Meeting with Paolo Sacchi

Meeting with Paolo Sacchi

Journey to the source of Christian Revelation

The idea to invite the well known scholars on the national and international scene proved to be fruitful right from the start. The invitation went out to offer, under the auspices of the “Sophia Lecture Series,” a moment of cultural interest not only to the academic community, but also to the citizens of Valdarno. The speakers, in fact, saw it as an opportunity to share the many and best works of their intellectual career. 


It was no different this past 1 June when Paolo Sacchi, with more than 50 years of research dedicated to the study of sacred Christian and Hebrew texts, touched with incisive simplicity, but also with brilliant competence, the numerous cords that Christian Revelation knows how to make resound. “My journey between the Old Testament, the Apocrypha’s, Apocalypse and the Gospels”: more than 300 people listened to the scholar tell whole pieces of his personal story, allowing themselves to be engaged in the different stages of a high profile professional life.   


Among the best scholars on the international level within this sector, Sacchi is professor emeritus of Biblical, Jewish and Aramaic Philology at the University of Turin. He founded the review and the Italian Association for the Study of  Judaism and is a real expert on the history of Israel, of which he deepened different aspects of Ancient Judaism such as the apocalypse, the manuscripts of  Qumran and the Apocrypha of the Old Testament. Sacchi underscored that scientific activity always involves the author of the research in all his/her personal subjectivity: “Research is never something objective and detached from us…. There is always something that involves us in its outcome.” And during all his research, it was the continuity between the Old and New Testament which fascinated him the most. 


Sacchi did not make it to the top of Biblical exegesis by pursuing an ordinary path of studies. In fact, there were  a few decisive steps, caused by apparently normal events; like the day in which, wanting to avoid the lesson given by a professor known for is rigor, in leaving the institute he ran smack into him.... An unexpected dialogue started, to the point that the young Sacchi decided to immerse himself in Biblical Philology and to also learn Hebrew. The curious episode says a lot about the intellectual humility of the scholar and of his ability to welcome the disconcerting action of “chance,” knowing how to get the best out of it.   


Besides, it was again “chance” that guided a pastor who was resting close to Jericho, in 1947, to find some papyrus rolls at the bottom of a cave. As we know, it was a finding that marked the exegetical work of the 20th century. From Qumran emerged numerous texts of apocrypha, which do not belong to the Biblical cannon, but all the same represent, as the Tuscan Biblicist highlighted, an extraordinary source of information for Christian Revelation. 


Among the most interesting texts, Sacchi found himself facing a manuscript from the book of Enoch, an outsider of the Temple of Jerusalem from the Second Century A.C., singular interpreter on the subject of the origins of evil and the immortality of the soul. “Up until,” Sacchi continued his story, “came the moment to reread the Gospels, especially the one of Mark: I felt really in tune with it, because he is the evangelist closest to Enochism. I also liked it on a human level.” In his research, the study of the relationships between the Old and New Testament became a constant criterion; a passionate one. The lesson was clear: “to discover the original context of a text is not only a philological need, but also allows us to better understand and actualize the message that it contains.” Rich with meaning was the account of Jesus’ last Supper in Mark’s text, which Sacchi was able to illuminate for those present: the sacrifice of Moses that is reinterpreted, establishing a definitive bond between the Son of God and human beings. “The Eucharist is the central moment of Christianity, it is a sacrifice made in communion…. We cannot say that Jesus finished his mission in failure, but with a pact that holds true for all centuries and for future humanity.” 

At the end of the evening, many felt the spontaneous desire to reread those texts that are not so distance from us; the words of an extraordinary  scholar had brought them closer than ever to the questions of humanity today. 

text: José Luis Bomfim - photo: Mario Egman


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