Within Princeton Theological Seminary, the Biblical Studies Department regards its mission in the doctoral program as the preparation of biblical scholars and teachers in service to the church, whether as teachers in seminaries and divinity schools, colleges and major research universities, or as pastors of local congregations.

Course of Study
In support of its programs, the department offers broad coverage in many of the areas and sub-disciplines in the field, with specific concentrations and offerings determined by the interests and expertise of the faculty. The driving force of the program both in Old Testament and New Testament clusters broadly around linguistic, historical, literary, and theological dimensions of textual and exegetical study. The general aims of formal coursework are to develop familiarity with leading areas and methods of research and analysis in the study of the Old or New Testament, to acquire linguistic and historical competencies necessary to work expertly with primary sources, to prepare for the student’s Comprehensive Examinations, and to pursue specific interests relevant to the student’s scholarly development, especially in the area of the dissertation. A typical course of study will include at its core requisite language study and a sequence of courses in biblical exegesis and theology, historical and comparative backgrounds, and reception history and consequences. In addition, a student will ordinarily take a number of electives, which allow him/her to shape his/her course of study according to personal interests. Interdisciplinary work or further specialist study can be taken from seminars offered by faculty in other departments at the Seminary or at affiliated institutions (e.g., Princeton University). Specific requirements for each of the subareas follow.

The Course of Study for Old Testament Students
The program of study in Old Testament features the following formal course requirements:

  1. Ordinarily, students will take four seminars or courses per year (5000 or 9000 level offerings). In a two-year residence, five such courses or seminars will come from the following core areas:
    • two exegesis seminars or courses
    • one seminar in biblical theology
    • one course in the history or backgrounds of the Old Testament
    • one course or seminar in reception history and consequences
     
  2. In addition, students shall attain (usually through coursework) competency in Hebrew, Greek, and Northwest Semitic.

The Course of Study for New Testament Students
The program of study in New Testament features the following formal course requirements:

  1. Ordinarily, students will take four seminars or courses per year (5000 or 9000 level offerings). In a two-year residence, courses or seminars will come from the following core areas:
    • One seminar in Greco-Roman environment
    • One seminar in second temple Jewish environment
    • Two exegesis seminars or courses
    • One seminar in biblical theology
    • Electives, which allow students to shape their course of study, such as interdisciplinary work, or further specialist study that can be taken from seminars offered by department faculty or from doctoral offerings by other Seminary and Princeton University faculty.
     
  2. In addition, students shall attain competency in Hebrew, Greek, and one other ancient language, chosen from Aramaic, Syriac, Latin, and Coptic. Depending on the subject matter of a student’s dissertation, other language may be required.

Old Testament and New Testament Research Colloquia
As a means to foster collegiality and to promote research, the Department sponsors research colloquia in both Old Testament and New Testament. Six colloquia in each subarea occur over the course of the academic year. Participants include Seminary graduate students (required during residency) and faculty as well as interested visiting scholars and faculty from the local area. Papers are circulated in writing, usually two weeks in advance of the colloquium’s meeting. Each paper will be assigned two respondents. Faculty and students share responsibility for presenting papers and responses. Students in their first year are expected to give one response to a paper, while students in their second year will give one paper (often on a topic the student anticipates exploring in the dissertation).

Topic Statement
In consultation with pertinent faculty members, a student will compose a two-page statement describing the general topic of the dissertation. This statement is to be submitted to the Chair of the student’s Residency Committee in time for consideration by the Department in its February meeting of the student’s second year. These topic statements are provisional and heuristic, serving both to aid in the student’s preparation of a thesis proposal in the third year and to guide decisions about the content of the student’s Comprehensive Examinations (especially Book-and-Block, Review Essay).

Comprehensive Examinations (for Old Testament doctoral students)
Students may sit for Comprehensive Examinations upon successful completion of all residency requirements and the recommendation of their Residency Committee. There are a total of six Comprehensive Examinations, which normally are to be completed by the middle of the third year of graduate work. Some parts of these examinations are taken earlier (see below). The nature and form of the Comprehensive Examinations vary, but in each, the student’s knowledge and competence in a specified area of study is to be evaluated. The six exams are as follows:

  1. Major Language Competency
    Attainment of competency in a student’s major language will be demonstrated as prescribed in the following:
    • Hebrew for students in Old Testament — (i) by May of the first year, either pass an exam in Hebrew prose or satisfactorily complete the Accelerated Hebrew Reading course and (ii) in May of the second year, pass an exam in Hebrew poetry. The Department’s subcommittee on language study oversees all fulfillment of these exams.
     
