Obituary: Fr Roland Murphy ; Catholic Biblical Scholar

Article excerpt

ROLAND MURPHY was one of the leading Catholic Old Testament scholars of the second half of the 20th century, a time when the Catholic community in the United States produced a crop of well- educated, articulate biblical scholars.

As Catholic biblical scholarship took off in the 1940s in the wake of the 1943 papal encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu endorsing such study, Murphy was keen to bring the fruits of his study to a wide audience. His special field was the Old Testament wisdom literature, which includes the books of Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Wisdom and Sirach, and he was among the translators for the New American Bible and the New Revised Standard Version.

Murphy was an early advocate of "inclusive language" in translation (ensuring that gender-neutral terms are used) and had intended to call his 1960 book Seven Books of Wisdom - before being dissuaded by the publisher - "Wisdom, You Are My Sister".

Despite his producing more than 230 books and articles, one of his major contributions to biblical scholarship was his work as co- editor with Father Joseph Fitzmyer and the late Father Raymond Brown of the monumental Jerome Biblical Commentary, first published in 1968 and again in an extensively revised edition as the New Jerome Biblical Commentary in 1990.

The work described itself as a "compact commentary on the whole Bible written by Roman Catholic scholars according to the principles of modern biblical criticism". The 1968 edition had an introduction by Cardinal Augustin Bea, while the second had the endorsement of Cardinal Carlo Martini of Milan, who praised it as an "important tool for study and reflection".

Murphy edited the Old Testament commentary articles, and also contributed on Genesis, Hosea, the Song of Songs, with introductions to the Pentateuch and Wisdom literature and a thematic article on the history of Israel.

Born into a Catholic family in Chicago, Murphy entered the Carmelite Order as a young man and was admitted to profession in 1935. …