The Bible in the western culture: Millennia of civilization
Marking the 1600 years of the death of Saint Jerome, translator of the Bible
The Bible is a library of texts, of distant origin, a multicultural work that expresses a synthesis of cultures. If, on the one hand, the Hebrew writings denote the influence of the Egyptian and Persian cultures, on the other, we cannot understand the Christian Scriptures without allusion to the Greek and Roman cultures. When globalization is a modern-day fact, the (re) visitation of this work of universal appeal can shed a light over intercultural relations in the global village.
The Bible is also a literary work, whose reading, for millennia, has influenced the thoughts of people, the lives of communities, the origin of nations, the course of events and the history of civilizations. From the beginnings of Portugal’s founding to contemporary times, the text permeated antagonistic political regimes, distinct economic periods and diverse streams of philosophical thought. Literature, theater, the arts, education, economics, law, and so many other sciences were imbued with a biblical metaphysics. The Judeo-Christian Scriptures are still the key of reading and interpretation for all the human heritage from the spiritual to the material; the true face of “identities.” In this sense, the study of the Bible presents itself as an enriching contribution to the understanding of our collective identity and memory. In addition to the religious value, there are also historical, philosophical and aesthetic values that we cannot lose sight of, under penalty of mortgaging our self-understanding as “imagined community” and individuals.
Essentially, the Bible expresses itself as a repository of words of God and men. On the one hand, as the magna carta of the universe of human existence, on the other, as an observatory of the ordinary sense of this same experience. Besides that, the exercise of translation of the Holy Scriptures has become a religious, spiritual and cultural corpus, whose multiple processes either partake or influence the cultural traditions of each people. As an inseparable book from the foundations of Portugal, this is the book the Portuguese “carried” to the four corners of the world – a people who knew how to “reinvigorate” the universal character trait of the Bible – initiating this destiny of globalization, which so deeply marked the “Lusitanian soul”.
In 2019, we celebrated the 200th anniversary of the first edition of the complete Bible in its oldest Portuguese translation (London, 1819), made in the seventeenth century by the “unknown illustrious” João Ferreira d’Almeida. Regarding the Bible, in the language of our affections, the translation of João d’Almeida has been considered, by some, as “a vocabulary treasure”, and considered by others both as “a landmark of culture and Portuguese language”. However, this work has remained in a cultural clandestinity, which has hidden the merit and prestige recognized by most scholars.
Removing from the shadow and forgetfulness the biblical legacy in the intellectual, artistic and cultural journey in the Portuguese society, within the framework of this bicentenary, the International Congress THE BIBLE IN WESTERN CULTURE: MILLENNIA OF CIVILIZATION intends to present a compilation of critical analyzes on the relevance of the Bible as a cultural “good”, the relevance of the “places” it occupies in the construction of the Lusitanian culture and society, the universe of translation and edition of the sacred texts of Christianity. In a scientific dissection of the Bible, through the crossing of the sciences, in their specifications, we will proceed to the identification of determinant paradigms in the construction of cultural identity(s).
The scientific work of this congress offers the opportunity to deepen, through a multidisciplinary dynamic, with an ecumenical and interreligious spirit, the biblical transversal universe, which emerges from the complexity of the translation dynamics, from the current socio-cultural and religious dynamics, to the new contemporary realities of communication and current, highly technological society information.
In its final course, this congress is the opportunity to acknowledge the Bible – this work translated into more than 2400 languages – and, simultaneously, an opportunity to reframe what is meant by “Western civilization” and citizenship. The reflection of the revisited principles and values assumes as a civic exercise that makes the concepts of freedom, justice and solidarity visible.