  2. Minor Language Competency
    For students in Old Testament, there are two components: (i) proficiency in Greek which may be demonstrated either by passing a competency exam in May (of either the first or second year) or by satisfactorily completing an approved course in Old Testament or New Testament that includes a substantial Greek component; and (ii) proficiency in Northwest Semitic, which may be satisfied through examination or successful completion of two courses, one from each of the following areas :
    (a) Northwest Semitic Epigraphy or Ugaritic
    (b) Aramaic or Syriac
    [Faculty responsibility for overseeing these exams falls to the Department’s subcommittee on language study.]
  3. Old Testament Critical Issues Exam
    This comprehensive exam is normally to be taken early in the fall of the second year. A bibliography of classic works will be given to incoming doctoral students with the expectation that they will begin reading through the bibliography during their first year and into the summer following the first year.
  4. Book-and-Block Exam
    In order to prepare for an exam to be taken in the first week of the fall semester of a student’s third year, each student in the spring of the second year of residency shall choose a canonical book in which to specialize and shall indicate it to his or her Residence Committee Chair by April 1. Students will be expected to know all critical issues pertaining to the book. Based on the book they choose, students will also be prepared to be examined on the corpus of writings (the “block”) in which the book is situated. The exam will have both a written and oral component (The oral component will be conducted jointly with the oral component for the Exegetical Competency Exam [see below]). The nature of the written component will be negotiated between the student and the assigned faculty examiners before the end of May of the student’s second year.
    Old Testament students will ordinarily choose one of the following corpora:
    Pentateuch
    Prophetic Literature
    Deuteronomistic History
    Psalms
    Wisdom Literature
    Lyric Poetry
    Apocalyptic Writings (including New Testament)
    Ezra/Nehemiah/Chronicles
  5. Exegetical Competency Exam
    This exam will ordinarily not cover material in a student’s area of specialization (as the Book-and-Block Exam is designed to). By the end of April of the student’s second year of residency, the department will assign faculty examiners who will notify the student of the book from which the exam passage is to be taken. Students are responsible for marshaling all necessary resources in advance of the examination, which will normally be set for the week immediately following the date of a student’s Book-and-Block exam in September, with joint oral to follow as soon thereafter as possible, though ordinarily no later than the end of September of the student’s third year. The exam is to be open-book, for which students are expected to use all the resources available to them to do advanced exegetical work. Students will be given one week to study a set passage (usually a difficult one); at the end of the week, students must be ready to discuss all aspects of the text including, as relevant, language, philology, textual criticism, literary issues, historical questions, theology, and a sufficiently persuasive close reading of the text using whatever method or combination of methods the student deems appropriate. The student is expected to demonstrate independence in exegesis, an ability to use all relevant languages, and knowledge of the primary and secondary literature. At the end of the week of study, students will turn in a copy of a seven-ten page essay (need not be polished) with an argument for their proposed close reading (including footnotes or endnotes), together with additional working notes on other exegetical aspects of the biblical text to the Office of Academic Affairs, Ph.D. Studies. These will provide a partial basis for the ensuing oral examination.
  6. Review Essay
    This essay is to focus on the status of the question of a particular issue in the field, normally a topic central to a student’s anticipated dissertation project. The essay is to involve a thorough review and evaluation of the secondary literature on the topic in question and is to show promise toward publication, either as an independent essay or as a part of the dissertation (often the “history of scholarship” chapter). Ordinarily, the essay is to be submitted to the Office of Academic Affairs, Ph.D. Studies before the Christmas break of the third year in the program. Faculty evaluations will be in writing and notification of pass or failure will be given by the end of the following January.
    Successful completion of these Comprehensive Examinations entitles a student to move directly to the Dissertation Proposal and the Dissertation.
  7. Comprehensive Examinations (for New Testament doctoral students)
    Students may sit for Comprehensive Examinations upon successful completion of all residency requirements and the recommendation of their Residency Committee. A total of five Comprehensive Examinations (2 Language Competency requirements plus 3 Qualifying Examinations) are normally completed by the middle of the third year of matriculation. Occasionally some of these examinations, such as those in language competence, may be taken earlier. While the nature and form of the Comprehensive Examinations vary, each evaluates the student’s knowledge and competence in a specified area of study.

The five examinations are as follows:

  1. Major Language Competency
    Attainment of competency in a student’s major language will be demonstrated as prescribed in the following:
    • Greek for students in New Testament — (i) in May of the first year, pass an exam in New Testament Greek; and (ii) in May of the second year, pass an exam in Septuagint Greek.
     
  2. Minor Language Competency
    Attainment of competency in a student’s minor languages will be demonstrated as prescribed in the following:
    • For students in New Testament, there are two components: (i) proficiency in Hebrew, which may be demonstrated by passing a competency exam in May (of either the first or second year) or by completing an approved course in Old Testament or New Testament, that includes a substantial Hebrew component; and (ii) proficiency in one other language chosen from the following possibilities: Aramaic, Coptic, Latin, or Syriac. Proficiency may be demonstrated through examination or through satisfactory completion of coursework during the student’s first two years of residency.
     
  3. Qualifying Examinations
    The student will be examined in each of the following three areas:
    1. Second Temple Judaism and the Greco-Roman World;
    2. Jesus, the Gospels, and Acts;
    3. Paul and Earliest Christianity.
    The student will be provided with a bibliography for each of these three areas at the beginning of matriculation. These bibliographies are established by the New Testament faculty; occasionally they may be altered to take account of a student's particular interests. A 3-hour examination is administered in each of these three areas of inquiry; normally one exam is given each week over a period of three weeks. The student's oral defense of all three examinations is administered by the New Testament faculty within a week or two after their written completion.