Master of Philosophy in Theology

(See also the general notice at the commencement of these regulations.)

The regulations made by the Board of the Faculty of Theology and Religion are as follows:

Candidates for the M.Phil. in Theology are required to follow a course of instruction and directed research for six terms and to present themselves for examination in one of five subjects:

  • I. Old Testament

    II. New Testament

    III. Christian Doctrine, specialising in one of seven fields:

    • History of Doctrine: Patristic Theology (c. AD 100-787)

      History of Doctrine: Scholastic Theology (c. AD 1050-1350)

      History of Doctrine: Theology of the Reformation Period (c. AD 1500-1650)

      Issues in Theology with special reference to Patristic Theology

      Issues in Theology with special reference to Scholastic Theology

      Issues in Theology with special reference to Reformation Theology

      Issues in Theology with special reference to Theology from 1780 to the present day

  • IV. Ecclesiastical History, specialising in one of five fields:

    • The Early Church AD 200-476

      The Western Church AD 476-1050

      The Western Church AD 1000-1400

      European Christianity AD 1400-1800

      European Christianity AD 1800-2000

  • V. Christian Ethics

The examination consists of three elements:

A. Two written examinations (or in Old Testament, route II, one written examination) each of three hours’ duration, which take place in Week 10 or 11 of Trinity Term in Year 2.

B. Three essays of not more than 5,000 words each or one long essay of not more than 15,000 words. Essay proposals must be submitted for consideration by the Faculty’s Graduate Studies Committee not later than Monday of Week 5 of Trinity Term in Year 1. The completed essays (two copies of each), together with a signed statement by the candidate that it is his or her own work, must be submitted for examination[For students starting before MT 2016: not later than fourteen days before the first day of the written examination in][For students starting from MT 2016: on Monday in Week 8 of ]Trinity Term of Year 2. The written examinations take place in[For students starting before MT 2016: Week 10 or 11 of] Trinity Term in Year 2.

C. A dissertation of not more than 30,000 words.

The dissertation proposal must be submitted for consideration by the Faculty’s Graduate Studies Committee by Monday of Week 0 of Michaelmas Term in Year 2.  For candidates intending to proceed to doctoral study, the topic of the dissertation should normally be such as to provide a foundation for doctoral research. The completed dissertation (two copies), together with a signed statement by the candidate that it is his or her own work, must be submitted for examination by Friday of Week 8 of Trinity Term.

All essay and dissertation proposals should comprise a title, a short statement of how the subject will be treated, a bibliography of core texts (both primary and secondary), and the signature of the supervisor indicating his or her approval. The titles and content of the essays and dissertation should not substantially overlap with each other.

All submitted work should be double-spaced in font-size 12.

Candidates must not put their names on the written examination papers or on any submitted work. All submitted work must be printed and sent in a parcel bearing the words, ‘M.Phil. in Theology’, to the Chair of Examiners, c/o the Examination Schools, High Street, Oxford.

[For students starting before MT 2016: Each candidate is also required to present himself or herself for an oral (viva voce) examination which takes place within a few days of the written examination, and may include discussion of the candidate’s work in any of the three elements listed above.] [For students starting from MT 2016: Each candidate is also required to present himself or herself for an oral (viva voce) examination unless individually dispensed by the examiners.   The oral will take place within a few days of the written examination, and may include discussion of the candidate’s work in any of the three elements listed above.]

Within this general pattern, the specific requirements of each subject may be found below.

  • I. OLD TESTAMENT

    Two routes are possible, route I involving two written examinations and route II only one:

    I. 

    A. There will be two written examinations:

    1. Prescribed Hebrew Texts

    2. Either (a) Unseen passages from the Hebrew Bible

    • or (b) The Aramaic portions of the Old Testament

      or (c) Passages from the Septuagint

  • B. Candidates will write either one long essay (up to 15,000 words) or three short essays (up to 5,000 words each) in one of the following subject areas: (1) The Literature of the Old Testament and Apocrypha in its Historical Setting; (2) Old Testament Theology; (3) the History and Principles of Biblical Study. The topic(s) will be chosen by the candidates in liaison with the supervisor.

