Philosophy and Theology

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Philosophy and Theology Studies

Directors of Studies:
Dr Mary Marshall (Theology)

Dr Nicholas Waghorn (Philosophy)

Philosophy and Theology

Philosophy and Theology brings together some of the most important approaches to understanding and assessing the intellectual claims of religion, and in particular of Christianity. It fosters intellectual capacities that you can apply across both disciplines, and develops skills which you will find useful for a wide range of careers and activities after graduation.

The study of philosophy develops analytical rigour and the ability to criticise and reason logically. It allows you to apply these skills to many contemporary and historical schools of thought and individual thinkers, and to questions ranging from how we acquire knowledge and form moral judgments to central questions in the philosophy of religion, including the existence and nature of God and the relevance of religion to human life.

To enjoy Theology you need above all to be interested in the questions it raises, and not sure about all the answers. For this reason, although the course concentrates mainly on the origins and development of Christian theology, it appeals to students from a great variety of intellectual and religious or non-religious backgrounds. To engage with all the different aspects of the course, you have to be something of an historian, a philosopher, a textual and literary critic, and a linguist. All these disciplines together not only help to make a theologian, but, like the other arts subjects, equip our graduates to embark on a wide range of careers.

Philosophy and Theology at Oxford

The degree is constructed in the belief that the parallel study of these related disciplines provides new perspectives on each, leading to deeper understanding. 

The Philosophy Faculty is the largest philosophy department in the UK, and one of the largest in the world, with more than 70 full-time members, admitting more than 500 undergraduates annually to read the various degrees involving philosophy. Many faculty members have a worldwide reputation, and the library and other facilities are acknowledged as among the best in the country.

The Faculty of Theology and Religion has more than 100 members covering almost every possible branch of the discipline, ranging from experts in the ancient languages and literature of the world’s religions to church historians and systematic theologians. Its reputation attracts scholars from all over the world as visiting lecturers. Students have access to the Bodleian Library as well as the reference and lending collections at the Faculty Library. Access to the theological library at Pusey House is also possible.  The Faculty Centre provides access to a vast range of networked resources in Humanities including electronic journals, library catalogues, language learning programmes, and digitised texts for different parts of the course.

 Philosophy and Theology at St Benet’s Hall

St Benet’s Hall admits up to four undergraduates in Theology, and Philosophy and Theology, a year, making up a quarter of the student body in the Hall.   Depending on the standard of the applicants in any year, any or all of these places may end up being awarded to Theology, or to Philosophy and Theology, or to a mixture of both.  While not guaranteeing places in Philosophy and Theology, St Benet’s does in fact have an intake which compares well with that of other colleges in the university.  Not all colleges offer places in Philosophy and Theology, and those that do usually offer one place.

 Philosophy at St Benet’s Hall

A student undertaking a philosophy course at St Benet’s will find himself with considerable facilities. The Hall maintains a substantial and up-to-date philosophy library, covering both the history of the discipline and all modern topics, and the main philosophy library for the University is less than five minutes’ walk away. It is notable for Philosophy and Theology students that the Hall library is particularly strong in Philosophy of Religion, having several volumes that are unobtainable anywhere else in the University. At St Benet’s, you would be part of a philosophy cohort including three PPE students a year, and three Classicists a year, all of whom take at least a few papers in Philosophy. As such, students studying philosophy at St Benet’s will be a part of a large and vibrant intellectual community, with discussions begun in tutorials spilling over into the JCR and mealtimes! The Hall is extremely well provided for in terms of academics, with three research fellows in philosophy in addition to the Director of Studies: Dr. Brian Klug, Dr. Joseph Shaw, and Dr. Mark Sheehan. The academic staff research a wide variety of philosophical topics such as the work of Wittgenstein, philosophy of religion, metaphysics and applied ethics. The number of philosophy academics means that students can be taught by Hall tutors for the vast majority of core papers; for less commonly taken optional papers the standard practice is to send students out to tutors at other Colleges who have expertise in the relevant field.

Dr Nicholas Waghorn is the Director of Studies in Philosophy and the PPE Co-ordinator.  His research focuses on certain concepts in fundamental ontology, such as ‘nothing’, and issues concerning the value and meaning of life, in both Continental and analytic philosophy.  He is currently engaged in work on a book based on this research, tentatively titled Nothingness and the Meaning of Life.  His teaching covers General Philosophy (Preliminary Examinations core paper), Knowledge and Reality (Final Examinations core paper), Philosophy of Mind and Philosophy of Religion (Final Examinations core paper), amongst others (see course outline below). In the past he has taught for Lincoln College and Regent’s Park College, and examined MSt and MPhil theses in Philosophical Theology for the University.

Theology at St Benet’s Hall

Theologians are represented at all levels of the academic community at St Benet’s Hall.  Individual students will enjoy the support and companionship of their peers on the course.  St Benet’s also welcomes a growing number of graduate Theology students engaged in a wide range of research projects.  The distinctive community atmosphere of the Hall means that new undergraduates will associate with second and third year undergraduates and with graduate students and benefit from their experience and expertise.

In common with all Colleges and Halls, Theologians at St Benet’s can expect to attend lectures and classes provided by the Faculty of Theology and Religion and to receive tuition from specialists throughout the University according to the course selections of individual students.  The Director of Studies, Dr Mary Marshall, is also Departmental Lecturer in New Testament Studies for the Faculty of Theology and Religion. She delivers Faculty Lectures and teaches undergraduate and graduate students from a number of Colleges. Her own research interests are focused on the Gospels and their Jewish context. This means that St Benet’s students will be taught “in house” for New Testament papers but will visit Faculty experts elsewhere for tuition in other subjects. Undergraduate students at St Benet’s Hall have access to the full range of papers offered by the faculty. The Master of St Benet’s Hall, Prof. Werner Jeanrond, is a prominent theologian who has published widely on the subject of theological hermeneutics.  He is also offers teaching for the Faculty in papers relating to modern doctrine and theologians.  Both Dr Marshall and Prof Jeanrond host seminars and workshops at St Benet’s welcoming faculty members and students from across the university.

The Library of St Benet’s Hall is managed according to the needs of undergraduates.  The Theology collection of the library compares very favourably with that of other college libraries and is continually updated.  Student book suggestions are encouraged.  The Hall is also very close to the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter which houses the Philosophy and Theology Faculties Library.

Course Structure : Philosophy and Theology


Terms 1 and 2

Terms 3–9




  • Introduction to philosophy: General philosophy; Moral philosophy; Logic

Theology (two or three taken):

  • The Christian doctrine of creation; The study of religions; Old Testament set texts; New Testament set texts; Church history; New Testament Greek; Biblical Hebrew; Classical Arabic; Pali

Compulsory core subjects:


  • Either Early Modern Philosophy, or Plato’s Republic, or Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics; Philosophy of Religion; either Knowledge and Reality, or Ethics


  • The Gospels and Jesus; God, Christ and Salvation; either Development of Doctrine in the Early Church, or Christian Moral Reasoning

Further Options:

  • Two further subjects (one may be an extended essay), either both in Philosophy, or both in Theology, or one in Theology and one in Philosophy. Many choices available across both subjects, including: Post-Kantian Philosophy; Later Wittgenstein; Science and Religion; Biblical Archaeology, etc.



First University examinations (taken after the second term)
Three or four written papers (one in Philosophy, two or three in Theology)


Final University examinations
Eight written papers (either five in Philosophy and three in Theology, or five in Theology and three in Philosophy, or four in each). A thesis may replace one written paper.



Student Profile