Faculty of Ancient Near Eastern Studies
The Pontifical Biblical Institute, founded in 1909 by Pope St. Pius X and entrusted to the Society of Jesus, is a center of higher studies in Sacred Scripture and related disciplines. Beginning from 1932, beside the Biblical Faculty, the Institute is also comprised of the Faculty of Ancient Near Eastern Studies (also known as the «Oriental Faculty») that offers degrees of Licentiate and Doctorate in ancient oriental languages.
1. Curriculum for the Licentiate in Ancient Near Eastern Studies
The Licentiate Curriculum in the Faculty of Ancient Near Eastern Studies provides a comprehensive but flexible program to prepare the student for specialized research in the principal languages and cultures of the Ancient Near East. Precise information on specific areas treated each year is published in the annual course listings of the Pontifical Biblical Institute. The Faculty currently offers courses in Northwest Semitic languages & literatures (Hebrew, Ugaritic, Aramaic/Syriac, Phoenician and closely related inscriptions), Ancient Mesopotamian languages & literatures (Akkadian and Sumerian), and languages & literatures of Ancient Egypt and Coptic studies.
The Licentiate curriculum can normally be completed during four years of study (240 ECTS), of which the first year is a preparatory year dedicated to acquiring the basic instruments for the three years that follow. At the end of this preparatory year the Faculty evaluates the student's prospects for completing the program. During the first year the status of the student is considered “extraordinary”, unless the student is waived from this first year under the terms below and may register as a full-time (or “ordinary”) student in the program..
The language of instruction is normally Italian (for basic courses) or English (for special courses and tutorials), specified in the annual list of course offerings (see also course offerings in the Biblical Faculty). It will be observed that, to have access to the standard manuals and dictionaries, a working knowledge of German as a source language is necessary.
The following reflects the basic curriculum stated in terms of the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System
Some areas of studies may require further adjustments. An individualized program for each student will be set by the Director of Studies and approved by the Dean.
1.1. For a specialization in Northwest Semitic languages & literatures (Hebrew, Ugaritic, Aramaic/Syriac and closely related inscriptions), the student is required to complete one year of propaedeutic courses of Biblical Hebrew (30 ECTS) and Biblical Greek (30 ECTS). Prospective students with an elementary but solid background in one of these languages (or both) can sign up for the qualifying examinations administered by the Secretary’s office. Those who pass these examinations can be waived from this propaedeutic year.
After successful completion of the propaedeutic year (or its equivalent), the students can start this following three-year program of studies with a total of 180 ECTS:
- Main language: a minimum of two semester courses at the elementary and intermediate (A-B levels) and 4 semester courses of advanced readings (C and Special 1-3 levels).Total 60 ECTS.
- Auxiliary disciplines directly related to the main language: history, religion and culture in the area of the main language. This is normally done in the form of a directed readings program. The Director may also consider courses not taken at the Pontifical Biblical Institute (including summer courses) as equivalent to any of these three areas. Total 30 ECTS.
- Second and third language: a minimum of two semester courses in each (i.e. the A-B level courses). Total 40 ECTS.
- Other auxiliary disciplines: two semester courses as advised by the Director. The courses may also be taken elsewhere. Total 20 ECTS.
- Directed Paper: personal research, under the guidance of the Director. Total 30 ECTS.
1.2. For a specialization concentrating in the languages & literatures of Ancient Mesopotamia or Ancient Egypt and Coptic studies the program of the first year will be determined by the student’s Director of Studies, who will also set up an individual program for the remaining three years.
2. Bachelor and Master equivalences
The Bachelor degree is not given separately. Yet those who have accumulated 180 ECTS toward the licentiate (including the 60 ECTS from the propadeutic Hebrew and Greek courses) but have not completed (a) the A-B levels of the third language, (b) one auxiliary discipline, and (c) the Directed Paper, i.e., 60 ECTS less than the programmed 240 ECTS of the Licentiate program may request a certificate stating that the coursework completed is equivalent to a Bachelor program.
The Licentiate degree is equivalent to a Master (MA with thesis) degree with 60 ECTS/one year following a 180 ECTS/three year Bachelor's program where the BA and MA degrees are offered.
After completing the Licentiate (i.e., the equivalent of MA with thesis) degree with distinction (“magna cum laude”), the student may apply to the doctoral program which begins with a year of directed research. The content of the program is to be determined by the program Director and approved by the Dean. This research program is equivalent to the MPhil degree leading to a doctorate.
3. Admission and credits from previous studies
- The normal pre-requisites for admission to a university in the applicant's own country.
- A brief statement of purpose indicating the area of studies to be pursued (Northwest Semitic languages & literatures; Ancient Mesopotamian languages & literatures; languages & literatures of Ancient Egypt and Coptic studies) and the reason for the choice.
- A photocopy of the pages of the passport showing the applicant’s personal data and photo.
Applicants having a previous formal training in some area of Ancient Near Eastern studies may request to be waived from taking several courses by providing official transcripts. No credit for the advanced courses of the main language will be accepted toward the fulfillment of a degree program.
The above documents should reach the Pontifical Biblical Institute Secretary’s office, via della Pilotta, 25; 00187 Roma, Italy, no later than May 10. The electronic version can also be sent via email attachment to; the Secretary’s office will notify the applicant the decision of the Faculty. If admitted, the applicant will also be assigned a Director of Studies for the chosen field(s) of specialization.
A limited number of auditors (students taking one or more courses not leading to a degree) may be admitted. The students pay the fee of the individual courses.
5. Visa requirement
Successful applicants from countries other than the European Community will need to apply for a student’s visa from the Italian consulate in their home country. (In Italy a visitor’s visa cannot be changed into a student’s visa.) However, prospective students who are members of religious communities are advised to apply for visa “per motivi religiosi”. The Secretary’s office can provide documents that are needed for the student’s visa application if the requirements for admission mentioned in 3 above are satisfied. The letter of presentation (see under 6 below) will be required.
The Institute does not provide housing. Various information about housing possibilities can however be obtained through the Secretary’s office.
Registration is to be done in person at the Secretary’s office (entrance Piazza della Pilotta, 35), during the scheduled period (see Academic Calendar). Please bring:
- The letter of notification that the applicant has been admitted (see 3 above).
- A letter of presentation by an ecclesiastical authority: members of the clergy and religious communities should provide a letter of presentation from their Superior. Lay applicants from countries not in the Schengen treaty (practically countries that are not in the European Union) should bring a letter of presentation by the Ordinary of the Diocese of origin together and a statement of the financial status coveing the tuition and other costs (board and lodgings, health insurance).
- A completed form of registration; this form is available at the Secretary’s office-
- Two passport-size photographs.
- Proof of payment, or cash, if made during registration. (For information about the fees of full-time student registration and individual courses and the method of payment see Academic fees).
- Completed form with the list of courses to be taken during the semester; this form is available at the Secretary’s office. The courses to be taken should be approved first by the student’s Director of studies.
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