From October 27th to 29th, 2016, Fr. Anthony Giambrone of the Ecole biblique, was one of the prestigious guests of Austrian capital’s Dominican Convent for three days of lectures on the theme “Bibelstudium und Predigt bei den Dominikanern: Geschichte – Ideal – Praxis”.
The year 2016 marks 800 years of biblical studies and preaching in the Order of Preachers. In order to celebrate this jubilee, various Dominican institutions have organized meetings to retrace the history and the role of the Order throughout the centuries.
Together with medievalists and Dominicans arriving from Oxford, Roma, Paris, Bonn, Köln, Milano, London, Leuven, Prague, and elsewhere, Fr. Anthony Giambrone, OP, member the faculty of the Ecole and specialist in New Testament, participated in the Vienna Symposium. The scholars were brought together by the Institutum Historicum in Rome and the University of Vienna to present their research on different eras in the history of the Dominican Order, its great figures and the evolution of its preaching and biblical exegesis throughout the centuries. The participants were also treated to a special concert of baroque music in the beautiful priory church, spiced with meditations drawn from Dominican authors.
“In Exegesis as in War”
Fr. Giambrone’s paper was entitled “In der Exegese wie im Krieg”: Bibelstudium am Ende einer Welt: Lagrange und Denifle zu Luther” (“In Exegesis as in War”: Study of the Scripture at the End of a World: Lagrange and Denifle on Luther”) and handled a forgotten series of opuscula written by Fr. Marie-Joseph Lagrange, founder of the Ecole biblique, during his forced exile from Jerusalem during the First World War. (The Ecole was then occupied by the Ottoman authority, allied to Germany, and hence Lagrange was back in France as an enemy combatant.) At the center of the presentation stood a series of conferences, The Meaning of Christianity according to Luther and His Followers in Germany, delivered by Lagrange at the Institut Catholique de Paris in 1917-1918. Fr. Giambrone attempted to show how Lagrange, in interesting contrast to his Dominican confrere, the medievalist Heinrich Denifle (1844–1905), upon whose work he depended, portrayed Martin Luther’s commentary on the letter to the Romans as embodying an ambiguous ideal of humanistic exegesis, while being guilty in praxis of an interpretative malpractice, in many ways resembling the modernist errors characteristic of the German exegesis of the day.
The background of the war hovers heavily in the background of Lagrange’s work and the Dominican’s outspoken French patriotism colors his perception of the heritage of German exegesis in multiple ways. At one point, he remarks, capturing his views in a nutshell, “Fortunately, in exegesis as in war, Germany is better in the preparation than in the execution.” This was Lagrange’s manner of paying honor to the excellence of German philology and history, while signalling what he saw as the disasters of their theological enterprises.
Fr. Giambrone’s presentation contributed to an excellent event, chronicling the wide variety of historical expressions Dominicans’ strong commitment to the Word of God has taken across the centuries. The conferences papers will be gathered and published in a forthcoming volume.