    II.

    A. There will be one written examination in Prescribed Hebrew Texts.

    B. Candidates will write both one long essay (up to 15,000 words) in one of the following subject areas, and three short essays (up to 5,000 words each) in another: (1) The Literature of the Old Testament and Apocrypha in its Historical Setting; (2) Old Testament Theology; (3) the History and Principles of Biblical Study. The topic(s) will be chosen by the candidates in liaison with the supervisor.

    I and II.

    C. All candidates offer a dissertation of up to 30,000 words. The topics of the essays and the dissertation will be chosen by the candidate in liaison with the supervisor. The candidate’s progress will be supported by tutorials with the supervisor.

  • II. NEW TESTAMENT

    A. There will be two written examinations:

    1. The Religion and Literature of the New Testament: the Four Gospels and Acts in Greek.

    2. The Religion and Literature of the New Testament: The Epistles and Apocalypse in Greek.

    Candidates will be required to translate and to comment on matters of literary, historical and theological importance from a selection of these prescribed texts.

    B. Candidates will write either one long essay (up to 15,000 words) or three short essays (up to 5,000 words each) on a topic or topics in [For students starting before MT 2016: one of] [For students starting from MT 2016: any of] the following subject areas: (1) New Testament Theology; (2) Varieties of Judaism, 200 B.C. – C.E. 200; (3) the History and Principles of Biblical Study. The topic(s) will be chosen by the candidates in liaison with the supervisor.

  • C. All candidates offer a dissertation of up to 30,000 words. The topics of the essays and the dissertation will be chosen by the candidate in liaison with the supervisor. The candidate’s progress will be supported by tutorials with the supervisor.

  • III. CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE

    Candidates will be required to offer one of the following sections:

    • Section A. History of Doctrine: Patristic Theology

      Section B. History of Doctrine: Scholastic Theology

      Section C. History of Doctrine: Reformation Theology

      Section D. Issues in Theology with special reference to Patristic Theology

      Section E. Issues in Theology with special reference to Scholastic Theology

      Section F. Issues in Theology with special reference to Reformation Theology

      Section G. Issues in Theology with special reference to Theology from 1780 to the present day

  • Section A. History of Doctrine: Patristic Theology

    A. There will be two written examinations:

    1. The Development of Christian Doctrine to A.D. 451. Candidates will be expected to write three essays on different topics, showing knowledge of the main lines of development of Christian Doctrine, and discussing particular developments in relation to the historical conditions which influenced them.

    2. Either (a) Hellenistic Philosophy and Christian Theology

      Or (b) Christology of the Patristic Era

    In each case the examination will consist of two essays on different topics and passages for translation and comment. Candidates may choose whether to translate and comment on Greek or on Latin texts. The prescribed texts for both examination papers will be listed in the Course Regulations for the M.Phil. in Theology for the year in which the candidates commenced their course.

    B. Candidates will write either one long essay (up to 15,000 words) or three short essays (up to 5,000 words each) on a topic or topics falling within the Patristic era, chosen by each candidates in liaison with the supervisor; if necessary a special supervisor will be appointed in addition to the overall supervisor.  

    C. All candidates offer a dissertation of up to 30,000 words. The topics of the essays and the dissertation will be chosen by the candidate in liaison with the supervisor. The candidate’s progress will be supported by tutorials with the supervisor.

  • Section B.  History of Doctrine: Scholastic Theology

    A. There will be two written examinations:

    1. Doctrine and Methods. Candidates will be expected to show knowledge of major theologians in the period 1050-1350 by commenting on passages from prescribed texts in Latin and writing two essays on different topics.

