The symposium of Dominican Friars known as Bible in Jerusalem has become an annual fixture in the calendar of the École Biblique et Archéologique Française. Held in the first week of every year, young Dominican exegetes from around the world gather with those resident and working in Jerusalem for a few days to celebrate the Epiphany in the Holy City and for fraternal study of the Bible. The goal of these meetings is to fulfil the Dominican way of life—prayer, study, community, preaching—in the service of the Word of God at an advanced level of academic discussion.
The meeting has three aspects. First, a conference theme upon which brothers give presentations. Space is also given for new participants to present their current exegetical projects to the symposium, so we can discover and share what our brothers are researching around the world. Secondly, an exegetical workshop upon an agreed text applying the tools of the Ecole’s BEST Project. Finally, recognising the opportunities presented by meeting in the Holy Land, we hold an excursion to a site of biblical interest. These aspects take up the vision of Père Lagrange that studying the Bible in the Land is of incomparable value. We humbly feel we are continuing to follow his vision.
BiJ 2017 built upon previous success with trips to Masada and Tel Arad, and presentations on the book of the Apocalypse, the Temple in Ephesians and on tradition and innovation in St Paul. However, the focus this year was a three-day workshop on 2 Kings 2. Using and contributing to the Ecole’s BEST Project, we examined the story of the succession of Elisha from many different perspectives as each brother added his own expertise to a rich discussion. The workshop concluded with an entertaining look at how this story had been depicted in sacred art. Again, we were happy to welcome a number of first time participants as the group continues to grow.
We are currently planning the next meeting, to take place in the first week of 2018. Next year will focus upon conference papers given around a theme with a shorter exegetical workshop on Rev 4:1-11. Once more we will make an excursion. We hope to continue to extend the meeting to include more participants and their scholarly fields, particularly for those brothers who study the bible but have fewer opportunities to come to Israel and experience the Lagrange vision of the Bible in the Land.
BiJ was begun in response to the lack of connection that was felt between the Dominican provinces and the work of the Order’s Ecole Biblique. Many brothers who study the bible to an advanced level had not experienced the life and work of EBAF, nor had the brothers working in Jerusalem had much encounter with their younger confreres from around the world. Such an annual meeting allows connections to be made and collaboration to begin. We learn about each other’s work and through fraternal discussion improve and shape our ideas in the study of God’s Word. This has to be the fruit of our common life of prayer and study and this strength we can offer to the world. I think that the next steps for this meeting is to use these academic connections to continue this scholarly and fraternal conversation throughout the year for the good of the Church and the world.
Fr. Bruno Clifton, o.p. Lecturer at Black Friars Hall, Oxford