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PhD Studies

Prerequisites

Please Read Before Proceeding to Application

All applicants for admission to the PhD program at Princeton Theological Seminary must hold the degree of BA, or its equivalent, from an approved college or university, and ordinarily the degree of MDiv, or its equivalent, from an approved theological institution. It is assumed that those who are enrolled in MDiv or equivalent programs when they apply for admission will have received their degrees before matriculation.

The MDiv degree is required of applicants in Practical Theology. In other areas, if the MDiv or its equivalent is absent, a minimum of two years of graduate study in religion is required. Included in the two years will ordinarily be a course in each of Old Testament; New Testament; systematic theology, philosophy or ethics; history of religions; and two courses in the history of Christianity.

Candidates for programs in Christian Education, Pastoral Theology, and Homiletics must submit evidence, as early as possible in the first year of residence, that they have engaged in that form of professional practice under close supervision, or else they must arrange to do so during their period of residence.

All candidates must be fluent in English and must demonstrate reading knowledge of two other modern languages, normally German and French. It is strongly recommended that candidates enter the program with a reading knowledge of both languages. Competence in at least one language—in the case of Biblical Studies, German—must be established before matriculation as a condition of registration for a full course load. Competence in the second modern language must be demonstrated as a prerequisite for the second year of residence. Please see Language Requirements, for more information.

Language Requirements

Modern Languages

Fluency
All candidates must be fluent in English and must demonstrate reading knowledge of two other modern languages, normally German and French. It is strongly recommended that students enter the program with a reading knowledge of both languages. The level of competence required may be roughly indicated as that to be expected from recent satisfactory completion of second-year college study of the language.

Competence in at least one language—in the case of Biblical Studies, German—must be established before matriculation as a condition of registration for a full course load. Competence in the second modern language must be demonstrated before beginning the second year of residence, or the student’s program will be terminated.

German and French Language Courses and Exams
Students who wish to demonstrate modern language competency through a translation test should contact the Office of Academic Affairs, Ph.D. Studies, for further information about testing options. In lieu of the translation test, the Seminary will accept a passing grade in the Princeton University summer language courses for graduate students. Other certifications are acceptable substitutes only under exceptional circumstances.

Newly admitted students who wish to demonstrate modern language competency through a translation test should contact the Office of Academic Affairs, Ph.D. Studies, for information about testing options as soon as possible following their admission in order to schedule testing prior to the beginning of their first year of study. Newly admitted students who are not prepared to pass  a language proficiency test are normally expected to take one of the Princeton University summer language courses for graduate students. Information on these courses is available from the Princeton University web site.

Delayed Fulfillment of Requirements
Students who do not fulfill the first modern language requirement before the beginning of the first year will be classified as “qualifying candidates.” Qualifying candidates may take only one doctoral seminar or course (permission of instructor required) and must engage in language study with an approved tutor at their own expense.

Qualifying candidates must re-take the language test as soon as possible. If the test is not passed, language study will continue during the second semester, again with only one seminar or course permitted. After the required first modern language test is passed, the term “qualifying candidate” will no longer apply. In every case, both modern foreign language requirements must be fulfilled before beginning the second year, or the student’s program will be terminated. If permitted to continue in the program, a student who does not fulfill both modern foreign language requirements by the beginning of the second year must consult with his or her residence committee and the director of Ph.D. studies to determine appropriate language preparation and coursework for the second year of study.

Qualifying candidates will be considered full-time students, although they will be taking only one course or seminar, and will pay full tuition. During the third year (first semester if possible), those who were qualifying candidates will make up any seminar(s) missed. During this time, such candidates will pay only the continuation fee, although they will be taking seminars or courses for academic credit.

Those who have been qualifying candidates and who must take seminars or courses during the fall semester of their third year will follow the usual sequence: they will take the comprehensive examinations and write the dissertation proposal by the end of the third year. If any required seminar is not offered until the second semester of the third year, the candidate must petition the Ph.D. Studies Committee for an exception to this deadline.

In no case will financial aid be extended beyond the original admission offer to compensate for time lost due to failure to meet the language requirement.

Language Substitutions
Petitions for modern language substitutions, where permitted, should be submitted (after matriculation only) by the residence committee chair to the student’s department, which will forward any recommendation for language substitution to the Ph.D. Studies Committee for final approval. Substitutions may be permitted if the requested language can be shown to be more relevant to the student’s field of research, course of study, and career intentions than the language that would otherwise be required.

Modern Language Requirements by Areas and Fields

Biblical Studies (both fields): German and French ordinarily required. Knowledge of German must be demonstrated before matriculation. For Old Testament candidates, French can be replaced by either Modern Hebrew or Spanish on the basis of a residence committee’s recommendation.

History and Ecumenics: (Church History and History of Doctrine): German and French required.

History and Ecumenics: (Mission, Ecumenics, and History of Religions): German and French ordinarily required. A student may petition to substitute another modern language for one of these (but not for both).

Theology (all fields): German (required) and ordinarily French. A student may petition to substitute another modern language for French.

Religion and Society: German and French ordinarily required. A student may petition to substitute another modern language for one of these (but ordinarily not for both).

Practical Theology (all fields): German and French ordinarily required. A student may petition to substitute another modern language or a course in statistics for one of these (but not for both).

Ancient Languages

Several fields require their Ph.D. candidates to demonstrate command of ancient languages, as set forth below:

Old Testament
*Hebrew, *Greek, Ugaritic, and Aramaic

New Testament
*Hebrew, *Greek, and either Syriac, Aramaic, Latin, or Coptic

Homiletics
*Hebrew and *Greek

Early Church History/History of Doctrine
**Greek and Latin

Medieval Church History/History of Doctrine
*Latin

Reformation Church History/History of Doctrine
*Latin

In special areas of History and Ecumenics and of Old Testament, other languages may be required as indicated by the subject matter of the field.
 
* Languages marked with an asterisk (*) must be mastered before matriculation. Latin is offered in the Princeton University summer language program for graduate students. Information on that program is available on the Princeton University website.

** In the case of Early Church History/History of Doctrine, reading knowledge of either Greek or Latin is required at matriculation.


Educating faithful Christian leaders.

Special Advisor & Founding Director, IJM Institute

Bethany Hoang, Class of 2004

“The rooting of justice in our spiritual formation in Christ requires careful thought and teaching. I was equipped to lead in this way through my time at PTS. ”