University of Chicago Divinity School

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The University of Chicago Divinity School
University of Chicago wordmark.svg
Type Private
Established 1856
Academic staff
36 full-time, 14 associated, 5 visiting, 19 teaching pastors
Address 1025 E 58th Street, Chicago, Illinois 60637, Chicago, Illinois, United States
Campus Urban
Affiliations University of Chicago, Hyde Park Cluster of Theological Schools

The University of Chicago Divinity School is a private graduate institution at the University of Chicago dedicated to the training of academics and clergy across religious boundaries. Formed under Baptist auspices, the school today lacks any sectarian affiliations.

It is ranked number one in the field of the study of religion according to the National Research Council's measure of faculty quality in its survey of all doctoral granting programs in religious studies.[1] Along with the departments of religious studies/religion at Harvard, Yale and Columbia University, it is responsible for training the majority of those appointed to tenure track positions in religious studies at American universities.

The Divinity School curriculum reflects the distinctive nature of the academic work at the School, work that encompasses the full range of the academic study of religion, religion in all times and places approached from multiple theoretical and methodological perspectives. The scholarly work of the School is organized through the work of three faculty committees, each of which is further subdivided into areas of study. PhD students concentrate their work in one of the eleven areas of study. Students in the various master's programs combine study in these areas with courses specific to their programs. All students are taught by the same faculty.


A distinguished Semiticist and a member of the Baptist clergy, Chicago's first university president William Rainey Harper believed that a great research university ought to have as one central occupation the scholarly study of religion, to prepare scholars for careers in teaching and research, and ministers for service to the church. He brought what was then the Baptist Theological Union seminary to the University, making the Divinity School the first professional school at the University of Chicago.

The Divinity School is located in Swift Hall, on the main quadrangle of the University's campus in close proximity to the Divisions of the Humanities and the Social Sciences for interdisciplinary work. The School has focused on systematic research and inquiry into multiple dimensions of religion. It is the largest single institutional educator of faculty members for theological seminaries, departments of theology, and programs in religious studies in the United States.


The University of Chicago Divinity School grants the following degrees:

The Divinity School also offers several dual degree programs:

M.Div./A.M. with the Irving B. Harris School of Public Policy Studies A.M.R.S./J.D., A.M./J.D., M.Div./J.D., or Ph.D./J.D. with the University of Chicago Law School M.Div./A.M. with the School of Social Service Administration

In addition to candidates for the above, many Chicago graduate students pursuing PhDs in the humanities and social sciences work closely with Divinity School faculty, though they may be enrolled in the Departments of South Asian Languages and Civilizations, East Asian Languages and Civilizations, History, Anthropology, Philosophy, Comparative Literature, Classics, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, or the Committee on Social Thought.


Candidates for the Ph.D. choose among 11 areas of academic focus:

  • Anthropology and Sociology of Religion
  • Bible
  • History of Christianity
  • History of Judaism
  • History of Religions
  • Islamic Studies
  • Philosophy of Religion
  • Religion, Literature, and Visual Culture
  • Religion in America
  • Religious Ethics
  • Theology

The Faculty are organized into three Committees of Study:

The Committee on Religion and the Human Sciences

  • History of Religions
  • Anthropology and Sociology of Religion
  • Religion, Literature, and Visual Culture

The Committee on Historical Studies in Religion

  • History of Judaism
  • History of Christianity
  • Biblical Studies

The Committee on Constructive Studies in Religion

  • Philosophy of Religion
  • Ethics
  • Theology

Research and special programs[edit]

The Martin Marty Center for the Advanced Study of Religion[edit]

The vision of establishing an institute for the advanced study of religion at the University of Chicago came from Joseph M. Kitagawa, the Dean of the Divinity School from 1970 to 1980. Martin E. Marty, a historian of modern Christianity, worked closely with Dean Kitagawa to formulate the purposes and operation of the institute within the context of the Divinity School's general mission of teaching and graduate research. The Institute for the Advanced Study of Religion officially opened in October 1979, with Professor Marty as its director. Subsequent directors have been Bernard McGinn (1983–1992), a historian of medieval Christianity; Frank Reynolds (1992–2000), a historian of religions who specializes in Buddhist studies; W. Clark Gilpin (2001–2004), a historian of American Christianity and theology; Wendy Doniger (2004–2007), a historian of religion who specializes in Hinduism and mythology; and William Schweiker, who works in the field of theological ethics. In 1998, the Institute for the Advanced Study of Religion was renamed the Martin Marty Center, to honor its founding director for his singular distinction as historian, author, and commentator on religion and public life.[2]

