The Catholic University of America

The Graduate Program in Early Christian Studies

The interdisciplinary graduate program "Early Christian Studies," administered by the Center for the Study of Early Christianity, offers M.A. and Ph.D. courses (the latter degree concluding with a dissertation).

Courses are taught by faculty members in various schools and departments of the University.


Goals and Principles

 1. We insist on the need to study the development of early Christianity in its social, political, and cultural context.  We reach beyond theological ideas and religious practice (although those are central to our study), and give due attention also to Jewish and other non-Christian influences.

2. We emphasize the importance of language skills - in Greek (compulsory); and in Latin, Syriac, and Coptic.  (It is also possible to study at CUA several other languages of the Christian Orient.)  Students are expected to read easily in German and in at least one other European language other than English (normally French or Italian).

3. The program is interdisciplinary.  The prescribed courses are taught in the Departments of Greek and Latin, and of Semitic and Egyptian Languages and Literatures (those being within the School of Arts and Sciences), and in the Schools of Theology and Religious Studies, and of Philosophy.  Our aim is to develop within each student the skills proper to a range of disciplines and methodologies.



Funding awarded to M.A./Ph.D. students consists of a full-tuition scholarship offered by the School of Arts and Sciences and a stipend offered by the Center for the Study of Early Christianity. Financial packages generally require students to serve as Teaching Assistants or Teaching Fellows for a maximum of one course per semester.


Although the formal University deadline for applications is February 1 (since most of those who succeed in gaining admission will have applied for the M.A./Ph.D. or Ph.D. program and will be expected to begin their courses in the following fall semester), we in the Center begin to consider completed applications in January, and we strongly advise you (especially if you are seeking funding) to submit your application in December.  However, letters of acceptance are never sent out (and therefore final decisions never made) before February 1.

There are four pathways to admission:

  1. Direct admission to the M.A./Ph.D. program in Early Christian Studies.
  2. Admission to the Ph.D. program in Early Christian Studies via an M.A. completed at CUA in Semitics.
  3. Admission to the Ph.D. program in Early Christian Studies via an M.A. completed at CUA in Greek and Latin.
  4. Admission to the Ph.D. program in Early Christian Studies via an acceptable Masters-level degree completed at some other accredited institution.

Note that we do not at present offer a terminal M.A. in Early Christian Studies. Applicants must follow one of the pathways listed above.

Also note that no transferred credits are available to students for courses taught in M.A. or other programs at CUA.  Transferred credit for the M.A./Ph.D. program (up to a maximum of 24 credits), subject to the Director's approval, can apply only to courses taken at some other accredited institution.

All applicants must complete a formal online application through the Graduate Admissions Office: see

If you are applying through pathways 1 or 4 above, write "Early Christian Studies" on the line "Program."  All your admissions options come under the heading "School of Arts and Sciences," and that is the "School" box you should check.

If you are applying through pathways 2 or 3 above, you should complete two applications, one for Early Christian Studies and one for the Department within which you wish to complete the M.A.  Both applications should be for the full M.A./Ph.D. track, but add on the line "Program" the words "with the intention of proceeding to a Ph.D. in Early Christian Studies."  This guarantees that all your options are kept open, regardless of which one you eventually settle on.  Again, check"School of Arts and Sciences" as your "School" box.

In addition (i.e. in addition to your formal online application mentioned above), those applying through pathways 2 or 3 above should send a separate signed letter addressed to the chair of the department in which they hope to complete their M.A. and to the director of the Center for the Study of Early Christianity (two letters, therefore), specifying their intention of completing a Ph.D. in Early Christian Studies, and explaining why they want to follow one of these pathways.  The chair of Semitics is currently Dr Andrew Gross, and of Greek and Latin Dr. Sarah Brown Ferrario; and the director of the center is Professor William Klingshirn.

Finally, the writing sample recommended (20-25 pages in length) will best take the form of a highly graded essay assignment that you completed during a recent course, or a conference paper or article.  Particular importance is attached to formation of argument, literary style, breadth of reference, use of ancient and modern languages, and adherence to academic conventions of annotation and format.

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact the Director, William Klingshirn (