The founding purpose of the École biblique was to renew the reading of the Bible at a time when modern criticism (history, philology, etc.) was challenging the traditional understanding of the sacred text and disturbing the faith of many Christians. For that reason, Père Lagrange wished to advance a faithful yet scientific study of the Bible in the geographic, historical, and cultural context of the land where it was born. The first team of professors was made up of specialists from the various disciplines necessary for such study. Their competence and the quality of their work soon merited for the École biblique official recognition: in 1920, it was recognized as the École archéologique française by the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres. Ever since the École has thus been named the École biblique et archéologique française de Jérusalem.
The École is situated close to the Old City of Jerusalem, near the Damascus Gate, on the site of a 5th century byzantine basilica, built where Christian tradition venerated the martyrdom of St. Stephen, the protomartyr. Hence the name of the convent, Saint-Etienne, given to the religious community of Dominicans who animate the École biblique.
Since its creation, the École biblique has helped pioneered the advance of biblical exegesis and archeological research in Israel and the neighboring regions. It has acquired a great scholarly notoriety in the fields of epigraphy, Semitic linguistics, Assyriology, Egyptology, as well as in ancient history, geography, and ethnography.
The École biblique de Jérusalem welcomes students with the pontifical license in biblical studies, who desire to prepare for a doctoral degree (SSD). The school also receives students at the masters level, who wish to specialize in archeology or the history and geography of the Near East. Beyond the courses, students have the opportunity each week to visit, with a professor, the main biblical sites in Palestine and Israel. The École has partnerships with various universities abroad and in Jerusalem it collaborates closely with Studium biblicum franciscanum.
The École manages the Revue Biblique and various other specialized publications in its fields of expertise, as well as works addressed to a broader public. Among these later is the celebrated translation of the Bible, known as the Jerusalem Bible (1956, 1973, 1998), which combines attention to the literary quality of the translations with an exacting scientific rigor.
The École biblique can boast of many illustrious members. Alongside Père Lagrange, and father Abel and Vincent, who did with him very important surveys of the Holy land, one might mention Roland de Vaux, OP, who directed the excavations at Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947, Pierre Benoit, OP, whose text on inspiration remains a landmark, Raymond Tournay, OP, author of an important edition and translation of the Psalms, Fr. Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, OP, author of a famous archeological guide to the Holy Land and numerous works on St. Paul, Fr. Marie-Emile Boismard, OP, author of important writings on the New Testament. Among the emeriti still present at the Ecole, let us mention Jean-Baptist Humbert, archeologist in charge of multiple digs in Palestine et Jordan, Etienne Nodet, OP, editor of the works of Flavius Josephus, Émile Puech, one of the major editors of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Marcel Sigrist, assyriologist, etc.
A new generation has now arrived. Among its most recent activities, the École biblique has launched a very innovative research program called The Bible in its Traditions. The aim of this project is to use the extraordinary possibilities afforded by modern technology to construct an online a comparative version of the biblical text, exposing its different text traditions (MT, LXX, Vulgate, etc.), and to develop an ample register of annotation that highlights especially the richness of the reception of the sacred text in Christian theology and liturgy, in patristic tradition, the history of art, etc. (https://scroll.bibletraditions.org/).
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