Nova et vetera

New things, and old.

Curriculum Vitae

Josef Mario Briffa SJ

Pontifical Biblical Institute, Rome and Jerusalem
Director of the PBI Jerusalem
Lecturer, Biblical Faculty

Regional chaplain for the Lazio region, Associazione Guide e Scout Cattolici Italiani (AGESCI)


  • Born in Malta, June 1979
  • Member of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) since October 2000
  • Roman Catholic priest, ordained in June 2010


  • [2009-2012] Licentiate in Sacred Scripture, Magna cum Laude.
    Pontifical Biblical Institute, Rome, Italy.
  • [2006-2009] Bachelor of Divinity, First Class.
    Heythrop College, University of London.
    • (and Bachelor of Sacred Theology, Magna cum Laude
      in affiliation with the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven)
  • [2002-2004] Bachelor of Philosophy, Magna cum Laude.
    Istituto Filosofico Aloisianum, Padova, Italy
  • [1996-2000] Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Archaeology, First Class.
    University of Malta, Msida, Malta

Professional Experience

  • Pontifical Biblical Institute (Rome and Jerusalem)
    • [2021-present] Director of the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Jerusalem
    • [2017-present] Lecturer / Professore Lettore, Biblical Faculty.
      • Isagogic/introductory courses (annually): Archeologia e geografia in Terra Santa; The Southern Levant, 13th to 5th century BC; The First Century Context of the New Testament
      • Other Isagogic/introductory courses; Storia politica e religiosa dal tempo dei giudici al ritorno dell’esilio (2017); Archeologia e geografia biblica (2020)
      • Seminars / Specialist courses: Non-conformist cult in the Old Testament (2018); State formation and origins of Kingship (2019); First Century Galilean Context of the Gospels (2021); Excavation in the Southern Levant (2019)
    • [2013-2017] Assistant Lecturer / Professore Assistente
      • Archeologia e geografia in Terra Santa
  • Pontifical Gregorian University
    • [2021-2022] Visiting Lecturer / Professore Invitato, Faculty of Theology
      • Come usare la bibbia nella riflessione etico sociale? [with Prof. René Micallef SJ]
  • Saint Aloysius’ College, Malta
    • [2002-03] Assistant Headmaster, responsible for students’ academic work
    • [2002-04] Division Prefect, responsible for discipline and welfare of Form 2 / Year 8
    • [2002-2004] Teacher of English, division prefect, assistant headmaster
Fieldwork (excavation & survey)
  • [2022-present] Excavations at Deir Tantur. Co-director with Nitsan Ben-Melech (Tel Aviv University), with the assistance of Elana Gerber (Tel Aviv University)
  • [2013-present] Lautenschläger Expedition to Azekah, Israel, directed by Prof. Oded Lipschits, Prof. Yuval Gadot (Tel Aviv University) and Prof. Dr Manfred Oeming (University of Heidelberg).
    • Area Supervisor, Area N (2016-present)
    • Assistant Area Supervisor, Area N (2014-2015)
  • [2010] Excavation of a Roman period catacomb, Rabat, Malta.
    supervision on behalf of the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage, Malta.
  • [2008] Excavations of a Roman Villa, Żejtun, Malta.
    directed by Prof. A. Bonanno, and Prof. N.C. Vella (University of Malta)
  • [1999-2000] Field survey of Punic tombs at Għajn Klieb, Rabat, Malta.
    directed by Prof. N.C. Vella (University of Malta)
  • [1997-2000] Excavations at Tas-Silġ, Marsaxlokk, Malta.
    directed by Prof. A. Bonanno, and Prof. A.J. Frendo (University of Malta).
    • Area Supervisor: Area C (1999), Area B (2000)
    • Finds’ Hut manager (1997-1999).
Exhibition Curatorship
  • [2016-17] Research associate, Jerusalem: Fall of a City, Rise of a Vision (July 2017). Online exhibition for the centenary of the Society for Old Testament Studies coordinated by Dr C. Crouch (Nottingham), Dr J. Stökl (Kings’, London). Curated the section on daily life in Iron Age Jerusalem.
  • [2007] Exhibition curator, Fr Emmanuel Magri SJ: Jesuit, Ethnographer, Archaeologist. National Museum of Ethnography, Inquisitors’ Palace, Vittoriosa (Malta), March-July 2007. Organised by Heritage Malta and the Maltese Jesuit Province. []
Other professional experience
  • Occasional peer reviewing for:
    • Journals: BASOR, Biblica, Cristianesimo nella Storia, Melita Theologica.
    • Books: Brill.


