Javascript is currently not supported, or is disabled by this browser. Please enable Javascript for full functionality.

Academic Catalog
    Jun 19, 2024  
Academic Catalog - Fall 2023 
Academic Catalog - Fall 2023 [ARCHIVED]

Doctor of Philosophy, PhD

Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: Advanced Degrees

The Office of PhD Studies seeks to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ by equipping scholars for the vocation of teaching and engaging in academic research that furthers theological understanding for the sake of the church and fulfillment of the Great Commission.


At Southeastern, the PhD program is designed to help the church fulfill the Great Commission.  All authority is given to Christ, so his reign extends to every area of life - including the intellectual and academic life.  Because of his authority, Christ’s followers go into the world and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to observe all things that he has commanded (Matthew 28:19).  At Southeastern, we believe that the best scholarship at the highest level rightly rests under the lordship of Jesus.  We pursue scholarship to honor our king, serve the Church, and fulfill the Great Commission.

The PhD degree at Southeastern is an advanced academic research degree in the major areas of Biblical Studies, New Testament, Old Testament, Theological Studies, Systematic Theology, Historical Theology, Philosophy of Religion, Christian Counseling, Apologetics and Culture, Theology and Worship, Applied Theology, Preaching, Pastoral Theology, and Christian Leadership.  In the area of Biblical Studies, students may concentrate in Old Testament, New Testament, or Biblical Theology.  In the area of Theological Studies, students may concentrate in Systematic Theology, Philosophy of Religion, Historical Theology, Christian Ethics, and Public Theology. In the area of Applied Theology, students may concentrate in International Missiology and North American Church Planting.

The PhD program requires a minimum of three academic years (6 semesters) for completion: two-years (4 semesters) of coursework prior to the dissertation stage and one full year (2 semesters) for dissertation work. Students must complete the program within seven years.

The degree concentrations offered at SEBTS for the Doctor of Philosophy may be pursued both residentially or in our modified residential format. All seminar and degree requirements for the students in the concentrations with modified residency are identical to the standard residency requirements. Either format requires for coursework to be completed on the school’s main campus, though, with different instructional formats. 

Residentially, seminars meet for three hours weekly, throughout the entire semester. Students pursuing their degree in our modified residency format, attend intensive seminars that meet in the middle of the semester for one week for at least 36 hours. In both cases, our seminars are tooled towards the highest academic rigor and thus are designed to engage advanced scholarship. Our students are prepared for scholarly interaction using different learning techniques, including student presentation, student interaction, discussion and debate, as well as listening to traditional lecture. This allows for the students and professors to interact orally and to respond to questions immediately and thoughtfully as is expected at this level of academic rigor.

Students enter the program annually and normally progress on a two-year schedule of coursework (at most a 4-year schedule of coursework), followed by the comprehensive exam and the writing of a successful dissertation.  The modified residency format allows students to come to campus and take seminars in an intensive format.  Typically students in this format enter as a community of scholars and will remain together through a series of seminars that meet twice annually at various times throughout the year. Modified residency format allows students to remain in their current position while engaging in PhD studies. 

Continuous enrollment in the program is required with fees paid each semester (Fall/Spring or Summer/Winter depending on Area of Study and/or Concentration) until graduation.

The semester you are intending to enter depends on the area of study you wish to pursue.  Some areas of study begin in the Fall or Spring semesters, while others begin in Winter or Summer.

Student Learning Outcomes

The PhD program promotes the following student learning outcomes:

  1. The student will demonstrate knowledge of major areas of a given field with special attention to relevant scholarship, opposing viewpoints, articulated with sufficient clarity and style, and attention to grammar and form.
  2. The student will submit a well-written dissertation that exhibits good critical thinking skills, makes an original contribution to the field of study, and is characterized by clarity, good style, and proper grammar and form.
  3. The student will demonstrate the ability to teach in a theological school.
  4. The student will demonstrate commitment to the vocation of research in theological scholarship by submitting research for publication in an academic journal or submitting a proposal to present a paper at an academic society meeting.
  5. The student will be able to interact with scholars from a variety of theological disciplines.

