History of Christianity

1. Church History and History of Doctrine

At PTS, the history of Christianity is an integrative, interdisciplinary program that encompasses social, theological, institutional and cultural history of the world’s Christian communities, their ideas and practices. It also offers resources from related fields in the history of religions, history of worship, sociology of religion, missiology and ecumenism. The program’s goal is to train scholars to develop an area of specialization within a context of breadth, balancing particular interests with an attention to Christianity’s larger history and global expansion.

Residence Requirements

The program in Church History and History of Doctrine includes five eras: the early church, the medieval church, the Reformation, the modern European church, the American church. Over the two years of residence, a student must successfully complete eight doctoral seminars. The purpose of coursework is to develop historical breadth, hone research skills, and to prepare for comprehensive exams.

Students must choose these seminars in consultation with their advisers to constitute a coherent core of studies while meeting the following distribution requirements:

1. A departmental seminar or individual tutorial on historical method.
2. Church History seminars in at least three different eras (early, medieval, Reformation, modern, American).
3. One seminar chosen from doctoral offerings at Princeton University.
4. At least one seminar from among the Department’s broader offerings, such as mission, ecumenics, history of religions and sociology of religion.
5. Two electives, chosen from doctoral courses of the Department, the rest of the Seminary, or the University.

Ph.D. candidates are free to audit other courses in the Seminary catalogue, such as those offered in the Master’s program. If such courses are taken for Ph.D credit, additional work will usually be required.

Language proficiency in French and German is required. Ph.D. candidates are also encouraged to develop further language skills through auditing Seminary courses or enrolling in appropriate University courses. These opportunities, however, do not count toward the eight seminars.

Early in the period of residence, students should begin to think of possible thesis topics and should be prepared to submit a research topic statement to the Department by the end of the second year, following the departmental guidelines available from the residence committee.

Comprehensive Examinations

During their first two years of residence, candidates choose three historical eras of specialization from among the five (early, medieval, Reformation, modern European, modern American), and communicate this to their residence committee. There will be a total of four written exams, one of which may be submitted as a research paper. Any one of these exams will combine the era with another field of study of the department (e.g. ecumenics, history of religions, missiology, sociology of religion). After the written exams are completed, there will be a comprehensive oral examination based on all four of them. The four exams will be based on the chosen eras and include the following:

1. One specialized exam in the areas defined as requisite background for the proposed dissertation. This typically falls within one of the three chosen eras. (If a candidate’s dissertation topic involves more than one era, adjustments to the exam structure may be made by the residence committee).
2./3. Two examinations, each based on one of the remaining eras of choice.
4. One comparative examination focused on a topic that involves at least two different historical divisions and/or cultural contexts.

All examiners are appointed by the Department in consultation with the student and his or her residence committee. Bibliographies for the examinations are compiled by the student in consultation with the examiner. Interdisciplinary exams involve one examiner for each discipline. In all cases, the instructors setting the examination have final responsibility for determining the bibliography.