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Trinity Centre for Biblical Studies

The Centre for Biblical Studies continues Trinity’s interest and investment in biblical studies over the past four centuries (see below) by providing a focus for a range of research activities and projects in this discipline.  In keeping with the growing breadth of biblical studies as a discipline and the range of expertise and interests at Trinity, the Centre promotes research in a variety of areas, including the study of the Bible in its ancient contexts, its interpretation in Late Antiquity and the Medieval period, and its reception in the visual and performing arts.   The Centre facilitates and disseminates research in these areas by drawing upon the expertise of its staff and associates within and beyond Trinity, as well as the rich resources of Trinity College’s Library and the Chester Beatty Library.  For more information on how to get involved contact the current Director.

Four Centuries of Biblical Studies at Trinity College Dublin

The study of the Bible has a long and distinguished history at Trinity College Dublin stretching back over 400 years to its very foundation in 1592.  Central as it was to the new University’s educational purpose, the teaching of divinity at Trinity included not merely church history and systematic theology, but biblical studies as well. Indeed, candidates for the Bachelor of Arts were required to be able to translate biblical passages from Hebrew and Greek into Latin.

William Ussher, a student of the College in the third year of its foundation, and a Professor by 1607, became famous for his work of biblical chronology, Annales veteris testament (1650) and his important and detailed comparison of the Hebrew Bible with its ancient Greek version, De Graeca Septuaginta Interpretum Versione (1655).  Appointed as Provost of the College in 1627, William Bedell championed the translation of the Bible into Irish, and in 1637, a lectureship in Hebrew was established which would be later made a professorship.  John Barrett, King’s lecturer in Divinity in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, discovered a 6th century uncial MS of Matthew’s Gospel, Codex Dublinensis and Thomas Elrington, another holder of the post in this period and later Provost, wrote The Proofs of Christianity derived from the Miracles of the new Testament

In the 19th century, the then Regius Professor, George Salmon’s A Historical Introduction to the Study of the Books of the New Testament (????) offered a riposte to the critical scholarship of Baur, and anticipated the conclusions of modern scholarship regarding Westcott and Hort’s preferred MS in their critical edition of the New Testament.  John Gwynn, Regius Professor from 1888, produced not only works on the Bible in antiquity (The Apocalypse of John in a Syriac Version Hitherto Unknown [189]), but also its reception in Ireland (Liber Ardmachanus: the Book of Armagh [1913]).    T.K. Abbot, holder of the chair of Biblical Greek from 1875-1888, continued this interest in biblical studies both ancient and Irish by not only authoring the volume on Ephesians and Colossians for the International Critical Commentary series but producing his important catalogue of Trinity College Library’s Irish manuscripts, which includes notable witnesses to the Insular Latin Gospels. 

Toward the end of the 19th century, William Lee served as a member of the committee responsible for the Revised Version of the Apocrypha, S. Hemphill penned one of the earliest works in English on Tatian’s Diatessaron, and R.H. Charles, before leaving for Oxford, produced his initial studies on apocalyptic writings in early Judaism.  Trinity College’s contribution to New Testament Studies continued into the twentieth century, thanks largely to John Henry Bernard, who wrote commentaries on the Pastoral Epistles, 2 Corinthians and the Gospel of John and N.J.D. White (1906-1916) who also wrote on the Pastoral Epistles for another series, the Expositor’s Greek Testament.  G.H. Kennedy offered an important study on the letters to the Corinthians, and while A.H. McNeile’s tenure as Regius Professor was cut short by ill-health (1917-1930), his time at Trinity saw the publication of three major works in New Testament studies.

The lectureship in Hebrew endowed by Erasmus Smith’s estate in 1710 and upgraded to a full professorship later that century, was occupied by men such as C.W. Wall, J.H. Todd and in the twentieth century R.M. Gwynn, who, as Professor of Hebrew authored a short commentary on Amos, published in 1927.  Two years later, he swapped places with his former student, a young Jacob Weingreen, who was appointed to the Erasmus Smith Chair of Hebrew where he remained until his retirement in 1978, having authored amongst other works, his famous Practical Grammar for Classical Hebrew.  A former student of the University, Andrew Mayes, having returned as lecturer in 1967, was appointed to the chair in 1992, producing a succession of significant studies in the history of Israel, Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomistic History and the sociological study of the Hebrew Bible.  Already in the chair of theology since 1980, S.V. Freyne, would distinguish himself especially in his work on Galilee in the Hellenistic and Roman periods, the historical Jesus and the gospels, continuing to publish after his retirement in 2002.