Admission Requirements

Admission to the PhD program is selective and is offered only to students who have demonstrated the intellectual ability, preparation, and motivation to perform academically at the highest level. Enrollment in the program is limited to applicants who, in the judgment of the faculty, appear best qualified and most capable of using the resources that the seminary provides. The following pre-application requirements are for self-screening purposes and only establish the opportunity to apply to the PhD program.

Application Deadlines

There are two application deadlines per year: 


Fall/Winter Entry
Spring/Summer Entry


The online application must be submitted by midnight on this date.

January 15

August 1

Timeline for the Application Process


Fall/Winter Entry
Spring/Summer Entry

Recommended GRE Deadline

It is recommended that the GRE be taken by this date to allow time for the scores to be verified by the testing center and received by our office.


December 15


July 1

Application Deadline                    

The online application must be submitted by midnight on this date.


January 15


August 1

Formal Invitations Issued for the Entrance Exam

The invitation issued will note dates and times for the entrance exam and important logistical information concerning your visit to campus. The entrance exam study guide specific for each Area of Study and/or Concentration can be found on the website. Preparation for the entrance exam should include, but not be limited to, a careful study of the sources on the suggested reading list. The applicant should be prepared to type a 90 minute response for any of the questions posed on the study guide.  


February 7


September 1

Entrance Exam Week

The entrance exam plays a vital role in the application process by providing insight of an applicant’s knowledge base in his/her preferred area of study and gauging an applicant’s readiness for the rigor of our program. All applicants are required to be on the campus of SEBTS for the entrance exam during the date and times indicated on the invitation. The only exception is applicants living and/or serving overseas for whom the test will be proctored. The written examination is taken in two parts. Applicants will have up to 3 hours to complete each part. 

** Applicants sitting for Biblical Studies (with concentrations in New Testament, Old Testament, or Biblical Theology), New Testament, and Old Testament will be required to demonstrate biblical language competency. Part 3 of the exam will be administered on a separate day. Applicants in New Testament will be required to translate a Greek passage. Applicants in Old Testament will be required to translate a Hebrew passage. Applicants in Biblical Theology will translate either a passage in Greek or Hebrew dependent on the area of the Major Professor they have chosen.





Admission Decisions Sent                                          

Applicants will be notified by this date whether they have been accepted or denied admission into the PhD program. An initial enrollment fee is due within 30 days after receipt of the acceptance letter to confirm one’s entrance into the program. 


May 1


December 1

Entry into the PhD Program

The semester you are intending to enter depends on the area of study you wish to pursue. Some areas of study begin in the Fall and Spring semesters, while others begin in Winter and Summer. Specializations offered in the modified residency format are asterisked.

Specializations that begin in the Fall and Spring include the following:

PhD (Biblical Studies)  with concentrations in: 

Old Testament *, New Testament * or  Biblical Theology 

PhD (Theological Studies)  with concentrations in: 

Systematic Theology *,  Philosophy of Religion *, Historical Theology *, Christian Ethics * or Public Theology *

PhD (Old Testament)  

PhD (New Testament)  

PhD (Systematic Theology) *

PhD (Philosophy of Religion) *

PhD (Historical Theology) *

PhD (Apologetics and Culture) *

Specializations that begin in the Winter and Summer include the following:

PhD (Applied Theology)  with concentrations in North American Missiology * and International Missiology *

PhD (Christian Leadership) *

PhD (Christian Counseling) 

PhD (Pastoral Theology)  

PhD (Preaching) *

PhD (Theology and Worship) 

Pre-requisites for Admission

The following are the more common FAQs about the application process as well as some important details about admission into the program.

First, admission to the program is competitive. Therefore, any evaluation of application materials (like transcripts etc.) or suggestions related to a student’s application are not intended to be guarantees. They are recommendations from the Office of Ph.D. Studies concerning how to put forward a compelling application for the Ph.D. Committee. 

Ultimately, it is the student’s responsibility to distinguish themselves in the following areas:

  • Approved Master of Divinity degree or research Master of Arts degree in the same field in which one wishes to pursue doctoral studies as long as that degree and its prerequisites meet M.Div. equivalence. Typically, SEBTS research masters degrees meet this requirement.
  • G.P.A. (3.5 and above)
  • Acceptable GRE Score
  • Writing sample (4-6k words including footnotes)
  • References
  • Major Professor Evaluation
  • Graduate coursework (strength of your core courses and specialization in the area being pursued)
  • Personal statement
  • Other required items
  • Entrance exam 

Second, the Office of Ph.D. Studies will give preference to those applicants who show proficiency in our M.Div. Equivalency Core which consists of: 

New Testament I, II (6hrs.)                                 

