Master of Divinity

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In the academic study of theology, the Master of Divinity (M.Div., magister divinitatis in Latin) is the first professional degree of the pastoral profession in North America. It is the most common academic degree in seminaries and divinity schools. In many Christian denominations and in some other religions the degree is the standard prerequisite for ordination to the priesthood or pastorship or other appointment, ordination or licensing to professional ministry. At accredited seminaries in the United States this degree requires between 72 and 106 credit hours of study (72 being the minimum determined by academic accrediting agencies and 106 being on the upper end of certain schools that wish to ensure a broader study of the related disciplines).

Christian MDiv programs generally include 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, and patristics. The degree may or may not include a thesis.

Contemporary usage[edit]

The Master of Divinity has replaced the Bachelor of Divinity in most United States seminaries as the first professional degree, since the former title implied in the American academic system that it was on a par with a Bachelor of Arts or other basic undergraduate education even though a bachelor's degree was and remains a prerequisite for entrance into graduate divinity programs. The Commission on Accrediting of the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada accredits most Christian schools in North America and approves the degree programs they offer, including the M.Div.

The M.Div. is a significantly more extensive program than most taught (as opposed to research-based) master's degrees. In the United States the degree usually consists on average of 90 semester hours, as opposed to the usual 36 or 48. Ordination in most mainline Protestant denominations and the Roman Catholic Church thus requires seven or eight years of education past high school: the first four in undergraduate studies leading to a bachelor's degree (which may or may not be in a related field) and then three or four years of seminary or divinity school education leading to the M.Div.

The M.Div. stands in contrast to the Master of Arts (M.A.) in theology and Master of Theological Studies (M.T.S.), 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.), Master of Theology (Th.M.), Master of Sacred Theology (S.T.M.), and Master of Religion (M.Rel.), which are also academic degrees. Schools with Pontifical faculties in North America often award both the M.Div. and S.T.B. at the same time after a three-year period of graduate studies.