Buddhist Studies Program[edit]

A number of faculty in the Divinity School and the humanities departments of South Asian Languages and Civilizations (SALC), East Asian Languages and Civilizations (EALC), History, and Art History participate in an interdisciplinary program in the study of the Buddhist Traditions. Degrees are offered through matriculation in one or the other of these programs. The program sponsors workshops and seminars throughout the academic year. Affiliated faculty include Daniel A. Arnold, Steven Collins, Paul Copp, Matthew Kapstein, James Ketelaar, Gary A. Tubb, and Christian K. Wedemeyer.

Swift Hall[edit]

Swift Hall

Completed in 1926, Swift Hall was designed by Coolidge and Hodgdon in the collegiate Gothic style of architecture. It contains lecture halls, seminar rooms, faculty offices, a student-run coffee shop, a commons, and administrative offices. The lecture hall was formerly the home of the Divinity Library, before its holdings were consolidated into the central research library, the Joseph Regenstein Library.

Bond Chapel[edit]

Bond Chapel

Southwest of Swift Hall and connected to it by a beautiful stone cloister is the Joseph Bond Chapel. Both Swift Hall and Bond Chapel were designed by the architects Coolidge and Hodgdon at the end of the Gothic revival period in America. The Chapel was given by Mrs. Joseph Bond in memory of her husband, a former Trustee of the Baptist Theological Union, the predecessor institution of the Divinity School. Mr. and Mrs. Bond's daughter, Elfleda, married Edgar J. Goodspeed, a member of the university faculty noted for his translation of the New Testament. After her death in 1949, Mr. Goodspeed donated the stained-glass windows in her memory.

The cornerstone of the chapel was laid by Mrs. Bond on April 30, 1925, and the chapel was opened in October, 1926. In 2012-13, the Chapel was renovated and its organ was replaced by the Reneker Organ. Inspired by instruments built in northern Germany in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the Reneker Organ was built by Canadian master organ builder Karl Wilhelm in 1983 for Graham Taylor Hall at the former home of the Chicago Theological Seminary. It was dedicated in 1984 in honor of the late Robert W. Reneker and Betty C. Reneker, and was moved to Bond Chapel in the autumn of 2012. The cloister connecting Bond Chapel to Swift Hall was reconstructed in 2014. A cloister garden is due to be installed between Swift and Bond in 2015.

As a Divinity School chapel in a major university, its main function is to provide a sanctuary for reflection, worship, and community gatherings. It is used extensively for weddings, funerals, mid-week Divinity School worship services, other religious services, theater presentations, and musical events performed by the University's smaller musical groups, such as Collegium Musicum. It seats about 300 persons.

Notable professors[edit]


History of Religions[edit]

For half a century, History of Religions has set the standard for the study of religious phenomena from prehistory to modern times. History of Religions strives to publish scholarship that reflects engagement with particular traditions, places, and times and yet also speaks to broader methodological and/or theoretical issues in the study of religion. Toward encouraging critical conversations in the field, HR also publishes review articles and comprehensive book reviews by distinguished authors.

The Journal of Religion[edit]

Founded in 1882, The Journal of Religion is one of the publications by which the Divinity School of The University of Chicago seeks to promote critical, hermeneutical, historical, and constructive inquiry into religion. While expecting articles to advance scholarship in their respective fields in a lucid, cogent, and fresh way, the Journal is especially interested in areas of research with a broad range of implications for scholars of religion, or cross-disciplinary relevance. The Editors welcome submissions in theology, religious ethics, and philosophy of religion, as well as articles that approach the role of religion in culture and society from a historical, sociological, psychological, linguistic, or artistic standpoint.


Founded in 1890, Ethics published scholarly work in moral, political, and legal philosophy from a variety of intellectual perspectives, including social and political theory, law, and economics. In addition to major articles, Ethics also published review essays, discussion articles, and book reviews. The journal is not currently in production.


Criterion was founded in 1961 by then-dean Jerald Brauer. This journal is published twice a year to reflect the ongoing life of the Divinity School community.


Circa was founded in 1992 as the dean's newsletter. It is published in the fall and spring quarters to update Divinity School alumni and friends on the latest community developments.


External links[edit]