Mary Immaculate Hall was full this Wednesday, November 8th, at the invitation of the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum (SBF), the Custody of the Holy Land’s Faculty of Biblical Science and Archaeology, for the Inaugural Lecture of this academic year, and the presentation of a new anthology of scientific articles entitled “Grammatica, intellectio scripturae” (Grammar: The Sense of the Scriptures).
As the Father Custos, Pierbattista Pizzaballa, noted, the SBF’s scientific research is an integral part of the pastoral apostolate, just like parish life, in a different way. It is this biblical and archeological research that allows the friars to bring new light to the local faithful and pilgrims in their approach to biblical texts and the Holy Places. That is why, today as in the past, the Custody continues to invest major efforts in the SBF. The hard work clearly pays off, the audience in the hall demonstrating that the SBF’s influence extends well beyond the confines of the Franciscan Order.
Father Bottini, Dean of the Faculty, welcomed the large audience and introduced Giovanni Rizzi, Professor of Old Testament Exegesis at the Urbanian Pontifical University in Rome, who lectured on “The Septuagint Today: Editions, Translations and Studies”. To refresh our minds, let us recall that the Septuagint is the Greek translation of the Torah (the Five Books of Moses) made by 70 (or 72, according to some traditions) Jewish scholars in Alexandria for the Jews who were then relatively numerous there, and at the request of the Greek authorities. By extension, the Greek version of the entire Bible was called the Septuagint before the Jews returned to the Hebrew text in the second century of the present era. The Church abandoned the Greek translations for the Latin, following Saint Jerome and his “Veritas hebraica” (the truth is in the Hebrew). It was upon discovery of the Qumran texts in 1947, that Septuagint studies became newly popular, with specialists comparing the Hebrew texts from Qumran and the Septuagint.
Professor Rizzi’s lecture (soon to be on-line in Italian and English) was an overview of the current research and questions being asked about the Greek text in the Jewish tradition.
After the lecture, Father Rosario Pierri presented the book newly published by the Custody’s publishing arm, the Franciscan Printing Press, Grammatica, intellectio Scripturae, an anthology of scientific articles dealing with various points of Greek grammar and translation that give rise to various, sometimes quite different, interpretations. The anthology was compiled under the direction of Father Rosario Pierri ofm, himself a professor of Greek at the SBF, in honor of Father Lino Cignelli ofm, Professor Emeritus of SBF. Father Lino “is not one of those who don’t practice what they preach”, said the Father Custos, who in his laudatory remarks recalled that Father Lino did not limit himself to teaching the young friars only in the classroom, but also through his exemplary life. Then turning to everyone present, he declared, “May working, teaching, and studying in Jerusalem be a joy and an opportunity for everyone, for as the rabbis say, ‘the very air of Jerusalem makes one wise’.” By the look on the faces of the assembled audience, it seems that the very air of the SBF also makes one happy.