  • [In preparation] Beyond Asherah. The Figural World of Iron Age Jerusalem in its regional context. (provisional title).
  • [In preparation] Collected Papers of Fr Emmanuel Magri SJ (provisional title).
Edited volume
Online publication
  • [2020, in progress] Pilgrims with Iñigo in the Holy Land. A guide to Jerusalem and the Holy Land, as experienced by Ignatius of Loyola in 1523. Currently being developed organically, in preparation for an eventual publication in book format.

Book chapters / Journal papers
Iron Age Figurines
  • [In preparation] “Late Iron Age figurines and Maltese nativity scenes. Materiality, narratives, and (de)construction of meaning.” (working title)
  • [In preparation] “Iron Age Figurines” chapter in the report of The Lautenschläger Azekah Expedition (2012-).
  • [In preparation] “Chapter 16. Iron Age Figurines,” Report on the renewed excavations at Ramat Raḥel, the Tel Aviv–Heidelberg Expedition (2005–2010). (volume in preparation by the excavation team)
  • [Forthcoming] “Brief notes on the figurines of Tell es-Sa’idiyeh”
  • [2022] “Iron Age figurines from Tall al Mashhad” pp. 123-129 in F.M. Benedettucci (con contributi di L. Aprile, J.M. Briffa, P. Conti, N. Pini, É. Puech), Tell al-Mashhad. Lo scavo. (CoSMO. Collana di Studi Mediterranei e Orientali) Roma, editore Espera.
  • [2020] “Figurines and the interpretation of teraphim.” pp. 213-222 in: F. Capek, P. Sláma, And God Saw That It Was Good (Gen 1:12): The Concept of Quality in Archaeology, Philology and Theology. LIT Verlag Münster.
  • [2020] “The Iron Age Figurines from Mount Nebo. Connections on both sides of the Jordan” pp. 121-129 in: A. Coniglio & A. Ricco (eds.), Holy Land. Archaeology on Either Side. Archaeological Essays in Honour of Eugenio Alliata ofm. Milano, Santa Terra Edizioni.
  • [2019] “Through a Glass Darkly: Figurines as a Window on the Past” pp. 181-199 in: O. Lipschits & F. Čapek (eds), The Last Century in the History of Judah. The Seventh Century BCE in Archaeological, Historical and Biblical Perspectives. (Ancient Israel and Its Literature 37). SBL Press.
  • [2015]  “Más allá de Ašerah. Las estatuillas en terracota del Levante meridional en los siglos VIII-VI a.C.” pp. 25-37 in: E. Ferrer Albelda, and Á. Pereira Deldago, eds., Hijas de Eva. Mujeres y Religión en la Antigüedad. SPAL Monografías XIX. Seville, Editorial Universidad de Sevilla.
History of Archaeology, Near East
  • [Forthcoming] “The worked bone items in the collection and archival record” in G. Petrullo (ed.), Studio tecno-funzionale su manufatti di origine animale di Teleilat Ghassul. Scavi del Pontificio Istituto Biblico (1929-38, 1959-60). (provisional title) Cahiers de la Revue Biblique. Series archaeologica.
  • [2022] “Il Museo del Pontificio Istituto Biblico a Gerusalemme”, in A. Amenta, C. Felli, M. Cappozzo (a cura di), Materiale dal Vicino oriente Antico, La Collezione del Pontificio Istituto Biblico 2, Edizioni Musei Vaticani.
  • [2021] “The Murder of James Leslie Starkey Near Lachish. A Different View from A Colonial Office File.” Palestine Exploration Quarterly 153: 173-190 (Accepted for publication 26.04.2018)
Archaeology of Malta, Fr Emmauel Magri
  • [2021] (with N.C. Vella) “4.2 Archaeology in Malta before 1924. / Magri, new standards and the Phoenician chimera” pp. 171-186 in: A. Pessina, N.C. Vella, with contributions by A. Bugeja, J.M. Briffa, H. Frendo and O.J. Gilkes, Malta and Mediterranean Prehistory: Luigi Maria Ugolini, politics and archaeology between the two World Wars. Malta: Midsea Books.
  • [2009] “Historical Introduction” and “Related Documents” In: E. Magri, The Ruins of a Megalithic Temple in Xeuchia (Shewkiyah), Gozo. First Report. Ed. by Charles Cini SDB, Heritage Malta & SDB (Malta).
  • [2005] “New light on Fr Magri’s exploration of the Hypogeum. Notes from correspondence with the British Museum,” Malta Archaeological Review 6 , 41-46. []
  • [2001]  N. Vella, K. Borda, J.M. Briffa, K. Fenech, K. Grinde, E. Scerri, M. Sisk, H. Stöger, M.E. Zammit, “Għajn Klieb, Rabat (Malta). A preliminary report of an archaeological survey,” Malta Archaeological Review 4, 10-16. []
  • [2000] A. Bonanno, J.M. Briffa, “Roman Villa, Zejtun: report on excavations undertaken in 1976.” Unpublished typescript (University of Malta / Department of Classics and Archaeology, archives / “Żejtun Roman Villa Excavations”).
Ignatian spirituality, Ignatian pedagogy

