“I am a proud élève de l’École!”

Fr. Eugen J. Pentiuc is an Orthodox Archpriest under the canonical jurisdiction of Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in America, and a Professor of Old Testament and Semitic languages. He holds The Archbishop Demetrios Chair of Biblical Studies and Christian Origins at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts, USA.

What is your relationship to École?

 First, allow me to extend my heartfelt thanks to Fr. Jean-Jacques Pérennès, Director of École Biblique et archéologique française, its leadership and all the Dominican brothers for inviting me to be the “scholar-in-residence” at École for the summer of 2023. It is a great honor for me and my school, Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, MA!

I was born in Romania where I did my licentiate and doctoral studies at Bucharest Institute of Orthodox Theology. In 1984, with a student scholarship provided by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, I came to École Biblique where I worked under the academic guidance of professors Tournay and Gonçalves on the book of Hosea. After two years of study. I got the diploma of Élève Titulaire and finished my first doctoral dissertation, a commentary on Hosea, that I defended at my home institution, since at that time the Ecole did not grant the doctoral degree. The dissertation was published by Holy Cross Press, 2002 and 2008, under the title Long-Suffering Love: A Commentary on Hosea with Patristic Annotations.

I came to know and academically benefit from great teachers and scholars of École, such as, the late Langlamet, Boismard and O’Connor, and also Nodet, de Tarragon, Puech, Humbert… And I am so glad to see how their legacy continues today with young and energetic scholars engaged in so many exciting projects.

What followed in your life and career after the Ecole phase?

 In spring of 1990, a few months after the downfall of the communist regime, I moved to the States as parish priest of an Orthodox Romanian-American community in Southbridge, Massachusetts.

However, my love for biblical Hebrew, whose knowledge was deepened during my stay at École (another reason why this school is so dear to my heart!).  So, I determined to apply for a doctoral program at Harvard University, in the Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations Department, where I concentrated on Comparative Semitic Philology. Under the academic guidance of Professor John Huehnergard, I worked on reconstructing the Emarite dialect of Akkadian, a doctoral dissertation which was immediately published under the tile West Semitic Vocabulary in Akkadian Texts from Emar in the series Harvard Semitic Studies (2001).

Did you have any contacts with École during the American phase?

 Yes! Beginning with 2010, I came to École almost on the other year. This was the period when I came to know my close friend Olivier-Thomas Venard. Under his leadership and the auspices of École and its famous series La Bible en ses traditions (B.E.S.T.), I worked as a team leader and main author on the commentary on Hosea published by Peeters Press in 2017 under the title Hosea: The Word of the Lord that Happened to Hosea.

What are your current projects, recently completed or ongoing?

 I have recently been researching and writing in three areas: Bible, Semitic languages, and theology in a wide ecumenical context.

Since 2014, I published three books with Oxford University Press in the area of Byzantine Orthodox reception of the Bible: The Old Testament in Eastern Orthodox Tradition, Hearing the Scriptures: Liturgical Exegesis of the Old Testament in Byzantine Orthodox Hymnography, and The Oxford Handbook of the Bible in Orthodox Christianity (for which Olivier-Thomas Venard contributed with a piece on the B.E.S.T. project).

What is the current project are you working on?

 I am currently doing research and writing on a project of Orthodox biblical theology, under contract with Oxford University Press, entitled Old Testament Theology: Reading the Hebrew Bible in Conversation with St. Basil Anaphora. With this volume, I continue my work on Byzantine reception of the Bible, this time imagining a dialogue between the Hebrew Bible (i.e., the Hebrew text and rhetoric of the Bible) and the doctrinal theology of the Eastern Orthodox Church, encapsulated to a certain degree in St. Basil’s Anaphora as well as other Byzantine patristic and liturgical texts.

If you are asked to sum up in a few words the main rationale for which you come and stay with us, what that rationale would be?

 I heard people saying, and I totally agree, that the fantastic library is a gem world-wide in terms of Bible and languages. This is very true!  Nevertheless, for me personally, there are two main reasons that I periodically come and do my work here:

  1. the hospitality of the Dominican friars and the opportunity to meet students and scholars—they all constitute an academic environment so needy when you do your research and writing; the learning here becomes contagious;
  2. the spirituality of this sacred place. Few people coming to Holy Land realize that St. Etienne Basilica is more than a modern Church. It is actually a locus sanctus where, Bible, history, and learning meet together.

For me just knowing that I am a few yards away from the place where Holy Byzantine Empress Eudocia built a basilica to shelter the remains of the First Marty St. Stephen—church consecrated in AD 439 by St. Cyril of Jerusalem, is a great opportunity to connect with those memorable times, renewed by Pere Lagrange in 1900 with the erection of the current basilica—a place of prayer and tranquility that in today troublesome world is so hard to fine.

In conclusion, I would underscore the following points:

The school formed me as a biblical exegete interested in striking a balance between our common patristic interpretive tradition and modern biblical methodologies.

The school inspired me through my scholarly journey—many of my publications have been partly prepared here.

The school has been for decades one of my sacred places that I love dearly!

I can honestly say that I am a proud ancient élève de l’École!