    2. The Thought of Aquinas. Candidates will be expected to display knowledge of the thought of Thomas Aquinas by commenting on passages from prescribed texts in Latin and writing two essays on different topics.

    The prescribed texts for both examination papers will be listed in the Course Regulations for the M.Phil. in Theology for the year in which the candidates commenced their course.

    B.  Candidates will write either one long essay (up to 15,000 words) or three short essays (up to 5,000 words each) on a topic or topics falling within the Scholastic era, chosen by each candidate in liaison with the supervisor.  

    C.  All candidates offer a dissertation of up to 30,000 words. The topics of the essays and the dissertation will be chosen by the candidate in liaison with the supervisor. The candidate’s progress will be supported by tutorials with the supervisor.

  • Section C. History of Doctrine: Reformation Theology

    A. There will be two written examinations:

    1. Theology in Western Europe from Gabriel Biel to Jacob Arminius. Candidates will be expected to write three essays on different topics, showing familiarity with the tenets of the most seminal theologians of this era and to discuss them in relation to the political, social and economic tendencies of the age.

    2. Protestant and Tridentine Teaching on the Doctrines of Grace, Freewill and Predestination.

    Candidates will be expected to write three essays on different topics.

    B. Candidates will write either one long essay (up to 15,000 words) or three short essays (up to 5,000 words each) on a topic or topics falling within the Reformation era, chosen by each candidate in liaison with the supervisor.  

    C. All candidates offer a dissertation of up to 30,000 words. The topics of the essays and the dissertation will be chosen by the candidate in liaison with the supervisor. The candidate’s progress will be supported by tutorials with the supervisor.

  • Section D. Issues in Theology with special reference to Patristic Theology

    A. There will be two written examinations:

    1. Methods and Styles in Theology from 1780 to the Present. Candidates will be expected to write three essays on different topics, discussing problems of theological method, showing a critical understanding of the main themes in systematic theology, and taking account of the impact on Christian theology of contemporary philosophy, critical historical studies, the natural and social sciences and non-Christian religions and ideologies.

    2. Either (a) The Development of Christian Doctrine to 451 A. D., as in Section A.A.1 above;

    or  (b) Hellenistic Philosophy and Early Christian Thought, as in Section A.A.2(a) above;

    or (c) Christology in the Patristic Era, as in Section A.A.2(b) above.

    Passages for comment in (b) and (c) will be chosen from the same texts prescribed in Section A.A.2 above, but here in English only.

    B. Candidates will write either one long essay (up to 15,000 words) or three short essays (up to 5,000 words each) on a topic or topics falling within the Patristic era, chosen by each candidate in liaison with the supervisor; if necessary a special supervisor will be appointed in addition to the overall supervisor.   

    C. All candidates offer a dissertation of up to 30,000 words. The topics of the essays and the dissertation will be chosen by the candidate in liaison with the supervisor. The candidate’s progress will be supported by tutorials with the supervisor; if necessary a special supervisor will be appointed in addition to the overall supervisor.

    Section E. Issues in Theology with special reference to Scholastic Theology

    A. There will be two written examinations.

    1. Methods and Styles in Theology from 1780 to the Present, as in Section D.A.1 above.  

    2. Either (a) Doctrine and Methods, as in Section B.A.1 above;

    or (b) The Thought of Aquinas, as in Section B.A.2 above. In (b) candidates will be expected to comment on passages from the same texts prescribed in Section B.A.2, but here in English only.

    B.  Candidates will write either one long essay (up to 15,000 words) or three short essays (up to 5,000 words each) on a topic or topics falling within the Scholastic era, chosen by each candidate in liaison with the supervisor.  

    C.  All candidates offer a dissertation of up to 30,000 words. The topics of the essays and the dissertation will be chosen by the candidate in liaison with the supervisor. The candidate’s progress will be supported by tutorials with the supervisor.

