Definitions

Master of Divinity

Master of Divinity

In Christian theology, the Master of Divinity (M.Div., Magister Divinitatis in Latin) is the first professional degree in divinity in North America and is a common academic degree in theological seminaries. In many Christian denominations, and of some other religions, this degree is the standard prerequisite for ordination to the priesthood or pastorship or other appointment, ordination or licensing to professional ministry. At most seminaries this degree requires around 90 credit hours of study.

It generally includes studies in Christian ministry and theology. Coursework usually includes studies in New Testament Greek, theology, philosophy, church history, pastoral theology, Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), and New Testament studies. Many programs also contain courses in church growth, ecclesiology, evangelism, systematic theology, Christian education, liturgical studies, Latin, Hebrew, canon law, patristics, and the like. Courses in pastoral counseling and psychology are also standard parts of an M.Div. program. In addition, the degree may or may not include a thesis.

Contemporary usage

The Master of Divinity has replaced the Bachelor of Divinity in most United States seminaries as the first professional degree, since the latter title implies in the American academic system that it is on a par with a Bachelor of Arts or other basic undergraduate education. The M.Div. is a significantly more extensive program than most master's degrees, as it usually consists of ninety or more semester hours, as opposed to the usual thirty-six or forty-eight. Ordination in most mainline Protestant denominations and in the Roman Catholic Church thus requires 7 or 8 years of education past high school: the first 4 in undergraduate studies leading to a Bachelors' degree (which may or may not be in a related field), and then 3 or 4 years of seminary or divinity school education leading to the M.Div.

The M.Div. stands in contrast to the M.A. in Theology and Master of Theological Studies, the usual academic degrees in the subject (which tend not to include "pastoral" or "practical" courses), and the Bachelor of Sacred Theology (S.T.B.), Licentiate in Sacred Theology (S.T.L.) (for Catholics), Master of Theology (M.Th.), and Master of Sacred Theology (S.T.M.) (for many others), which tend to be academic rather than pastoral degrees as well. Schools with Pontifical faculties in North America often award both the M.Div. and S.T.B. after a three year period of graduate studies.

Further study

In the United States, the M.Div. is counted as a terminal degree. Occasionally a Master of Divinity pursues doctoral studies, often the Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.), which is also a degree focused on ministerial practice. On the other hand, the Doctor of Theology, Doctor of Philosophy, and Doctor of Sacred Theology all tend to be academic rather than ministerial degrees. In recent years, it is not at all unusual for the holder of the M.Div. to add another degree, earning either the Ph.D. or Th.D. as well as the D.Min. Graduates of the M.Div. who completed a thesis as part of their degree are often eligible for admission into Ph.D. or Th.D. programmes with a requirement to take additional, more academic-oriented, coursework. While the Doctor of Divinity is only an honorary degree in the United States, in the United Kingdom and other parts of the Commonwealth the Doctor of Divinity (D.D.) is the highest degree at most universities, normally awarded for a significant body of published work of high quality.

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