The École Biblique, a century-old history

The École is the oldest biblical and archaeological research center in the Holy Land. It was founded in 1890 by Fr. Marie-Joseph Lagrange Father Lagrange (1855-1938), in the Dominican convent of St. Stephen in Jerusalem, a convent created in 1882.

Inspired by the name of the recent Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes (Paris, 1868), Father Lagrange called it the Practical School of Biblical Studies, in order to emphasize its methodological specificity.

The Bible would be studied in the physical and cultural context in which it was written (the union of the monument and the document, said P. Lagrange: archeology and the exegesis of texts).

Its name was changed on October 20, 1920, when the Academy of Inscriptions and Belles-Lettres (Paris) recognized the Bible School as the French Archaeological School of Jerusalem, because of the quality of its achievements in this field. It is the only national archeological school in Jerusalem which offers a program of courses and awards a doctorate in biblical sciences.

The first generation: 1890-1940

During the first ten years of the School, Lagrange chose and trained collaborators, and he succeeded in forming a faculty envied by all. Marie-Antonin Jaussen (1871-1962) became a pioneer in Arab ethnography.

Louis-Hugues Vincent (1872-1960) proved to be the best specialist of his generation for the archeology of Palestine. Antoine-Raphael Savignac (1874-1951) imposed himself in Semitic epigraphy.

Felix-Marie Abel (1878-1953) devoted himself to the history and geography of Palestine, where he manifested such erudition and judgment so surely that he gained a great reputation in the scholarly world.

Édouard-Paul Dhorme (1881-1966) became a famous Assyriologist, and was the first to decipher Ugaritic. Lagrange himself has written much, both on the New Testament and on related subjects.

During the fifty years of their intense interdisciplinary collaboration (1890-1940), the members of this small team published 42 important works, 682 scientific articles, and more than 6200 reviews. Articles and reviews appeared in the Revue biblique, founded in 1892, while the books were inserted in the collection of Biblical Studies, launched in 1900.

The second generation: 1940-1990

Starting in the 1930s, the first team began training a new generation of researchers.

Bernard Couroyer (1900-1992) published enormously in the field of Egyptology, while teaching Coptic and Arabic. Roland de Vaux (1903-1971) made himself famous both for his biblical skills and for his archaeological work.

Raymond-Jacques Tournay (1912-1999) is well known for producing the best translation of the Psalms into modern language.

Pierre Benoit (1906-1987) and Marie-Émile Boismard (1916-2004) made an extremely important contribution to New Testament research.

It is to the researchers of the second generation that we owe the famous Bible of Jerusalem (1956), whose publication constitutes, as it were, the completion of the ideal of Father Lagrange. The quality of the introductions, the translations and the notes reflects the best of contemporary exegetical research, and the layout delights the eye while facilitating the understanding of the text – the use of stanzas, such as poetic passages. This arrangement broke radically with the traditional presentation, and became the model for all later modern Bibles. The Bible of Jerusalem was translated into the great modern languages.