History of Christianity

The History of Christianity (HC) area studies past theological reflection on the faith and practice of the Church, especially in early and medieval Christianity. The HC area strives to appreciate these theological expressions both within their immediate historical contexts (social, cultural, institutional) and within the broader trajectories of theological development in the Christian tradition.

History of Christianity Faculty

Associated Doctoral Faculty in Church History and Historical Theology from the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry:

Area Admissions Requirements

Students seeking admission to the Ph.D. program with a research interest in History of Christianity should be developing both the linguistic skills and the areas of background knowledge necessary for such study. Those entering the program in this field normally have already begun to study either Greek or Latin, as well as at least one of the primary modern research languages (e.g., German or French). In addition, prospective students are expected to have done preparatory master’s level coursework in subjects such as Christian history and theology, Biblical studies, ancient philosophy, and classical civilization. The writing sample submitted during application should demonstrate some familiarity with scholarly methods, theological argument, and the use of research languages.

Coursework Requirements

A total of 12 seminars are required. However, a total of 14 are suggested. Finally, a total of 16 are allowed. They are distributed as follows. The specific courses will be determined in consultation between the student, the student’s advisor, and the faculty of the historical period. 

  • Primary Period: 4 seminars.
  • Secondary Period: 3 seminars.
  • Tertiary Period: 2 seminars, acceptable distribution of which shall be determined by the student’s advisor in consultation with faculty members in the period.
  • Minor: 3 seminars, according to the minor requirements of another area of the department.
  • Electives (up to 4 seminars), including church history surveys at the School of Theology and Ministry (STM) or the Boston Theological Interreligious Consortium (BTI), as needed, language courses, or courses in other departments (e.g., Philosophy).
  • Historical Area Colloquium: The non-credit area colloquium normally will meet 3 times per semester. Attendance is expected of all students in residence.

Language Requirements

Language requirements in one’s period of primary historical focus must be fulfilled prior to taking comprehensive examinations. Reading knowledge will be evaluated as either “intermediate” or “advanced.” Facility will be determined either by a written exam or approved coursework. Departmental exams demonstrate “intermediate” knowledge. Area-administered augmented exams demonstrate “advanced” knowledge. 

Requirements by historical focus:

  • Early Christianity: Greek (advanced), Latin (advanced), French and German (intermediate); other languages as necessary for research.
  • Medieval Christianity: Latin (advanced), Greek (intermediate), French and German (intermediate); other languages as necessary for research.
  • Reformation and Early Modern Christianity: Latin and two of the following, as needed for research: French, German, Italian, or Spanish (intermediate)
  • Modern Christianity: French and German (intermediate); other languages as necessary for research.

Comps Requirements

  • Students will be required to submit four research essays–three in the student’s primary historical era and a fourth in the secondary era before taking exams.
  • Students will be provided with standardized reading lists in all four periods. They will take written exams (2.5 hours) in at least three of these, but may take a fourth exam.
  • The minor exam will be set by the minor area.
  • An oral exam will cover all components.

History of Christianity Minor Requirements

  • 3 doctoral seminars, chosen in consultation with an advisor in the historical area.
  • Comprehensive exam: preparation of a primary and a secondary period, based on set reading lists; and a third topic based on the student’s choice. The exam will include questions on two of these three topics.

Resources for History of Christianity