McGrath Institute to Explore Bigger View of Bible Studies

By William Schmitt

Word And Wisdom ConferenceWord And Wisdom Conference

An event sponsored by the University of Notre Dame’s McGrath Institute for Church Life will focus on a new book prompting bold inquiries into the breadth of biblical studies as an interdisciplinary field.

The Word and Wisdom Conference: Exploring the Future of Biblical Studies” will take place April 1-3 at the Notre Dame Conference Center, convening numerous theological scholars to share insights with Olivier-Thomas Venard, Ph.D., a renowned interpreter of Scriptural texts.

The English translation of Venard’s A Poetic Christ: Thomist Reflections on Scripture, Language and Reality will be published shortly. The McGrath Institute saw this as a good time for an international discussion of “what it might mean to reclaim learned study of the Word of God, of inspired Scripture, as such.”

Venard, a Dominican priest and deputy director of the École Biblique in Jerusalem, will bring his broad expertise to the conversation, along with other distinguished visitors. They include Edward Greenstein, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of the Bible at Jerusalem’s Bar-Ilan University, and Very Rev. John Behr, Ph.D., an Eastern Orthodox priest and seminary professor in Yonkers, NY.

Notre Dame’s Department of Theology will provide speakers from various areas of specialization, such as systematic theologians Francesca Murphy, Ph.D., and Kenneth Oakes, Ph.D. They jointly translated Fr. Venard’s book from French.

The revised volume about Christ in the Scriptures draws upon Fr. Venard’s expertise in multiple languages, philology, history, literary theory, theology, and philosophy, including aesthetics, according to Anthony Pagliarini, Ph.D., who coordinated conference planning for the McGrath Institute. The event is free and open to the public.

A Poetic Christ connects naturally to the McGrath Institute's mission at the intersection of Notre Dame’s scholarship and service to the Catholic Church, Pagliarini said. Fr. Venard’s range of approaches, akin to the University’s spectrum of faculty expertise, is thought-provoking given current circumstances in biblical studies.

The field has tended more toward historical and scientific analysis of texts and authorship, and less toward appreciation through “exhaustive” interdisciplinary assessment, Pagliarini said. Big-picture research into texts, if renewed in the field, could explore more deeply the human and divine roles in authorship. The Word could be studied as Wisdom.

A new look through the lens of what Pagliarini called Fr. Venard’s “omni-competence” will ask whether the field of biblical studies potentially could “give Scripture a space to breathe and show its meaning beyond what our typical historical inquiries allow.”

The free conference, which requires advance online registration, will include a concert.  Celebrating the work of Fr. Olivier-Thomas Venard, the French-Armenian composer Michel Petrossian will introduce the première performance of his newly written musical composition for voices and instruments on Tuesday April 2, 2019 at the Eck Visitor Center at 7:00pm. The concert will be preceded by a talk given by Fr. Venard.