Luis Alemany Madrid


Updated Thursday, February 22, 2024-23:19

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One thing is Jerusalem syndrome, a form of mystical psychosis that manifests itself in some visitors to the holy city.

When viewing the Garden of Gethsemane, for example, those affected by Jerusalem Syndrome think they are Moses or David or Jesus, just as in the ancient asylums there was always someone who said they were Napoleon.

And another thing is the evil of Jerusalem, which is a somewhat comical analogy used to describe the

compulsive longing for knowledge about the world of the Bible

that affects academics, believers and amateurs.

What really matters about the idea of ​​the evil of Jerusalem is that people come to Bible studies in a kind of epiphany and experience it as madness, as an obsession and not as a gradual and pragmatic interest.

Whoever hears the call is lost.

"The evil of Jerusalem has always existed, but now it is more intense than before. The demand for popularization courses is constant, especially from America," says Jaime Vázquez, biblical scholar, professor at the Comillas Pontifical University and author of

The Manuscripts of the Dead Sea


Her colleague Cayetana H. Johnson, an archaeologist and professor of biblical languages ​​at the Ecclesiastical University of San Damaso, confirms that impression: her classes have been filled with students from very diverse backgrounds who are interested in Canaanite, Aramaic, Hebrew, and varieties of ancient Greek that were spoken in the region.

"On the other hand, when I finished my degree, we were four students photographed on the border. Fewer students than teachers, fewer students than professors, which was six.

We were the end of a tradition of biblical studies

that came from Alejandro Díez Macho and that had been very important at the Complutense University but it was running out of people.

To know more


The Dead Sea Scrolls: the greatest archaeological find of their era and the key piece in the birth of Israel

  • Editor: LUIS ALEMANY Madrid

The Dead Sea Scrolls: the greatest archaeological find of their era and the key piece in the birth of Israel


2nd century: when the world was rich and lived almost in peace, because of and despite the Romans

  • Editor: LUIS ALEMANY Madrid

2nd century: when the world was rich and lived almost in peace, because of and despite the Romans

30 years after that lonely border, intellectual interest in the Bible appears renewed and rejuvenated.

Johnson shares a table with Alejandra Izquierdo, twenty-something, also a professor of biblical languages ​​at San Dámaso University and author of a YouTube channel dedicated to Ancient Egypt.

On the Internet, Izquierdo

uses the codes of the medium


Myths and truths: cats in Ancient Egypt.

Was Cleopatra black?


from princess to pharaoh

... They are the titles of their entries.

Note: Izquierdo is also a doctor and specializes in ancient Egyptian, the language that she was like the English of the world of the Bible.

"I started doing online outreach because I had a dream in which I was very happy having a YouTube channel. And all of us who like ancient history know that the role of dreams in our world is enormous. Think about

the Joseph's dream


Johnson and Izquierdo's students at the university are full of religious people but also of amateurs with an interest that is more intellectual than mystical: there are airplane pilots, doctors, polyglots in search of new challenges, students who come from international relations and are obsessed with the Middle East conflict... "There is always a percentage of people who approach it with a somewhat eccentric interest,

bordering on esotericism

. They hear about sacred texts and immediately think that there is something behind it, a mystery that must be revealed "That audience has also grown," explains Vázquez.

"But there are many people who come with a

rigorous intellectual interest

and people who, with limited knowledge, organize their ideas well."

Vázquez also explains that the expanded interest in biblical languages ​​has to do with the success of the new evangelism, since its approach to the Bible is much

more based on the literality

of the Holy Scriptures than that of Catholics, who in principle are more predisposed to exegesis.

What awaits these students?

Something perhaps

more complex and at the same time less solemn

than what they may be looking for.

Johnson and Izquierdo explain that in the


of biblical cultures everything seems fluid and unstable to our eyes of 2024: that languages ​​mixed and contaminated each other, that poetic and artistic forms traveled from one culture to the other, that peoples They shared their gods and that

commerce was the vital fuel with which their inhabitants moved.

Trade more than the gods


And, as in any commercial society, the world studied by biblical scholars was paradoxical and vitalistic, fond of beer and community celebrations.

"The sense of what it was to live happily is the same one we have today," says Johnson.

More than to talk to God, biblical languages ​​serve us today to understand human nature.

"And that happens even with Egypt. Egypt gives us reflection, because of the way they had of seeing the world. For the Egyptians, the world was dual, there was always a negative and a positive element that complemented each other. All of this

makes you see life in another way can help you

," explains Izquierdo.

The history of cultural interest, more or less popular, towards biblical history comes and goes for a century.

After World War II, in a time marked by censorship,

the great biblical films flourished because they allowed the creation of erotic plots and environments that went under the radar

with the excuse of the religious theme.

In the 1970s, the Second Vatican Council renewed interest in portraying antiquity with another moral framework.

Now, the world is too complex to synthesize interest in biblical studies into a single cause.

The cultures of paranoia, the discovery of ancient domestic history in the style of Mary Beard, the love-hate relationship with modern Israel, the emergence of new forms of spirituality... All the small niches of the public add up to one fascination that seemed lost.