In the Gospel we read, "Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness" (Mat 9:35). I was greatly fortunate to do my study in that very land which Jesus sanctified with his life and mission. As part of my Licentiate study in Pontifical Biblical Institute (Biblicum), Rome, I was blessed with the opportunity to do one semester of study in Jerusalem in the autumn semester of 2013-14, thanks to the generous help provided by the Institute of Missiology, MISSIO. I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to Rev. Msgr. Dr. Klaus Krämer, president, Prof. Dr. Harald Suermann, director, Dr. Annette Meuthrath, chief of Asia desk, all the benefactors, and all the members of the staff of Institute of Missiology, MISSIO.
The study program was a well-arranged one with the collaboration between the Pontifical Biblical Institute (Biblicum) of Rome and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Biblicum has a daughter institution that has been functioning in Jerusalem for decades, which is also the community of the Jesuits there, and it was in their house that we were accommodated. We were sixteen students in our group.
I had seven courses to do there, two of which were given in the institute itself (Advanced Greek and a course on New Testament History), and the others were given by the Hebrew University. The University courses were generally dealing with the advanced study of Biblical Hebrew. We were privileged to have some of the world class Hebrew scholars like Prof. Steven Fassberg teaching us. All our professors in the University were Jewish and thus they had great proficiency in the language: Hebrew being their day-today spoken language. They method they use to teach and their approach to studying the Bible by reading and re-reading the text in the original language helped us a lot. We had also Hebrew singing classes and reading training.
One of the courses offered in the University was on the Archaeology of Jerusalem. For this, we were taken around in the archaeological sites in Jerusalem, and we could learn a lot of things first-hand.
Connected with the course on New Testament History, we had several trips to make throughout the Holy Land. The course commenced with a week-long trip to Galilee, and we visited and did field study in several important places like Nazareth, Cana, Bethsaida, Beth Shean, Tiberias, Gamla, River Jordan, Lake Galilee, Tabga, Caesarea Philippi, and so on. We were accompanied by our professor who is also a linguist able to handle theology and inter-testamental history with great depth. After the Galilee trip, we used to go to various other places of importance every week end, and we could do archaeological tours to places like Bethlehem, the Holy Sepulcher, Mount of Olives, Mount Tabor, Caesarea Maritima, Dead Sea, Ein Kerem, Jericho, Herodium, and several other places. In the last month of our course we also made archaeological trips to the important places in Jordan, like Petra, Pella, Amman etc.
Overall, the program was a great learning experience. The reality of the Biblical Land sinks deep into us with great influence when one is physically present there. And the opportunity to study the ancient holy writings in the land where Jesus walked, along with the experience of Hebrew as a living language, was a unique episode in my life. Once again I remember with sincere gratitude the Institute of Missiology, MISSIO, for the generous support, without which this dream would not have come true.