Unlocking the Bible

"The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you.
But to those on the outside everything is said in parables."
(Mark 4:11)


In our tradition, people can sometimes maintain a distance from the Bible because they are unsure of how it might be relevant in the ever-changing world we live in, or simply find the Scriptures too large and daunting to approach by oneself.  We have set ourselves the task of providing “keys” for unlocking the treasures of the Word of God. Our focus will be on how to read the Bible, using a variety of approaches, illustrated throughout by carefully chosen passages and books. Our hope is to enable us all to read the Bible richly and responsibly, so that we may experience the Word of God as truly alive and active. 

On the right is a short video of Kieran's introduction which was given at the beginning of the course on June 12th.

Seán Goan – Reading & Interpreting the Bible through History

1. A Small Library

In this presentation, Seán looks at how the Bible is not so much a book as a small library, within which is a range of literature from a variety of cultures and historical situations that are important for understanding  Scripture within its context.

2. The World of the Scribe

In this presentation, Seán will continue looking at the history of the Bible, this time focusing on the world of the scribe and the religious context of Israel and Judah, the importance of the exile, and the process of forming a list of sacred books.

3. The Emergence of the Church's Bible

Seán looks at the context in which the church emerged, in particular the fall of Jerusalem & the Corinthian church, noting what texts the early church was interacting with.

4. The Bible in the Church

In this presentation, Seán explores the Bible in the Church in more recent times. A lot can happen in 80 years, even just from Pius XII to Pope Francis! 

Kieran O'Mahony – The Letters of Paul in their Context & Today

1. Three Worlds of Paul of Tarsus

In this presentation, Kieran will examine the three worlds of Paul of Tarsus (Hellenistic, Jewish, and Christianincluding his principled opposition to The Way) through the lens of the Letter to the Galatians.

2. Paul as a Counter-Cultural Apostle

In his second presentation, Kieran talks about Paul as counter-cultural in Galatians and Romans in terms of empire and Judaism, including the death of Jesus and the reason for setting aside the identity markers such as Jewish Law.

3. The Letter*

In this presentation, Kieran explores the process of writing letters, expanding into the Deutero-Pauline texts, and looking at letters as letters (epistolography and letters as speeches (rhetoric) in Philemon (shortest letter) and Romans (longest letter).

*Note for Kieran's Presentation Three: Unfortunately, the internet connection was lost midway through this talk causing audio cut-outs, and a complete disconnect for five minutes during the recording. For now, the video is available with most of the disruptions edited out but what was said in these moments is sadly lost.

4. St. Paul Writes to the Church Today

In this presentation, Kieran looks at how Paul can be seen to write to the church today, exploring the topics of the Cross and resurrection, ethics, the Eucharist, and ministries in 1 Corinthians.  

Jessie Rogers – Reading the Bible as Literature

1. The Social World of the Bible

In this presentation, Jessie will look at the Social World of the Bible (Ancient Domination Systems) as the backdrop for the Exodus, the Law and the Prophets, and the ministry of Jesus.

2. The Bible as Literature

In this presentation, Jessie approaches the Bible as literature, looking at how the various different genres found in the Scriptures call for different reading strategies. 

3. The Theme of Covenant

In this presentation, Jessie looks at the overall sweep of the biblical story, and how the swearing of a covenant with God reoccurs as an overarching theme through the various narratives.

4. Reading the Bible Today

In this presentation, Jessie looks at the concepts of actualisation and inculturation, exploring how the Word of God speaks to us in our world today.

Lectio Divina

On the final morning of the course, Séamus O'Connell, Professor of Scripture in St Patrick's Pontifical University, led a Lectio Divina session on Matthew 11:25-30. As this was a time of prayer, it was live-streamed but not recorded. However, the handout used during the session may be accessed by clicking the button below. It provides an introduction to Lectio Divina, outlining the steps involved and the reasoning behind each to present a guide for you to not only approach a reading of this passage by yourself but also other biblical texts.

Tarsus Scripture School Relaunch

Tarsus Scripture School was founded in 2020, unfortunately coinciding with the global COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, the majority of courses since have been offered online, a move which allowed us to connect with a much wider audience.. As the 2023 Summer School was the first in-person event since the pandemic, Archbishop Dermot Farrell officially "relaunched" Tarsus Scripture School on Friday 12th June, followed by a demonstration of the new website, and a final Q&A session with the three presenters.

Archbishop Farrell – TSS Relaunch

To mark our connection to the Centre of Mission & Ministries at St Patrick's Pontifical University, our return to in-person lectures, and our new website, Archbishop of Dublin Dermot Farrell officially "relaunched" Tarsus Scripture School.

New Website Demonstration

Following the relaunch of Tarsus Scripture School by Archbishop Dermot Farrell, Chris provided a short demonstration of the new website highlighting how to navigate it, and the various new features that have been added.

Jessie, Kieran, & Seán – Final Q&A

In our last segment, our three presenters took some time to answer any questions from participants. Unfortunately, not every question could be answered in the time-frame, but please do use the form at the bottom of this page to ask any questions you might still have.

Further Reading

Seán Goan's Presentations

Kieran O'Mahony's Presentations

Messenger Press Special Offer: Following the Summer School, Messenger Press are currently running a special offer on Kieran O'Mahony's Hearers of the Word book series. You can find more information here.

Help, Questions & Comments

Help & Troubleshooting

Should you encounter any errors while navigating this resource page (for example, a video will not play or a link or button does not work correctly), please contact us by email and we will do our best to remedy the issue as soon as possible. 

For general queries about accessing the material for this course or others, please click on the button below.

Questions & Comments

If you have a question on any of the presentations above, you can use the form to the right to send them to the presenters. The responses are anonymous but you are welcome to note your name with your question should you wish.

Unfortunately we did not get to respond to every question during the Q&A, but we do what we can to address those questions at a later time. Therefore, the question form will remain open for some time to allow questions for those might not have been able to watch along during the week of June 12-16.

Course Photo Album