Albert Vanhoye SJ – An Ideal Professor/Guide and a Saintly Magis Jesuit

On the occasion of his death on 29 July, we had already published a testimony on Cardinal Vanhoye. An Indian Jesuit has sent us another one that highlights the human and spiritual qualities of this great biblical scholar. Exactly 80 years ago, on 12 September 1941, Albert Vanhoye joined the Society of Jesus.

By George Mlakuzhyil, SJ

It is heartfelt gratitude to my doctoral guide that has inspired me to write this personal testimony. When I heard the news of the demise of Prof. (Cardinal) Albert Vanhoye on 29 July 2021, many memorable experiences of the last 45 years flashed through my mind as if I were watching a documentary film. I thanked God for his long life and fruitful mission as a great professor, an ideal guide and a holy Jesuit.

The first time I met Prof. Vanhoye was in 1975 in the Biblicum classroom. I was fortunate to follow his insightful course on “New Testament texts on Priesthood.” It helped me to delve deep into Christ’s priesthood as presented specially in the Letter to the Hebrews. It challenged me to change my limited perception of a Christian priest as a cultic figure (as in the Old Testament). It enabled me to have a new vision of a priest like Christ who “had to be made like his brethren in everything so that he might become a merciful and trustworthy high priest in the service of God” (Heb 2:17) and of the people in need.

I was also fascinated by Prof. Vanhoye’s systematic presentation of Christ’s priesthood in the literary structure of the Letter to the Hebrews (scientifically established based on multiple criteria). His perceptive lectures and pioneering book inspired me to do my doctoral dissertation under his professional guidance.

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I vividly remember my meeting Prof. Vanhoye with my request to be my guide. After listening to me attentively, he said to me, “You know that I am not a Johannine scholar.” I was touched by his humility. “But you are a structural expert,” I replied, “so please help me to discover the literary structure of John’s Gospel and its captivating Christology.” Although he was very busy, willingly he agreed to be my guide.

He was a man of few words and a no-nonsense person. He told me that the first thing to do was to read carefully the Greek text of the Gospel of John many times with a view to detect the criteria used by the author. Although doing this was no easy task, I gradually realized the wisdom of my guide which helped me to discover about thirty different criteria. Next he instructed me to do a critical survey of the structures of John’s Gospel proposed by different scholars based on the criteria used by them. It gave me the insight that only convergence of diverse kinds of criteria will guarantee objectivity in establishing the literary structure of the Fourth Gospel.

At that critical stage in my doctoral work I fell seriously sick (suspected leukaemia) and I had to interrupt my studies for treatment in India with an uncertain future! When I shared my fears with him, he was very concerned as a true elder brother and assured me of his prayers and requested me to trust in the Lord. He kept in contact with me through his loving letters during my prolonged treatment and convalescence. On my return to Rome after a year, he listened to my sharing with rapt attention and encouraged me to complete my doctorate. I experienced how kind and compassionate, loving and caring, he was. At the successful defence of my thesis he rejoiced as much as I did. I realized how selfless and saintly a Jesuithe was with Magis as his motto and A.M.D.G. as his aim in ministry. May he be the patron of Professors and students of the Sacred Scriptures!

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Posted by Communications Office - Editor in Curia Generalizia
Communications Office
The Communications Office of the General Curia publishes news of international scope on the central government of the Society of Jesus and on the commitments of the Jesuits and their partners. It also handles public relations.

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