Saturday, December 01, 2012

Fr. James Swetnam, S.J.

We at John Paul the Great Catholic University have been blessed to host Fr. James Swetnam (center in photo right [apologies to all the students who didn't get into the picture here]) as Distinguished Visiting Faculty. He is lecturing on the Epistle to the Hebrews in a graduate level course and has been saying Mass on campus. This has been a rare treat.

You can read more about his work and find his articles on his website here.

I first met Fr. Swetnam in Rome over 10 years ago on a visit there with Scott Hahn (who dedicated his magnum opus, Kinship by Covenant, to Fr. Swetnam), but our past encounters have been brief and it has been a great privilege to spend quality time with him during his stay in San Diego.

Fr. Swetnam is truly a treasure. He lived in Rome for 50 years, teaching at the Pontifical Biblical Institute, where he served as Vice Rector and managing editor of the famous biblical studies journal, Biblia. He is full of fascinating stories of conversations with legendary figures such as Joseph Ratzinger, D. J. McCarthy, Roderick McKenzie (of Liddell and Scott fame), Joseph Fitzmyer, Joachim Jeremias, William F. AlbrightRoland De Vaux (who--among other things--did pioneering work in the Dead Sea Scrolls), Henri de Lubac, and many, many others.

What a life story! He cheered the famous "Gashouse Gang" (legendary 1930s St. Louis Cardinal Baseball Team), witnessed the start and end of WWII, did a doctorate in Scripture at Oxford University (under Morna Hooker and Geza Vermes), met popes, and witnessed Vatican II (while living in Rome!). And I think that was just two lunch conversations!

Fr. Swetnam also has a long history of publications that is also impressive. His two-volume Greek grammar is widely respected (which I am grateful I can now read on my Logos Bible Software). He has also published a work looking at the use of Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac ("Aqedah") in the Epistle to the Hebrews as well as numerous articles and reviews in major academic journals--well over 200 of them!

I highly recommend that TSP readers take a look at his website, which includes a working draft of a commentary on Hebrews that is the product of decades of research. It emphasizes Eucharistic readings of various passages whose liturgical connections are often overlooked by scholars. He has made the case for this approach in numerous articles, published in leading journals such as Biblica (e.g., see this one).

I want to take the opportunity here to thank Fr. Swetnam for lecturing to our graduate students in Biblical Theology. What a great experience it has been for all of us!

Of course, for more information on our Graduate Program in Biblical Theology at JP Catholic, go here (where you can also learn about an incredible scholarship opportunity).

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