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
Tests in reading competence in German and French (written translations, with and without dictionary) will be conducted by the Seminary in September, January, and May. 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 normally are expected to take the May test in one language in absentia. Registration for these tests is through the Ph.D. Studies Office of Princeton Seminary; the $10 fee is payable to Princeton Theological Seminary at the time of test registration. Newly admitted students who are not prepared to pass this 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 Ph.D. Studies Office or at the following link.
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 take the language test in January. 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.
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).
Several fields require their Ph.D. candidates to demonstrate command of ancient languages, as set forth below:
||*Hebrew, *Greek, Ugaritic, and Aramaic
||*Hebrew, *Greek, and either Syriac, Aramaic, Latin, or Coptic
||*Hebrew and *Greek
|Early Church History/History of Doctrine
||**Greek and Latin
|Medieval Church History/History of Doctrine
|Reformation Church History/History of Doctrine
|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 from the Ph.D. Studies Office or at the following link.
** In the case of Early Church History/History of Doctrine, reading knowledge of either Greek or Latin is required at matriculation.