Doctrine Survey I, II   (6hrs.)

Old Testament I, II (6hrs.)                                    Church History I, II (3-6hrs.)**
Greek I, II (6-9hrs.)*                                       Hermeneutics (3hrs.)
Hebrew I, II (6-9hrs.)*                                   Baptist History (3hrs.)***

* Biblical language expectations depend on the applicants given Area of Study.

** Applicants must have studied the Patristic, Medieval, Reformation and Modern eras.

*** Baptist History is required for applicants pursuing Historical Theology.

Third, the Ph.D. Committee looks favorably on those applicants who demonstrate a specialization in their desired field of study. You are not just fulfilling standards set by our institution, you are also contending against the other applicants in your field. It is the student’s responsibility to establish through the various application elements that they are prepared for the rigors of the Ph.D. In addition to our recommendations above, in some cases an applicant’s (potential) major professor may be available to discuss the particulars of their application.

Finally, the Ph.D. Committee considers the whole of one’s application and every application will be given the same degree of attention, though each student will be evaluated in light of the total applicant pool competing for admission into the program. The Office of Ph.D. Studies does not provide specific steps for applicants who wish to strengthen their application. Nor will the Office of Ph.D. Studies reveal information relative to the current applicant pool.    

Application Elements

Interested applicants may visit our website and apply through our online application

Application materials, such as transcripts, GRE scores, etc. should be sent to the following address.

Office of Ph.D. Studies
SEBTS: Carson Hall 204
P.O. Box 1889
244 N. Wingate Street
Wake Forest, NC 27588-1889

The Office of Ph.D. Studies may be reached by phone at (919)761-2311 or you may e-mail

Specific information concerning scholarships that are available may be found on Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s website ( by clicking on the “Admissions & Aid” tab and clicking on “Financial Aid and Student Resources”. Please note that most scholarships are intended for students at the master’s level and not for those seeking to pursue their doctorate.

For explanation or clarification concerning the status of one’s application or concerning any aspect of the Ph.D. admissions process, the applicant should consult the Office of Ph.D. Studies. Questions regarding program requirements should be directed to the Associate Director. For a more complete explanation of requirements and guidelines relating to the Ph.D. program, the current Ph.D. Student Handbook may be requested. The application process may be terminated at any time by either the applicant or by the Director.

Program Elements

A student who graduates from the Ph.D. program at Southeastern will have accomplished the following objectives:

  1. Proficiency in research and writing
  2. Understanding of the philosophy and methods of teaching at college and seminary levels
  3. Breadth of knowledge of the literature in the student’s major area of study
  4. Depth of knowledge and skill in the student’s concentration
  5. Reading proficiency in at least two research languages
  6. Ability to think across traditional disciplinary boundaries

The Ph.D. program is accordingly comprised of the following elements:

Introduction to Research and Integration

At the beginning of the program, students complete the critical introduction to PhD studies at SEBTS: “Introduction to Research and Integration”. This course offers a systematic introduction to academic research and writing. Additionally, students will reflect and discuss a spirituality of the academic life and the application of Christian spirituality through the course of their PhD work.              

Teaching in Higher Education                     

Within the first two years, students also complete a three-credit-hour ”Teaching in Higher Education” course during residency. This course offers a systematic introduction to the philosophy and methods of college and seminary teaching.

Integrative Colloquia

Ph.D. students will participate in the Colloquial series during their first three semesters where they will engage with one another, visiting scholars, and SEBTS faculty to bring awareness of important developments across biblical, theological, and applied disciplines.

Doctoral Seminars

Each Doctoral Seminar is a three-hour course, covers a designated field of study and is directed by a member of the faculty who assigns and evaluates student work and participation. Residential seminars normally meet once each week for two and a half hours, and modified residency seminars meet for one intensive week from 8am-5pm.  Students must take at least four seminars, and up to eight seminars, depending upon the curriculum for their specified area of study. Modified residency seminars are normally limited to students in these programs. Special permission must be granted for a residential student to be considered for any modified residency seminars offered.


