Josè O’Callaghan was born in Tortosa, Spain, on October 7, 1922. He entered the Society of Jesus on October 29, 1940 and was ordained to the priesthood on May 31, 1952. In 1953, he obtained a Licentiate in Theology from the Theological Faculty of San Cugat del Vallés, and then a Doctorate in Philosophy and Letters from the University of Madrid in 1959 with the thesis entitled Las tres categorías estéticas de la cultura clásica (Madrid 1960). He continued his studies at the University of Milan, where he studied under the famous papyrologist Prof. Orsolina Montevecchi, and obtained a Doctorate in Classical Letters in 1960, with the thesis Cartas cristianas (Barcelona 1963).
Fr. O’Callaghan taught at the Theology Faculty of San Cugat del Vallés from 1961 to 1971. During that time, he founded the Papyrology Seminar there, which he continued to direct throughout his active academic life. Thanks to the generosity of his brother-in-law, Josep Palau Ribes, Fr. O’Callaghan was able to purchase a large number of papyri and to found a periodical, Studia Papirologica, as well as two series of publications, “Papyrologica Castroctaviana” and “Estudis de Papirologia i Filologia Bíblica”.
In 1962, Fr. O’Callaghan began teaching biblical Greek at the Theology Faculty of San Cugat del Vallés. He was called to Rome in 1971 to teach papyrology at the Pontifical Biblical Institute, where he remained until his retirement at the age of seventy in 1992. He was dean of the Biblical Faculty from 1983 to 1986. During his tenure in Rome, he also taught as a visiting professor at the University of Urbino.
In 1972, Father O’Callaghan became a famous man thanks to the hypothesis that, among the Greek texts of the seventh cave in Qumran , one of them ( 7Q5 ) was to be identified with a fragment of the Gospel of Mark ( ” ¿ Papiros neotestamentarios en la Cueva 7 n de Qumr ? ” Biblica 53 [ 1972 ] 91-100 ) . In my judgment, his hypothesis is very likely and I tried to give it more support in my book “Il libro segreto di Gesù” (Newton Compton 2011). Unfortunately, today’s research on this fragment has stopped, because scholars are afraid of having to review the dating of Mark’s Gospel, which was really written around the year 50 AD and not in the 70, as now commonly argued . Based on this identification, he suggested the possibility that other fragments from Cave 7 may be New Testament texts as well.
While a student of philosophy at Sarrià (Barcelona), he encountered Fr. José Maria Bover,
SJ, who was engaged in the preparation of a critical edition of the Greek New Testament and who first introduced Fr. O’Callaghan to the discipline of textual criticism. Fr. O’Callaghan became a collaborator of Bover, and published his Nuevo Testamento Trilingüe (BAC; Madrid 1977), as well as introductions to textual criticism in Catalan and in Spanish. Based on his early work with Bover, as well as his own research in papyrology, Fr. O’Callaghan was the author of numerous writings in the areas of papyrology and classical and New Testament philology. Throughout his active years he maintained a close relationship with many colleagues in his field.
In addition to his scholarly pursuits, Fr. O’Callaghan found time for pastoral activity, both in Rome and in Spain. Throughout his years at the Pontifical Biblical Institute, he was a popular member of the Jesuit community, to which he returned on a yearly basis after his retirement until the state of his health no longer permitted these visits.
On December 15, 2001, Emeritus Prof. Fr. José O’Callaghan, S. J., died in the Jesuit infirmary at San Cugat del Vallés (Barcelona) after a lengthy illness caused by diabetes complications.