Review articles
  • [Forthcoming] D.-M. Cabaret, La topographie de la Jérusalem antique. Essais sur l’urbanisme fossile, défenses et portes. IIe s.av. – IIe s.ap. J.-C. Leuven: Peeters, 2020.

  • [2021] K. Dark, The Sisters of Nazareth Convent. A Roman-Period, Byzantine, and Crusader Site in Central Nazareth (PEF ANNUAL XVI), Routledge, 2021. In: Strata. The Bulletin of the Anglo-Israel Archaeological Society 39, 217-219.
  • [2020] S. Donnat, R. Hunziker-Rodewald, I. Weygand (eds.), Figurines féminines nues. Proche-Orient, Égypte, Nubie, Méditerranée orientale, Asie centrale (VIIIe millénaire av. J.C. – IVe siècle ap. J.-C.) Paris: Éditions de Boccard, 2020. In: Strata. The Bulletin of the Anglo-Israel Archaeological Society 38, 181-184.
  • [2019] R. Bauckham (ed), Magdala of Galilee. A Jewish City in the Hellenistic and Roman Period (Waco, Texas: Baylor Press, 2018) In: Salmanticensis 66/1, 143-146.
  • [2018] D.H. Wenkel, Coins as Cultural Texts in the World of the New Testament. In: Biblica 99/3, 466-469.
  • [2016] E. Darby, Interpreting Judean Pillar Figurines (FAT II/69; Tübingen, Mohr Siebeck, 2014). in: Strata: The Bulletin of the Anglo-Israel Archaeological Society 34, 216-218.
  • [2014] M.D. Press, Ashkelon 4. The Iron Age Figurines of Ashkelon and Philistia (Harvard Semitic Museum Publications; Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 2012). In: Strata. The Bulletin of the Anglo-Israel Archaeological Society 32, 121-123.
  • [2008] Byzantium 330-1453 (exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, London) in ThinkingFaith, 24 November 2008 []

Conference Posters
  • [2021] From Sodom to Ghassul. The Legacy of the Ghassul excavation at 90. ICAANE 2021, Bologna, 6-10 April 2021. Zenodo:
  • [2015] Late Iron Age Jericho and its neighbours. Figurines and contacts. International Symposium “Digging Up Jericho: Past, Present, Future” organised by the CBRL, UCL Institute of Archaeology and NPAPH, 29-30 June 2015.
  • [2015] The Figural World of late Iron Age JudahBANEA 2015 conference, London, 7-9 January 2015. Awarded the Routledge Poster Prize.

