Comparative Theology

Religious pluralism is a key challenge facing theologians and religious communities today. It raises questions regarding how practitioners and believers from different traditions do and should encounter one another as they enter into substantial and regular contact in every part of the world. Careful reflection on the meaning of religious pluralism for religious faith is an increasingly important and necessary theological task. Comparative theology involves faith seeking understanding within the horizon of religious plurality.

Comparative Theology Faculty

Area Admissions Requirements

Students applying to the Ph.D. program in Comparative Theology should have a Master’s degree in Theology and some study of another religious tradition, including of a language related to that tradition.

Coursework Requirements

Comparative Theology majors focus their coursework on one area of theological study as it is expressed within two religious traditions: one non-Christian and one Christian. The courses are distributed as follows:

  • 11-15 courses, determined in consultation with the student’s major and minor advisors, which include:
    • 1 seminar in Theology of Religions and the Theory and Practice of Comparative Theology
    • 4 courses (minimum) creating a concentration in a single religious tradition other than the Christian.
    • A minor in another area of the department, according to its requirements (3 courses minimum), that will form the basis for a student's comparative work with the non-Christian tradition studied.
  • CT Colloquium: 1 course, for which students register in their fourth semester. However, CT majors are expected to participate actively during their entire residence at Boston College.

Language Requirements

At least two languages are to be studied to a level where they are useful in research. The languages chosen will be worked out in discussion between students and their CT advisors. 

  • At least one language must be that of the religious/cultural area in which the student focuses, ordinarily in relation to a non-Christian religious tradition. The goal of the study is facility at getting behind translations and exploring primary texts in their original language. Proficiency must be demonstrated at a minimum of a two-year reading level, as measured by approved language coursework or a departmentally administered exam. 
  • The second language may also be tradition specific, or it may be a relevant western scholarly language, ancient or modern. 
  • In some cases, a third language is highly recommended.

Students requiring further  preparation in the tradition-specific language are strongly encouraged to enroll in summer courses. The CT program is prepared to help CT students fund courses not otherwise available at BC. Courses in the tradition specific language taken during the regular Fall or Spring semester may count as electives toward the fulfillment of course work.

Comps Requirements

The comprehensive exams will consist of three four-hour written exams plus an oral exam based upon them. The written exams will be divided as follows:

  1. One exam in the student's non-Christian tradition, demonstrating a breadth of control of that tradition, and of the student’s specific theological focus within that tradition.
  2. One exam focusing on the student's minor area in Christian theology, administered by that minor area, but on content that serves the student’s comparative work.
  3. One exam on Theology of Religions and Comparative Theology as applied to the student’s own research focus.

Comparative Theology Minor Requirements

A minimum of three courses that include:

  • The seminar in Theology of Religions/Comparative Theology.
  • Two courses on one non-Christian religion. Advanced language courses may be included.

A comprehensive minor exam according to the expectations of the student’s major area based on a reading list reflecting the student’s comparative focus that applies theory to the student’s comparative focus.

Resources for the Study of Comparative Theology