Zarb, Serafin (Prof ) (31.8.1899-7.3.1976)

Biblical Scholar

Luigi Zarb was born in Valletta and joined the Dominican Order in 1915 where he was given the name Serafin. He studied philosophy at St Thomas Aquinas College, Rabat and theology at the International Pontifical Institute Angelicum, Rome where he was also ordained priest in1922. The following year he graduated S.Th.L. Zarb specialized in scriptural studies at the Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem, and in 1925 obtained the licentiate in Holy Scripture. He was appointed professor of this subject and of Semitic languges at the Angelicum College, Rome. In 1932 he was appointed lecturer at the St Bede College, Rome. In 1936 he obtained the degree of master in theology (S.Th.M.) and three years later, following an examination by the Biblical Commission of the Vatican, the doctorate in Holy Scripture.

After a long brilliant career as a professor at the Angelicum, where he was also prefect of studies (1936-39), at the outbreak of war Zarb had to return to Malta and in 1940 he started teaching at St Thomas Aquinas College. In 1943 he was appointed lecturer in theology and professor of dogmatic theology at the RUM where he taught until 1965. He served as dean of the faculty of theology, actmg vice-chancellor, and acting rector magnificus ofthe university a number of times. When he retired he was given the title of professor emeritus.

Zarbparticipated in many international congresses. He published many studies in scientific journals such as the Angelicum, Divus 7Thomas (Placentia), La Vie Spifituelle, Revue Thomiste, and Scientia. His most famous publication is the voluminous Histofia Canonis Sacrorum Librorum Utriusque Testamenti which was published in Rome in 1929 and 1934. Also worthy of note are his studies on the writings of St Augustine, the last one being published in Malta in 1948. In 1941 Zarb took over the editorship of Scientia a post he retained until his death. He was honoured by the French government with the medal of Officier d'Academie for his academic contributions.

Zarb also distinguished himself for his activities in the Maltese Dominican province, the Church, and among the people of Malta. He served two terms as prior of the Dominican community at Valletta; vicar provincial for over a year; twice provincial of the Dominican priories of Malta; rector and superior of St Albert the Great College; prosynodal judge at the Archbishop's Curia; and examiner of the clergy. In 1941 he was appointed member of the board and of the executive of the Malta Relief Fund, being honoured as officer of the most Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his sterling work during the war and afterwards.

Zarb was most convinced of his own religious vocation; in all his actions he sought to advance the regular and community life, especially by attending at prayers with his fellow priests. Humble but friendly by character, he was loved by all, as was shown during his funeral at the Dominican church of Porto Salvo, Valletta when about 100 priests concelebrated Mass for the repose of his soul

Source: Maltese Biographies of the Twentieth Century (1997), editors Michael J. Schiavone and Louis J. Scerri

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