Lectures, talks, etc. (by topic)

Iron Age figurines
  • [24.11.2022] Figurines and Cult? The Case of Jerusalem and Judah. Session as part of an International MA Seminar on Cult in the Hebrew Bible and in Archaeology.
  • [10.01.2022] Figurines of Iron Age Jerusalem and Nativity Scenes. A question of interpretation. Session as part of a seminar led by Prof. Yossi Garfinkel, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
  • [05.03.2021] Lost in translation: Biblical teraphim and the interpretation of figurines. BANEA Annual Conference, Bournemouth University (online).
  • [22.02.2021] Azekah: The Iron Age figurines in their Judahite context. Seminar entitled: Azekah at the Faculty of Theology, University of Heidelberg (invited by Prof. Dr Manfred Oeming)
  • [02.01.2020] The Figural World of Judah: Archaeology and Interpretation. École biblique et archéologique française, Jerusalem. []
  • [07.11.2019] Beyond Asherah. Rethinking Paradigms in Figurine Research. Bible Department, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
  • [29.11.2018] “When we burned incense to the Queen of Heaven.” Artefacts and Bible in Ancient Jerusalem.’  Annual Jesuit Lecture, Jesuit Centre for Catholic Studies of St Paul’s College, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg (Canada).
  • [26.11.2018] Archaeology, archives, and semiotics. Interpreting figurines from ancient Jerusalem. Lecture for the Dubé Chair for Catholic studies, St Thomas More College, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon (Canada).
  • [05.01.2017] Figurines: meaning and performance. BANEA Annual Conference, Glasgow, Scotland.
  • [26.04.2016] The Figural World of Judah in the Late Iron Age. ICAANE 2016, Vienna.
  • [07.01.2016] The Figurines of Iron Age Lachish: A Case Study. BANEA Annual Conference, Lampeter, Wales.
  • [10.06.2015] Beyond Asherah. Deconstructing Archaeological Interpretations. Seminar entitled: Gott-weiblich? Göttinnen- und Götterbilder im Alten Testament at the Faculty of Theology, University of Heidelberg (invited by Prof. Dr Manfred Oeming)
Teleilat Ghassul
  • [23.01.2023] Searching for Sodom. The Legacy of Teleilat Ghassul. Invited lecture to the Tall el Hammam Excavation Project, Jordan.
  • [23.03.2022] (with Dr Peta Seaton AM), Rome, Sydney, Jerusalem and Teleilat Ghassul: Pioneers of Chalcolithic Research in the Southern Levant, online lecture, Near Eastern Archaeology Foundation (Sydney).
  • [11.01.2020] Searching for Sodom. The Legacy of Teleilat Ghassul at 90. BANEA annual conference, Oxford.
  • [03.12.2019] The Legacy of Teleilat Ghassul. 90th Anniversary Lecture. Pontifical Biblical Institute, Jerusalem.
Archaeology and Bible
  • [12.12.2022] Archaeology and Bible: A New Equilibrium. Invited paper presented at the Spirit of Scholarship conference, 12–14 December 2022, University of Notre Dame Jerusalem Global Gateway – Tantur Ecumenical Institute
  • [16.11.2021] Beyond the Hype. Archaeology and Bible in 2021. Invited public talk as part of the series Tuesdays at Tantur held at the Tantur Ecumenical Institute, Jerusalem.
  • [02.12.2019] Archaeology and Bible: Working in a Faith, Interfaith and No Faith Context, and (with Rabbi Dr Dalia Marx) The Bible in Jewish and Christian Liturgy. Joint Seminar organised by the Israel Rabbinic Program of the Hebrew Union College: Jewish Institute of Religion and the Pontifical Biblical Institute.
  • [30.11.2018] Sacred Text and Trowel: Can we keep together the Bible and archaeological data?  Department of Anthropology, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg (Canada).
