Christian Theological Studies

Willie Jennings , convener

The graduate program in Christian Theological Studies at Duke University is committed to engaging constructively the breadth of the Christian tradition, including its contemporary life forms. The size and vibrancy of the field of Christian theology as well as the diverse scholarly trajectories of the faculty, and--last but not least--the superb scholarship represented in other fields of intellectual inquiry at Duke University all offer students a rich context in which to develop their own emerging scholarly work in Christian Theological Studies. Whatever theological focus a student chooses in the end, attentiveness to the Scriptures, knowledge of the Christian traditions, and critical understanding of contemporary cultural formations are all inherent parts of the graduate program in Christian theology at Duke.

Core Faculty

Luke Bretherton

Jay Carter

Edgardo Colon-Emeric

Mary McClintock Fulkerson

Paul Griffiths

Amy Laura Hall

Stanley Hauerwas, emeritus

Reinhard Heutter

Willie James Jennings, convener

L. Gregory Jones

Allen Verhey

Geoffrey Wainwright, emeritus

Norman Wirzba

Requirements for the Major


A reading knowledge is required of German and French. Another language may be substituted for French if the interests of the dissertation specially require it. Knowledge of the two languages will be examined by a translation of a text appropriate to the student's interest, selected by the Christian theology field. These examinations must be passed before preliminary examinations can be taken. Bibliographies for the preliminary examinations and the dissertation are required to include appropriate titles from the two languages.

Internal Minor

Choosing another field in the Graduate Program in Religion, students will meet this requirement according to guidelines established in that field.

External Minor

Normally two courses in a department or program other than Religion.


Students will normally take no more than four courses a semester. Students with advanced degrees will usually take two years of course work. Students coming directly from undergraduate programs will take three.

Preliminary Guidelines

The following guidelines offer a basic consensus of faculty in Christian Theological Studies concerning preliminary examinations in this field at Duke University. These guidelines presuppose the wider framework of the Preliminary Exam Procedures and Guidelines adopted in Duke's Graduate Program in Religion.

The student will begin preparation for the preliminary exams by developing a reading list in consultation with her advisors. This reading list will include no less than thirty and no more than forty texts. Since the reading list should indicate both the student's attentiveness to the breadth of the Christian tradition as well as the student's own particular scholarly focus, the decision on the individual titles for this reading list is left to the collaborative labor between the student and her advisors.

All reading lists will include the following

2-3 titles from the early centuries of the Christian tradition, the choice being governed by the student's scholarly work and research agenda. (The Scriptures are presupposed as a foundational text in every reading list).

  • 2-3 titles from the Medieval period, as above.
  • 2 titles from the century of the Reformations, as above.
  • 2-3 titles from modern times, as above.
  • 2-3 titles from contemporary theological inquiry, as above.

Every year, faculty in the field will also suggest compelling recent texts in theology from which the student may want to choose additional titles.

The remainder of the reading list should be geared to the student's particular interest in the field of Christian Theological Studies.

Study Questions and Exam Questions

The reading list forms the basis of the student's preparation for the preliminary examinations. In collaboration with her advisors, the student will develop study questions to guide her reading and reflection. In general, six such study questions are suggested for the major field, including at least one question about a figure of the Christian tradition and one question focused clearly on one theological topic.

The actual examination questions are left to the choice of the advisors but will take into account the agreed upon study questions.

The Preliminary Examinations

The preliminary examinations consist of:

1. a comprehensive examination in Christian Theological Studies (4 hours).

2. an internal minor examination in a cognate field within the Graduate Program in Religion, to be prepared and given according to the regulations established by that field for students minoring in it (3 hours).

3. an external minor examination, to be prepared in consultation with a professor in another Department of Duke University and to be set by her (3 hours).

4. an examination related to the projected theme of the dissertation, to be prepared in conjunction with the professor/s who are likely to serve as principal advisor/s in the writing of the dissertation (3 hours).

Students may petition the convener of the area for an additional 2 to 4 hours to complete any exam. That request, however must be submitted in writing one week prior to the beginning of the examination cycle.

Dissertation Proposal

After the preliminary examinations, a formal dissertation proposal must be approved by the student's dissertation committee before the student is admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D. This should take place within six months of completing the preliminary exams.

The proposal that will be developed in consultation with the director should include:

a. A working title.

b. A statement of the problem to be addressed.

c. A brief defense of the topic's significance, including the prospective dissertation'slocation within the context of the field's secondary literature.

d. A brief statement regarding the methodology and foreign languages to be used.

e. A working outline, including descriptive chapter headings and a brief statement ofthe material to be covered within each section.

f. A basic bibliography of key primary and secondary sources

Procedures for Writing and Defending the Doctoral Dissertation

The first draft will be written by the student in consultation with the supervisor. In this process, individual chapters or portions thereof normally will be submitted to other members of the dissertation committee, as appropriate. The student should consult with the supervisor and other readers to determine when and how these materials will be distributed. Such consultation is done most efficiently during the defense of the dissertation proposal.

After the supervisor has gone through the first draft of all the chapters, the student will make the revisions suggested by the supervisor and any other committee members to whom the student has shown it for feedback. In the normal course of things this revised form will be the penultimate draft. The student will give the supervisor four weeks to review this penultimate draft. The supervisor may decide: a. that the dissertation is ready for defense, b. that the dissertation requires some minor revisions, or c. that it needs mor substantial revision. If substantial revision is required, the supervisor may suggest that it should be looked at in part or in full by one or more of the other readers. If revisions are required, the student will make them and then resubmit the dissertation. The same options will be available to the supervisor. When the supervisor decides that the dissertation is ready for defense, the student may set the defense date, allowing at least three weeks between submission of the defense copy and the defense.

Requirements for a Minor

In conjunction with at least one professor in the field, students will establish an agreed bibliography that seeks both to introduce them to the range of the field and to respect their particular interests in their major field. A student minoring in Christian theology is required to take two courses or seminars in the field for credit, and to take a three-hour written examination set and graded by an advising professor from the field as part of their preliminary examinations.