    Section F. Issues in Theology with special reference to Reformation Theology

    A. There will be two written examinations:

    1. Methods and Styles in Theology from 1780 to the Present, as in Section D.A.1 above.  

    2. Either (a) Theology in Western Europe from Gabriel Biel to Jacob Arminius, as in Section C.A.1 above;

    or (b) Protestant and Tridentine Teaching on the Doctrines of Grace, Freewill and Predestination, as Section C.A.2 above.

    B. Candidates will write either one long essay (up to 15,000 words) or three short essays (up to 5,000 words each) on a topic or topics falling within the Reformation era, chosen by each candidate in liaison with the supervisor.  

    C. All candidates offer a dissertation of up to 30,000 words. The topics of the essays and the dissertation will be chosen by the candidate in liaison with the supervisor. The candidate’s progress will be supported by tutorials with the supervisor.

    Section G. Issues in Theology with special reference to Theology from 1780 to the present day

    A. The two written examinations will be:

  • 1. Methods and Styles in Theology from 1780 to the Present, as in Section D.A.1 above.

  • [For students starting from MT 2016: 2. Modern Theology]

    [For students starting before MT 2016: 2. Either (a) Modern Theology;

    or (b) Theology and Modern European Thought from 1780 to the Present;

    or (c) Theology and Literature from 1780 to the Present.]

    B. Candidates will write either one long essay (up to 15,000 words) or three short essays (up to 5,000 words each) on a topic or topics falling within[For students starting before MT 2016: one of 2 (a), (b) or (c) above,] [For students starting from MT 2016: Modern Theology ]chosen by each candidate in liaison with the supervisor.  

  • C. All candidates offer a dissertation of up to 30,000 words. The topics of the essays and the dissertation will be chosen by the candidate in liaison with the supervisor. The candidate’s progress will be supported by tutorials with the supervisor. 

  • IV. ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY

  • A. There will be two general papers, assessed either by two written exams, or by one written examination and three essays (up to 5,000 words each).

    1. A General paper on the Nature and Practice of Ecclesiastical History. Candidates will be expected to discuss the nature of ecclesiastical history as a sub-discipline within History through study of the writing of the history of the Church from the Early Church to the modern day and investigation of shifts in historical method, with particular reference to methodological debates within History since the mid-nineteenth century.

    2. A General paper on one of the following, assessed either by unseen examination or by three essays (up to 5,000 words each):

    • (a) The Early Church, A.D. 200-476

      (b) The Western Church, A.D. 476-1050

      (c) The Western Church, A.D. 1000-1400

      (d) European Christianity A.D. 1400-1800

      (e) European Christianity A.D. 1800-2000

  • B. Candidates will write either one long essay (up to 15,000 words) or three short essays (up to 5,000 words each) on a topic or topics in ecclesiastical history, chosen by each candidate in liaison with the supervisor.  

    C. All candidates offer a dissertation of up to 30,000 words. The topics of the essays and the dissertation will be chosen by the candidate in liaison with the supervisor. The candidate’s progress will be supported by tutorials with the supervisor.

    V. CHRISTIAN ETHICS

    A.  There will be two written examinations:

    1. Christian Moral Concepts and Methodology. Candidates will be expected to write three essays on different topics, showing an understanding of basic conceptual and methodological issues as these are discussed in relevant classical and contemporary texts.

    2. Select Texts and Practical Issues in Christian Ethics. Candidates will be expected to write three essays on different topics, showing careful interpretation of classic texts and a capacity to analyse moral issues arising in practical fields.

    B. Candidates will write either one long essay (up to 15,000 words) or three short essays (up to 5,000 words each) on a topic or topics in Christian ethics, chosen by each candidate in liaison with the supervisor.  

    C. All candidates offer a dissertation of up to 30,000 words. The topics of the essays and the dissertation will be chosen by the candidate in liaison with the supervisor. The candidate’s progress will be supported by tutorials with the supervisor.