J. Severino Croatto

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José Severino Croatto (born March 19, 1930 in Sampacho ( Córdoba ), † April 26, 2004 ) was an Argentine Old Testament scholar and liberation theologian .


Croatto was born the eighth of ten children to an immigrant family of Italian farmers. His strict Catholic father planned for three of his sons, including José Severino, the priestly careers.

From 1948 to 1953 he studied Catholic theology at the Seminary of the Vincentines in Escobar ( Gran Buenos Aires ). In 1954 he obtained a BA in theology from Universidad Católica Argentina (UCA); 1957 an MA in Biblical Studies at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome . He then completed postgraduate studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem . Archaeological research took him to Greece , Turkey and the Middle East . In particular, he took part in excavations in Jerusalem (1961) and Gezer (1965) alongside Yohanan Aharoni and George Ernest Wright .

In Argentina he taught the Old Testament at the Jesuit Colegio Máximo in San Miguel (1962–1964) and the history of religion at the University of Buenos Aires (1964–1973). In 1974 he accepted a visiting professorship at the Universidad Nacional de Salta (UNSa), which he had to give up in the same year - in the course of ideological cleansing at the state universities that the Peronist Education Minister Oscar Ivanissevich had carried out.

Croatto then took up a professorship for the Old Testament at the Instituto Superior Evangélico de Estudios Teológicos (ISEDET) in Buenos Aires in April 1975 , which he held until his retirement in 1995. Croatto was the first Catholic theologian at ISEDET, a training center for Protestant pastors, which became his main place of work. Even before taking up his professorship, he had maintained ecumenical contacts through the Sociedad Argentina de Profesores de Sagradas Escrituras (SAPSE) : Croatto was a co-founder of this originally Catholic society of Argentine biblical scholars, which opened up to Protestant exeges in 1968. In the course of his teaching activities at ISEDET, Croatto gave up the priesthood in order to get married.

Severino Croatto also taught comparative religious studies at the Universidad Maimónides (1994–1996), religious history at the Academia del Sur (1996–2004) and - as the first Christian theologian - Christian worldview and biblical exegesis at the Rabbinical Rabínico Latinoamericano Marshall Meyer ( 1997-2004). He has published over twenty books and contributed to numerous articles in professional journals. He also worked for Lectura Popular de la Biblia en América Latina , a movement that advocates Bible reading for liberation theology in grassroots congregations.


Croatto was an expert on Semitic languages . When he was unable to begin his studies at the Pontifical Biblical Institute at the beginning of the semester, he sent the rector a letter of apology in Hebrew . Even as a teenager, Croatto had shown a keen interest in philology: he had started learning Latin at the age of twelve , ancient Greek at the age of thirteen, and biblical Hebrew at the age of seventeen.

Croatto's theology can be divided into three phases: In its early days it was shaped by an approach to salvation history in the sense of Gerhard von Rad and his school. In a middle phase, he saw the biblical writings shaped by a hermeneutic principle concretized in the exodus motif , which has the content of the liberation of God's people . According to Croatto's work in this phase, experiences of liberation run like a guide through the biblical texts, which are internally connected in this way. In his later work, Croatto increasingly dealt with the phenomenology of religion , thereby moving away from the question of a principle that unifies the biblical scriptures.

Instead, Croatto proceeded - influenced by Paul Ricœur and Mircea Eliade - from a fundamental (also within the biblical) religious pluralism , which, however, is rooted in a shared religious “experience of the sacred ”. In this context, developed Croatto approaches to its own symbol - and myths theory , according to myth, as is often assumed, explanatory origin stories with orientation function are not. According to Croatto, myths do not “explain” anything, but rather represent a social or political context in a narrative way that appears inexplicable and puzzling at the time the myth was created. The myth is the attempt to give the puzzle a meaningful structure in a narrative way. If the political-social context to which the myth gives expression breaks, a crisis of the myth occurs and the “destruction of the symbols of the sacred”. The myth, which wanted to tell the inexplicable, now itself appears in need of an explanation - to be provided by means of a rereading.

Against this background, Croatto also proposed a new biblical hermeneutic. Instead of a search for the original place in the life of a text, this is based on the "interpretation as the production of meaning". The meaning of a text does not originally exist and cannot be found, but is only produced through a constant process of re-reading carried out by the interpreters of the text. The writing of a text means the "death" of its author, because the writing enables the appropriation of the text by its interpreters, who inscribe a meaning that does not correspond to the intention of the author (or is conflicting with the intention of the author). Every re-reading tries to fix the meaning of the text, which, however, due to the fundamental openness of interpretation of the text, never quite succeeds (or leads to fundamentalism ). Historically critical methods are not excluded by this hermeneutics, but according to Croatto they do not reveal the text itself, but rather that what is “archaeological” before the text in its final form.

Croatto wrote commentaries on the books of Genesis and Isaiah , among other things . Marcella Althaus-Reid was a student of Croatto .

Publications (selection)

  • Liberation and Freedom. Biblical hermeneutics for the "theology of liberation". In: Hans-Jürgen Prien (Ed.): Latin America. Society - Church - Theology, Volume 2: The dispute over the theology of liberation. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1981, ISBN 3-525-55383-8 , pp. 40–60 (transcript of a lecture given in September 1978 at the Ecumenical Institute Bossey, which summarized the basic ideas of J. Severino Croatto: Liberación y libertad. Pautas hermenéuticas. 2nd edition. Centro de estudios y publicaciones, Lima 1978 reproduced).
  • The Bible belongs to the poor. Perspectives of a liberation theological hermeneutics. Kaiser, Munich 1989; ISBN 3-459-01760-0 ( Ecumenical Existence Today. Volume 5).
  • The destruction of the symbols of the oppressed. In: Erhard S. Gerstenberger , Ulrich Schoenborn (ed.): Hermeneutics - social history. Contextuality in biblical studies from the point of view of (Latin) American and European exegetes. Lit-Verlag, Münster 1999, ISBN 3-8258-3139-6 , pp. 185-198 ( Exegesis in our time. Volume 1).
  • The sexuality of the deity. Reflections on the talk of God. In: Freddy Dutz, Bärbel Fünfsinn, Sabine Plonz (ed.): We wear the colors of the earth. New theological contributions from Latin America. EMW, Hamburg 2004, pp. 88-104.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d Severino Croatto: su vida. ( Memento of the original from January 15, 2010 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. Biography on J. Severino Croatto's website. Retrieved May 14, 2010.  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / severinocroatto.com.ar
  2. a b Samuel Almada: An obituary and a tribute to J. Severino Croatto for JOLAH ( Memento of the original from November 28, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (PDF; 117 kB). In: Journal of Latin American Hermeneutics ( Memento of the original from October 9, 2010 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , 2005/2. Retrieved May 14, 2010. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.isedet.edu.ar @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.isedet.edu.ar
  3. José Severino Croatto: Experiencia de lo sagrado y tradiciones religiosas. Estudio de fenomenología de la religious. Editorial Verbo Divino, Estella (Navarra) 2002, passim.
  4. J. Severino Croatto: hermeneutica Bíblica. Para una teoría de la lectura como producción de sentido. 3. Edition. Editorial Lumen, Buenos Aires 2000, passim.