Program Overview

The Claremont School of Theology offers a 48-unit Doctor of Philosophy in Religion degree with five areas of concentration:

  • Comparative Theology and Philosophy
  • Hebrew Bible and Jewish Studies
  • New Testament and Christian Origins
  • Process Studies
  • Religion, Ethics and Society

Students applying to the Ph.D. in Religion will ordinarily have completed a Master’s Degree but, with the approval of the faculty in the field, may be admitted to the Ph.D. after having completed a minimum of 24 hours of graduate work appropriate to the field of study.

Common Requirements

The Ph.D. Colloquium Intensive is a one week course offered during the January Interterm that is taken by students during their first year of study. Early in their program, students receive intensive training on navigating library resources, adhering to particular standards of style, and appropriate documentation to assist them in writing expectations for doctoral study. Particular attention is given to The Chicago Manual of Style as it is the standard used in all programs at CST.

This intensive class covers research methods and resources as well as bibliographic styles and documentation.

Students in the Ph.D. in Religion program must show competence in two research languages. The language requirements must be met before making application for qualifying examinations.

Unit credit toward the degree is not allowed for courses taken to enable a student to meet language requirements. The language requirement is to be met by examination or by an approved course. All language examinations can only take place during the Fall and Spring semesters. The Hebrew Bible and New Testament and Christian Origins concentrations require additional languages, some of which may be taken for academic credit. For specific language requirements in each area, see below.

The primary purpose of qualifying examinations is to build and demonstrate broad knowledge in the areas of the examinations, the ability to think critically in these areas, and the ability to think deeply about particular issues and thinkers.

More specifically, the process of qualifying examination research, preparation, and examination builds upon and goes beyond course work, serves as foundational research for the dissertation, and prepares a student to teach in the areas of the exams.

Information specific to qualifying exams for each concentration can be found below.

The dissertation must be based on independent research and must demonstrate the student’s competence in the field of study. All Ph.D. dissertations must meet specified editorial standards.

Comparative Theology and Philosophy (CTP)

The Ph.D. program in Comparative Theology and Philosophy (CTP) develops doctoral-level competence in the comparative study of religious beliefs, worldviews, and practices. Religious beliefs and practices are frequently analyzed solely from the perspective of a single religious tradition, or they are reduced to their social, political, or even biological functions.

The CTP program at CST presupposes both that beliefs are an important part of the study of religious traditions and that an adequate comprehension of any given religion requires the study of its similarities to and differences from other traditions.

Doctoral students may write dissertations focused primarily on a single tradition (Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, or Hindu theology, for example), but the program as a whole requires interreligious competence and in-depth knowledge of the “location” of one’s own reflection in contrast to alternatives. Philosophical resources—whether they are seen as intrinsic to religious reflection or as representing competing, non-religious alternatives—are crucial to success in this program.

Graduates concentrating in Comparative Theology and Philosophy are expected to:

  1. Demonstrate doctoral-level mastery of the history of thought and belief (where relevant, the “theology”) of at least one religious tradition.
  2. Develop doctoral-level competence in at least one other religious or non-religious belief system and in the central methodologies for comparative theological and philosophical studies.
  3. Recognize connections between thought and practice, social context and belief, religious commitments and ethical or political commitments.
  4. Demonstrate their mastery of these fields in a culminating doctoral thesis that sheds new light on beliefs in a particular tradition through comparative, historical, philosophical, and/or theological study.
Students concentrating in CTP will work with an academic advisor to determine how best to structure the course of study. Choice of advisor will depend greatly on the student‘s curricular choices and particular interests. Students are also required to:

  • Demonstrate competence in two research languages
  • Show competence in at least two religious traditions
  • Complete coursework that indicates sufficient breadth in their research fields
  • Attend the Ph.D. Colloquium
  • Receive approval of their Dissertation Prospectus from their dissertation committee
  • Pass four qualifying examinations that demonstrate doctoral-level competence in these fields
  • Prepare a Dissertation Proposal and defend it during their orals
  • Write and defend a dissertation that extends knowledge in their particular area(s) of specialization
In the CTP concentration, students provide a rationale for the choice of languages, demonstrating that their two chosen languages are most pertinent to their research interests. English may be considered one of the research languages if English is not the native language of the student. The student’s selection of research languages is considered approved when the student’s advisor and two other CTP faculty members approve the selection.

It is the student‘s responsibility to secure instruction in the research language. If the student receives a grade of Conditional Pass or Fail, the examiner will provide written feedback to the student. The student is required to retake the translation examination until s/he receives a grade of Pass or High Pass. Competency may be demonstrated through:

  • Translation of a document in the language, receiving a Grade of Pass or High Pass from a CST-approved examiner
  • Evidence of studying in a national school system for at least three years in that language at the high school level or above
  • Evidence of passing appropriate language classes or exams from other institutions or institutes, such as the Goethe Institute for German or CGU’s summer Spanish class for Ph.D. Religion students.
Students must demonstrate competence in at least two religious traditions. One tradition may be the student’s own tradition or the tradition of his/her primary research. Students must be well versed in the major tenets, the contextual setting, the forms of practice, and the major conversations in the scholarship of both traditions. Competency can be demonstrated through a grade of B+ or above in two graduate-level courses, documented either on a transcript from previous coursework no more than seven years old or through courses taken during the Ph.D. program at CST. If taken during Ph.D. studies at CST, the credits may be applied to the student’s 48 units of coursework.

Students may also satisfy this requirement through professional academic activities related to the religious tradition in question. Examples include publishing an article in a peer-reviewed journal, reading a paper at a major academic conference, teaching a course at an accredited institution, or serving as a teaching assistant in two courses on that religious tradition. Meeting the requirement by any of these means requires advance approval by the student’s advisor and two other members of the CTP faculty.

Students must satisfy the Interreligious Requirement before taking their Qualifying Exams. Students are expected to draw on their knowledge of these religious traditions during the course of their doctoral research and dissertation writing.

Students in the Doctor of Philosophy in Religion program are required to register for the Ph.D. Colloquium at Claremont School of Theology every semester they are in coursework.  Students do not receive academic credit for the Colloquium which meets about once a month. The events in the Colloquium series and the conversations they engender provide opportunities to learn, develop, and practice research and professional skills for the academy.

Topics include research methods, making academic presentations, developing curriculum vitae, interviewing for jobs, etc. Advanced doctoral students may teach some of the sessions, which provides an opportunity for advanced students to be supportive of newer students, offer their experience and wisdom, and foster co