(1878–1953),

professor

of history and geography at the École Biblique et Archéologique Française in Jerusalem from 1905 to 1953. Abel went to Jerusalem as a novice in the Dominician Order In 1900. Even as a student he participated in the scientific activity of the École Biblique, where he was to spend his entire career.

From his debut in the pages of the Revue Biblique In 1903, Abel systematically published dozens of detailed studies of different areas in the regions, from the Orontes River to the Sinai Desert and from Cyprus to Jordan. He eventually synthesized in his two-volume Géographie de la Palestine (Paris, 1933–1938), which deals in exemplary detail with physical, historical, and political geography from earliest times to the Byzantine period. The ten maps he prepared have served as the prime, but often unacknowledged, source of much subsequent topographical identification.

Abel's mastery of the whole range of Greek sources is displayed in his Grammaire du Grec biblique suivie d'un choix de Papyrus (Paris, 1927), his major commentary on 1 and 2 Maccabees (1949), and his two-volume Histoire de la Palestine depuis la conquête d'Alexandre jusqu'à l'invasion arabe (Paris, 1952). He had an uncanny ability to identify the key questions in texts, and the vast majority of his proposed answers—for example, his location of Pilate's praetorium in Herod the Great's palace, rather than at the Antonia fortress—have stood the test of time.

Inevitably L.-H. Vincent, also of the École Biblique, called on him to contribute the documentary evidence to the magisterial studies of Bethlehem, Hebron, Jerusalem, and Emmaus on which they collaborated (Paris, 1914, 1923, 1926, 1932, respectively). His extraordinary erudition facilitated the ease with which he tracked down the most esoteric data, even for individual buildings. It is his insights rather than Vincent's conclusions that give these volumes their permanent value.

[See also École Biblique et Archéologique Française; and the biography of Vincent.]

Bibliography

  • Abel, Félix-Marie. Grammaire du Grec biblique suivie d'un choix de Papyrus. Paris, 1927.
  • Abel, Félix-Marie. Géographie de la Palestine. 2 vols. Paris, 1933–1938.
  • Abel, Félix-Marie. Les livres des Maccabées. Paris, 1949.
  • Abel, Félix-Marie. Histoire de la Palestine depuis la conquête d'Alexandre jusqu'à l'invasion arabe. Paris, 1952.
  • Vincent, L.-H., and Félix-Marie Abel. Bethléem, le sanctuaire de la nativité. Paris, 1914.
  • Vincent, L.-H., and Félix-Marie Abel. Hébron: Le Haram el-Khalîl, sépulture des patriarches. Paris, 1923.
  • Vincent, L.-H., and Félix-Marie Abel. Jérusalem: Recherches de topographie, d'archéologie et d'histoire, vol. 2, Jérusalem nouvelle. Paris, 1926.
  • Vincent, L.-H., and Félix-Marie Abel. Emmaüs, sa basilique et son histoire. Paris, 1932.

Jerome Murphy-O'Connor, o.p.