Doctor of Divinity Basic History and Development

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The "Earned" Doctor of Divinity Degree

Understanding the "Earned Doctor of Divinity Degree requires a bit of background.

Doctor of Divinity, D.D. or DD, ('Divinitatis' - Doctor in Latin) is an advanced academic degree in Divinity. Historically, it identified one who had been licensed by a university to teach Christian theology or related religious subjects.


The two original university degrees were

> > [1] A Bachelor's - qualifying to Lecturer / Instructor

> > [2] A Master's - qualifying as a Professor.


The title “Doctor” was an honorary designation for a particularly prominent Master.

During the 12th century (1100's), a “Doctor” came to represent a higher degree in both Divinity and Law. The doctorate then spread to medicine in the 14th century (1300's), and in the 19th century came to be the highestdegree in all academic disciplines.

In the United Kingdom, Doctor of Divinity has traditionally been the highest doctorate granted by universities, usually conferred upon a religious scholar of standing and distinction.

In the traditional descending order of seniority,

> the Doctor of Divinity Degree is followed

> by Doctor of Laws (Jurisprudence) followed

> by Doctor of Medicine (Medical), followed

> by Doctor of Letters for (Literature), followed

> by Doctor of Science for (Teaching Sciences), followed

> by Doctor of Music for music fields.

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Aquatint of a Doctor in Divinity at the University of Oxford, in the scarlet and black academic robes corresponding to his position. (The Doctor appears here in his Convocation habit, rather than his full ceremonial dress.) From Rudolph Ackermann's History of Oxford, 1814.



The high status of the Doctor of Divinity qualification in British universities owed to their traditional affiliation with the Christian church.

As universities became increasingly secular in the 20th century, the Doctor of Divinity degree lost much of its preeminence in practice, though officially it is still the most senior qualification at the English universities of Oxford, Cambridge, and Durham, as well as at the Scottish universities of St Andrews, Glasgow, Aberdeen, and Edinburgh.

In the United States the Doctor of Divinity is usually awarded as an honorary degree. There is no system of "higher doctorates" in the U.S., so the highest earned degrees in academic Theology are the Doctor of Philosophy, Doctor of Theology or Doctor of Sacred Theology. Professional degrees in applied Theology include the Doctor of Biblical Studies, Doctor of Practical Theology and the Doctor of Ministry.

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