old Testament, New Testament, or Theology)
  • Latin Exam (1) (New Testament or Theology)
  • Akkadian Exam (1) (Old Testament only)

These qualifying exams must be taken in Th.M. courses by both students in the Th.M. program and by students entering the Ph.D. program with an already completed Th.M. degree from either TMS or from another school.

Students are allowed two years to complete all Ph.D. qualifying exams.

 The Master of Theology program incorporates the qualifying exams into the Th.M. curriculum. As a result, students are able to complete their Ph.D. qualifying exams while in the Th.M. program.

The Doctor of Philosophy is offered as a residential program. During residency on the Los Angeles campus, students will meet regularly with their academic advisors, write, and research their dissertations for six consecutive semesters.

The Doctor of Philosophy offers a modular residency option. This option allows the student to retain his residency in his place of service and may have up to five years to complete his dissertation

The Ph.D. Program Director gives oversight to the program, working closely with each doctoral student’s mentor and the Th.M./Ph.D. Studies Committee.

At the time of admission into residency, the Ph.D. Studies Committee will assign an advisor to oversee each student’s research and writing. The advisor will assess their  previous education, assigning additional course work as deemed necessary.

The Director of Ph.D. Studies will, in consultation with the academic advisor, formally select the faculty members who will serve on the student’s dissertation committee. The committee will generally consist of the student’s dissertation advisor (serving as chair), a second faculty member, normally from the area of specialization, and a third faculty member from another institution. 

Each student begins his first semester of residence by enrolling in the Dissertation Prospectus course. This course allows the student, under the advisor’s supervision, to select and refine the dissertation topic, establish its need, outline the procedure for its undertaking, build an extensive bibliography, and defend its choice. 

The program is based on the study of the original language texts of Scripture and requires an awareness of the entire sweep of historical theology and biblical theology systematically expressed. The program requires a minimum of twenty-four credit hours of study while in residence, the first of which is the Dissertation Prospectus course (four credit hours). The remaining study load is designed to assist in the research/writing and defense of the dissertation, the full-time load of which is four credit hours per semester. Coursework is elevated past the M.Div. level, and doctoral students are not consigned to a traditional classroom environment. Rather, the delivery mode follows the one-on-one mentoring model, with coursework comprised of directed studies and research seminars.

Each student will defend their dissertation before their advisor and TMS faculty. Following the defense, the faculty will vote whether to  approve the dissertation and recommend the student for graduation, making suggestions to the student’s Dissertation Committee for any final minor revisions of the dissertation.

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