The Ph.D. program includes a year-long mentorship; that is, a focused series of interactive academic meetings including personal tutoring in the field by the student’s major professor. The professor meets with the student regularly and frequently to provide academic direction and advice as the student develops increasing depth and skill in the area of research interest, while also preparing the student for the comprehensive exams at the end of residency. The mentorship also leads to the successful preparation of a dissertation prospectus.

Language Proficiency

Research languages are tools that equip the student to engage the global conversation in their field of research. All Ph.D. students are required to demonstrate reading proficiency in two research languages. Normally this will entail German, plus either French, Latin, Spanish, or statistics. However, the major professor may require additional languages where a student’s dissertation research warrants such knowledge.

The seminary offers classes in German, French, Latin, and statistics, which are designed to help the student prepare for the language proficiency exams.  A student may also study a research language on their own and then test to demonstrate they have achieved the required level of proficiency

A student must demonstrate proficiency in one research language before they are eligible to sit for the comprehensive exams. Students must demonstrate proficiency in their second language before they can defend their dissertation.

Comprehensive Examination

Each student must pass a written and oral comprehensive examination in their area of study (and concentration, where appropriate: e.g., New Testament, Old Testament, Systematic Theology, Church History, etc.), to be taken at the end of the residency stage, that is, following successful completion of all course and language requirements. Passing these exams qualifies the student for doctoral candidacy.


Production of a dissertation that makes an original contribution to the student’s academic field is the final stage in the Ph.D. program. Preparation of a dissertation prospectus normally begins during the mentorship stage of the student’s program, though submission must follow successful completion of written and oral comprehensives.

General Information

Seminars from other research-based doctoral programs may be considered for transfer into the program. In order to transfer credits from another institution, the applicant must complete the application process and be accepted into PhD Studies at SEBTS. After acceptance, requests made in writing to the Office of PhD Studies will be considered.

Students may possibly transfer up to four seminars from their ThM program. Such cases will be evaluated by the Director of PhD Studies on a case-by-case basis and in accordance with accreditation guidelines. For a ThM seminar to be evaluated for transfer students must have completed the ThM degree, received a final grade of A- or higher in that seminar, and the seminar must be listed in the student’s PhD curriculum. 

Courses taken in the EdD or DMin programs are not transferable into the PhD program, even if the student did not complete the EdD or DMin degree.

Students in the Ph.D. program must earn a grade of “B-” or above in any graded course to receive credit for any graded element in the Ph.D. program.  Students receiving a grade of C+ or lower will not be given credit.  One grade of C+ or lower will result in an automatic review of the student’s program by the Director of Ph.D. Studies and will lead to a student being put on academic probation. A second grade of C+ or below may result in the student being dropped from the program. 

Entrance exams are normally scheduled during March and October. The Office of Ph.D. Studies will provide information on the exact dates each year. Admissions decisions are normally made within 6-8 weeks following the entrance examination. An initial enrollment fee is due within 30 days after receipt of the acceptance letter to confirm one’s entrance into the program (See Schedule of Fees). New Ph.D. students begin their studies with the course “Introduction to Research and Integration.”

Applicants who are not accepted into the program may reapply no earlier than one year after their last application. Applicants who are twice unsuccessful must make a new, updated application including a statement of any and all special circumstances that would have significantly enhanced the applicant’s qualifications to be considered in a later admission cycle.

For explanation or clarification concerning the status of one’s application or concerning any aspect of the Ph.D. admissions process the applicant should consult the Office of Ph.D. Studies. Questions regarding program requirements should be directed to the assistant to the director. For a more complete explanation of requirements and guidelines relating to the Ph.D. program, the current Ph.D. Student Handbook may be consulted and may be obtained by contacting the PhD office.

Ph.D. Program Summary

General Studies - 0 Hours

Seminars - 38 Hours

Examinations - 4 Hours

  • First Research Language Competency n/c
  • Second Research Language Competency n/c
  • Comprehensive Exam (written) 2 semester hrs.
  • Comprehensive Exam (oral) 2 semester hrs.

Candidacy - 18 Hours

  • Dissertation Prospectus 1 semester hrs.
  • PHD 9900 - Dissertation 16 semester hrs.
  • Dissertation Defense 1 semester hrs.

Total Hours - 60

Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: Advanced Degrees