  • [22.01.2018] Culto e riforma: 2 Re 23 alla luce dei dati archeologici. Seminar session as part of the seminario di aggiornamento per docenti e studiosi di S. Scrittura on I libri “storici” dell’Antico Testamento, Pontificio Istituto Biblico, 22-26 gennaio 2018.
  • [16.11.2012] Text and Trowel. Can the Bible and archaeology meet? Manchester Universities’ Catholic Chaplaincy
  • [01.06.2004] La Parola e la Terra. La Palestina del Nuovo Testamento, Auditorium of the Centro Giovanile Antonianum in Padova
  • [16.01.2003] Credo e culto alla vigilia dell’esilio. Testo biblico e ricerca archeologica, Istituto Filosofico Aloisianum, Padova
  • [10.03.2022] Trouble brewing from the North. Excavations in Area N1. Short presentation as part of The Azekah Expedition Online Colloquium entitled A Brief History of Tel Azekah: Towards the Tenth Excavation Season at the Site.
  • [03.01.2020] Presentation and site visit to Tel Azekah, Bible in Jerusalem 2020, École biblique et archéologique française, Jerusalem.
Holy Land, Archaeology, Azekah and Pilgrimage
  • [14.04.2023] San Ignazio Pellegrino tra Gerusalemme e Roma (1523-2023). Invited lecture, organised by the Comune di Campagnano di Roma and the Museo Archeologico del Pellegrino. []
  • [13.06.2021] Alle Scoperta del Santo Sepolcro. Presentation as part of a series entitled Pietre Vive – Pellegrinaggio in Terra Santa on the Youtube channel Scherzi da Prete, invited by don Manuel Belli. [ ]
  • [18.10.2019] The Holy Sepulchre. A Journey in Time. Presentation and site visit with the Arab Catholic Scout Group of Jerusalem.
Fr Magri and Maltese archaeology
  • [30.03.2007] The Magri Papers: A Case study in archive archaeology. Department of Classics and Archaeology, University of Malta.
  • [27.03.2007] Unearthing Malta’s Past. Fr Emmanuel Magri’s pioneering work in Archaeology. Heritage Malta Head Office, Valletta.
  • [13.10.2004] The excavation of the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum under Fr Emmanuel Magri SJ: new light from letters to the British Museum. Malta Archaeological Society.
  • [19-21.05.2023] Taking our Bearings. Bible workshop, organised by the Centre for Ignatian Spirituality at Mount Saint Joseph Retreat House, Mosta (Malta)
  • [06-07.05.2023] In Bottega con la Parola. Workshop for scout leaders, invited by the AGESCI Zona Cesena (Emila Romagna).
  • [07-24.05.2020; 05-26.11.2020] Navigare la Bibbia. Workshops, in four sessions, for scout leaders, organised by AGESCI Lazio.
  • [06-09.05.2019] “Taking our bearings. A very general introduction to reading the Bible”, seminar held as the Gonzaga Gonga Jesuit Novitiate, Arusha (Tanzania).
  • [20-23.07.2005] Nomadi. Bible camp directed at teenagers, and centred on the book of Exodus. Organised by the Jesuits in Malta. Scout Camp site, Żurrieq (Malta)


  • [2010-present] Scout chaplain in the Associazione Guide e Scout Cattolici Italiani (AGESCI), part of Federazione Italiana dello Scoutismo, member of WOSM and WAGGGS.
    • Awarded The Wood Badge [WOSM] and received the Nomina a Capo [AGESCI] on 12.12.2015, having completed successfully leader training.
    • Chaplain in Scout Leader training camps and events, Lazio region.
    • [2020-present] Regional chaplain, Lazio region.
    • [2017-2020] District chaplain for the Zona Centro Urbis, Lazio region.
    • [2011-2012] member of the Pattuglia Regionale E/G, Lazio region.
    • [2010-present] member of the Roma 14 scout group.

Language skills

  • Modern languages:
    • Fluent in Maltese (native), English, Italian
    • Good knowledge of French, reading knowledge of Spanish
  • Ancient Languages:
    • Biblical Hebrew, NT Greek
    • Basic knowledge of Akkadian, Latin and some Aramaic, Phoenician.

updated 19.05.2023

%d bloggers like this: