Reverend Dr Jerome Murphy-O'Connor OP died yesterday, 11 November 2013, in Jerusalem. He was 78.
Fr Jerome was a Dominican priest, a leading authority on St. Paul and Professor of New Testament at the École Biblique in Jerusalem. He was a cousin to Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor.
Born on 10 April 1935 to Kerry Murphy-O'Connor and Mary McCrohan, Fr Jerome was the eldest of four children. He attended the Christian Brothers College in Cork, going on to study at the Vincentian run Castleknock College in Dublin. While there he decided to become a Dominican priest.
Fr Jerome entered the Dominican Novitiate in Cork in September 1953, giving up his baptismal name 'James' and to take a new name in religion, 'Jerome', a symbol of his commitment to his faith. Bearing in mind his future career, this was an apt choice, as Jerome is the patron saint of Biblical studies.
After his novitiate Fr Jerome studied Philosophy for a year before studying at Tallaght and at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland. Murphy-O'Connor was ordained priest in July 1960. In Fribourg the core of his scholarly life emerged, his first serious study as a lecturer being on the theme of Preaching in St Paul, which he later developed into a doctoral thesis under the direction of the Dominican and Biblical scholar, Ceslas Spicq.
He received his Doctorate in 1962. In 1963 he studied in Rome, and researched the Dead Sea Scrolls at the University of Heidelberg, and New Testament theology at the University of Tübingen. From there he went to Jerusalem to the École Biblique, which was to become his religious, scholarly and personal home for the next 40 years.
The École Biblique, founded in 1890 by French Dominican scholars, was an internationally renowned centre for Biblical studies and Biblical archaeology. Fr Jerome was appointed Professor of New Testament there in 1967.
Oxford University Press invited him to write an archaeological guide to the Holy Land which was published in 1980. This was translated into several languages with a revised edition in 1986, and has become the standard guide-book. Murphy-O'Connor lectured around the world and made numerous television appearances, including Le Mystère Paul (2000), Jesus: The Complete Story (2001), The Search for John the Baptist (2005), The Lost Tomb of Jesus (2007), and Christianity: A History for Channel 4 (2009).
A note sent to ICN reads: Fr Jerome (Jim) Murphy-O'Connor OP. Deeply regretted by his brothers Fr Kerry, Brian and sister Sheila (Daly), sister-in-law Beatrys, nieces and nephews, extended family and his Dominican Confreres. Funeral will take place in the grounds of the Ecole Biblique, Jerusalem on this Wednesday. There will be a Memorial Mass in St Mary’s Popes Quay, Cork on Saturday 23 November at 11am. May he rest in peace.