A unique specialist library of biblical, archaeological and socio-historical studies on the Greco-Roman world, Jewish Hellenism and the Roman Near East has come to Trinity College Dublin.
The Freyne Library, donated by the family of Seán Freyne (1935-2013), founding Professor of Theology in the original School of Hebrew, Biblical and Theological Studies, was officially opened by the Provost of Trinity, Dr Patrick Prendergast.
Its collection of 3,000 books offers multiple avenues to the region with which Professor Freyne’s international reputation is associated: Galilee as a context for the ministry of Jesus and for the emergence of the early Jesus movement.
Professor Freyne, who served Trinity for almost thirty years, established the first non-denominational setting for the study of the Bible and theology within the humanities at an Irish university. The Department of Religions and Theology is privileged to house this library in fulfilment of Professor Freyne’s wish that it be made available to scholars in his memory.
Speaking at the opening, the Provost warmly welcomed the bequest. He pointed out the decidedly pluralist approach Professor Freyne brought to the exploration of the Bible and its histories of reception: “Seán was pluralist in his interests, in his interdisciplinary approach, in his travels, in his openness to other cultures, and in his commitment to disseminating discourse outside the university.” As a “creative, courageous and independent thinker” he contributed to religious and cultural debate in the Irish public sphere. The Provost equally highlighted his capacity to create innovative academic institutions: he was “an immensely gifted director, manager, administrator, fundraiser, motivator,” providing the basis for teaching and research in Jewish and in Islamic Studies also through his instrumental role in creating Trinity’s government-funded Centre for Mediterranean and Near Eastern Studies, of which he was director. His legacy is carried on in the Department of Religions and Theology and in the Department of Near and Middle Eastern Studies.
At the same event, Professor Freyne’s final book, The Jesus Movement. Meaning and Mission, was also launched by Erasmus Smith’s Professor of Hebrew (emeritus) Andrew Mayes who took the cover mosaic of fishes, a wine jug and a breadloaf as illustrating how “thoroughly grounded in the realia of the lives of ordinary people” Seán was. “He loved the rural” and “closely identified with Galilee and Galileans... it is the real lives of Galilean Jews he is concerned with, and it is only someone like Seán who could give us this account, a significant contribution to current academic scholarship.”
Dr Margaret Daly-Denton, Professor Freyne’s previous doctoral student and colleague to whom the family had entrusted the task of fulfilling his wishes, led the large gathering through the two launches, which began with a choral piece composed by Oliver Hynes for the occasion, sung by the College Chapel Choir.
Calligrapher Tim O’Neill designed the logo of The Freyne Library which gives access to sources from which our modern cultural self-understandings developed: the encounters, conflicts and transformations between the cultures of the Ancient Near East, of Greece and Rome, and the different traditions of biblical monotheism. A biennial Seán Freyne Memorial Lecture will explore their ongoing interaction.