“Reading the Bible together reveals us”

“Reading the Bible together reveals us”

The former master general of the Dominican Order Timothy Radcliffe, known for his freedom of tone, publishes a book with the biblical scholar Lukasz Popko, also a Dominican. An invitation to enter into God's friendly conversation with men.

Brother Timothy, this book matured between you and Brother Lukasz while you were ill with cancer. But you persevered…

Timothy Radcliffe: It all started when, just before the pandemic, I went to the Biblical and Archaeological School in Jerusalem. The brother who was to receive me was stuck in Paris and I started talking about the Bible with Lukasz, a true biblical scholar, a researcher. The idea came to us to share the pleasure of our exchanges by evoking conversations between God and humanity in the Bible. But a week later I was diagnosed with very serious cancer. I underwent a seventeen-hour operation, then I was sick for several months. The conversation with Lukasz, and his friendship, nourished me as I slowly regained my strength. This book project was important to maintain hope for the future.

Lukasz Popko: For me, this exchange gave me the joy of addressing the existential questions that the Bible poses. That’s a change from research!

Is the Bible a reflection of a conversation? God speaks to humanity?

TR: The Bible records a series of conversations, sometimes joyful, sometimes full of anger. The Second Vatican Council said that God converses with humanity to enter into friendship with it (see the constitution Dei Verbum 2 and 21).

You, religious, find nourishment in the Bible – a word that means “the books.” But in this age of social networks and television series, do we still read the Bible?

LP: Books are still part of our daily lives, as shown by the success of the International Book Fair in Turin (Italy) last May, which attracts more and more people (222,000 visitors in 2024, Editor’s note) . I have no doubt about its future, nor that of the Bible in particular.

TR: When I did part of my studies in Paris, studying the Bible was a great discovery, but fifty years later, the Bible still remains new to me. It is an inexhaustible source.

LP: I'm thinking of the weekly newsletter PRICEM (on prixm.org, Instagram, and podcast). Every week, she makes the Bible known in the language of today's culture: 120,000 subscribers receive a three-minute episode on a biblical theme, with classic artistic references but also pop culture, and theological analyzes . This initiative was born from our research work “The Bible in its traditions” carried out for several decades at the Bible School of Jerusalem.

TR: Religion is not disappearing. It takes new forms. Rather, it is secularization that is in decline. The Bible is a source of life. It is a pleasure to converse around these texts, to invite others to participate in the conversation and to find their pleasure in it too.


TR: You can read alone – that's the lectio divina . But it is much more stimulating to walk with someone. When I was at the Dominican convent of Santa Sabina, in Rome, we gathered every week around the biblical texts of the following Sunday. It was a source of enormous joy. The brothers were of diverse backgrounds, some had a university background, others a rich life experience and each gave something. We can have this in every parish.

LP: In these sharing groups, everyone has the impression when they arrive that they have nothing to contribute. But they all come out “full”. It's paradoxical, but other people's questions nourish me as much as their answers.

TR: It's a bit like the multiplications of the loaves recorded in the Gospels. What can we give? I don't have much to give. I share it, and many are nourished.

LP: The word of God reveals to us. If I really formulate my questions, my concerns, I reveal myself. The Bible becomes an opportunity to know my neighbor and to know myself.

TR: Loving God is almost the same as loving your brother.

When did you first feel God speaking to you through the Bible?

LP: At 14 or 15 years old, singing the meditative refrains of Taizé songs, in prayer groups. These are biblical texts.

TR: I experienced something similar when I was a student at the Benedictine school, at the liturgical office. Later, in the Dominican novitiate, I was overwhelmed by the explanation of the text of the “wedding at Cana” (John 2) : “They have no more wine! » said Mary to Jesus. Yes, this is a very important question for a novice! (Laugh…)

Today, young believers, in search of a strong identity, aspire to a faith displaying certainties. Do you understand them?

TR: I see this often. When I was a student in Paris, older brothers sometimes tried to undermine our youthful certainties. That's not how we move forward. We must understand and accept their search for truth, it is authentic. But believing in the resurrection of Christ, in his divinity, does not solve everything. It is the beginning of a path. True certainties open up spaces beyond all knowledge. Conviction does not preclude research.

LP: The very notion of certainty has nothing to do with truth. The philosopher Karl Popper said: “With my hands in my pockets, I am “certain” that I have five fingers on each of them; but if my best friend's life depended on the truth of that proposition, I might take my hands out of my pockets to check. » Certainty depends on the context, it is relative. Additionally, the search for certainty can be paralyzing and prevent you from making decisions. Mature faith is based on actions inspired by faith, and not just on declared convictions. You have to give yourself the chance to grow.

Pope Francis has opened a great conversation in the Church with the synod. This raises concerns among some…

TR: The great challenge of a united Church is to have conversations together. They are necessary, and pleasant (the tone of his voice becomes animated) . The challenge of the next synod, in October 2024, will be to talk to each other, not between people of the left or the right, but between Africans, Asians, Europeans…

Brother Lukasz, what do you say?

LP: I live in Jerusalem, where the conflict is constant. We have no choice: we either kill ourselves or we talk to each other. The first challenge in this situation is trying to understand the other, to put yourself in their shoes. What does my enemy mean?

TR: Yes, because ultimately the differences are fertile.

What is your hope for the Church?

TR: The Pope has started something very important with the synod, and the vast majority of Catholics understand this. But we must extend the conversations to priests, who were not invited. And confront with theologians, little solicited until now, the questions which involve Tradition and the truth of our faith.

The Biography of Timothy Radcliffe

  • [1945 Born in London (United Kingdom).
  • 1965 Enters the Dominican order.
  • 1992-2000 As Master General of the Order, visits Dominican communities on five continents.
  • 2023 Preachs retreat and spiritual meditations during the first session of the Roman Synod on synodality.

The biography of Lukasz Popko

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